2023 Elections: Benue’s rumour mills, made-up crisis and negative narratives



 

By Fred Igbayima

Although it is literally a long way off to real 2023 politicking for anyone to imagine any serious political squabble when campaigns are yet to seriously commence from mere intention or consideration to aspire for any office; yet those skilled in the art of rumour-making are already up testing the insatiable rumour mill with token drumbeats of made-up disagreements and alliances between and amongst Benue political gladiators.

In Benue, perhaps due largely to its predominantly rural civil service economy where idleness looms large drawn out of the tedium of bureaucracy, the rumour mill has always remained very active in the face of a broad failure of leadership at all levels.

 

Rural, poor and heavily underdeveloped our economy may be, but I think it is important that we must consciously aspire to collectively move or transform our state from its prevailing condition of anomie, where only elected and appointed public officers are the happy and contented segment of our society, around whom usually swarm a crowd of both young and old often in sycophantic frenzy, especially on occasions such as wedding and funeral ceremonies, which in Benue’s urban and rural environments have become mandatory weekly rendezvous for elected and appointed politicians and their underlings.

When last week I read in a fringe local online publication the news of a so-called phone call by Senator George Akume, Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, I quickly assume that the hideous characters behind the poisonous rumours, made-up stories and negative narratives which had been behind our history of primitive politics that inevitably translated to the sad reality of social and economic underdevelopment may have begun.

 

While I do not in any way believe the story or think that any reasonable person will believe such unsubstantiated rumour, our political environment has thrived on the gullibility of the larger population to lap up such naïve, baseless and concocted fiction.

A mere glance at the sumptuous -sentence headline without reading the story immediately gives the story away as readymade from, and for, the rumour mill, and this is immediately confirmed in the details as not only a crafty and mischievous fake news that it is, it also exposed the creepy motive and agenda of whoever was behind the fabrication.

 

“2023: CRISIS HITS BENUE APC AS AKUME’S PHONE CONVERSATION WHERE HE ENDORSED GEMADE/ODE TICKET LEAKED….LAWANI, HEMBE, MNENGA, HANMATION, SHIJA TO DECAMP TO APGA, PDP, SDP,” the shouting headline reads, but unfortunately the entire of the story irretrievably betrayed the intention of the publication and obviously those behind it.

 

While I am obviously not a fan of Senator Akume, or have any ideological affinity with the APC, I do believe that the former governor is too politically shrewd to make the sort of blunder that could have gifted a fringe local publication such a scoop that couldn’t be concretely substantiated.

The story reads in part: “This is certainly not a good time for the Benue state chapter of the All Progressive Congress, APC, as the party is presently facing several crises over the battle for its 2023 Governorship ticket.

These crises which Concord Newspaper learnt have torn the party apart have also forced top contenders for the governorship seat like Herman Hembe, Richard Tersoo Mnenga, Hanmation, Terhemba Shija, Steven Lawani to consider decamping to other parties where they can proceed with their ambitions.

“According to a reliable source the Benue APC, the crises started when a telephone conversation of the leader of the party who is also the minister for Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Senator George Akume, where he mentioned Senator Barnabas Gemade as his preferred choice as Governor Ortom’s successor leaked during the weekend.”(My emphasis)

 

Clearly, it doesn’t bother the originator and author of the story, for the sake of credibility and assurance to discerning readers, to establish who the Minister was in conversation with even if professionalism demands that the source of the story could be kept secret. Again, if I may ask, what is the basis of this phantom call, and does it automatically translate to “several crises” as insinuated by the report?

My profound worry, of course, goes beyond these obviously unprofessional blunders or even the wilful promotion of deceit, negativity and outright lying to serve some irrelevant and self-serving personal interest at the expense of an overriding public and popular interest of our people – be they Tiv, Idoma, and all other sub-ethnic interests in our state.

Yes, Engr. Gemade has the constitutional right to vie for any position in the state. It is also the rights of Senator Akume to try to exert his influence in the state’s politics if he operates the latitude of his legitimate political authority the structures of his party. So also it is the right of the PDP and those at the helm of affairs of the state with the authority invested in Governor Ortom.

 

There is an overwhelming need for all stakeholders in Benue to moderate their diverse interests with the overall interest of the state. For any decent and well-meaning indigene of the state, our dominant concern should be the improvement in the living conditions of our people, which has for too long been subdued by selfish or personal interests under the cover of ethnic politics.

For me, and I am sure, with the benefit of hindsight, for a larger proportion of my fellow Tiv compatriots, especially those properly positioned to influence political decisions, it will serve greater pan-Benue interest if they are able to reach a consensus to consciously mobilise support for an Idoma candidate.

 

I am of the view that the fundamental argument on who should emerge as governor of Benue State come 2023 ought to go beyond Senator (Engr) Gemade, or anyone in his age bracket for that matter, who obviously, will be too old to make any effective impact in governance. I am also of the view that candidates of Tiv origin should be out of the equation, come 2023, no matter how qualified they may be. The core argument should be anchored on competence for development, a governance philosophy that is developmentally-centred and capable of undoing the decades of failed leadership which has translated to infrastructural deficits, collapsed industries, abject poverty, unpaid salaries and pensions, subsistence farming, conflicts, collapsed education and healthcare, etcetera.

If anything, our Tiv political power brokers should positively their influence, which they have in abundance, to headhunt a credible candidate of Idoma origin, somebody whose political and governance philosophies fit our development aspirations and one who is able to gain the broad confidence and consensus of both Tiv and Idoma.

 

A sincere and objective search may not take long. To start with, Sam Ode, touted to deputise Senator (Engr) Gemade in the report under reference, should be one such candidate. In my estimation, he ticks most of the basic credentials – he has state and national exposure, as well as experience. I also think he has ideological clarity and apart from being obviously psychologically calm and composed. Very critical is the fact that he has an ancestry that is solidly rooted in Tiv and Idoma heartlands. These shared blood or ethnic and political affinities with both Tiv and Idoma remain a critically important factor for the elite to begin a sincere conversation for the required consensus. Can we further interrogate his suitability along with others from Idoma’s Zone C? For me, that is not a bad idea at all!

Mr Igbayima writes from Gyado Villa, Gboko Road, Makurdi, Benue State capital.