By Moses Akarhan, Sunday Iduh & Terkimbi Songo
Benue State is one of the 36 States of the Federal Republic of Nigeria located in the North-Central part of the country. It was created on February 3, 1976 by the Late General Murtala Muhammed led regime.
The governor of a state leads the executive branch. He is responsible for the appointment of heads of the state’s ministries, Departments and Agencies. He is also the chief security officer of the state.
Benue State, just like other states has a history of different governors be it military or civilian. They governed the state in their own unique ways.
Major General Abdullahi Shelleng : The first Military Governor of Benue State was Major General Abdullahi Shelleng. He served the state for two years from February 3, 1976 to July, 1978 during the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo.
Group Captain Adebayo Lawal took over from Major General Shelleng. He was at the helm of affairs for one year from July 1978 to October 1979 as a military administrator, also during the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo.
Aper Aku was elected as the first Civilian Governor of Benue State on the platform of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in October, 1979. He was re-elected in October 1983 in the Second Republic. He left office after the military coup in December, 1983 which brought General Mohammadu Buhari to power.
Brigadier General Atom Kpera, son of the soil was later appointed Military Administrator of Benue State from January 1984 to August 1985 during the military regime of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari.
Air Commodore Jonah Jang took over from Brigadier General Atom Kpera. He served from August, 1985 to August, 1986
The next chief security officer of the state was Colonel Yohanna Madaki. He was in charge of the state’s affairs from August, 1986 to September, 1986 during the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida.
Other military administrators who governed the state include: Major General Ishaya Bakut, September, 1986 to 1987; Major General Idris Garba, December, 1987 to 1988; Lt. Colonel Fidelis Makka, July 21, 1988 to January 2, 1992.
Reverend Father Moses Adasu became the second civilian governor of Benue State on January 2, 1992, following the return of democratic governance. He was elected on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). His famous achievement is the establishment of the Benue State University. He left office after the military coup in November 1993 which brought General Sani Abacha to power.
The military took over the reign of governance after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 elections by General Ibrahim Babangida. The election was won by M.K.O Abiola. Group Captain Joshua Obademi was appointed as Administrator of Benue State during the military regime of General Sani Abacha. He served from December, 1993 to August, 1996.
Colonel Aminu Isa Kontagora became the Military Administrator of Benue State from August, 1996 to August 1998, also during the military regime of General Sani Abacha.
Brigadier General Dominic Oneya was appointed Military Administrator of Benue State from August 1998 to May 1999 during the transitional regime of General Abdulsalami Abubakar following the sudden demise of General Sani Abacha. He handed over power to the elected executive governor, George Akume on 29th May, 1999 when democratic governance made a return again.
1999 was a very significant year in the history of our Nigerian democracy, these was the year that ushered in the return of democratic regime from the rule of military regime which was referred to as transition from military to civil rule.
From 1999 till date, Nigeria has witnessed uninterrupted rule of democratic government in the country.
Benue State from 1999 till date has gone through successive democratic administrations. From 1999, Senator Dr George Akume was elected as the Executive Governor of Benue State for a period of four years(1999-2003) under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) after which he was re- elected for another four years (2003-2007) in the same political party (PDP).He constructed owner occupier housing estate, Judges quarters, drainage channels and opened up major streets in major cities of the state among others.
Year 2007 witnessed yet another transition process in Benue State. By this time, it was from civilian to civilian rule which sort to deepen democratic governance in Benue State.
From 2007 to 2011, Senator Dr Gabriel Torwua Suswam was elected as the Executive Governor of Benue State under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for a period of four years, (2011-2015) and was re-elected for another four years in the same political party (PDP). He was known as Mr. Infrastructure for constructing streets in major cities of the state and construction walk ways as well as street lights. He completed the Benue state University Hospital and constructed the Greater Makurdi water works among other projects.
The incumbent governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom emerged in 2015 on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He was re-elected in 2019 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is referred to as the defender of Benue Valley for his dogged fight against the invasion of herdsmen who are bent to take over Benue communities. He has upgraded the School of Nursing and midwifery to a degree awarding institution and facilitated accreditation of BSU Teaching Hospital. The teaching hospital is now offering Pharmacy and Nursing and its admission quarter for medical students has been increased. The administration has constructed urban and rural roads and also elevated traditional institution in the state.
Benue community on March 18, during the last governorship election overwhelmingly elected Rev. Dr. Hyacinth Iormem Alia as its Governor on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He is expected to be sworn-in on May 29, 2023. He is the second catholic priest after Rev Fr. Moses Orshio Adasu to emerge as governor of the state from Jechira axes. While Adasu was from Konshisha, Alia is from Vandeikya. It is expected that he will also perform creditably well just as his brother Adasu deed during his reign which was short-lived by military coup. What is mostly expected of the reverend gentle man is to restore the security of the state and let the people in IDPs return to their ancestral homes. He should also clear salaries and pension arrears and ensure steady payment. Benue people are also looking forward to a robust relationship between the state and federal government to attract federal presence to the state. For the youth, they are yearning for job opportunities both at state and federal.