Happy Birthday Benue!
Benue state is named after the Benue river, and was formed from the former Benue-Plateau state in 1976. Apart from a few minority tribes, this vast land of over 13,000 metre-square is predominately occupied by three major tribes; TIV, Idoma and Igede people. Benue is a rich agricultural region, known to produce major crops like yam, rice, orange, mango, groundnut, sweet potato, cassava, etc. It is in history that various travelling tribes have fought the people of Benue in order to claim this rich territory. These conflicts in history revealed the war-like nature of Benue people, especially the TIVs; who fought opposition in different wars to retain their ownership of this part of the middle belt of Nigeria. Recently, agricultural activities have attracted International investments from across the world.
Though one of the oldest and the sixth populated state in Nigeria, Benue state has a long way to go in the area of infrastructural development. Until 2019, the landmass of Benue did not have the privilege of Traffic Lights. While it is said to be in high deliberation, the people of Benue can only pray that in 2020, the Air wing of the Nigerian Airforce Base along Gboko road will be used for Commercial flights in and out of Benue. Then, the people yearn for the days when overhead bridges will run through the major cities across Benue. When these and other modern infrastructures of a modern society are in place, this land will become a hub where major commercial activities attract Nigerians and indeed the world to consider Benue as a major point for Business and relevant Corporate activities.
The aim of this note is to peep into the future and shine the path towards it. I have heard and dreamt of the potentials of this land and this people with rich cultures. Talking and dreaming would not do! Until the hindrances to our dreams are pulled off and we set out for a New Benue, we would only go older but not develop better. The points highlighted here may not be all that we need, but as in the School of Progress, where we can adjust to the demands of a life that takes us forward, these points discussed can initiate a New Benue, the one we dream of.
- Let The People Be
This depreciating lifestyle is not peculiar to Benue people, it is common among Africans. It is a system where no one comes to light, except by the terms and “help” of a godfather or a group that controls and suppresses the system. Its common in politics, civil service and even many religious organizations around here. This has killed potentials, benched the best and discouraged the young.
A people who would know development would scout for potentials and celebrate merit. Benue people are strong and resilient. But strong people become lazy when it becomes obvious that strength is not the factor that determines their rise. Development does not come by strength but by making room for innovations. Let’s give room for people to climb up the civil service by merit and not by family affiliation or tribalism. “Godfatherism” has postponed the reality of a New Benue, eroding her of potentials. Most people here feed on the office of a family member, and then wait to die when his tenure is over.
Let the people be! Let the young students take their place in the lead. Let the best applicant assume the political office. Allow sanctity and sanity, give room for a thorough and true system. Let your family member who failed repeat the class, so he can learn and add to our corporate good. Let the people of Benue be what they are meant to be.
- Restructure the Workforce and Workplace Ethics
As an entrepreneur, I employ a new staff not just because of the capacity to pay, but also because the potential of the new staff would increase my revenue and profits. No organization succeeds by engaging idle personnel. The overall wellbeing of a Team, no matter how large, is a function of the inputs of individual efforts, channelled towards a common goal.
While some states are dealing with ghost workers, Benue has to deal with non-workers who are earning from the purse. How can you run an organization with over 50% of her staff earning but not contributing to the revenue generation of the company?
Walk through the towns and villages in Benue, you will find people who are assigned to various ministries and departments in the state; yet they never appear in the office. These people are on the payroll of the government and earn salary when payments are made; but they never contribute anything to the GDP of the state. So, every new administration is operating a purse generated by a few but striving to feed many mouths. This is one of the greatest problems of Benue. It is leaking the pocket of the state. Deal with it!
Religion is the act of trying to follow God but choosing the way to follow Him. Religion is seeking to satisfy God but choosing how you go about it. Benue state is tagged a “Christian state”, but many things around here are far from Christ. One of the dangers of religion is, posing to be what you are not, and creating a wrong brand for yourself. The perception that many have about Benue is not only about being rich in agriculture. Many Benue girls travel south west weekly for promiscuous business. Many people believe that an average Benue boy is lazy and does not like to work. Benue is also perceived to be a major centre for alcoholics. These are some of the current brands of this part of Nigeria. This brand must change from inside out!
If Benue would know significant development, we must begin to portray a genuine picture of the future we desire. We must rebrand and reprint a new perception of our character, in the media and mind of the world watching us. We need to be a “Christian state” full of people who live like Christ. Let steps be taken to get young girls and boys gainfully trained in skills and employed so as to take their attention away from unproductive activities. The rich investors in Benue should build and invest in industries, instead of opening up more hotels. Drinking joints can be transformed to skill centres. Individually and corporately, we must stop being religious, appearing in church on Sundays but adulterous on weekdays. Let’s not just be Christians, let us be worth emulating.
- Stop the Sharing Policy
Just today I saw a post on social media congratulating a just announced Local Government Chairman of one LGA in Benue. The poster ended with the phrase, “Don’t Chop Alone!”
An average Benue politician believes that the zoning system embraced by the political class in the state, is to rotate sharing the wealth of the state purse. This school of thought is also very evident amongst the indigenes. Everyone is trying to share the resources available at his or her reach. This is a cankerworm that has fuelled the poverty that is very evident across the state. Leaders in civil service utilize every available resource for personal and family gains.
If Benue must develop, this corrupt style of governance and resource management must stop. The fight against corruption will be a good idea around here. Auditors should be engaged to monitor and evaluate financial and management activities across all state parastatals; while a law enforcing agency is engaged to prosecute offenders without favour.
This way, there will be a drastic fall in the common misappropriation of funds and public amenities for personal and unlawful use. Funds generated can be used for developmental purposes while everyone including the Government in Power is careful to ensure that everyone is duly carrying out their responsibilities to the people of Benue who voted them in.
While we look forward to a Benue of our dreams, we all have a part to play. It will not be enough to pray and wish, we must all work the dream into reality. In your office, on the farm, commit to building this society. Look beyond earning just to eat and survive. Work to build a legacy for Benue, the type that everyone including our sons and daughters will be glad to meet. Diligence, Discipline and Sacrifice are necessities for Benue to rise. Arise Benue!
(Part 2 coming soon)
Deji David Olanrewaju
Deji David Olanrewaju is a Business and Leadership Coach.