People of the middle-belt and their many troubles
Am proudly from Kogi State and an Igala from Agaliga-Efabo in Imane district in Olamaboro Local Council area of Kogi. My village is so backward without power, water for as long as my ancestors chose to settle in that place. I had hoped that my maternal grandmother (the last of my grandparents) Egbi Esther Maha would have seen development at least before she passed on but it didn’t happen before she did in 2016. What is worse is that the affairs of state were run by three Igala sons as governors without anything to show for it. People of the middle-belt shout ‘one north’ today and the next minute we hear them say, ‘we are not from the north but from the middle-belt.’ Who are the people of the middle-belt? I find it hard to cognize even though I am from the middle-belt. An Igala from dare I say north central? I look at the map of Nigeria and can’t see the north of the central or is it central of the north? We seem to be lost as we are neither from the north or the south and seem to not have great public figures to the types such as Solomon Lar and J.S Tarka. As things stand, we may never have those towering personalities any longer.
The people of Kwara State line up with the South West above all; they don’t see themselves as northerners but when it comes to national politics, they become northerners because the political bacon seem to be better for them in the north. What with the Fulani as Emir of Ilorin? No-where is a family dynasty in Nigeria so strong than in Kwara State. A family determines who becomes a governor and only in that state do you find sitting governors who can’t be autonomous to break rank with anointed godfathers. The family decides the whole enchilada. The places of interest for the Okun people of Kogi State are in Ife, Oyo and Kwara – only in some measure in Kogi. How can a state be built by people who aren’t pleased to be associated with the state? I look at my friends from Igbira land. They don’t stop to amaze me.
Scarcely do you see a present day Igbira man bear an Igbira name. They are both Ayodele (the ones in the west) and love to speak the Yoruba language, to support the Yoruba and Shehu Idris (the ones in the north) to align with the Hausa-Fulani. But it isn’t different with the Igala. How can the Igala be known as Awwalu, Yahaya and Bello? The Muslim-Yoruba declines to be Shehu Idris but Babatunde Raji Fashola, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Babatunde Aliyu Fafunwa. They are proud of their ancestry but the Igala have traded off theirs even with a rich history. The Igala have subordinated their positive self-image to the caliphate and almost every Tom, Dick, and Harry in Kogi is called Shehu not Unekwu-Ojo and Ojo-Ajogwu. Here is where the Tiv of Benue State is better. Hardly ever do you see a Shehu Idris, Ibrahim Idris as a Tiv man. How can? They have a preference for Terlumun, Bemsen, Iorliam, Kange, Torkwase, Viashima and Ayooso. Why not? They know their history and revere it regardless of religious leaning. But the Tiv lay claim to power in-time-without-end to the disadvantage of the Idoma who must be confined to necropolises. Unlike the Idoma, the Igala fought the Tiv to a halt when they were in Benue State before the creation of Kogi State.
In Niger State what seems to unite the people is the presence of elderly establishment players. But it might not be all beer-and-skittles when these elders travel to the land of perpetual silence. The Nupe people are forever-and-a-day contending with the Gbagi (Gwari) people and vice versa and the people in Kotongora align with the people in nearby Kebbi State than to the people in Niger State. Many times I ask: are the people of Niger State, Middle-Belters? Nasarawa State is so complicated and needs a separate epistle. No thanks to religious dogmatists and discrimination among its people, some people have pushed the majority tribe to the boondocks of the state. And herders are refining their skills to turn the state into a shooting range not for games but to kill human beings. Good old Plateau State is the most accommodating in the middle-belt. Remember Solomon Lar and Nnamdi Azikiwe? Good! Some people have taken that open-handedness, big-heartedness for a ride. That is the only state where immigrants lay claim to a state and think it dead-on. Buoyed by mighty persons with destructive agenda and they make no bones about it. They even want political spots zoned to them. This must happen only in Plateau State not in Sokoto or Kano. What’s irritating is that many of these immigrants do not know where they come from. Some say ‘maybe’ from ‘Katsina and Sokoto.’ May be? Age-long settlers like the Ogbomosho people don’t cause trouble in Plateau State. But home for others must be in Plateau not some place with rights and privileges albeit compellingly. The idea of a perfect Nigeria just like the United States must start from Plateau State and end there.
Blame must be laid on the people of Plateau State also for not coming out together with one voice to drive away felons posing as herders. When these murderers attack the Angas people, the Birom people see the calamity as one affecting the Angas people only and not the people of Birom and Plateau. The conflict of interest, among the Mwagwavul, Tarok, Miango, Ankwai, Asezire, Du, Ron, Kulere, Goema, Bassa, Mushere, Birom, Angas people of Plateau State is the reason that terrorists posing as herders can’t be whitewashed until they put their differences aside, and join efforts to chase them out of Plateau State. The disunity in Plateau State is mind-bending even in politics. And the people who go camping around the palace and other places are exploiting this to make Jos a city for the Shehu. Do they know the history of Plateau?
Do you know why Kogi, Kwara, Niger States will repeatedly be in the backwoods? Travelling on a democratic journey to the middle of nowhere? They maintain that their governors must be Muslims regardless of experience and capacity. This is no democracy but religious bigotry. In Niger State, the spiritual spear is in the sand, no Christian can become governor. Kwara State refuses to look to the secular south west for models of religious harmony and has chosen demagoguery over democracy. In Benue State, the Tiv have sworn off the Idoma from office of governor (so far.) Majority doesn’t dictate the electoral terms in Nasarawa State, a tiny clique must rule and despite having produced many military giants in the past; Plateau State of today has too many kittens interested in the wars of wear and tear against themselves rather than saving a historic state from the hands of some people trying very much to snatch that state from them and conquer others: an age-old agenda.
The people of the middle-belt in our day lack direction for growth. This isn’t hard to understand; they do not have well-defined identities and without batting eyelids submit all of the regions interests to people outside the region to direct and people without identity are lost.
Abah wrote from Abuja