Benue 2023: Letter to your excellencies 

Governor Samuel Ortom, Senator Iorchia Ayu, Senator George Akume, Senator David Mark, Senator Gabriel Torwua Suswam, Senator Patrick Abba Moro, Senator Emmanuel Yisa Orker Jev, Chief Audu Ogbe, Honourable John Ngbede, Comrade Austin Agada.

We are a collection of Benue sons and daughters of various professional calling, standing and experience, who are genuinely concerned about the development trajectory of our dear Benue state. To this extent, even though, we are mostly non-partisan, we have elected to write and lend our voices to the current transition politics in our dear state. 

We counsel that after a careful review of the current state of development in Benue state, which has been impacted negatively by paucity of funds, debilitating insecurity, a detoriorating public service, and stunted economic growth, it is our candid opinion that the state needs a review of her current leadership recruitment processes and procedures, especially in the forthcoming general elections. 

The new process we commend for our dear state must place high premium on competence, merit and capacity of those to be elected into public offices at all levels in the state, appointments inclusive. 

We appreciate the disposition of the leading political parties viz All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the latter in particular, to promote  zoning for the purposes of inclusion, fairness and equity. We understand the intent and purpose of such a policy, but we advise, that the situation in Benue and Nigeria today is different.

The ship of state is not stable, the Nigerian State is in turbulent waters and the navigators cannot afford to take a huge gamble with an ill-equipped captain at any subnational level of governance today. This is the warning signal to all the political parties. 

Our ship (Benue state) is not different, it is in full turbulence and its survival must be of great concern to all patriotic sons and daughters of the state including our good friends and allies. We must make extraordinary sacrifices and change existing leadership recruitment rules, conventions and customs for the survival of the state, by, for once, widening the space and permitting an all inclusive process that will give the parties the most qualified candidates and the state the most competent captain, be it of the PDP or APC persuasion, in 2023.

It is also our considered view that the best and most competent candidates for the 2023 elections at all levels in the state will not only give victory to the political party that fields them, it will also reduce acrimonies among aspirants when they fail to sell themselves while they were offered equal opportunities to do so before the people. We believe Benue will be on the wheels of progress, if the most competent person(s) emerges as candidates for all elections including governor. 

This conviction is premised on emperical evidence, which shows that Benue state has had difficulties in making steady progress because very often, competence is replaced with baffling-incompetence and the reasons are premodial, sectional and hinged on ludicrous sentiments including religious beliefs and denomination. This places a responsibility on people who lack the capacity to find solutions to our evergrowing multifaceted challenges to the detriment of the state. 

There is no gain, saying Benue state today has entered a very critical stage, akin to a patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and to get it out requires the best surgeon to conduct the operation. Contextually, getting the right surgeon means identifying the most qualified for the job of guiding the state into reasonable safety. 

It is crystal clear that the required leadership skills set of today is completely different from that of yesterday, the dynamics have changed and the only way for the state to have a fresh breath is to totally overhaul the recruitment process, where leaders have emerged just by happenstance or sectional sentiments. It is time in Benue to focus on recruiting those who are phsycologically and mentally prepared for the jobs they seek. In other words, we should hire those whose job application is accompanied by the requisite curriculum vitae and cognate experience, not just those who desire the jobs for the paraphernalia of office.

Needless we point out that this is not a time to gamble, as the challenges of development in the state are enormous and must be confronted by someone with fine reasoning, discernment, tact and craft in the art of governance.

The time of making promises without providing a concrete road map to achieving those promises is also far-gone. What we need today are leaders with a world-view on economy, governance, resource mobilisation, job creation, sectoral development matrix, etc with precise timelines and methodology on how to deliver. This is what many subnational governments like, Borno, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, etc had done to change their trajectory and BENUE cannot afford to be different.

2023 provides us one more chance for to address the yearnings of our people and secure our future for generations yet unborn. Bbut to do this, it requires the right leadership, such that we will follow the examples that beckon on us by the achievements of our peers.

It is on this note, that we are of the strongest opinion that the contest for who emerges the next governor of our state in particular must be thrown open to give the ordinary people the opportunity to interrogate the aspirants and make an informed opinion and choice. 
This will not in any way undermine the party hierarchy, but will rather assist the party to make choices that will be easy to sell and market during campaigns.

To reduce the leadership selection choice of a state that is literally on an oxygen-mask to the altar of sectionalism or to the whims and caprices of a few individuals in one local government area, whose choices are mostly  informed by their personal appetite and sentiments, will amount to being unpatriotic and working for a disasterous collapse of the state. This will drive us miles backwards.

It is important to bring to your attention that a first-class candidate for each of the two dominant political parties in the state goes beyond only winning an election, the new order is that states nationwide as much as possible aim to pick competent, versatile people as leaders and an emerging governor from our beloved state must be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with other state governors in virtually all aspects of excellence. 

Only a competent governor can handle the very complex issues of leadership at all levels and most remarkablly at the National Economic Council, Council of State and other national and international fora. We cannot afford to be seen as going the low-level. 

The national conversation today centers on the need for a competent president come 2023 and it is important we are reminded that  Benue can’t settle for less, therefore, we must refuse to be boxed into narrow choices when we indeed have a reservoir of competent persons. 

Both PDP and APC leaders must understand that, it is about the development and progress of the state. That’s the overiding interest, our governor must meet the expected standard. 

An honest reflection on where we are at the moment poses the question as to whether or not our leaders honestly feel satisfied with the kind of leadership they hand over to the Benue people at every election cycle. If they are not satisfied, then there should be a paradigm shift and emphasis must be placed on competence, merit and capacity. 

To save Benue state from a very disturbing and  geometric backward slide, all people of good conscience must stand up to do the  right things and, the right things here means allowing the people to take ownership of the leadership recruitment process. This will give them the opportunity to ask the relevant questions and make their assessment of those in the race.

We stand on competence, particularly, for the Office of Governor of Benue State. And  it is our position that the most competent person should emerge and that individual could come from Kwande or Jechira or Zone C.

To micro zone to one local government area as it stands in the PDP diminishes to very ignoble options and choices in the midst of better options elsewhere.

Terhemba Doka PhD, for Benue Concerned Professionals.