I have observed with keen interest how politics is played in our society, especially when it comes to reward system and I am tempted to ask some questions.
In 2011, the people of Kwande local government area of Benue state were taken by storm with the broom revolution which made waves across North-central Nigeria. A nephew of Wantaregh Paul Unongo was to visit Kwande in company of two serving senators – Senator George Akume, the then immediate past Governor of Benue state and Senator Joseph Akaagerger. He was an American based professor of entrepreneurship and the governorship candidate of the then Action Congress of Nigeria, CAN. He was Professor Steve Torkuma Ugbah.
Their visit was for a Thanksgiving Mass at St. Martin’s Parish Mbape Shangev-ya. That visit was planned and executed by a veteran broadcaster, Mr Charles Ayede. Ayede was a household name but was not a politician. Ayede rose to prominence in Tivland because he was the first Tiv man to broadcast news in Tiv language at Radio Nigeria Kaduna. He later joined the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, and the National Orientation Agency, NOA, where he retired. Seeing him leading a political movement gave the people of Kwande a renewed hope. The same hope that greeted Benue when Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia declared for 2023 governorship.
The people were so excited that when the convoy of Prof Ugbah was approaching a place known as Y-Junction, the people started chanting: Ugbah Nyor Shor Chenji, meaning the arrival of Ugbah has changed the game. Kwande’s warm reception of Ugbah echoed all over Benue state and within a week, the whole state had received the slogan: Ugbah Nyor Shor Chenji.
Ayede led from the front and ensured that Prof Ugbah and the ACN were victorious. The contributions of Ayede to the ACN project did not go well with the ruling party. After the election which was terribly rigged in favour of the ruling party, Ayede was trailed and assassinated on the May 12, in Kardaroko, Nasarawa state while he was returning from Abuja on post-election duties.
Ayede’s assassination threw Kwande and indeed the entire Tiv nation into confusion and mourning. People wept across party lines, both young and old. Kwande and indeed Benue was cold.
Ayede was a good man. Many people who are diehards of the APC in Tivland till today became so because of Ayede and Ugbah Nyor Shor Chenji. His death made many Kwande people never to support the PDP, irrespective of the candidate. They believed voting against APC is committing a sacrilege on the tomb of Ayede.
Ayede was loved because of his person. As of the time he was assassinated, he had no fewer than 28 persons he was sponsoring in school. These were children of the less privileged. Ayede had some aged people he was paying monthly stipends to carter for their basic needs. By that assassination, Kwande lost a son and an angel in Charles.
In 2015, when the APC won the Benue state governorship election, one would expect that Ayede’s community will be remembered but the Governor Samuel Ortom led APC government later cross carpeted to PDP. Prof Steve Ugbah on whose election Ayede was assassinated was given an ambassadorial position in Russia and could not be close to see the needs of the Mbaiber or Shangev-ya or Kwande kinsmen of Ayede.
As the 2023 elections were gearing up, Ayede’s Mbaiber brother who was with him during the Ugbah Nyor Shor Chenji era, a disaster management professional, Comrade Martin Iorsamber, ran for senate, first under APC and later SDP. Many people were happy that if Iorsamber wins, he will look into the plight of the people of Kwande, which pushed Ayede to his early grave. Iorsamber lost but returned to support APC for the governorship and assembly elections. The APC won the election and Governor Alia is now in power.
Many people at the grassroots are expecting that Iorsamber will remind Prof Ugbah who is a senior member of the APC to talk to Governor Fr Alia about the plight of Ayede’s kinsmen, Kwande.
Kwande is facing serious security challenges and infrastructural deficit. The road from Adikpo to Obudu which passes through Ayede’s home town of Ajio is terribly bad. The people of Turan and Kyurav-ya can no longer go to bed with their eyes closed as a result of terrorists attacks. Kwande is the local government area with the highest number of professors but has no tertiary institution. Even though a bill to establish Adikpo polytechnic was passed by the 8th National Assembly, the President Muhammadu Buhari government did not assent to it. If Ayede was alive, he won’t have been quiet. I am confident, Iorsamber as an environmental safety and disaster management expert who has been moving round Nigeria preaching disaster preparedness should not hesitate to speak out for Kwande.
I also wish to call on the leader of the APC in Benue state Senator Dr George Akume to remember the kinsmen of Ayede. He was the pillar of the broom revolution in Kwande. That broom revolution and the bloodshed by Ayede remains the root of the APC in Tivland. Remembering Ayede will encourage others to selflessly work for the APC believing that even if they are not getting immediate benefits, one day, their kinsmen will reap the fruits of their labour.
Adikpo, Benue state