Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Nigeria: Stop Planting Seeds Of Disunity In Benue – Idoma Group Tells Shango

By Joseph Edegbo

The Idoma Heritage & Legacy Group (IHLG), has come hard on Elder Simon Shango, a Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from Benue State, over derogatory comments against a respected elder statement, Major General Lawrence Onoja (Rtd.).

Major General Onoja (Rtd.), who was a Military Governor of Plateau and Katsina States between 1986 and 1990, was said to have been physically assaulted by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator George Akume on Saturday, 6th April, 2024, during the wedding reception of the daughter of another Benue APC Chieftain, Chief Silva Ameh in Abuja; while the General Onoja held his peace.

Enraged by the seemingly humiliation of a respected Elder statement who has laid down his all to serve this nation; a group known as, The Idoma Progressive Youth Forum, in a petition to President Bola Tinubu, accused Akume of using his office to “stoke ethnic crisis” and “escalate insecurity in Benue State”, while registering fears that Akume’s “drunkenness” could bring the government of Tinubu to “unimaginable public ridicule”.

But in his response, Elder Shango took a swipe on entire Idoma nation, describing them as a powerless minority, while questioning the academic qualifications of Gen. Onoja, comparing him with Akume whom he said had two masters degrees from UK and first degree from the University of Ibadan.

In the article titled, ‘Power sharing in Benue State: Use equity not blackmail’, the Septuagenarian Journalist boasted that, “the numerical strength of the Tiv nation is far larger than all the other tribal groups put together, such that the Tiv votes alone can win the governorship of the state on any political party platform”; adding that, “the Idoma nation will need to learn a lesson or two in politics from their Tiv neighbours”.

While exaulting Akume’s academics ahead of Gen. Onoja’s, Shango said, “How can you compare someone like Senator George Akume, CON with an impeccable WASC, Higher School Certificate, a University of Ibadan degree, two Masters Degrees in the United Kingdom with a Teacher Grade Three in St Augustine’s Teachers College in Lafia? How such a person managed to get into the Nigeria Defense Academy calls for investigation”.

Reacting to Elder Shango’s outburst on Idoma nation and an elder, the Idoma Heritage and Legacy Group (IHLG), in a statement signed by Barr. Julius Ogwuche on Monday, urged the Tiv Elder Shango to covert the numbers of his years on earth to elderly wisdom and common sense, and use his old age to unite Benue leaders, rather than igniting divisions in the state.

Rtd Gen. Lawrence Onoja

“Rather than speaking to the issues of gross abuse of office and acute marginalization raised by the Idoma Youth Forum in its petition to the President, and undertake a selfless step to advising Akume on how to solve the issues; Elder Shango elected to travel the old route of stoking ethnic acrimony, in an attempt to curry favour from Akume.

“People like Elder Shango, from the account he narrated in the article, are responsible for the ethnic crises and underdevelopment that Benue State has been witnessing, as long as he remains in the background to pollute the minds of the principal state actors, the people of Benue would not enjoy peace, unity and harmony. He has also said only Tiv can vote and produce Governor for Benue, meaning, the Idoma, Igede and other minorities are insignificant and not needed.

“We also view it as a low ebb, for a man whom we thought was a Journalist in the first and second Republic, to question the academic qualifications of Gen. Onoja. Why on earth would such a man, if not for a loss of memory or low esteem exhibition, be describing Gen. Onoja as having a Grade III Teacher’s Certificate as his highest academic qualification, whereas, Gen. Onoja does not have any certificate known as Grade III at all?

“The profile of Gen. Onoja has been in the public domain, having successfully served Nigeria in various capacities in the military and since retirement, has been in the political system of Nigeria, vying for the position of Governorship and Senate in Benue, and this made INEC and other relevant agencies to have his full academic documents. Elder Shango should have used his journalistic instinct to explore these avenues, rather than coming out to insult his old age.

“Unlike Elder Shango, whose only achievement in life, according to Google search, was a Journalist in the defunct New Nigeria Newspaper and National Publicity Secretary of the defunct NPN; Gen. Onoja had an accomplished career in the military, a towering social credentials in the Nigerian Army, with utmost integrity amongst the ranks and file. Even the international community recognised Gen. Onoja’s rich military experience and academic background.

“When the likes of Shango was just a reporter in the newsroom, Gen. Onoja was a Defence Adviser in Nigeria’s Embassy, Cairo, Egypt and in 1986, he was appointed by the President and Commander-in-Chief, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, as his Principal Staff Officer and same Gen. Babangida further appointed him later in 1986 as Military Governor of Plateau State, the position he held till 1988, when he was appointed Military Governor of Katsina State by the same military government.

“Gen. Onoja had also served as Principal Staff Officer to Gen. Sanni Abacha; Member, Sudan Peace Committee for Reconciliation in 1992; Military Secretary, Nigerian Army; GOC 3rd Armoured Division, Jos; Member of Provision Ruling Council (the highest Military authority and decisions making body); Principal General Officer (Chief of Staff) General Staff Headquarters, Aso Villa, from 1996 to 1998 and retired same 1998 with full military benefits.

“It would interest Shango to note that, as a Journalist, it would be wrong to allude that a man transversed across this terrain in the military with just a ‘grade III’ certification.

“We invite Elder Shango into the academic world of Gen. Onoja, where he rose to the peak in his pursuit, aside the grade III which was traditionally or perhaps, mischievously registered in the brain of Shango. A very refined gentleman, Gen. Onoja had his preliminary studies on scholarship at Cameron University, Lawton, Oklahoma, USA, in 1975, after coming out in flying colours of distinctions in his GCE ‘O’ Level/’A’ Level examinations, shortly after leaving Saint Augustine’s College in Lafia for his teacher’s training.

“He also possessed a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) Political Science, from the Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, still on Army Scholarship from 1976 to 1979; and same Army Scholarship saw him through a Masters of Science Degree (M.Sc) International Relations in same Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, from 1979 to 1980.

“Elder Shango should also be schooled that, Gen. Onoja, one of the finest military Generals highly celebrated and reverred by Idoma people, obtained a Ph.D in Law and Diplomacy from the prestigious University of Jos, between 1990 to 1995 and he is currently one of the highly rated Lecturers at the Post Graduate School of the University of Abuja, teaching the Doctorate Students things they need to know about Military Science and Military Politics, the course that can hardly been found in the contemporary curriculum of other universities.

“One of the publications of Gen. Onoja, ‘Peace Keeping & International Security in a Changing World’, is the most talked about in the military archives of Nigeria and international journals, with many universities writing to the General for copies in their various libraries”, the statement said.

Barr. Ogwuche reminded Elder Shango that it was that same Gen. Onoja he referred to as ‘Grade III’ Teacher, who used his military connection to create 5 local government areas in Benue State in the year 1996, “including Akume’s Tarka LGA where Shango also hails from and Logo in Tiv land, Ohimini and Agatu LGAs in Idoma land, and Obi LGA in Igede land”; saying, “he should ask himself and any other person in Benue, if anyone had broken that record or created ordinary polling unit in Benue”.

The group also called on President Tinubu to reign on the SGF, Akume, Elder Shango and others who it said are planting seeds of disunity amongst the various ethnic nationalities in Benue State, saying, almost all the appointments given to Benue indigenes under the Tinubu government are from the Tiv speaking area, leaving other major tribes to lament why they voted for APC in the last general elections.

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