Open Letter To The SGF

By Matthew Ma
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Matthew Ma

“The phrase "Divided we fall, united we stand" is a well-known adage that highlights the significance of unity and solidarity. It emphasizes the idea that when people work together towards a common goal, they are more likely to achieve success. In other words, collective effort and collaboration can lead to positive outcomes. Conversely, when a group is divided and fragmented, it is bound to fail, no matter how talented or skilled its members may be.”

Dear Senator Akume,
The content of this open letter is to convey my thoughts and ideas to you in a respectful and considerate manner. I have taken great care in crafting this letter, as I wanted to ensure that it accurately reflects my sentiments while also being mindful of your time and responsibilities. As you have now been in your role for eight months, it is an appropriate time to share my thoughts with you. While this may be my initial correspondence with you, it will be the first of many productive communications between us.

Let me take this opportunity to express my heartfelt congratulations on your appointment as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). Your name has been a popular choice for this position for quite some time now, and it is truly a pleasure to see that President Bola Tinubu has recognized your capabilities and potential for this role. I recall how your name was first brought up during the Buhari regime and then again during your nomination for the National Chairman of the APC party. Although those opportunities did not come to fruition, I knew that your time would come. President Tinubu's election and subsequent appointment of you as SGF was the perfect opportunity for you to shine. It was heartwarming to see the Benue people celebrate your appointment with such enthusiasm. Now, after eight months of serving as SGF, I am compelled to write you an open letter to address a few essential topics. Firstly, I would like to discuss the SGF office you hold. As you know, this is a significant role that requires you to oversee and coordinate the activities of all government agencies. It is an enormous responsibility you have at hand. Secondly, I would like to touch on the ongoing APC crisis in Benue. As one of the most important members of the party, your intervention is crucial in resolving the crisis. Thirdly, I would like to discuss the issue of Benue youth. As a prominent member of the government, your office can do more to address the challenges facing Benue youth. There is a need for policies and programs that will empower the youth and help them to realize their full potential. Lastly, I would like to talk about our security and unity as a State. The current state of insecurity in the State is a cause for concern, and we need strong leaders like you to help us navigate through these challenging times. If we work together, we can build a united and prosperous Benue. In conclusion, I would like to take a moment to share some key ideas on how we can work together to empower the youth. These points are crucial to the success of your tenure and must be given utmost attention.

Honorable Senator, the position of Secretary to the Government of the Federation is one of the most crucial roles in the Nigerian Government. This position is responsible for overseeing and coordinating the activities of all government agencies, monitoring and coordinating the implementation of government policies and programs and serving as the frontline advisory institution of the Presidency. In addition to these responsibilities, the Secretary is also tasked with driving policy formulation, harmonization, and implementation while monitoring Federal Ministries, Departments, and Agencies. This is a significant role, as it ensures that the Government is able to operate smoothly and efficiently and that all policies and programs are implemented effectively. Moreover, the Secretary serves as the principal cabinet secretary in the Federal Executive Council. This means that he play a crucial role in advising the President and ensuring that all decisions made by the Government are in the best interests of the Nigerian people. Since assuming office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari granted the Secretary significant powers, to the extent that some political analysts suggested the Secretary wields more power than the Vice President. This is a testament to just how vital this role is in the Nigerian Government. To enhance service delivery, President Bola Tinubu authorized the deployment of 12 government institutions to the Secretary's office. These include the General Services Office, Political Affairs Office, Economic Affairs Office, Special Services Office, and Special Duties Office, among others. This move was aimed at improving the efficiency of the Secretary's office and ensuring that the Government is able to deliver on its promises to the Nigerian people.

As a matter of fact, your office holds a crucial responsibility of overseeing and regulating several critical agencies that are instrumental in shaping the country's future. These agencies include the National Identity Management Commission, which is responsible for managing and controlling the national identification system; the Federal Road Safety Corps, which ensures road safety across the highways of Nigeria; and the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission, which manages Christian pilgrimage programs. Furthermore, your office also oversees the Niger Delta Development Commission, which is responsible for the development of the Niger Delta region; the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, which oversees the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca; and the National Lottery Trust Fund, which manages the collection and distribution of funds generated from national lotteries. Your office is also responsible for the Nigeria National Merit Award, which recognizes the contributions of Nigerians to the development of the country; the National Lottery Regulatory Commission, which regulates all lottery activities in the country; and the Code of Conduct Bureau, which ensures that public officials adhere to the highest standards of conduct. Other agencies under your office's supervision are the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission, which is responsible for the development and regulation of nuclear energy in the country, the National Agency for the Control of Aids, which is responsible for the control and prevention of HIV/AIDS, the New Partnership for African Development, which is committed to promoting economic growth and development in Africa, the National Poverty Eradication Program, which aims to reduce poverty in the country, and the National Commission for Refugees, which is responsible for the protection and welfare of refugees in Nigeria. All these agencies play an essential role in shaping the future of Nigeria. As the indigenous peoples of Benue, you have an unprecedented opportunity to take on this enormous responsibility. This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment that may not come around again for the next 30 years. I have every confidence that you are up to the task, and it's time to shine and make the most of this opportunity. As the SGF, success is imperative. Your role as a pivotal figure in the executive branch demands that you effectively coordinate the activities of multiple government agencies. The impact of any shortcomings on your part could have significant consequences for the government and the welfare of the people. Therefore, it is paramount that you remain focused on your responsibilities and carry them out with utmost proficiency. Please, endeavor to avoid distractions.

In relation to the ongoing APC crisis in Benue, there have been recent developments in the situation which are worth mentioning. Towards the end of 2023, the crisis in the Benue State chapter of the All-Progressives Congress (APC) deepened when party members in the National Assembly called on President Bola Tinubu for intervention. During a press briefing held at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja, Titus Zam, the Senator representing Benue North-west and caucus leader, joined by Emmanuel Udende, the Senator representing Benue North-east, and various members of the House of Representatives, including Dickson Tarkighir, Makurdi/Guma Federal; Philip Agbese, Ado/Ogbadibo, Okpoku; Terseer Ugbor, Kwande/Ushongo; Austin Achado, Gwer-East/Gwer-West; Sekav Iyortyom, Buruku and Sesoo Ikpagher, Konshisha/ Vandeikya, all claimed to be loyal to you, made some serious accusations against the governor, stating that he had been sidelining members of the ruling party in the State and behaving in a dictatorial manner. The statements made by the caucus were quite shocking, and I couldn't help but feel stunned. However, what surprised me even more was that Mr. Zam went on to pledge the caucus's loyalty to you and the state Chairman of APC, Austin Agada. Although you have consistently denied any rift between you and the governor, I had hoped that you would publicly show your solidarity with him to ease the concerns of the people of Benue. Unfortunately, it seems that you were merely trying to win over the people of Benue without taking the necessary steps to address the underlying issues. As a crucial member of the party, your intervention is needed to help resolve the crisis and bring about peace and unity within the party. Given your influence and experience, I implore you to take the lead in finding a solution to the conflicts within the party. It is essential that the party remains united and focused on its goals and objectives. Therefore, I urge you to use your position to bridge the gap between the governor and party stakeholders for a better Benue.

When considering the plight of Benue's youth, it's important to recognize the obstacles they confront in today's world. As the future leaders of any society, young people play a critical role in shaping its direction. With this in mind, it's crucial to address the challenges that they face and provide effective solutions. Unfortunately, in Benue state, the needs of its youth - the very foundation of the community - are not being adequately met, leaving society vulnerable and unprotected. One of the significant challenges facing Benue State is the reluctance of its elites to support the younger generation. This is compounded by traditional practices and the "Iyuhe" syndrome, which breeds jealousy among Benue indigenes, resulting in a lack of assistance to youths. Additionally, the emergence of the 'house-help' phenomenon has hindered the development of Benue youths. Lack of interest in education is another challenge that modern-day Benue youths face, along with materialism and the obstacles posed by contemporary society. Lack of entrepreneurial skills and laziness are also significant issues that Benue youths encounter. Early marriages and a lack of interest in girl-child education further compound these problems. In any society, it is essential to address the challenges faced by its people to promote development. By working together to find solutions, progress can be achieved. In the case of Benue State, the previous administration failed to address youth development issues, leading to neglect. However, the current government has taken steps towards youth involvement by creating a roadmap to enable more young people to occupy significant positions. To achieve this, the government must appoint more youths at the local government level and groom them for State positions. A perfect example of this is Senator Asuquo Ekpenyong, who is a Nigerian politician and financial analyst born on 25 August 1985. He was the former Cross River State Commissioner for Finance and is presently the youngest Senator in the Nigerian Senate, representing Cross River South senatorial district. The House of Representatives has several young members who are making notable contributions to the development of their respective constituencies. For instance, Mansur Manu Soro is representing Darazo/Ganjuwa Bauchi at the National Assembly. At the same time, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo is a member of the House of Representatives for Akoko North East and Akoko North West Ondo. Similarly, Kabir Tukura Ibrahim is serving as a Member of the House of Representatives and National Assembly, representing Fakai/Sakaba/Wasagu-Danko/Zuru Kebbi, and Rukayat Shittu, who became the youngest Lawmaker in Kwara State. These current crops of young politicians who now hold elected positions in their respective constituencies can be traced back to the grooming they received from the political elites in their states. These elites, recognizing the potential of these young individuals, provided them with the necessary training, mentorship, and support to help them develop their political careers. Today, these young politicians are using their positions to make a difference in their communities and to advance the interests of their constituents. As an influential member of the government, your office can play similar role in bringing our Benue youth on board. We recommended that youpay close attention to the youth population in Benue State. They are a vital component of our society and have the potential to bring about significant positive change. With the proper support and guidance, they can become influential leaders in their communities and contribute to the overall development of the State. Therefore, we should provide them with adequate resources, education, and opportunities to help them realize their full potential and make a meaningful impact on society. By doing so, we can ensure that our the future of Benue State is in good hands.

Honorable Senator, permit me to talk about the security and unity of the State. According to recent reports, there has been a significant reduction in the incidence of violence in Benue State over the past few months. This is a positive development for the State, which has been plagued by a number of violent conflicts in the past and suggests that efforts to promote peace and security in the region may be starting to bear fruit. However, it is essential to note that the situation in Benue remains complex and fragile. Some analysts believe Fulani herders are still around carrying out the attack. Others say that it is not the Fulani Herdsmen who carry all attacks but the militias. The question now is, who is funding these attacks on Benue people? Although the mass killings of the Benue people have decreased drastically over a few months, the Benue State government and the federal government of Nigeria are yet come up with practical solutions to help the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to return to their ancestral land. Although the Nigerian Army is now in place in Benue State in greater strength, and the President of Nigeria has directed the Inspector General of the Nigerian National Police to restore order to Benue, some pockets of killing continue to occur once in a while. The anti-grazing laws implemented to restrain the herders have largely been ineffective, as there are still some pockets of killings here and there. The current State of insecurity is a cause for concern, and we need strong leaders like you to help us navigate through these challenging times. If we work together, we can build a united and prosperous Benue.

As you may be aware, our State is currently facing a number of complex issues that require careful attention and consideration. One of the most pressing concerns is the presence of deep-seated ethnic and religious divisions that have the potential to create significant social and political tensions. These divisions can be seen in a variety of contexts, from public discourse and political debate to everyday interactions between different groups of people. Benue people have had a long history of undermining their own leaders. This attitude of looking down on a brother or sister is not new to them, and it has become a recurring decimal in their existence as a people. Even their most celebrated leaders have suffered the same fate at the hands of our own people. J.S. Tarka, in all his popularity and fame, was brought down by our people. Aper Aku, who is widely credited with laying the foundation for modern Benue, suffered the same fate. However, there is no single past leader of the State who can equal Aku's legacies today. Another prominent figure, Rev Fr. Moses Orshio Adasu, also suffered the same indignities from our own people before his death. Yet, he was a man whose service to the State was so selfless that he died without building a house for himself throughout the one year and ten months of his tenure as governor. One might attribute the Benue man's penchant for destroying their best to the witchcraft tradition. According to witchcraft tradition, only the very best is sacrificed or wasted. The worthless ones, the thugs, the hoodlums, gangsters, criminals, drug addicts, and the hemp smokers are immune. In the retrogressive witchcraft ideology, people expect young people to hide in the background to avoid being noticed by the elders or those in authority, no matter how brilliant their ideas are. As a result, Benue boasts only of dead heroes today. There are no easy solutions to these problems. However, it is essential that we all work together to find ways to promote greater understanding, respect, and unity among all members of the community. Therefore, in order to assist the governor in addressing these problems, we must be willing to collaborate with him for the interests of all Benue people, regardless of our background or religious status.

The current state of the Benue people is marked by a lack of unity. Despite certain factors that bring us together, there is very little that we can genuinely celebrate as a unifying force. In fact, even associations that we perceive as uniting us are generally not strong enough to make a significant difference in fostering togetherness and shared community. Our unity has never been as fragile and polarized as it is now. It has been deeply affected by tribalism, ethnicity, and religion. In fact, polarization has become increasingly apparent in the last few years. The force behind it is the deep-seated antagonism that political leaders have stirred up against each other. This has hindered parliamentary and government cooperation and has led to a cascade effect of divisions among the Benue people. Political parties and indigenous people who have become followers of party leaders have replicated these conflicts, leading to a growing sense of alienation, resentment, and mistrust. This situation has produced the "us" vs "them" syndrome. Confidential debates, which were once confined to the fringes of older circles, have now found their way to the Facebook pages of the Benue people. As a result, we have become a community with different codes, values, and facts, leading to a growing sense of mistrust and suspicion. In our public debates, we no longer disagree. Instead, we reject each other's premises and doubt each other's motives. Now, there is a growing sense of intolerance, which has further exacerbated polarization. We have become so entrenched in our own beliefs that we no longer listen to others with different points of view. Our relationships are destroyed, companionship ruined, and families torn apart. We see these divisions not only in our homes but also in our workplaces, neighborhood meetings, and even in our places of worship. The atmosphere of media interviews has become toxic, with analysts attacking and mocking opponents. On social media, outrage, takedowns, and cruelty have become the norm, often targeting our own brothers and sisters. Many of us are feeling worn out and frustrated with the seemingly endless division that exists between different groups of people. Despite the fact that we all have more in common than we might think, the constant barrage of polarization has left many feeling disillusioned and disconnected from one another. Nevertheless, there is a collective desire among many individuals to move beyond these differences and find common ground with one another in order to build a more united and harmonious society.

Honorable Senator, the current State of polarization in our society today is the result of a perfect storm - a combination of unsettling changes within our community and society at large that have left many sons and daughters of Benue feeling like strangers in their own land. The once-familiar certainties that we took for granted have all but disappeared. The concept of "I am because we are" and the sense of safety and security that came with a close-knit neighborhood where everyone knew each other have all been reduced to relics of a bygone era. It now seems as though hard work and merit are no longer enough to succeed, while the gap between those who have and those who do not continues to widen with each passing year. Many people in Benue wonder who they can trust, as the institutions that once bound us together are gradually disappearing. We no longer feel like we have each other's backs. Instead, everyone seems to have their own version of world events, making it more challenging than ever to sort fact from fiction. Our news feeds and social media only serve to reinforce our pre-existing beliefs, and angry mobs often attack anyone who dares to post an alternative opinion. We have lost the ability to disagree without perceiving the other person's views as stupid, wrong, or even evil. The result is that we are being played off against each other as we see our fellow citizens as threats and enemies. The loudest and most extreme voices are the ones that get heard, while many others feel like outsiders in their own country. Nobody wants to turn the clocks back. Today, several things are not right about the world of the Benue people. The challenge now is to find a way to bridge the divide and create a more united and inclusive society for everyone.

Similarly, the current State of our society is one of fragmentation and division. Rather than working together towards common goals, politics has driven us further apart. Communication has broken down, and finding common ground has become increasingly difficult. Yet, there is hope. If we could only press a reset button, we could start anew and move forward together as one community. Hence, it is crucial that we come together as a people to foster greater understanding and empathy amongst ourselves. This is particularly important in Benue, where there is a great deal of unpleasantness and resentment amongst the populace. Many people are hurting and struggling to make ends meet. It is up to you to help us overcome these challenges. As the SGF, it is your job to rise above sectionalism, regionalism, and indigenous sentiments. It would help if you were for all people, regardless of their background or political affiliation. By creating an environment of peace and understanding, you can help us participate in the socio-political activities of the State. It is unacceptable that we should suffer in a State that belongs to all of us. We must recognize that we are not strangers but, rather, an integral part of the State. By working together towards a common objective, we can build a better future for ourselves and our children.

The phrase "Divided we fall, united we stand" is a well-known adage that highlights the significance of unity and solidarity. It emphasizes the idea that when people work together towards a common goal, they are more likely to achieve success. In other words, collective effort and collaboration can lead to positive outcomes. Conversely, when a group is divided and fragmented, it is bound to fail, no matter how talented or skilled its members may be. The phrase "A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand" echoes the same sentiment - that unity is pivotal for success. This phrase suggests that any group or organization that is plagued by internal conflict, whether it's due to personal differences or conflicting ideologies, is bound to collapse. In essence, both these aphorisms serve as reminders that we need to put aside our differences and work towards a common goal if we want to achieve success and avoid failure. It implies that a group's success is not just dependent on individual efforts but also on the ability to collaborate and work together as a team. Hence, fostering a sense of unity and solidarity is crucial for any organization or group that strives towards success.

As a highly respected figure in the political landscape of President Tinubu's administration, we humbly implore you to lend your support in addressing the pressing issue of unemployment among our youths. As you are aware, unemployment among our youths has become a significant issue in our State. The alarming rate of unemployment has undoubtedly contributed to the increasing security challenges we face today. Unemployed youth are often vulnerable to exploitation and can become easy targets for criminal organizations. By leveraging your influence and experience, we are confident that we can work together to create more opportunities for our young people to gain meaningful employment. The youth are the future of our State andempowering them with the right skills and knowledge can help them contribute positively to the growth and development of our State. Moreover, the lack of holistic education has hindered the growth and development of our youth. Let us prioritize education and create opportunities for young people to gain knowledge and skills that will prepare them for the future. This can be done through initiatives such as mentorship programs, internships, and apprenticeships that provide hands-on experience and guidance from experienced professionals. Additionally, we need to ensure that young people have access to resources such as funding, technology, and networking opportunities, which will help them to develop their potential and bring them to fruition. By working together to support and empower the next generation of leaders, we can build a brighter future for everyone. We understand that this is a challenging task that requires the collective effort of all stakeholders. However, we firmly believe that your leadership in this regard would go a long way in ensuring a brighter future for our beloved youth.

Rev. Ma, S.J, is a Jesuit Catholic priest and PhD candidate in public and social policy at St. Louis University in the state of Missouri, USA.