ALTHOUGH he is not known for courting controversies, but former Benue State Deputy Governor, Chief Steve Lawani, may have stirred the hornet’s nest in his immediate constituency of Benue Zone C as a result of a comment that can be interpreted to be opposed to the dominant aspiration of all Idoma people to produce the next governor of Benue State.
Chief Lawani, while fielding questions from The Sun’s Makurdi correspondent, Rose Ejembi, in an interview published in the paper’s edition of Tuesday, February 23, 2021, seemingly dismissed the clamour for power shift when he offhandedly argued that rather than ethnic considerations, the power equation in the state should be based on personal character and merit.
Chief Lawani made his position known when The Sun asked the question: “There are already agitations ahead of 2023 and politicians are already networking. At the state level, some people want the governorship seat to go to Jechira and others are agitating for an Idoma governor. What’s your take about this?”
Chief Lawani responded by saying: “I think we should not vote along ethnic lines. We should rather look at the characters that present themselves for election based on what they think is their ability to govern the state. They should look at them. A situation where an Idoma man would rather vote for his brother who is bad or who is known to be bad and they support him on ethnic line and vice versa is wrong. So, let’s vote on the ground of merit rather than on ethnic lines. That is the way forward for now.”
While under normal circumstances, Chief Lawani’s position could be seen as an argument for quality leadership and governance; however, it could be interpreted to mean a call by Lawani to jettison the ongoing clamour for a broad elite consensus in which the governorship could be ceded to the Idoma’s Zone C or Benue South Senatorial Zone.
The Idoma elite could also see Chief Lawani’s argument as an insult on the entire Idoma nationality as lacking in leadership character, capability and merit, and therefore have not been able to produce at least a governor of the state since its creation in 1976.
Although there is yet to be any response from any quarters, National Record’s feelers indicate a widespread discontent among both the elite and general public in Benue South who have read or got wind of Chief Lawani’s call, including the youth segment that have been vigorously been in the frontline of the agitation for an Idoma governor in 2023.
Chief Lawani also spoke on a number of issues, including the ongoing membership revalidation exercise of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the prospect of the APC taking over power in Benue State and retaining it at the national level, the state’s anti-open grazing law, and the question of citizens bearing arms, among other issues.
Chief Lawani, a recipient of national honours, Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR), served as Deputy Governor for two terms in the administration of Governor Gabriel Suswam.
Aged 74, Chief Lawani is aspiring to be governor of Benue State in 2023 under the APC platform. He had, before being picked as Deputy Governor in 2007, served in the truncated Third Republic as National Deputy Chairman of the National Republican Convention (NRC), before he was elected as a Senator under the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) during the Sani Abacha transition program.