He attended Gboko Primary School (1937-42) and the Katsina-Ala Middle Secondary School and Bauchi Teachers’ Training College.
His father encouraged him to become a teacher and he taught at the Provincial Secondary School of the Tiv Native Authority Administration. Interested in politics at an early stage, he won a scat in the 1954 elections for the United Middle Belt Congress, which was very much his own party, as he had founded it and become its president. In the Federal Parliament he allied himself with the Action Group opposition and after winning the 1959 elections, acted as shadow minister for Commerce and Industry. He led the UMBC delegates to the 1957-8 Constitutional Conference.
In 1962 his electoral alliance resulted in his being made Federal Vice-President of the Action Group in 1962. He was arrested in the famous Action Group treason trial of 1962, along with Chief 346
Awolowo, but was discharged for want of sufficient evidence. He was also subjected to continual harassment and petty prosecutions for political offences in the North. He refused to come to any accommodation with the Northern leader, the Sardauna of Sokoto.
In 1964 he fought the elections alongside the other southern progressive parties under the United Progressive Grand Alliance. Though the UPGA lost, he continued to campaign for a separate Middle Belt State. His opportunity was not to come until after the military coups of 1966, when he had a chance to express himself at the All Nigeria Constitutional Conference. Finally, his wishes were granted when General Gowon created the 12 new states and appointed him to the Federal Executive Council and made him Commissioner for Transport in June 1967, being reshuffled to Communications in October 1971.