Dymistifying The Benue Leadership Myths: Sam Ode & The Politics Of 2023.

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Oftentimes, when I interact with my brethren of Idoma extraction, there is this usual pride, apparently hinged on a passive fixation of being an “effective minority.” This is what I call positive ego, but that posture is unhealthy, particularly in the face of many unconquered political challenges.This complex remains ridiculous until deliberate steps are taken by Idoma sons and daughters to alter the status quo.
Why would a people delight in basking in the euphoria of what appears to me as a minus when they are yet to conquer a simple challenge; of taking a deserved position in the political leadership of their own state, Benue?

My perception of what should embody “effectiveness” of a people is conspicuously absent in the politics and socio cultural configuration of the Idoma nation today.
Believe me, the Idoma Nation has been clearly shortchanged in the political leadership permutations in their own state of Benue. The existing sentiments do not favor them, yet they seem to have only a passive interest in effecting reforms to reset the default political settings foisted on them by their Tiv “majority” counterparts.

For me, this is the basis of this piece. To reawaken the general consciousness of our brethren from that divide to rise up and conquer this decades long challenge.
The continued posturing of an “effective minority” in place of mobilizing and galvanizing their kith and kin to change the unfair political status quo is unyielding, counter productive and quite unsettling.

I am not a tribal bigot. I am also not unaware of the intrigues of political rivalry.Therefore, I hold the view that contest for political leadership should be broad based and not skewed from the onset to the disadvantage of other ethnic groups within a shared political territory. There’s no justification for this. I am a nationalist and I uphold the ideals of nationalism which transcends beyond ethnicity, tribe, culture and geography; to say the very least, on Issues of political leadership in the 21st century.

In the course of forging common frontiers and building bridges across the country, I have had course to interact with many great Nigerians of diverse backgrounds and endeavors; people who in themselves, by every indeces are core nationalists.
But one that stood out exceptionally as a true symbol of unity and beacon of peace is Dr. Samuel Ode who incidentally was the running mate to Barr. Emmanuel Jime both of whom gave life to the joint ticket of the APC in 2019 as governor and deputy governorship candidates respectively. Dr Sam Ode is pleasant, charming, down to earth, above all, he is irredeemably humble and detribalised to the core.

Among the very many great sons and daughters of Idoma nation, Dr Sam Ode symbolizes humility, finnese, respect, positive demeanor , candour and true statesmanship; which virtues are true of a typical traditional African Idoma man and synonymous with the Idoma culture.
Overtime, I have come to understand Idoma people as endowed with some underlying virtues, particularly, an undying entrepreneurial spirit and togetherness but they are unable to harness this towards forging a common front to liberate themseves from what I call the flipping theory of “we are majority” often flaunted by their good neighbors, the Tivs; of course to sustain the decades long political bias.

Let me say this without any conjecture that the Idoma nation is endowed with people of valour, principles, honor and an amazing commitment to excellence as demonstrated in the decade long and subsisting achievements of their sons and daughters which stare before us in many facets of human endeavor. The likes of Sen David Mark, Mike Onoja of the old folk, and Dr Sam ode, Abba Morro of the semi-old folk and not forgetting the emerging pacesetters in the likes of Chief Philip Agbese , Hon Joe Ojobo etc. Whichever way one examines this, there’s no question about the non shortage of egg heads on that side of the divide whom, if truly united, can break the jinx unhindered.

The uniqueness, ingenuity, political prowess and determination demonstrated at various levels of leadership and human relations by the above few examples leaves no one in doubt that our brothers are prepared if given a fair chance at political leadership in Benue state.

Interestingly or rather ironically, not sure, whether it is fate or sheer lack of push by the Idoma people themselves, our brethren over there have been unable to produce a Governor in their home state of Benue since its creation in 1976.
In my view, the general posture and political pattern of Idoma people as regards their approach in seeking for political leadership of Benue as Governor is not entirely encouraging. Every thing comes down to lack of unity amongst themselves. As much as the Tiv majority would wish otherwise, what remains the greatest impediment to the dream of “an Idoma Governor” is their own unity.

As a Tiv man, I align with my kinsmen that political leadership is not inherited or willed or offered on the basis of wishes…but of course on the basis of effective and passionate push hinged on a united front.This reality, as weird as it sounds, takes the challenge at the door steps of our Idoma brethren.

Now is the moment…

This is the time for our brethren to seize the moment. The politics of our neiboring states have effectively laid a positive precedent about the sentiments of “minority & majority” and through the emergence former president Jonathan, that sentiment of minority was effectively weakened and I dare say abolished.

On the above premise, will our Idoma brethren wake up from slumber? Will they join forces to domesticate the capacity inherent in their son Dr Sam Ode? This puzzle is much left for our Idoma brethren to unravel.

In 2007, regardless of the deep seated sentiments, the Idoma people still made an impression that would have revolutionalised the existing political arrangement that seems to barr them from Benue government house. But one thing counted against them; multiplicity or duplicity of interests in place of a united front. On their divide alone, we had the likes of many qualified candidates in Chief Mike Okibe , Lawrence Onoja, Chief Stephen Lawani, Ralph Igbago etc.As competent as they all were, if the Idoma had united behind the leading contender in Mike Onoja, no sentiment would have betrayed that cause of taking the political leadership of Benue at the time.

Myself, just like every other patriot felt the pain but more importantly, it exposed the fact that the Idoma people where their own problem.

The above courage demonstrated by Mike Onoja remains the closest and greatest leap made by any Idoma aspirant in the bid to change the status quo regarding political leadership in Benue state.The golden opportunity and good will was frittered away by the sheer lack of unity amongst the Idoma brethren themselves. Sadly, it was still exploited by the tiv majority.

On the above premise, It is my conviction, that our Idoma brethren do not go into the Benue governorship race with all the arsenals they need to appeal and disarm opponents. In my view, Idoma’s greatest weapon is unity and failure to deploy and maximally utilize it is akin to arming an enemy at the expense of their own dream.

As we pace towards 2023 general elections, the beautiful and adorable Princess of “Alekwu” deity stands naked in the market square waiting to be clothed with the traditional woven dress of unity. She is nervous and anxiously waiting for the Idoma race to cover her nakedness with a beautifully knitted attire of unity.

And most importantly, in politics, sometimes, it is better to dispel the “imaginary”fear of your opponents. This begins with the basics.The inherent suspicion of the Tiv people with conceding Benues’ governorship seat to Idoma people is hinged on the phobia of state domination. This assertion or suspicion has no basis in reality, no veracity in it’s entirety and utterly without proof.But most times, consistency with speculations overshadows truth. Conscious steps must therefore be taken to neutralize those suspicions,for they are shadows without claws; albeit planted to hold the Idoma brethren back.

As a Tiv man, I have a deep seated conviction about the spirit of self-guilt, which follows majority of our folks for their continuous expression of bias against the Idoma brethren having regard to the Benue governorship seat.But guilts do not vanish by wishes.

I am convinced, more than ever before, that this is the time for the Idoma Nation to put their house in order; preparatory to Benue 2023. It is time for the Idoma people to present before Benue, a unified candidate, a bridge builder, a dismantler of negative illusions, an enabler of peace, a pace setter and one, whose personality erodes all suspicions and ignites passion for excellence, love, unity , peace and progress for the entire people of Benue.

To this end, and on this premise;I see bright light, I see a shining star , I see a firm armour, I see glory and splendor in the unified candidature of Dr. Sam Igbadio Ode.

He is a household name in Benue and indeed, Nigeria. His mixed heritage (Idoma father/Tiv mother) is a pointer to the bridge we seek.He is a refined multilinguist, which answers to the penetrative fear of domination.He upholds the vitures that endures; Amiable, humble, humane, generous, passionate, hardworking, a goal-getter, detribalized and above all God fearing.

For Sam ode, through life and its viccisitudes, as former Otukpo Council Chairman; Special Adviser on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Nigeria’s Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, this virtues became values.

His life is defined by selflessness and sustained by an abiding spirit of humility wherever and in whatever capacity he has been called to serve his people.

“Uncle Sam” as his admirers fondly call him has kept faith with the APC and on whose platform, he wishes to take a shot at the Benue most coveted seat in 2023. This is a wake-up call first, to the Idoma people before others, to line-up behind Dr. Sam Ode as their 2023 unified candidate. It is my profound plea to Benue people to endorse and support him for the 2023 race to Government house.

Solomon Semaka is a public affairs analyst and social Justice Crusader

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