Monday Column By Emmanuel Yawe
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Ever since he was murdered in 2015, Benue has not paused to explain why it killed Atoza Ihindan, a respected teacher and politician that I knew rather well. He opened the gates and deaths of politicians mostly in brutal circumstances continue unabated in Benue.
“My father had gone out to inspect the perimeter fence of a property within Katsina-Ala town last Friday July 15 2015 in company of a police escort and aide before two hired killers who rode on a motorcycle, came and shot him at close range. He died on the spot”, said Terfa Atoza Ihindan, his son and a former Commissioner in the state.
The son went ahead to accuse Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom’s Chief Security Officer (CSO), Superintendent of Police, Dickson Orlu Pawa and Youth Leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Hon. Moses Anaana, of complicity in the assassination.
High profile death has always stalked the state since the return of partisan politics in 1999. Chief Audu Ogbeh who later became National Chairman of the then ruling PDP had a close shave with death when armed assailants attacked him at his Efugo farm house in Benue State and left him badly bruised and believed to be dead..
Chief Ogbeh who still became in 2015 a Minister in the APC government of President Buhari and is at present the National Chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum was attacked by the armed assailants who demanded for dollars and inquired about his presidential ambition.
Many more inexplicable deaths and attempted assassinations have occurred in the state. We remember the dramatic escape in March 2004 of Governor George Akume who was ambushed and fired at by gunmen as his convoy drove from Makurdi to attend some official function in Abuja. He escaped but his friend and co traveller, Mr Andrew Agom, a former MD of Nigeria Airways who was travelling with him in the same car was not so lucky and got killed.
Life has all of a sudden become very cheap in Benue State as we continue to hear rather bizarre stories of cruel killings of citizens in the state. I remember the nailing to the Cross of one unfortunate ex-service man from the Mbatian ward of Ukum Local Government of the state. He had become a local politician after his service to Nigeria as a veteran in the fight to keep Nigeria one. After some political disagreements with some politicians in the area, they invaded his home at night dragged him out as he was protesting and screaming. They finally nailed him on a mango tree and despite his shrill cries all night, no one came to help because his heavily armed tormentors were there daring whoever could screw the courage to just step out that night. That was during the time Gabriel Suswam was Governor of Benue.
Both Governor Suswam, the late Atoza Ihindan and ex-civil war veteran Anyamtswam are form the part of Tivland in Benue, popularly known as Sankera. This large part of Tiv country that was invaded by General Obasanjo, an invasion that has been wrongly termed, reprisal killings in Zaki Biam. This came when as a result of the annual Tiv Jukun ethnic wars in Taraba that are going on even now, some soldiers were reported brutally killed by Tiv militia in Zakibiam, a bustling Tiv town in the rural area of Benue. In a frightening reaction of military fury, Obasanjo ordered a full scale military invasion. Special targets for the military armed against civilians was an invasion, led by the Army, backed by the Navy and the Airforce and their Helicopter gunboats. An internationally recognized human rights group, the Human Rights Watch issued a damning report against the Nigerian military of that invasion. One of the victims Dr Gaadi took the government army to court but the Obasanjo government did not care to even register a defense of itself. In the event, the court granted the applicant all his demands of N41 billion as damages.
Governor Suswam is also reported to have been attacked by some Fulani herdsmen during his reign as Governor of Benue state. He is reported to have been spirited away by his ADC and chief detail after the attack occurred. Then came Terwase Akwaza, the outlaw, popularly known as Gana. Initially granted amnesty by Governor Ortom when he came to power, he was given the poster boy superstar status of the government. Then there was an exchange of gunfire in the sacred house of the governor where his Special Adviser was felled by the superior firepower of Gana. The police invited Gana for questioning and the Governor said he advised Gana to do the needful and make himself available. But Gana took flight, returned to the bush and continued to wage war against the society.
In desperation, Govenor Ortom did the unusual thing of dangling a second amnesty to Gana. It was in the clumsy arrangements of that second amnesty that Gana was ambushed and killed. Any discussion of the current situation in Benue without considering the Gana amnesty fiasco is not an honest analysis. Anywhere you mention the killing the Terkula, senior brother of Senator Suswam all accusing fingers are on Gana. All top Local Government officials, Chiefs and Traditional rulers have fled Sankera, not running away from Fulani but from Gana boys who have a long list of all who betrayed their master –Gana.
The sudden introduction of the Fulani herdsmen bogey into the whole analysis looks suspicious and should be thoroughly investigated so that issues, substantial issues are not beclouded by religious and ethnic sentiments. Benue must be saved from its state of blood.