6 July 2010
Makurdi — Before his administration was ousted in 1983, late Governor Aper Aku had prepared the ground work for the establishment of the Benue State University but it was late Governor Moses Adasu that finally received General Ibrahim Babangida's nod for its establishment in 1992.
Professor Charles Vajime was the institution's first Vice Chancellor. After him, Professor David Ker was appointed Vice Chancellor. The present Vice Chancellor, Professor Akase Sorkaa would be completing his five year tenure in August this year. All the three mentioned above are of the Tiv extraction.
Already, the university has advertised the post of vice chancellor so that eligible candidates can apply. Even if the institution's governing council headed by Professor Ode Ojowu intends to ensure ethnic balancing by recommending the appointment of a vice chancellor from the Idoma speaking area of the state, the issue is likely to be politicized. Political heavy weights in Tiv land are likely to advise the visitor to the university, Governor Gabriel Suswam, to allow the status quo to remain by appointing a Tiv person.
The question that therefore arises as Professor Sorkaa leaves office is whether Suswam, as a democrat, would succumb to the pressure of those who said in 2007 that the 14 local government areas in Tiv land had not eaten enough to allow the governorship position to move to Idoma land that has nine (9) local governments.
Since Suswam assumed office in 2007 as the governor of Benue state, he has done a lot of things that have given the impression that appointing an Idoma person as the vice chancellor of the state-owned university would not be a problem to him.
In the first place, he is working very closely with the Senate President, David Mark, who has promised that a block vote would be given to him from the Benue South Senatorial District in 2011.
Secondly, Suswam has appointed Idoma sons and daughters into key positions, an indication that he has implicit confidence in the Idoma race.
Thirdly, Governor Suswam has supported David Mark in his effort to turn around the Senate for the better as he always rubbing minds with National Assembly members and other governors in order to ensure Mark's successful tenure.
Mark has also in turn, given Suswam a lot of support by ensuring that the gap that used to exist between past senate presidents and their governors do not exist.
Fourthly, Suswam and Mark have jointly helped many Benue sons and daughters to get juicy federal appointments. This is in spite of the animosity demonstrated against Mark when an indigene contested the post of senate president with him.
In addition to the above, Governor Suswam has broken the jinx by giving equal consideration to the Idoma speaking area in the aspect of the location of projects. The Utonkon-Okpoga-Owukpa-Orokam and the Otukpo-Igumale roads which have opened up four local government areas in the senatorial district is a mark of respect for the deputy governor, Chief Steven Lawani and the senate president. The Eke Olenwugbecho-Ajide-Ugbokolo-Otukpa-Orokam abandoned federal road rehabilitated by Governor Suswam has endeared him to the people.
Prior to Suswam's administration, the construction of the Ugbokpo-Oweto federal road ran into a hitch but he facilitated the resumption of work with the project now nearing completion. If money for the construction of the road is refunded to the state government, Suswam would use it for another project.
Even as the administration's rural electricity project is yet to impact heavily on Idoma land, the people have decided that in 2011, no other governorship candidate would be entertained in the area. The people had gathered earlier in the year at the senate president's residence in Otukpo to endorse Suswam as the sole candidate for the 2011 governorship race.
It is on record that there are about 80 professors of the Idoma extraction in various universities in Nigeria. This was why David Mark single handedly established a campus of the National Open University in Otukpo.
At the Benue State University and the University of Agriculture, all in Makurdi, there are over 20 professors of the Idoma extraction.
Suswam's struggle for a second term is more capital intensive in Tiv land. In Idoma land, political pundits have predicted that he would have a smooth sail. Even as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the NTA, Engr. Benson Abounu, has urged him to begin to consider handing over power to somebody from Idoma land in 2015, the governor can strengthen his hold on the senatorial district by appointing a vice chancellor of his choice for the state university. The gesture would no doubt give a stronger sense of belonging to the people who were said to have been denied several things before his arrival on the stage.
So many people may argue that the position of vice chancellor would be too juicy to give to a non Tiv but they should not forget that by population and political arrangement, the speaker of the State House of Assembly has never been chosen from Benue South Senatorial District. Also, the post of the Chief Judge of the State has never been given to an Idoma person.
Unlike his predecessors, Governor Suswam has declared that he would give the Idoma every support to realize their dream of having a state of their own because state creation brings about development.
In the past, efforts were made to frustrate the struggle but since he became governor, no malice has been expressed by the state government. The list of Suswam's kind gesture towards the Idoma speaking people is endless. As someone who believes in fairness, Suswam would be facing a litmus test similar to the one he faced when a prominent politician nearly created trouble because of alleged lope sidedness in the recruitment of some persons into a para-military organization. Ethnic jingoists were surprised when Governor Suswam's response to the seeming inciting statement was based on public interest, peace and harmony in the state.
Governor Suswam is being urged to look at the capability and ingenuity of the person who may be appointed as the next vice chancellor of the Benue State University as the institution's problems appear to be increasing every day.
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