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Terwase Akwaza’s Ghost

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By Fanen Ihyongo

I wept in a dream when I went to bed yesterday, after the sad news of the murder of Terkula Suswam reached me. I found myself telling some associates I was weeping for Sankera. We have recorded many deaths and Terkula’s, a condemnable homicide, is another sacrifice -a metaphor of the debilitating security in Sankera area of Benue State. Truth is, our boys and political leaders have failed us. I was home during the weekend. First, the federal government has neglected the road for years to tear into potholes that make cars tumble. From Takum to Gbise -just a few kilometres, I counted no fewer than 18 military checkpoints. No vrooming of a vehicle. Some dwelling places deserted. This essayist hails from Gbise, where many homes have been reduced to ashes by both militia gangs and the armed forces. The atmosphere there is that of trepidation. It was in Tor Donga, Harga and Abaji settlements that I saw a few cars passing, each overloaded with passengers.Of recent, the Shitile people buried one of their community elders, Francis Zaaya, in his Yooyo ancestral home. Some illustrious sons were present to pay their last respect. As mourners dispersed, militia men wielding guns were spotted nearby. Their mission was not known. Soldiers boomed the air with unbroken gunshots that sounded for several minutes, to stop them from marauding. The mourners trembled, hurtling helter-skelter. The gunmen, without returning fire, retreated to their base. No death was recorded, but a woman got injured by a stray bullet from the troops.Before Zaaya’s burial, Benue state government had imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Katsina Ala and Ukum councils of Sankera. The use of motorcycles has also been banned. Authorities said the measures would help decimate criminals. But the episode at Zaaya’s burial signaled that the presence of military troops, the curfew imposed and okada ban would not address the insecurity in Sankera.Motorbikes are the major means of transportation in this country. In Sankera, farm produce are conveyed mostly on motorcycles to the markets. If you want to worship in the village, attend a marriage ceremony or burial, bikes are the easiest means. In the remotest areas, even the dead and coffins are carried on bikes. There are no access roads and only a few residents can afford a motor vehicle. Camels and donkeys are not used. In the early 1970s, my father rode a power bike 175, which he borrowed from his boss in office, from Katsina Ala to Yooyo to seek the hand of a Princess in marriage. The conjugation between the two gave birth to me.

That fruitful trip will not be possible this time. 90 percent of the residents are back to the ancient time of trekking. And they must shelter-in-place at 8.pm until dawn. A story was told of a man who, unaware of the okada restriction, rode a motorbike to a market to get a piece of pork meat for evening meal. He was stopped by soldiers who seized and burnt his motorcycle. There are allegations that some of the soldiers have turned to hulks of bully to innocent persons. They don’t want to see young men with tattoos like Ibrahimovic, wear rough jeans like Lady Gaga, carry dreadlocks like BBN winner, Laycon. There are allegations that the soldiers extort commercial drivers and sometimes arrest innocent persons. The ban on okada came after the chairman of Katsina Ala council, Atera Alfred, was attacked by gunmen on Christmas eve. He was lucky but six persons were feared killed. Few days later, three relatives of ex-Assembly member, Iaana Jato, were killed and his home in the village set ablaze. Earlier, many others, including my village head Zaki Ambe were killed by militia men. This writer had condemned all the attacks and killings.Worried by the killings, some clerics and traditional rulers organised a prayer-meeting at Tor Donga to tackle the problem spiritually. Sen. Gabriel Suswam and other political elites attended. It was reported that Suswam was tough in his speech, his words spraying vitriol. His face flushing with anger, he couldn’t capture the hearts of the bandits. Instead, he warned he would deploy more troops to neutralise them. 24 hours after Suswam left, the militia killed a policeman at a checkpoint and carted away his riffle. It means the prayers did not work. The police, instead of going after the culprits, torched houses, including food stuff, in Ucha and Kumpa villages, how not to protect lives and property.Terwase Akwaza’s murder comes to mind. Terwase, a.k.a Ghana, both in life and death, figures prominently in the security challenge confronting Sankera. However, our clerics and monarchs were able to overwhelm Terwase with love and sermons. He repented and led other 172 goons to lay down arms. Sankera was on the road to peace.

Unfortunately, the peace process was truncated when the military ‘seized’ Terwase and some of the other repentant criminal commanders and summarily executed them. The military showed us a gory picture of the late militia leader, bullets pockmarked his chest, his right hand mutilated. Many condemned his execution. A source shared with me a message which Terwase sent through a stakeholder to Governor Ortom when he repented. He asked Ortom to forgive him; should not give him appointment like in the first amnesty, and should fly him abroad and enroll him for studies, “even if it’s an adult school.” When Ghana was killed, I perused through the book of time and wrote that the remaining repentant criminals will crawl back to their terrorists enclaves for more barbaric missions. What happened? They are the ones who have regrouped and returned to their old ways.In all of this, innocent people are the ones bearing the brunt. When others were afraid, Terkula, a humorous good jolly fellow, went home because he had done no one any wrong. Like many of those killed, he is a victim of transfer of aggression. Where were the soldiers when the gunmen, cruising a small car, gunned him and one of his aides down just opposite the gate of his home in Anyiin, in spite of a military base nearby? Where were the soldiers when the gunmen, decked in military camouflage, invaded the Katsina Ala chairman’s residence in day time, unleashed terror and left freely? Our boys have become like cyborg assassins in Schwarzenegger’s The Terminator. We cannot continue like this. The killings, kidnappings, armed robbery and other criminal activities must stop. As if poet Amanda was referring to Sankera during Joe Biden’s inauguration as US 46th president, when she crooned: “let us lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. Let us seek harm to none and harmony for all.”Is it not a big shame that our traditional rulers have fled their homes? Our land has been polluted by blood from primitive slaughter. The Scripture says God abhors human sacrifice. At the psychological moment, a ram appeared. And God told Abraham to free Isaac unhurt and sacrifice the animal. Before then, the boy (Isaac) asked his dad where the lamb was for the sacrifice. So, why are our boys killing people? Revolution? No. Vengeance? Terwase Akwaza did not ask anyone to take revenge on his behalf. His ghost will not come to torment. His parting oration was to “die with Jesus,” for peace to return in Sankera. And I expect him with Christ in Paradise like the penitent thief on the cross.We need truce to heal the wounds, purify the land with peace and return to those years of production and bountiful harvest; markets for all. Military troops are eliminating some of these criminal elements, but they cannot kill all of them no matter how gallant they may claim to be. Also note that continuous killing of young men in a community is counterproductive. I am told there is a frosty relationship among the goons over who now becomes commander-in-chief.

So, while they are killing one another, soldiers are decimating them. If they say they are angry with the leaders who used and abandoned them, how can they oppose them through the ballots when they are been killed, when they continue to run in the bush like outcasts? My message is: live and let’s live peacefully. How can you elect good leaders who will protect your interest, bring development and generally govern well if you are not reintegrated in the society as law abiding citizens? Without a strong and formidable lawful youths, the same people you are rejecting will bounce back on the plebis scitum on military power during election. Truth is, these boys have disgraced us with their bad ways. The politicians who patronised them are also guilty of the crimes they are committing, the tears and destructions caused.It is high time we threw the unhappy past behind us and move forward peacefully. Some of the leaders have been pulling us back because of their squabbles with Jonathan Agbidyeh who represents Katsina Ala east in the State Assembly. That must stop. We must forgive one another and mend fences before God will grant our quest for peace. Those saying the criminals are Agbidyeh’s boys because they supported the APC that gave the lawmaker victory at the 2019 poll are wrong. The same boys toted riffles to give Buhari victory in the area. Are they Buhari boys too? Some of those complaining had also used these boys in past polls to win political offices. Agbidyeh has to be supported by blameless people in canvassing for peace. It is not about who gets the glory. It’s not about APC, neither PDP. Good news is that Governor Ortom has now been detailed the truth about what is happening in Sankera. A few honest persons spoke and the true gist got to his listening ears. With the governor’s permission, Agbidyeh yesterday met with traditional rulers, as he planned to meet with teachers and other stakeholders today. The meetings were planned to clear the weeds of hostilities for peace to be cultivated. Sadly, as the meeting was ending, news of Terkula’s murder filtered the air.But that should not deter us in our peace efforts. Security is the responsibility of every concerned person. If we don’t tackle the problem by ourselves today, even military troops will not fix it for us and the fire of violence will consume everyone directly or indirectly. So, what we need is reconciliation, (not negotiation) to be followed by rehabilitation and reconstruction (RRR). To alleviate the suffering of innocent people, Ortom should lift the ban on motorcycles and monitor the response. If Ortom cannot lift the ban, he should supply tricycles. In 2012, when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle hit a police convoy in Jalingo, killing 11 persons in explosion, the late Governor Danbaba Suntai stopped the use of motorbikes in the state capital. But his tricycles arrived before the ban. It was the same approach in Kano city when attacks on government institutions, churches and mosques by Boko Haram terrorists inspired the banning of motorcycles. With commercial motorcycles, a youth could put food on the table, cater for his wife and kids or pay his school fees. That source of livelihood has been terminated. Poverty can inspire an idle youth to join a criminal gang. The killers of the former governor’s elder brother did not use a motorbike to strike in Logo. In Katsina-Ala and Ukum where people are trekking, the militants are still riding bikes, it was learnt.Senkera has been socioeconomically held in the jugular for long a time. It has been in comatose without our leaders showing concern. I know only a few who are bothered, but they are incapable to solve the hydra-headed problem. Security is not all about bullets, bombs and rockets or other military hardwares. It requires more of intelligence sharing and synergy with the community involved. We need a new approach to tackle the security challenge in Sankera. Like Bruce Schneier says, if you think you can fix security problems with weapons, then you don’t understand the problems, neither you understand the weapons, because criminals use the same weapons. Security is for the people, not people for security.

Fanen Ihyongo is Editor of The Nation, Kano/Northwest Operation.

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Features

THOMAS SANKARA: The Role France Played in His Assassination?

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On Wednesday, Burka Faso’s former President Blaise Compaoré was found guilty and received a life sentence in absentia for his role in the assassination of his charismatic predecessor, Thomas Sankara. But was Compaoré’s action inspired, orchastrated and backed by France?

Sankara, 37, was gunned down along with 12 others during the 1987 coup d’état that brought Compaoré to power.

The pair had been close friends and had jointly seized power in 1983.

Sankara remains a hero for many across Africa because of his anti-imperialist stance and austere lifestyle.

After seizing power at the age of just 33, the Marxist revolutionary known by some as “Africa’s Che Guevara”, campaigned against corruption and oversaw huge increases in education and health spending

The prosecution said Sankara was lured to his death at a meeting of the ruling National Revolutionary Council.

He was shot in the chest at least seven times, according to ballistics experts who testified during the trial.

Blaise Compaoré

Sankara’s widow, Mariam Sankara, who attended the trial throughout, said the verdict represented “justice and truth” after a 35-year wait.

“Our goal was for the political violence we have in Burkina Faso to come to end. This verdict will give many people cause for thought.”

However, there is little prospect that Compaoré will serve his sentence any time soon. He has lived in exile in Ivory Coast since he was removed from office following mass protests in 2014, and has taken up Ivorian nationality.

He previously denounced the trial by a military court as a political sham.

Compaoré with Sankara. Your enemy is not far from you.

Ten others were also found guilty, including Compaoré’s security chief Haycinthe Kafando, who was accused of leading the hit squad that killed Sankara.

He has been on the run for several years and was also tried in absentia. He too received a life sentence.

They had both denied the charges.

Gilbert Diendéré, one of the commanders of the army during the 1987 coup and the main defendant who was actually present at the trial, was also sentenced to life. He is already serving a 20-year sentence for a coup attempt in 2015.

Mariam Sankara, widow of leader Thomas Sankara, sits in the Ougadougou courtroom in October, 2021

Meanwhile, in February, 2013, Emile Schepers, a veteran civil and immigrants rights activist wrote the following article he titled “People’s World Demand for inquiry into France’s role in assassination of African leader” published in People’s World:

On February 13, a member of the French Chamber of Deputies tabled a motion to begin a parliamentary investigation of the assassination of Captain Thomas Sankara, President of Burkina Faso, in 1987.Sankara, who himself took power in a coup d’état in 1983, was a progressive and charismatic leader who is sometimes referred to as Africa’s Che Guevara. Succeeding a regime seen as subservient to France, Sankara changed the name of his country from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which means land of men of integrity. He was considered incorruptible, and gained the love and support of poor Burkinabés (as the people of Burkina Faso are called) because of his programs of land reform, agricultural development, improved health care and schools and other similar things. Two very popular emphases of Sankara’s policies were the improvement in the situation of women and the curtailment of the traditional powers of tribal chiefs, who were seen by many as corrupt. He nationalized all land and subsoil wealth of Burkina Faso. But in 1987, he was overthrown and killed in a military coup organized by Blaise Compoaré, at that time a military officer also, and now president of Burkina Faso. The reason given for the coup was that Sankara’s nationalizations and anti-imperialist rhetoric were angering the French and neighboring African countries aligned with France. With Sankara out of the way, many of his progressive policies were reversed, including the nationalizations.

Jacques René Chiracis was Prime Minister of France in 1987

But Sankara’s supporters have not forgotten him in the ensuing 26 years, and have kept up a campaign to achieve justice for Sankara, and a return to his progressive socialist policies.The belief that France and perhaps the United States were involved in the overthrow and killing of Sankara did not come from nowhere. Besides the flat statement by the Compoaré group that they overthrew Sankara because he was annoying the French, many of the individuals who have carried out coups in Africa have been former French or French colonial army officers, and the involvement of French security services and business interests in such actions is well known. The CIA has also been involved in several coups, most notably in the overthrow of Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in 1960 and of Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah in 1966. In each case, the leader overthrown and/or killed was seen as a threat to French, U.S. or other western business interests because of his progressive policies.Earlier this year, the French newspaper Liberacion published a story which strongly suggests some sort of French security involvement in the incident in 1994 in which an airplane carrying the presidents of Burundi and Rwanda was shot down over the Rwandan capital of Kigali, an incident which helped trigger the Rwandan genocide and some other current conflicts in Central Africa.People in Burkina Faso cannot get at the necessary French government records under normal circumstances.So in 2011, a group of Burkinabé parliamentarians wrote to the French National Assembly calling for it to begin an inquiry into the Sankara assassination. A motion to that effect has now been tabled in the lower house of the National Assembly by Andre Chassaigne, a deputy from the French Communist Party. A guest from Burkina Faso’s left-wing Union pour la Renaissance/Parti Sankariste, Me Benewende Stanislas Sankara, attended the 36th Congress of the French Communist Party this month. On returning to Burkina Faso, he participated in a press conference in the Burkinabé capital, Ouagadougou, to advance the same demands.Mr. Chassaigne’s motion coincides with an increasing level of U.S., French and NATO involvement in African affairs, including an exponential expansion of U.S. military missions under the AFRICOM command. The latest is that the Republic of Niger is now allowing the U.S. to set up drone bases in the Southern part if its territory, near the border with Mali.It’s necessary that we in the United States also be ready to demand answers from our own government.

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Culture & Tourism

GUMA: Land Flowing With Milk & Honey

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Guma Local Government Area was created out of the old Makurdi Local Government Area in 1987 by the then regime of Col. Fidelis A. Makka. The Local Government is name after ‘River Guma’ in Benue State.

HEADQUARTERS:
Guma Local Government Area has it’s headquarters in Gbajimba
(The name Gbajimba derived from Hausa word ‘Banjiba’ which means: ‘I don’t understand’. As years go by, the name began to lose it original pronounciation. Hence the name ‘Gbajimba’).

DISTANCE FROM MAKURDI:
37km (An hour journey)

BOUNDARIES:
Guma has Logo Local Government Area to the east, Makurdi and Tarka Local Government Areas to the south and Doma Local Government Area of Nassarawa State to the West
MAJOR TOWNS:
The major town in Guma Local Government Area areGbajimb

a,

Daudu,

Torkula,

Kase-yough,

Abinsi:
Mbabegha Village:
Agasha

LANDMASS:
240,000 square KM

POPULATION:
By 2006 Census, the local government had a total population of 191,599 people.

PEOPLE:
Though Guma local government is predominantly occupied by the Tiv people, other tribes too live in Guma, they are Jukun, Hausa, and Kabuwa.

COUNCIL WARDS OR DISTRICTS AND POLLING UNITS:
Kaambe
Abinsi
Uvir
Saghev
Nzorov
Nyiev
Mbabai
Mbayer or Yandev
Mbawa, and
Mbadwen
Guma local government has One Hundred and Sixty polling units.

A Tiv Dancer

POLITICALLY:
Guma shares a Federal House of Representative seat with Makurdi local government and has one seat House of Assembly seat. Guma people have a culture just like their Tiv brothers and sisters.

MAJOR DANCE:
Tsuwe-Tsele,
Ajo, Ihanga and
So many folk singers.

Market in Guma


MARKETS:
Gbajimba market,
Daudu market,
Agasha market,
Abinsi market


INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES
Natural Resources:
Agricultural Produce:
Life Stock Farming:


TRADING:
Trading is another feature in Guma local government as can be seen in and around the markets located in the area strategically.

CRAFTSMANSHIP:
Crafts and blacksmith are known handiwork in the area. The people of Guma local government are known for the production of:

Bows
Arrows
Cutlasses
Axes and
Knives
For domestic and commercial purposes.

TRANSPORTATION:
Guma is served with roads linking most parts with the state capital, Makurdi and Nassarawa state.

Guma also makes use of water transport as river Gbajimba is linked with river Benue.

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Features

GOV. ORTOM @60: The Journey of Grace

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Governor Samuel Ioraer Ortom of Benue State clocks 60 years of age today. As the philantropist but often-embattled leader of the people of Benue basin marks this day, Inside Beneu takes a look at his biography of God’s grace.

Ortom was born on the 23rd of April, 1961 in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State, Nigeria. At the age of nine, he started his primary education at St. John’s Primary School, Gboko in 1970. He later switched to St. Catherine Primary School Makurdi in 1974. It was here he completed his primary education in 1976.

Upon completion of his primary education, the young Samuel was enrolled at the Idah Secondary Commercial College, Idah, Kogi State for his secondary education. But the journey was short lived as he was forced to drop out of school due to financial condition after his father retired from job.

Young Samuel Ortom as a Scout

Back home at Gboko, he engaged himself at the motor park as a tout until found him and recommended him to drive a prominent Gbokk-based Christian leader and politician, Late Pa Samu Ihugh.

Not giving up his dream to be educated, Samuel Ortom later enrolled in the National School of Salesmanship through an advert he saw on a newspaper he found while on duty at Pa Ihugh’s residence. Thus, he began his journey of acquiring education and certificate via correspondence.

He later in this manner, obtained the General Certificate of Education as well as the Diploma in Salesmanship. He further enrolled at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, obtaining both the Interim Joint Matriculation Board Certificate, in 1995 and Diploma in Journalism in 1998. He proceeded to the Benue State University for an Advanced Diploma in Personnel Management in 2001 as well as Master of Public Administration in 2004.

Samuel Ortom also obtained a Doctor of Philosophy, Ph.D, from the Commonwealth University, Belize, through distant learning.
Career and Politics
Samuel Ortom’s working experience spans private, public as well as political spheres. He worked with the Gyado Foods Co. Limited, where he rose from the position of Salesman to Sales Manager.

He was proprietor and chairman, Oracle Business Limited the firm that owns Goshen Water which produces bottled and sachet water; Oracle Printing Press, Oracle Oil Mills as well as Oracle Farms Limited. He was also the chairman of Capital Prints Limited and Achive Engineering Limited.

Chief Dr. Ortom has served as the National President of the Independent Print-Media Publishers Association of Nigeria, IPPAN, and at the moment is the patron of the association.

He was appointed chairman of the governing council of the Standards Organization of Nigeria, SON, where he served with commitment and dedication.

Political Journeys
Chief Dr. Samuel Ortom served as the Executive Chairman of Guma Local Government Area from 1991 to 1993 on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, SDP.

He has also handled several top political positions, both in Benue State and beyond. Some of them include; State Publicity Secretary of the National Centre Party of Nigeria(NCPN); State Treasurer of the All Peoples Party (APP); State Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as well as PDP National Auditor.

He also served as the Director of Operations of the PDP gubernatorial campaign in Benue State in 2007 and Director of Administration and Logistics of the Goodluck/Sambo Presidential Campaign Organization in 2011.

He got appointed as Minister of State Trade and Investments in July 2011, during Goodluck Jonathan tenure as president.

He contested and won the seat the Governor of Benue State in April 2015 under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

In July 2018, Ortom announced his departure from All Progressives Congress as a result of an internal party crisis.

He was reelected as governor in the 2019 elections, having polled 434,473 votes while the runner up Emmanuel Jime of the All Progressive Congress polled 345,155 votes. Jime legally challenged Ortom’s victory and filed a petition on the grounds of substantial noncompliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended. The Supreme Court of 21st January 2020, affirmed Samuel Ortom’s election as the governor of Benue State.


Philantropy
Dr. Samuel Ortom is a philanthropist who believes in giving back to the society. He, through the establishment of Oracle Business Limited Foundation, set aside funds in St. Theresa’s Hospital, Makurdi and Rahama Hospital, Gboko Road, Makurdi, for treatment of hernia and snakebites free of charge to the patients.
Oracle Business Limited Foundation also focuses on alleviating hardship for prison inmates, while also offering them various forms of skills acquisition for better reintegration into the society.


Awards and Recognition
Samuel Ortom’s good governance and philantropic activities have earned him numerous awards recognitions, including:
• Selfless Service Award from the National Union of Benue State Students (UniCal Chapter) (2014)
• Best Performing Local Government Chairman (1992)
• Merit Award by Tiv Youths Organization
• Merit Award by Boy Scouts of Nigeria, Benue State Chapter
• Merit Award by International Affairs Leadership Parliament of Five American Christian Universities in the United States of America and Trinity College of Ministerial Arts, Aba
• Merit award by St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, High Level, Makurdi
• He has also received a special recognition from the Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers at the national level.
• Merit Award by Nigeria Union of Teachers, Benue State Wing
• Merit Award by Genesis Youth Club, Makurdi.
• Merit Award by Leo Club of Makurdi (2002)
• Merit Award by Rotaract Club of Nigeria University of Agriculture, Makurdi
• Promoter of Nigeria’s Nascent Democracy, by Benue State Government (2006)
• Merit Award by School of Remedial Students Union, Makurdi (1996)
• Best Sales Manager Award by Pepsi-Cola International, African Region (1987)
• Merit Award by Benue State Joint Public Service Negotiating Council, 1, 11 and 111
• Patron Merit Award by Association of Journalism Students, Ahmadu Bello University (1997)
• National Fellowship/Merit Award by National Union of Road Transport Workers’ Union of Nigeria Nyamikyume in Nzorov
• Traditional Honorific Chieftaincy Title conferred by both the Nzorov District and Guma Local Government Area Traditional Councils Vande u Nongov

Oche Onu writes

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