On Wednesday, February 3, 2021, the geographical entity identified as Benue State, located within the North Central Zone of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, reached the 45th year of coming into existence, having been created on February 3, 1976 by the late Gen Murtala Ramat Mohammed alongside six others.
However, it must be remembered that three men stand out clearly as the tripod on which the solidity of the dream state stood and could well be said to be the founding fathers of the state.
The first person in the Benue Troika could be identified as the late Senator Chief Dr Joseph Sarwuan Tarka, who alongside Chief Patrick Dkotri from the then Plateau Province, the second person in the Benue Troika, Chief Jacob C Obande and the hot headed academic, Paul Unongo had championed minority rights agitation in the then Middle Belt area of the then Northern Region. They were later joined by the anti corruption crusader, the indefatigable Apollo’s Aper Aku, who later became the first executive governor of the state on October 1,1979,coming from a superlative performance as the chairman of the defunct Kwande Division, now split into Kwande Local Government Area and Ushongo Local Government Area. He is rightly identified as the third member of the Benue Troika, having laid a solid foundation for a modern Benue State and whose administration remains a reference point for others that had come after him even as he had exited the stage nearly forty years ago.
It should be equally noted that the late Middle Belt leader, Senator Joseph Sarwuan Tarka was a large-hearted man whose visionary agitation extended beyond the Middle Belt minorities and embraced other minorities in the southern parts of the country, especially those in the Niger Delta Region, who were the oil producing areas of the country but who were equally being relegated to the background in terms of gaining from the wealth they were producing for the overall development of the country.
There in the Niger Delta axis, JS Tarka found reliable bed fellows in the late Chief Harrold Dappa Biriye, Chief Murphy, the late Chief Matthew Mbu and Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark. Together they worked conscientiously to secure the creation of new states, especially for the marginalized minorities, thus giving their people self determination and a fuller sense of belonging in the comity of states in the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to now bargain on equal terms for the fair sharing of the national cake.
Their dream was for the hitherto marginalized minorities to have equality in all opportunities to attain national aspirations with the dominant majority ethnic groups that had constituted the stumbling blocks to their own aspirations.
The Benue Troika had dreamt that the Benue State of their succeeding generations would emerge great, waxing stronger, harnessing the abundant human and material resources, especially agricultural and mineral, that Nature had graciously endowed the state with to attain heights of prosperity that could forever assure the citizenry and the economy of the desirable well being such that could make the state the envy of all and in the process magnetize investors from far and near.
The founding fathers of the Benue project had at the back of their minds the massive hospitality characteristic of the people with their diverse cultures and traditions that could well turn out to be the strengths with which to build the Benue State of the future, the destination of tourists around the globe in all facets of tourism.
But going 45years down the line, it is not yet Uhuru and one cannot agree less with elder statesman and former military governor of the state, the Nomor U Tiv, Chief John Atom Kpera that indiscipline had remained the bane of Benue development as the people had variously failed to harmonize available material resources with manpower for the overall good of the state. The octogenarian former brigadier-general of the Nigerian Army who recently clocked 80 years of age, believes only a complete departure from the deviant attitude of the people towards the commonality of their being is bound to return them to the tracks of development as the machinery is still on the tracks waiting to be oiled and revved back to life for necessary motion on the desirable journey of progress.
The Benue project has to be done and it is a project for all stake holders. The leaders and the led all have joint stakes in the project as the state belongs to one and all, the aged, the adults, the youths and the young.
It is in this wise that it is apt to call on the leaders to lead well as it is the Herculean task that fate had entrusted upon them while those for whom leadership exists have the Herculean task of providing a solid support base for the attainment of success by the leaders as entrusted upon them by fate
That is why the Benue project is a collective task that must be done.
Even in the face of the unyielding challenges that had come to undermine efforts at moving forward on the path of development, especially the suspected herdsmen sponsored and promoted armed insurgency that had greatly undermined agricultural productivity and lately, the global Corona Virus Disease pandemic.