Monday, 27 October 2014


It was a sorry write-up, which ordinarily shouldn’t have elicited my response or that of any sane person. However, the level of degradation of facts, vilification of sanity and outright mendacity by Mr. Elijah, a media aide to the Senate President, Senator David Mark, makes this imperative.

I am however in a fix how to correct the flimflam; this advertisement of half-truths and emotional claptrap without lacerating the person of the Senate President, who I hold in high esteem and had had cause in the past to stand to his defence when under attack by entrenched reactionary forces of ethnic chauvinism and backwardness.

Mr. Elijah was supposedly reacting to a news story credited to a distinguished Idoma son, Chief Mike Onoja, who is the principal contender to the Benue South senatorial seat currently occupied by the Senate President.

 For daring to stand up to the Senate President and demand that the senatorial seat which he has occupied since 1999 rotates to another part of the senatorial district in line with the wishes of the people, the retired federal permanent secretary incurred the wrath of Mr. Elijah with his noxious canister of fairy tale and smear.

The views canvassed by Chief Onoja which he finds distasteful are not new. These are issues on the lips of every Idoma man. They are true! Senator Mark has overstayed his welcome. He might have made great impact on national politics with his doctrine of necessity and the stability he has brought to the senate, but his impact on his immediate community has been negligible given his position as the nation’s number three citizen. Is it not a shame that in over 15 years as senator representing Benue South senatorial district; eight of which he is presiding as the Senate President, not one kilometre of new road has been constructed by the federal government anywhere in the senatorial district? Even the reconstruction of the 50km Otukpa-Otukpa road which connects the senatorial district with the southern part of the country is yet to be completed seven years after it was opened up in several places.

It is a fact that the National Assembly failed to appropriate sufficient funds for the construction of the Otukpo-Agila-Ngbo road which Chief Onoja and another illustrious Agila son had successively lobbied its inclusion in the 2011/2012 federal budget. This road if constructed would have linked up Benue state to Ebonyi state, open up the economy of the two states  and help reduce the tension and clashes between the Agila people of Benue and the Ngbo of Ebonyi state.

Mr. Elijah’s accusation that Chief Onoja is ambitious, that he is using “black propaganda” and standing “truth, logic and facts on its head” just to demonise the Senate President is pathetic. Where is propaganda in what he said? Where did he stand truth, logic and facts on its head? Is it by saying that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander? Is it not true that other sections of Idoma land and the Igede people also have the right as well as the men to represent the district?

This is not America where a Senator Robert C Byrd of West Virginia can spend 51 years, 5 months and 26 days in the senate. In case the perquisites of his office as media aide to the Senate President have fooled him into believing that we are in America, let me inform him that this is Naija where sensibilities of the people count. The attempt therefore to draw Chief Onoja’s attention to what obtains in America and to accuse him of ignorance, even of jealousy as he “ought to have known the classical distinction between the executive and the legislative arms of government” is misplaced.

Hear Elijah: “From his political thesis, two factors were obviously at play – jealousy and ignorance about democratic tenets. This was made manifest when he said,”…even in the senate now, he (Mark) was the longest serving senator. Is it that we do not have competent people to represent Zone c?”
The question the respected Chief asked is the same question every Idoma man is asking; “na only David Mark waka come?”  His decision to ask questions is not influenced by ignorance or jealousy but by a patriotic desire to contribute to the fight against the socio-political retardation of Idoma land.

Chief Onoja is not jealous of the distinguished Senate President and, he has never been. It is a fact known that these two illustrious Idoma sons are friends who have worked together on the same political platform in the past. Since joining forces in the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Onoja has consistently supported his friend in his electoral contests. That he opted out from a grand plan aimed at ensuring the permanent colonization of the senatorial seat like Senator Robert C Byrd in the US is a function of his intrepid and liberal mind, not one of jealousy. He believes that others should also have a taste of it, for what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
Mr. Elijah made me laugh when he said that “the question to ask is; has the Benue South Senatorial district fared any better under Senator Mark’s leadership as a senator representing the zone? The answer is yes!” Hmm!

How do you compare the performance of an actor when he is the only performer on stage? Who do you compare him with? Who?
While the attempt to chronicle the achievements of the distinguished Senate President is commendable, Mr. Elijah should have limited himself to the things that he did and not go on listing every project executed in Idoma land and attributing them to the Senate president.
Many spurious claims were made but the most absurd of these is the one that Senator Mark “lobbied both the Benue state and federal governments to electrify Otukpo-Oju and Otukpo-Agila in addition to the proposed Igumale cement company.”
The absurdity was further compounded when he said that “the senator in his quest to extricate the Ado people from the clutches of poverty and under-development while in exile had wanted to establish the cement factory in conjunction with some associates but was frustrated by late Gen. Sani Abacha.” Interesting indeed!

It is interesting that an intention that never saw the light of day, but was in his words, frustrated has now become an achievement!
It is a fact that the Otukpo-Agila rural electrification project which supplies electricity to parts of Otukpo and Ado local government area today was brought by Chief Mike Onoja who Mr. Elijah sought to vilify; the man he challenged to tell the Idoma people what he did for them as a public servant.

It was Chief Onoja, who as permanent Secretary, Federal ministry of Power and Steel, took light to Ado local government area and extending it to Agila which is the farthest part of the local government and also his home village. Mr. Elijah would however want us to reject that and instead believe his own story that it was his boss that lobbied and got the project for the people.
The question I ask is; who did he lobby? Was it Chief Onoja, the permanent secretary; whose village the light was meant to reach that he lobbied or who?
That Mr. Elijah could take what was done by Chief Onoja and ascribe it to Senator Mark and turn round to accuse the former of doing nothing for his people is pure mischief.

To also accuse him of insensitivity to the plight of his people by not building a military barrack in Agila to stem the incessant boundary clashes between the Agila people and the Ngbo of Ebonyi state is another case of mischief.
Hear him:”It is on record that during his days in Gen. Sani Abacha’s government, there was no minister of Defence. Chief Mike Onoja was the de-facto minister of Defence. So establishing a military barrack in the Agila chiefdom would have been as simple as A,B,C. Or was he waiting to be elected a Senator before working for the overall interest of his people?”

It is obvious that Mr. Elijah does not know that you can’t construct a bridge where there is no river, road or obstacle that prevents movement of people. Military barracks are set up in areas where soldiers are based. Where do you bring from, the soldiers to live in the barracks to be built in Agila? You don’t just set up military barracks anywhere and don’t forget that when Chief Onoja was the Permanent secretary, Defence, there were four divisions of the Nigerian Army and they were regionally based.
Secondly, internal issues like boundary disputes are within the purview of the police, not the military. There’s therefore no way you’ll expect Chief Onoja to take a military barrack to Agila.

Let me conclude by saying that I agree completely with Mr. Elijah’s own conclusion that “yes, election is by the corner and everybody of age has the right to aspire to any position, but those in previous positions of authority must be made to account for what they have used their positions to do for their people.”

I wish to also add that account of stewardship should not be restricted to those who held positions of authority in the past but it should also involve those in leadership positions today. Everyone should give account of their stewardship.

The Idoma people would want to know from their representatives at the National Assembly how they used their positions of influence to advance the cause of our demand for the creation of Apa state as well as our desire to have a constitutional backing guaranteeing rotation of political offices, particularly the governorship position among the three senatorial zones in each state. The Idoma people are keen to know how and why the deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremandu could tell us that the Idoma people and others demanding for states didn’t follow the due process. What was that due process which our able representatives didn’t know before to inform us or is there more to their inability to deliver on their electoral promise than we know?

Yes, I agree “this is the period of operation show your records”, however, just like judgment would begin in the house of God, why not this accountability begin with our national assembly members; some of who have never briefed their constituents since their election.

_ Ede, a public affairs analyst and media aide to Chief Onoja is based in Makurdi.

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