Travails of Aper Aku and Others

Aper Aku


“Aku baba wam oooo
Iin a ii udubu heree
Orbaja ngu a gomna ga
Orbaja una ya gomna yô
Saa jaki anyor sha ihula nulaa “
-A Tiv political song in the 1980s
The Tiv Swange music was undergoing radical changes in the 1960s and 1970s, although these sporadic changes would produce an unusual character who captured the political reality in Benue State that seemed to have eluded the informed and educated men of the day.
Since he formed his group in 1946, the man who gave form to the Swange music with his Gbanyi band, Yamuel Yashi , loomed large as a lone star. In 1963, one of his members, Soomiyol Anikpa Abyem, known as Soom, left Yashi and formed his group. He did not leave alone, he left with many other members of the Yashi band, including the legendary trumpeter, Boniface Orshior Ada Kever. This group was plagued with a number of deaths. It kept losing members in quick succession.
Maybe those deaths were the reason or perhaps it was due to his quest for wealth that Ada Kever left Soomiyol and formed his legendary group in 1965. This could be adjudged as the best Swange group ever. It churned out wonderful songs, still in vogue till date.
Orshior Apollo 16 Swange Music band had an unusual addition to the group in 1972. His name was Solomon Doki Abua, later known simply as King 1 Abua, founder of the Kpingi dance.
In 1974, Major Riga Addingi did an unsual thing. He invited Orshior and his group to Lagos to perform to some of his guests. As they were coming back after the show, he bought modern musical equipment and gave to Abua. He asked him to come and form his group and separate from Orshior. The reasons for this gesture are still unclear.
Solomon Doki Abua Tortya was a different thing. He was a phenomenon with his provocative songs and dance steps. Although most of them were illiterates or poorly educated, Abua did what most better educated Benue men were unable to do when Aper Aku became governor. It appears Abua alone saw the efforts of the first democratically elected governor of Benue State and situated them properly through his songs.
In his classical song when JS Tarkaa died in 1980 “Ior mem Ahumbe a zan”, Abua sang that ever since Aper Aku Ikyuso became governor in 1979, civil servants in the state had become orderly. They took their work more seriously, he said. He also noted that Benue had begun to witness visible changes. With Aku in charge, Benue indigenes had left poverty behind them, Abua said.
This minority position on that eventful Aku regime would later be accepted by all, after so many years. But when Abua sang then, many thought of his judgement as a position of an illiterate, deranged and psychophantic musician. But now that Abua’s position has shamed Benue intelligential, professionals and likes, we need to engage the yardsticks with which most of us “criticize” our serving governors.
Throughout our political history, it is observed our men of letters and influential politicians have been wrong on observing the performance of our governors. They deliberately starve them of sincere praises and even constructive criticism. In the place of the above, they resort to the spread of blatant falsehood and insults, with the covert or overt intent to distract them from performing.
Like Aku, so they did to Moses Adasu, George Akume and Gabriel Suswam, and of course it appears Samuel Ortom too is facing the same music.
Aku came to the throne in 1979 as a very prepared man. He was one of the first degree holders in Tiv land, he graduated in 1964, after Ezekiel Akiga. He had taught in several schools in Gboko, Gombe , Bauchi and Kaduna. He also joined the federal Civil Service and worked in Lagos.
He retired and joined the business world in 1970. He later joined politics and was elected as a councillor Kwande Local Government in 1976 and subsequently, he was nominated and confirmed by the Millitary Administration of Abdullahi Shelleng as chairman of Kwande Local government Area.
As governor, Aku chose as commissioners, people he knew and who would deliver on the promises they had made to the people. And he built a vision for the state. But as he struggled to implement his vision, he faced stiff opposition from politicians of the day; people he defeated in the primaries or who could not stomach their ambitions.
Everything Aku did was questioned. Although most of these accusations against Aku were baseless, he was seriously irritated by them and particularly hated the political songs which were targeted at demeaning him.
From day one, all the politicians were not interested in Aku’s efforts and achievements, but bent on stopping him from being re-elected in 1983. Using the Jos based newspaper, the Nigerian Standard; they spread falsehood and insults on him.
The song quoted above literally means, Aku my father, keep on stealing in thousands, the governorship was not for him, a thief and before he wins again, it will be difficult for him as it is for the donkey to pass through the eye of a needle. They even insulted Aku as nyadem sugar, literally meaining urinating sugar because he was diabetic.
When the Benue Brewery was opened, people mocked its product, More Lager Beer, as Aku’s sugary urine. All these, they said against the man who was struggling to help the people by doing his best.
We might say our governors have not solved all our problems, and they all have their short comings and weaknesses, but have we been fair in our criticism? Recently, when Suswam came up with the Iowa pigs project, we all insulted him. The pig project became the focal point of campaign against his re-election in 2011. How many know now how successful that project has become?
Or how many people still remember how Benue went agog with the news that Akume died in Germany towards 2003? Akume was hated sincerely, but all these changed in 2011, he again became a hero. Do we know that Adasu was sacked from Benue State University that he established? We did all these to the people who have been struggling to contribute their quota to the people!
Has Ortom stepped in Aper Aku’s shoes? After his years as governor, Ortom will be judged on how he responds to these ungrateful comments from his distratctors. Aku could have done more, but he became angry. Akume too became angry; Suswam too became angry, distracted and vindictive. As he stepped into these shoes, history will look at Ortom’s response and not the falsehood and insults.
Will Ortom allow himself to be distracted by the falsehood and insults, or will he rise even above Aku, Adasu, Akume and Suswam by being more focused, and not given into anger, like the others?
Historians will write about his response tomorrow.

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