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DAILY ASSET Newspaper and Benue’s Political Engagement with the Nigerian State

By Mike Utsaha:

It is a little over a week today since our very own, Cletus Akwaya, made a very useful addition to the number of newspapers on the Nigerian newsstand. In an era of democracy and democratisation, characterised by diverse freedoms, an increase in the number of mediums for self expression is something that has to be taken for granted.

Before giving birth to DAILY ASSET Newspaper, Cletus Akwaya occupied the position of Business Editor, Thisday Newspaper, a position from which he was appointed Commissioner for Information in the Akume administration in Benue State

Upon his completion of that tour of duty, Akwaya was appointed Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs by the succeeding administration of Governor Gabriel Suswam. It was after he successfully served out his tenure that he moved on to become the Group Managing Director of Leadership Newspaper, another well respected national daily. Clearly, Cletus Akwaya has been a focused and thoroughbred professional whose consistency, single-mindedness and commitment to the journalism profession is at once obvious.

I take this opportunity, therefore, to congratulate Cletus  Akwaya on this achievement. I join his family, friends and well-wishers to pray that DAILY ASSET will not go the way of others before it.

Although it is primarily a business initiative with very obvious objectives, the birth of DAILY ASSET is, perhaps more than anything else, an opportunity for us to reflect on the imperative of setting an agenda for development of our state Benue, and the urgent need for us to re-examine, and hopefully, rethink the viciousness with which we engage the political space in our country Nigeria.

Benue is not only one of the most richly endowed states in Nigeria but is one which is probably the greatest beneficiary of the benevolence of the Nigerian state. There is no question about the fact that we have as a state made invaluable contributions, often times paying the supreme price, to ensuring the unity, indivisibility and development of the Nigerian state, but when compared to other states, we must be grateful for the graces that have come our way as a people.

In terms of natural resource endowment, we are the indisputable food basket of the Nigerian state, from the point of view of human resources we parade some of the best brains in various fields of human endeavour, not just in Nigeria but on the continent of Africa.

In terms of appointments into federal or national positions there is hardly any position of relevance that we have not occupied,  , except that of President or Head of State.  At some point or other, we produced President of the Senate, Speaker House of Representatives, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Army Chief, Party Chairman, Senate Minority Leader, Ministers in strategic ministries, including the coveted office of Attorney-General, Auditor-General, Director General NTA, Director General NAFDAC, Director General Standards Organisation of Nigeria, and the list is endless literarily.

In terms of geographical location, we are one out of very few states situated within the Benue valley and strategically located along the banks of a river. I can just go on and on. Very few states in Nigeria can parade this enviable track record.

So, how come we are still battling with basic issues of development? How come we are always in the news all for the wrong reasons? In the recent national assessment of prevalence of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, we came tops with an estimated  three million persons infected by the virus.

But, what is particularly sobering is the fact that in spite of this towering profile of our dear state, DAILY ASSET Newspaper appears to be the only national asset that we can identify with as a people. The only other national daily we can identify with, being Tom Chiahemen’s  online  newspaper, NATIONAL ACCORD!

It is so disheartening to note that so many years after we had the unique opportunity to preside over the privatisation and commercialisation process, through the Technical Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation (TCPC), no person from Benue owns an airline, a shipping line, a bank, a radio or television station. Indeed, we even lost what seemed like our most visible piece of the proverbial national cake, Benue Cement Company.

From that enviable track record we are suddenly becoming a footnote in the national conversation. Each time we make headline news it is about one calamity or the other that may have befallen us, or it is because of one negative occurrence or the other.

Certainly, something is wrong somewhere and, while I am neither a sociologist nor do I lay claims to some level of expertise in societal regeneration or revival, I am nonetheless of the firm view that political contestation and the manner in which we play politics, appears to be at the heart of this challenge. Partisan politics appears to be the most productive industry in our state, attracting and utilising some of our best and most productive resources, albeit in the wrong direction. Unsurprisingly, we have become the architects of our own misfortune as a people.

We urgently need to return to the drawing board with a view to introspectively rethinking our strategy of engagement with the political process in the Nigerian state.

As individuals we must resolve that never again shall we place any primordial parochial interests over and above the collective interest. We must agree that our conduct and our utterances in the political space must be edifying rather than destructive. And, as a people, we need to agree that our collective interests must occupy a position of pre-eminence over and above individual interests, at all times and in all circumstances.

Once again, congratulations Dr. Akwaya! May your pen never run dry Sir, and may this be only the beginning of better things to come your way!

…Mike Utsaha   Esq shared his thoughts from Abuja.

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