SPECIAL DOCUMENTARY: Celebrating Architect of a Modern Benue, Late Aper Aku, 29 Years After
This is a very interesting piece, written by Asawa Joseph. Read it below;
Immediately after his resignation as Principal of the Federal Training Centre Kaduna, the late Apolos Aper Aku left for Lagos to stay with the late Sen. (Dr.) Joseph Sarwuan Tarka where he temporary busied himself on the Board of Tarkas firm; Nigerian Investment Quest Ltd. Aku later return to Gboko where he engaged himself in retail business under the name Benue Development Company.
When Benue State was carved out of Benue-Plateau state and the need to have capable hands to man the local government areas became inevitable, the then Military Governor, Col. Abdullahi Shelleng made no mistake to confirm Aku as the Chairman of Kwande local government council having elected as a councilor.
On assumption of office in October 1976, Aku perfected an innovative approach to leadership that was unprecedented. He made sure that the meager resources at his disposal were judiciously applied to better the lot of the locals.
Infrastructural facilities that were hitherto lacking in the area was aggressively pursued while encouraging peasant farmers to embrace modern technique of farming through the establishment of Agro-service activities and extension units. On account of his brilliant performance, the Benue State Government, in 1978, declared him the Best Performing Chairman in the state.
It is a truism that the excellent performance of Aku in Kwande which made him a gold fish was an added advantage to him when he came up later in 1978 to contest for the NPN gubernatorial beating Suemo Chia, J.T. Orkar, Isaach Shaahu and Atim Adeze and eventually Paul Belabo of the NPP. Aku was then sworn in as the First Executive Governor of Benue on October 1st, 1979 by Justice James Adesiyun, the then state Chief Judge.
His Developmental Strides as Governor:
On assumption of office as first civilian governor of the newly created state, Aku who is a teacher by profession, a politician by popular will and servant leader by trust, demonstrated political dexterity which hinges on the philosophy of fairplay, hardwork and the spirit of give and take.
Aware that the state was industrially lagging behind and years apart from modernity, Aku set machineries in motion which culminated into the establishment of Lobi Bank, Taraku Mills Ltd, Modern International Makurdi, Ikyogen Cattle Ranch, Ber Agbum Fish Farm Project, Benue Brewery Ltd, Benue Bottling Company, Sheraton Hotel Ltd, Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), Hawaii Agronomics, Otukpo Burnt Bricks, Benue Sanitary Ware Industry, Palm Oil Mills Acharu, Plastic Products Factory, Asbestos Company Ltd, Benue Investment Company Ltd and Benue Cement Company Ltd amongst many uncountable industrial efforts.
While Benue indigenes were facilitated to take up appointments in the Federal Civil Service, the Aku regime aggressively embark on rural roads construction, electrification, construction of Government House Makurdi, Government Lodge Lagos, Tarka Institute of Political Studies, Makurdi Stadium and the unbeatable State Secretariat that is amongst the best in Nigeria, while his regime also sponsored hundreds of Benue indigenes for overseas studies and training.
His Contribution to National Development:
One of the greatest contribution of the late Aku to national development and discourse was his position paper on The Right Of The Minority, Zoning And The Rotation Of The Presidency Among The Component Parts Of Nigeria which he presented at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria on April 27th, 1982.
The position paper was so insightful that the Northen oligacy felt threatened that Aku was up to challenge their domineering role on the Nigeria political space. But what Aku prophesised twenty nine years ago has come to pass to fruition with the emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan, a minority from Ijaw nation as the president of the Nigeria thereby helping to stabilize the country.
The emergence of Aku on the political terrain was rather dramatic. He was not comfortable with the manner the then governor of Benue-Plateau state J.D. Gomwalk was handling state affairs. The neglect of Benue Province and the lop-sided appointments and development in the state in favour of Plateau Province amongst many other issues bittered Aku.
He decided to swore to an Affidavit on 31st August 1974 at the Jos Division of the High Court alleging mass scale corruption on the part of governor Gomwalk.
Although he was detained by the Gen. Yakubu Gowon Military Regime, the affidavit no doubt thrust him into limelight as a courageous person.
Another bitter experience which Aku passed through was during the military patch of January 1st, 1984 when the civilian administration which he was serving as governor was overthrown.
On this occasion, Aku had to escape to the Republic of Cameroun trekking several kilometers of rough local path through Bawulu, Baalin then Yaunde.
On arrival in Yaunde, where he stayed for a month, Aku discovered that he was the only governor that had escaped in the wake of the military coup and decided to return back to the country where he was apprehended and handed into detention on return at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos.
After a brief stay at the Kirikiri Maximum Prison, Aku was in 1985 transferred to Kaduna prison charge under the Anti-Sabotage and Miscellaneous Offences Decree of 1984. His lawyer, Chief FRA Williams (SAN) tried in vain to let him off the hook but the presiding justices; Akinola Aguda and Muhammed Bello slammed a 15 year jail term on Aku. The jail term was later reduced to three years on the recommendation of Justice Bello and Aku regain freedom in December 1986.
Barely eleven months after his release from prison on November 14th 1987, Aku answered the divine call while on a visit to his classmate at the prestigious Government College Keffi, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Ibrahim Alfa in Lagos.
Aku who was jogging in the Lawn around the premises of his host suddenly slumped and before he could be rushed to the hospital, he was pronounced dead. The autopsy which was later conducted on his body showed that his death was due to heart failure following a ruptured brain.
Although the military administration at the time showed little concern in giving Aku the befitting state burial he deserve, the Mzough U Tiv took up the challenge in according his passage special attention which attracted high profile personage across the globe.
Aku who was married to Mrs. Mbateren Aku and Victoria Aku with children was buried on November 14th, 1987 at his ancestral Ikyobo village.
As the epital on his tomb; Nevertheless he lives correctly says, Akus image and impact will continue to linger in the minds of Benue man with a developmental mind.
His Birth and Early Education:
Born in 1933 to the family of the late Aku Kiso of Mbaikyobo in the present Mbakuha council ward of Ushongo local government area of Benue state, the late Apollos Aper Aku started his elementary studies at the then Dutch Reformed Church Mission (DRCM) Junior Elementary School until when he was admitted at the Mkar Senior Elementary School in 1948.
After a brilliant performance in the Common Entrance Examination which attracted intelligent students drawn from the then Benue-Plateau, Kabba and Ilorin Provinces, Aku was admitted at the elitist Government Secondary School now Government Collage Keffi, in 1951.
Upon completion of secondary school, he won scholarship of the Regional Government of Northern Nigeria to do his Advanced Level Studies at the Nigeria College of Arts, Science and Technology Zaria which was the only tertiary institution in Northern Nigeria then.
Still thirsty for further knowledge, Aku was again sponsored by the same Northern Regional Government to study for a combined Honours Degree in Arts at the Fourah Bay College of Siera-Leone in 1964 and became one of the first university graduates in the entire Tivland along with Ezekiel Akiga and Jon Adom Gande. He later obtained a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria in 1966.
His Working Career:
Desirous of impacting acquired knowledge to the young generation in his usual selfless sense of public service, Aper Aku, in 1960, first took up a temporary appointment with the Missionary which established W.M Bristow Secondary School Gboko which was then at Lupwe in Taraba state.
Upon completion of his university education in 1964, he returned to Bristow Secondary School again only to leave few years later due to a higher call to national service which he started in the Northern Regional Service first at Government Secondary School Bauchi and later moved to Government Secondary School Gombe in 1966 where he was later made principal of that school.
In 1968, Aku took up the Principalship of the then Government Secondary School, Otobi in Otukpo and later transferred his services to the Federal Ministry of Education as Secretary, Bureau of External Aid, Lagos.
The highly innovative and workaholic Aku was in 1969 drafted to head the Federal Training Centre Kaduna where he also shone brightly. He later resigned his appointment honourably in 1970 due to political under-current in the Benue-Plateau state then.