IT IS my honour and privilege to respectfully welcome you, the distinguished sons and daughters of Zone C, to this august occasion of the second Benue Rebirth Movement (BRM) Stakeholders Meeting.
Before I proceed, may I draw your attention to the conspicuous absence of three frontline members of BRM who were snatched from us by the cold hands of death between January and August this year. May we, please, rise to observe a minute’s silence to honour the memories of Prof. Armstrong Adejo, Rt. Hon Solomon Agidani, Rear Admiral Christopher Ehanmor and other departed distinguished sons and daughters of Zone C. (Pause).
I stand before you today to address a group that has been politically marginalised for far too long. I speak to you as a proud son of Zone C, and as someone who understands the challenges we face due to our ethnic background and relatively low population. Although our struggles may be unique, it is important to note that we are not alone in our desire for recognition and equal representation in Benue State; there also exist other groups.
Throughout history, many communities have been marginalised due to their ethnicity or low population. Often, it is easy for those in vantage positions of power to overlook the disadvantaged, to discount or disregard their concerns, and to suppress their voices. But let me tell you this: today is a new chapter; today our voices must be heard and our concerns addressed. We must not fight in isolation ignoring the fate of the other neglected minorities in zones A and B.
It is not easy being part of a community that struggles for political representation. We face countless challenges: limited resources, inadequate public services, internal disunity and a lack of attention from decision-makers. But it is time for us to rise above these obstacles and, together, demand the fair treatment and representation we deserve. It is time for us to reclaim our power and make our presence felt in the political arena in Benue State.
We must begin by recognising our own strengths. Our background, our heritage, and our culture make us who we are. It is a source of pride, resilience and wisdom. Our unique experiences have shaped us into individuals who have much to contribute to society. It is essential that we value and celebrate our differences in Zone C, for it is through diversity that progress is made.
We must also recognise that our political marginalisation is not a reflection of our worth, but rather a testament to an unjust system. Our relatively low population should never be a reason to deny us fair representation. We are citizens, and we have the same rights as anyone else. The size of our community should never be a determining factor of our political significance and fortune.
To overcome our marginalisation, unity is key. The Fulanis are united around tribe; the Tivs are united around tribe; and Hausas are united around religion, not party politics. What then spurs us as a group in Zone C for political emancipation? What is our political mission? The unfortunate but bitter political alignment and loyalty to party instead of a common purpose by our politicians in our zone, has brought us to where we are; a rudderless political direction.
We must come together as a community and support one another. It is through solidarity, collaboration, and collective action that we can make a lasting impact. We must continue to work assiduously to let the fifth columnists in our midst understand the implications of the inglorious part they play. They must repent and turn a new leaf.
I have checked that since 2007 when a prominent son of Zone C was cruising towards victory to fly the flag of a popular party, within us emerged the group of inglorious vote donors. That ugly scenario was repeated in another form in 2023 in a party primary where our own was a clear consensus. Should this continue to happen without punitive measures to such sell-outs?
These are posers that this august gathering must proffer solutions to today. Tough positions must be taken to purge such recalcitrants of their misguided adventures so that they turn new leaves and join the mainstream Zone C cause to amplify our voices positively and move with us as a united and respected group, ensuring that our concerns are no longer ignored. We must actively engage in the political process, vote in one direction and demand accountability from our elected officials and challenge them to be our servants but not masters.
We must ally ourselves with like-minded individuals and groups who understand and empathise with our struggle within the entire Benue Community. Together, we can build coalitions and alliances to lobby for change, advocate for our rights, and create opportunities for ourselves and future generations. We must collectively push to re-orientate our youth and other susceptible politicians to resist all forms of political patronage, in form of financial inducement or otherwise, to be used against us. We must educate them that such patronages are Greek gifts. We must note and empathise that any group in a democratic environment, no matter their size that allows itself to be politically enslaved for half a century, and cannot emancipate itself in any form of political re-engineering, is a political disaster and their unborn generation will never forgive them for such docility.
At this stage, ladies and gentlemen, let me set the stage for the real business of this meeting by highlighting the milestones in our struggle for emancipation so far. This struggle, in ad hoc and uncoordinated form, predates the formation of BRM in 2020. But the birth of BRM has given the struggle a structure, a platform, a voice, a focus, recognition and a leadership that is acknowledged within and outside Zone C.
Regrettably, we did not achieve our primary objective of producing a Benue State governor of Zone C extraction in 2023 as envisaged due to, among others, the challenges aforementioned. But we are glad to report that, through our various activities in the last few years, Zone C, led by BRM, has successfully, boldly, loudly and clearly registered before the world its intention to fight for its right for political leadership of our state, fair representation and socio-economic development.
Let’s reject the notion that our ethnic background and population disadvantage diminish our political significance. Let’s embrace our strengths, unite under a common purpose and strive for the political representation and emancipation we deserve. We have the power to effect change and reshape our future. Together, we can create a society where no one is marginalized or overlooked.
The task before this august gathering of Zone C stakeholders today, as I see it, is to brainstorm on ways to move the struggle to the next stage, possibly to fruition. Specifically, I urge you to address your minds to the following broad subjects:
1. Strategies for achieving BRM’s primary objective (Governor of Zone C extraction):
• How do we accelerate the existing political agitation?
• Is legislating power shift at national or state level possible?
• When all options are explored, is the creation of Apa State possible?
• Frankly speaking, do we, Idoma/Igede, think we can fight the fight in the spirit of brotherhood; if not, what are the challenges?
2. Another frustration the struggle is facing is funding – any group that cannot contribute financially to a struggle is not ready for self-emancipation. I have noted that our people fear to donate money towards any project but argue endlessly on how to navigate the project. If we must be respected as a people, our anger should be reflected in our financial and active participation in this struggle, having been excluded for so long in the political arena of our state.
3. Building internal cohesion in Zone C is a task that must be done, and all should submit to this onerous task. Leaving the task to just a very few dedicated people [who are amongst us here today] in terms of funding, doesn’t augur well for our political struggle.
With the calibre of people gathered here, I am confident that this meeting will come up with ideas and actionable resolutions capable of taking Zone C to its destination within the shortest possible time. Getting there may appear daunting but it is surely attainable.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s reject the notion that our ethnic background and population disadvantage diminish our political significance. Let’s embrace our strengths, unite under a common purpose and strive for the political representation and emancipation we deserve. We have the power to effect change and reshape our future. Together, we can create a society where no one is marginalized or overlooked.
Today, we shall dedicate some time on the strategy for economic development of our zone. We should also think of a development agenda built around Public Private Partnership initiative; a business blueprint for the next decade, while considering taking over federal assets within the zone.
Similarly, human capital development in all its ramifications shall be brought to the fore; the best approach to adopt shall be considered and we shall suggest enduring strategies that will fortify human capital for the zone.
Finally, we shall discuss the endemic security challenges that have bedevilled our zone for the last decade. We shall dedicate time to exhaustively focus on this, and sample professional opinions on the most cost-effective approach to bringing this menace to an end. Conclusively, some standing Committees of the aforementioned sub-heads will be formed to dedicate their spare time to come up with working documents for the benefits of our zone.
Finally, I cannot conclude this speech without thanking those who always view sacrificing time and money to the upliftment of Zone C as a pride. You have never failed us whenever we come calling. And for those who have not understood the need to contribute, may God help you to realise that sitting on the fence while asking for your God-given right is not honourable. May God give us all the courage to defend our rights so that the generations after us will be proud of us.
AVM Morgan (Rtd), is the National Coordinator, Benue Rebirth Movement (BRM). He delivered this speech at the Zone C Stakeholders’ Meeting held at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja, on Saturday, September 9, 2023.