By Dennis Mernyi
The recent agitation for a Benue governorship of Idoma extraction is steadily reaching its maxim. One of the key player in the Benue politics, a retired Permanent Secretary, ministry of Defence during the late General Sani Abacha regime, former governorship aspirant under the PDP and the Zone APC Senate aspirant all in Benue State, Chief Mike Onoja has disclosed the secret strategy for an Idoma to win Benue state governorship in 2023.
He spoke in an interview in Abuja recently.
What’s your stake on the agitation for a paradigm shift for the governorship of Benue to Idoma?
Ans…Thank you. But let me quickly correct one impression. It is not Idoma governorship. It is Benue governorship of Idoma extraction.
Having said that, I want reiterate that the agitation for the Benue governorship of Idoma speaking area will be valid in the sence that, since the creation of Benue state, no Idoma man has been the governor. Ideally, the governorship of Benue state or any other state should rotate among the Senatorial Districts.
In Benue, there are senatorial districts. Zones A,B and C. The senatorial districts of A and B have produced the governors for the State in the past for many times and the Zone C senatorial district of the State has not produced any governor of the State so, I think the clamour is very high at a good time.
However, whether the zoning is going to be A B or C, think that the bottom line should be about the experience and competence. It should not be sacrificed for just zoning sake because, we have suffered in the past in Benue as a result that.
Having said that, I want to also emphasise that the truth of the matter is the Tiv are the majority and Idoma are the minority. And for the minority to get power in this kind of situation, they need the support and the consultation of the majority side. And there is no way an Idoma can be governor of Benue state without the support of the Tiv people.
All we are saying is that the ‘Ya na Wan Igbian’ theory of the Tiv people should be extended to the Idoma people.
And that is the idea because God has put us together and we are now brothers and sisters. We are living together, having inter marriage and sharing many things in common so, I suggest that the theory that exist between the Tiv brothers and sisters should be extended to their Idoma brothers and sisters too. That is one. Two, in our Christianity, we are taught and we also believe that there is joy when we share with one another. It also enhances the spirit of fairness and unity. And from the point of view Christianity too, we should have a sense of belonging.
But we can not have that sense of belonging unless we consult properly and coperate with our big brothers and sisters because it is not something we do by force, it has to do with understanding and support of the majority tribe, the Tiv.
How are the Idoma united on this agitation or how are they planning to achieve this course without the play of politics of selfishness?
And.. Well, first of all, I want to talk from my experience. In 2006, I contested governorship of Benue State. In the race as an aspirant, we were 22. I came second. The then governor Gabriel Suswam was also in that contest.
And after that, there was this talk of vote donation and all that. And that didn’t make me and Suswam go for the run up. The point am making is, if the Idoma produce a good candidate, the Tiv people may listen because majority of the votes I got were from the Tiv speaking area. And am always grateful to them. So what we need to do is get a good candidate that would be acceptable to the majority Tiv people. Because, the whole thing bows to suspicion and lack of trust. So it is in our own interest to get a candidate that is acceptable to both the Tiv people to know that if this man comes, he or she is going to be fair to the Tiv people, not just coming to champion the tribal cause and this is very very important.
Now if the Idoma people really want it, they will trim down to maybe just one or two people or else, that will rob us of the opportunity if the in fighting process persist.
So the bottom line is to present a candidate that will be acceptable to both the Tiv and Idoma as well as other tribes in the State.
For instance, the votes I got to come to the second position were from the Tiv people.
What are the specific strategies would you subscribe to the Idoma for achieving this?
Ans…When I did it in 2006 and it was effective, I met with the Tor Tiv, I met with the Tiv Traditional Council members, I went to all the local governments from Tiv speaking areas and talked with the Ters who are the third class Chiefs i also talked to the political leaders of Tiv extractions and I talked to the Governor. So eventually, the Ters met in the Tor Tiv Palace and they took their positions, the political leaders also played their roles. Both the APC and PDP and the traditional rulers have to be properly consulted, without which, it will be very difficult. Because the political leaders and the traditional rulers will have to agree that this man will be fair to Tiv people. And that is the consultation am talking about.
They have to first and foremost understand that a Benue governor of Idoma extraction is not coming to champion a tribal cause when he is elected but the whole idea is to help to develop that state. And that is the primary objective because if you go to the State, it is not developed, every citizen is suffering it, whether you are Tiv or Idoma.
So, for me once we have somebody that has the necessary experience and competence, and somebody whose governance can affect everyone in the State positively, that is my sole concern.
Will you be going into the contest again ?
And….I haven’t decided now.
Or maybe, you are waiting for the appropriate time?
And…well , I don’t know yet because it is still about 2 to 3 years left, but at my own age now, I have to be careful what I go into. Although, once you have a good health at any age you can do anything but for now I haven’t decided. Am still watching the scenario.