By Emeka Ozo Umeh
The other day, I read a comment on a wall where a young and educated son of Benue was asking about the location of a particular ethnic group in his state. According to the young man, he has never heard about that ethnic group before and wondered if there was anything like that. He is not alone in his ignorance because thousands of Benue sons and daughters appear to have the same challenge. This is largely because of the policies of previous administrations, not only in Benue, but in most states in Nigeria, where the plight of the minorities have always been taken for granted and trivialized. Until one is able to properly identify these minority groups in the state, it would be difficult to know what their real challenges are…It was laughable to realize that the young man who exhibited his ignorance of the existence of that particular ethnic group is actually from the same local government where the ethnic group is located! Funny and not funny.
Few hours earlier, a featured piece about the indigenous Igbo of Benue was published here and I noticed the surprised reactions of some people of Benue origin. Many felt that the so-called indigenous Igbo of Benue might be long settlers in Benue state but that’s not exactly true. These people have no other ancestral home other than Benue and have never migrated to any other place in their lifetime. Others believed they could be from the neighbouring state of Enugu since it shares a common boundary with Benue. That again is not the case here. This Igbo group are descendants of Ezekuna, the common ancestor of most of the sub-ethnic groups found in Ebonyi states, to wit; the Ezza, Ezzamgbo and Izzi people…
They are today in Benue state because of state creation and boundary adjustments after the Nigerian Civil War and the several state creation exercises under various military administrations. In Enugu and Anambra states or Igbo land generally, many people are also ignorant of the facts that there are other minority ethnic groups other than Igbo existing therein, just like their Benue counterparts.For instance, there is a place in Enugu State called Ette, which harbours the Idoma and Igala ethnic groups. They are in a local government called Igbo Eze and they are not necessarily the smallest groups in that local government, with a name that tends to eclipse the identities of these two ethnic groups found in Benue and Kogi states…. Even though the administration of Chimaroke Nnamani was good to them by ensuring that the presence of his government was felt there, the name of the local government has always made it appear as if everyone in that local government speaks the Igbo language.. That , to a great extent, is an anomaly and should be addressed in future if not now…
The plight of the minorities is a general thing in the Nigerian political enterprise but that does not make it a right thing. The deliberate assimilation strategies often employed by the larger ethnic groups to render the minorities unidentifiable are as creative as they are evil and grossly unfair. Many among the minority ethnic groups had to even drop their ethnic names and picked up the ones known with the majority ethnic groups to gain acceptance and advantages. There are even instances where some minority groups tinkered with their history and origin and tactically married it with the history of a majority ethnic group. I know a particular ethnic group in Benue who prefers to be called Tiv instead of being identified with their original identity… Saddening.
KURAUNISM is a political ideology that fully appreciates the fact that the dignity of a man can be affected where he is denied his original identity and given a different name. The painful efforts made by Kunta Kinte to preserve his identity in Alexander Halley’s classical rendition of his family history readily roars to the fore here. It is not dignifying for one to deny his identity even though in war times such a step could be taken to preserve lives. Recall the Gideonites experience in the Bible and the case of some ethnic groups in the present day Rivers State who had to change or deny their original identity to survive the Nigerian Civil War.
In KURAUNISM lies a deep desire to discover the strengths of all the various and diverse ethnic groups in Benue state, with the view to strategically harnessing them for the even development of the state. The average Benue man would no longer be ignorant of the existence of the Etulo, Nyifon, Abakwa, Iordaah minority ethnic groups found between Buruku and Katsina -Ala local governments of Benue state because of KURAUNISM. I have failed to mention one particular one that has decided to assume the identity of the Tiv majority group to avoid unnecessary controversies. The Igbo group could be found within the Idoma and Igede communities of Ado and Oju, and just like other minority groups in the state, the group would definitely have something peculiar to offer towards the development of the state where they are properly recognized and given opportunities to showcase their special endowments, just like the rest of the minority ethnic groups.
KURAUNISM will for the first time push out these hidden minorities and offer them veritable platforms to redeem their battered and distorted identities over the years. Benue would no doubt experience a drastic transformation unprecedented since her creation as a state. As a Benue youth filled with the vision of a greater Benue, this is the opportunity you have been waiting for to make things right. The people of Kosovo have equally challenged the women of Benue to wake up from their slumber and do the needful. The minorities are not only the ethnic groups enumerated above, they are also found in a specific gender or class of people in the society. Where you have the capacity to be visible and active and you decide to be politically lethargic, you are a minority. Thankfully, the time of the minorities is now and you cannot be left out… Become a KURAUNIST today and change the political history of Benue.
Emeka Ozo Umeh is a Lawyer, Jurist, Writer, Historian and Political Philosopher