The Ethnic Composition of Benue State

The formation of Nigerian states after regional government failed was being thought of by General Gowon administration as the best option to help unite the various ethnic groups which were being segmented along regional divisions. This was because the regional politics made the central government very weak and on the other hand, made the dominant ethnic groups to pay more allegiance to the regional governments than the centre. It was after the abolition of the regional divisions that Nigerian ethnic groups begin to live and interact with others on states level.

The first generation of states created was twelve and the Benue as a state was carved under Benue-Plateau. The Benue-Plateau state was more or less like a sandwich of over thirteen minority tribes or ethnic groups of different inter-cultural affiliation towards one another. Dominant tribes /ethnic groups however include Ngas, Biron, Kutev, Tiv, Idoma, Igala, etc. The headquarters (state capital) was in Jos and all the representatives of these peoples (different tribes and ethnic groups) were normally sent to Jos in order to deliberate on the affairs of the state.

The second generation of states created, add-up to a total number nineteen state and it was during this time that Benue was separated from Plateau with each having its separate state. Benue state after it was created habours ethnic groups like Igala, Idoma, Tiv, Igede, and other relatively smaller ones. None of the groups mentioned above is among the three dominant cultural groups in Nigeria (Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba). These minority trbes were socially and politically brought together under one plat-form as a state to run the affairs of the state. During this period, the only radio station, Radio-Benue, will have news translation in the local languages of the different ethnic groups. During occasions of state or national event, all the cultures would have their cultural displays in form of dance and drama and other performances, first to entertain but mostly to indirectly represent their tribe and to identify with the state.

Latter on the creation of Kogi state cut away Igala and join with some parts of Kwara. This reduced the number of ethnic groups as well as cultural representation in the state. Considering the fact that Western civilization came very late within the area compare to the north and south areas in Nigeria, this also affected development in a way. There is very little industrial development within the state and the people who constitute over ninety percent of traditional farmers (peasants) make their living through farm produce. Food is practically abundant and the state is a major source of food supply to the entire nation. This alone has earned Benue state the title of “FOOD BASKET OF THE NATION”.

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