In 1963, the great Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, and Premier of the defunct Northern Region, came to Otukpo where he commissioned the power station run by the then Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) that gave electricity to Otukpo metropolis. With that singular act, Otukpo became one of the few divisional capitals that had electricity supply in northern Nigeria with its obvious socio-economic advantages to the people of the area.
Within the same period, he also built the College of Secretarial Studies on an expansive land in the south western axis of the town that could have been easily converted to a full blown University of Information Technology were it not for the inexplicable removal of the institution from Otukpo to Jos by the military governor of the then Benue/Plateau state, Mr. Joseph Gomwalk of blessed memory.
In the political arena, Mr Jacob Obande was appointed Minister in the Federal Ministry of Establishment in Lagos, while Chief Abutu Obekpa was appointed minister by the late Premier. It must also be noted that an indigene of the area, Dr Edwin Ogbu, with the obvious influence of the Premier Ahmadu Bello, was the first Nigerian to take over from a Briton as the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance in 1963.
With the return of civil rule in 1979, another indigene of the area, Chief Audu Ogbeh, was appointed the Federal Minister of Communications by President Shehu Shagari until the coup of December 1983 removed him from office.
The coming of the Buhari-led government in 2015, like in the past, has also seen a lot of landmark developments being carried out by the government. The Oweto-Loko bridge over River Benue though not started by this government was being done at a snail speed which many observed whether the project would ever be completed and where work was stalled due to lack of political commitment, was immediately taken over by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and work commenced nonstop until its completion and awaiting official commissioning by Mr. President himself.
It thus also appears that the Idoma Nation may have been further compensated with the establishment of the Federal University of Health Sciences, Otukpo, and the Federal College of Education at Odugbo in Idoma hinterland for the removal of the College of Secretarial Studies by the then Benue/Plateau government.
Those who have always had some misgivings about Mr. President’s appointments may have a second thought when he appointed Professor John Idoko as the chairman of the governing council of the new University and Professor Innocent Ujah as the Vice Chancellor, two of the best brains that can be found anywhere in Nigeria.
Professor Innocent Ujah after his appointment as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Health Sciences, Otukpo, later won the election that made him the President of the prestigious Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).
This singular act testifies loudly to President Buhari’s assertion that he does not necessarily know some of his appointees but rely heavily on their records and antecedents.
Observers note that it would have been unfair if Professor John Idoko had not been given a vantage place in the new university after he had worked so hard to put rudiments of the university together and politics had denied him the position of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Jos where he held sway for several years.
The above narratives and others speak to the reason why the indigenes of the Benue South Senatorial District are eager to host President Muhammadu Buhari even as they are aware of the numerous challenges facing his government.
Most of the prominent Idoma indigenes spoken to do not share the negative opinions expressed by some sections of the country about President Muhammadu Buharis government and his person and have expressed their unalloyed support to him as he tackles the myriad of problems that now confront the nation. They expressed their disgust at some of the unprintable allegations levelled against the government and person of President Muhammadu Buhari, stressing that politics should end with elections and that government should not be confronted with unnecessary distractions by political do-gooders.
When the late Sir Ahmadu Bello visited Otukpo in 1963, the people amply demonstrated their admiration and appreciation to the man as they named one of the longest and most important street in Otukpo metropolis after his person, Ahmadu Bello Way.
As a local parlance goes ‘a man’s head cannot be shaved in his absence’, the people in the Benue South Senatorial District have planned some pleasant surprises ahead of Buhari’s impending official visit and also to lay the foundation stone of the new university.
A former minister who prefers to lie low may be speaking the minds of the generality of the people when he quoted the late South African President, Nelson Mandela, saying that ‘one of the greatest mistakes which some political analysts make is to think their enemies should be our enemies’ and that the Idoma Nation should not be stampeded in some of the rhetorics currently going by some people from a section of the country about the government of President Muhammadu Buhari even as they note that no indigene from their own part of the country is occupying any reasonable position in the APC -led government of headed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Fair minded political observers in the area are also of the opinion that in a democratic system of government, lobbying should be employed rather than intimidation and blackmail and other underhanded tactics meant to get appointments either for oneself or ethnic groups.
In fact, many agree with the saying that one who does not like pounded yam has no business peeping into a mortar.
The Idoma people have lived in peace and harmony with people of various ethnic and religious groups from all parts of the country for decades and should not be drawn into any controversy that would change this status quo. Even though “We live in a world where everyone is someone’s friend or foe,” a quotation of a veteran colleague, the Idoma race chooses to be everyone’s friend. And nothing should change that!
Adams, a Public Affairs Analyst, writes from AbujaNo tags for this post.