Benue guber 2019: The contenders and their quest

As political clouds begin to gather towards 2019 general election, different politicians are aspiring for different political positions all over the country. So far, Benue State has 20 governorship candidates from different political parties ranging from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Social Democratic Party (SDP), among many others.

Under PDP, there are 12 aspirants, namely, Samuel Ortom, John Tondo, Terhemen Tarzoor, Felix Atumen, Dave Iorhemba, Steven Hwandle, Tivlumun Nyitse, Joe Tor Iorapuu, Paul Orhii, David Ker, Richard Gbanwuan, and Simeon Anchaver. While we have, Titus Zam, Emmanuel Jime, Benjamin Adanyi, Akanger Audu, and Aseman Achado jostling for the APC ticket. There is Hinga Biem under SDP as well as Angya in Labour Party.

Although they appear to have the same ambition of emerging as the governor of the state, they however, have different plans and agendas for the people.

For Samuel Ortom, since he announced his second-term ambition to the state executive committee (SEC) of his party, he has been busy activating all the machinery that would see him grab the PDP governorship ticket and go on to win the governorship election next year.

Pundits say as an incumbent, Ortom’s re-election campaign should be hinged on his scorecard during his first term. But apart from pockets of success in the fight against insurgency, which in any case has been clouded by the Killings in Benue State, some critics are of the opinion that Ortom’s government has not met their expectations. They rate the administration low on the economy, non-payment of salaries and the fight against corruption.

But Ortom’s supporters argue that the new initiatives introduced by the administration would take a while to manifest.

Aligning themselves with the saying that “With life all things are possible”, the supporters said that the 2017 Anti-Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law has granted hope for all Benue people which is the best legacy that every governor can leave for his people.

They also clearly stated that if it is by scorecard, Ortom will clinch his second term bid based on the fact that 11 roads have been completed and commissioned, the declaration of amnesty programme was successful and the rehabilitation/construction of 740 primary schools in the 23 LGA has been completed, among many others.

Ortom supporters explained that the only challenge facing the administration is non-payment of salaries but will soon be looked into. They urged Benue people to support Ortom’s second term bid so that many more good things will come their way.

Pundits insists that Ortom will not be able to clinch the second term bid because of his misunderstanding with his political godfather who single-handedly introduced him to the APC and made him the governor of the state. They added that non-payment of staff salaries and sack of many state civil servants may count against him.

According to them, Senator George Akume is the only political leader in Benue State since the return of Democracy in the country and he has always been on the same page with the Federal Government and that for that reason, for Governor Ortom to disagree with him shows how uncertain it is for him to return in 2019.

Former Speaker of Benue state House of Assembly Prince Terhemen Tarzor’s ambition is not new at all. This ambition has seen in him since 2015 when he was made the PDP flag bearer in the last governorship election. He is again staging a comeback should the party give him the go-ahead; but pundits are of the opinion that having zoned the governorship ticket to Masev, Ihyarev, Nongov Development Association (MINDA) and Guma Local Government Area in particular, where the incumbent Governor Samuel Ortom comes from, the former speaker’s chances at clinching the ticket are very slim.

Although, Ortom supporters are of the opinion that the former PDP flag bearer will not be able to get the chance of being a standard bearer based on the fact that the 6th Benue Assembly speaker, unlike in the last governorship election where he allegedly maneuvered his way to pick the party’s ticket against the wish of party stakeholders and indeed state leadership of the party, perhaps because of the connection he had with the then powers that be, Tarzor may not enjoy such privilege this time around owing to the fact that he has lost touch with his benefactor and godfather, the former president Goodluck Jonathan, who does not have that enormous influence in determining what happens in the party in the current dispensation.

Tarzor, in addition to losing presidential support and favour which he enjoyed in the last political outing, ostensibly lacks the financial capacity to muscle his way out of the highly contentious ticket coupled with his soured relationship with the masses, especially political stakeholders, since he lost out in the last governorship election.

Pundits say since the last governorship election was won and lost in the state, the PDP flag bearer has never for once deemed it fit to visit any part of the state to thank the PDP family in such an area for supporting his aspiration in the last governorship election and as such, the people may not want to be associated with somebody “full of ingratitude”.

Another former aspirant in the 2015 governorship polls, who was also vice chancellor of the Benue State University, Makurdi, Professor David Iornongo Ker, who also contested on the platform of the PDP, is also set for a fight to finish come 2019. But age appears to be the issue with him. Observers say that governors of the state are known to be young men.

Some of the reasons advanced by some opinion leaders and analysts are that giving leadership of the state to somebody that is already above his life expectancy may not be in the best interest of the state.

Moreover, they argue that to entrust leadership of the state to somebody who has too many children that are already awash with modern global trends with tendencies to own choice properties in high brow cities of the world and drive latest cars, development of the state will suffer a great set back.

To place the state on the global map of industrialised and developed states, some chieftains of the former ruling party have suggested that instead of seeking leadership of the state at an age considered to be for statesmen and women, the former commissioner for education should rather use the vast academic knowledge and experience he has acquired over time as two-time Vice Chancellor with financial resources at his disposal to set up a higher institution of learning, perhaps a college of education or polytechnic to further develop manpower in the state.

Tivlumun Nyitse, another former governorship aspirant and former chief scribe in charge of Government House administration under Governor Gabriel Suswam, has also made the list of PDP aspirants seeking leadership of the state in next year’s election.

However, Nyitse, just as uncertainty looms over the former BSU and Verita’s vice chancellor’s candidature on account of age, the seasoned bureaucrat and don at the Bingham University, Abuja, may not grab the party’s ticket based on the fact that already he is far above 50 years of age, an age believed to be “above productive age”.

But the man is seriously qualified for any post given his very robust profile, both in the academic and civil service.

As a permanent secretary in the Government House administration, there was a robust cordial relationship with his boss and then governor of the state, Gabriel Suswam but the immediate past governor may not want to cede power to somebody who by birth is older than him and “whom he may be bowing down to”.

Another factor that pundits argue may deny the Don of his party’s governorship ticket is premised on the fact that just as early disagreement between successors and their predecessors is a common feature in Nigerian politics, there is palpable apprehension that the retired permanent secretary will soon on assumption of office wash off his benefactor and boss, the former governor and leader of the party in the state, Gabriel Suswam in apparent show of his independent-mindedness given his high tech background.

Nyitse, though many argued possesses the credentials to steer the ship of the state, critical stakeholders as well as chieftains in the party will leave no stone unturned to avoid a recurrence of what happened between former governor George Akume and his predecessor Gabriel Suswam where the latter soon, on assumption of office, the duo became fierce rivals thus, throwing the state into a prolonged bickering.

For engineer Felix Atume, another former PDP governorship hopeful in the last governorship election and former executive secretary, Council for the Regulation of Engineering practice in Nigeria (COREN), there are concerns that the civil engineer may not be development-inclined given the roles he played when he was commissioner for works during the military administration of Col. Aminu Isa Kontagor.

Engineer Atume, many within the PDP fold have argued, possesses the requisite credentials to move the state forward if he downplays personal interest, but another grave concern is that he is not known to be a champion of any project that makes for human development, a fact they further buttressed in his inability to meaningfully engage indigenes of the state during his days at the COREN, an opportunity they regretted was wasted at the expense of the state.

In the case of Paul Orhii, the immediate past Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug administration and Control (NAFDAC), his coming into the race is seen as a child’s play and miscalculated priority based on the premise that the governorship seat of the state has been zoned to other part of the state. He has been advised to wait till 2023; an arrangement former governors Orshio Adasu, George Akume and Gabriel Suswam also benefited from.

To others, his coming into the race at this time is more-or-less a glorious home-coming to launch and acquaint himself with his people after a long sojourn abroad for over three decades. For a feasible, genuine and realisable governorship ambition, analysts advise that the Russian-trained medic should back down his ambition and wait till 2023 when the pendulum will swing to Jechira axis in zone ‘A’ senatorial district of the state.

Although, some are of the view that Orhii is playing according to the sayings of an elder and a political gladiator, Paul Iorpuu Unongo who in 2011 said, zoning is not a trap set to catch-up on someone, but meant to show love for each other as such, it can be reversed to any bloc so as to get a credible candidate.

The immediate commissioner for Lands and Survey, John Timbee Tondo, is also seeking to clinch the PDP ticket.

Apart from being the youngest on the list of PDP governorship aspirants, maybe except Stephen Hwande, the consultant gynecologist and medical director of First Fertility Hospital Makurdi, whom analysts say is a novice in politics, is among the five new entrants in the governorship race with vast knowledge that observers say may be very interested in modernisation and development.

As commissioner for lands and survey, the land administration policies were adjudged as best with little administrative lapses in areas considered to be infarctions in the past.

Again, following an advice by former governor Gabriel Suswam to all governorship aspirants under PDP that no aspirant should sell his properties to prosecute his political ambition or expect him to shoulder his governorship campaign financial burden, the former commissioner must look well before he leaps. He must count the cost very well before throwing his hat into the ring.

From the foregoing, the Professor of Theatre Arts at the Federal University of Jos, Plateau State, Joe Tor Iorapuu; Zonal secretary, National Association of Health Workers Union of Nigeria (NAHWUN), Richard Gbawuam and former Benue Assembly speaker now PDP national assistant secretary, Dave Iorhemba, will have to watch the scene carefully to ensure that the coast is clear to avoid wide goose chase.

Following the defection of Governor Samuel Ortom from APC to PDP labeling APC an opposition party in the state, APC is doing its possible best to return to power come 2019. The party parades four (4) governorship aspirants include Emmanuel Jime, Benjamin Adanyi, Titus Zam and Akanger Audu.

Emmanuel Jime’s ambition is not new at all. This ambition has seen him in 2015 which he was almost made the APC flag bearer in the last governorship election. He is again staging a comeback should the party give him the go-ahead but pundits are of the opinion that having zoned the governorship ticket to Masev, Ihyarev, Nongov Development Association (MINDA) and Guma Local Government Area in particular where the incumbent governor Samuel Ortom comes from, he may be likely to clinch.

Another aspirant under APC is Titus Zam who served the state as the Senior Adviser to the Governor on Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the current administration.

Pundits argue that Zam may not win the governorship ticket because it has been alleged that he was responsible for the sack and non-payment of state civil servants, especially local government staff while serving as the Adviser for Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.

His supporters are of the opinion that, Zam will do well if given the mandate since he has already served the state in a big capacity. They also debunked the insinuation that Zam was responsible for the sack and non-payment of salaries, saying, he was only advising and not taking decision; that the decision to sack was taken by the state executive.

The immediate past majority leader of the 8th Benue Assembly, Benjamin Adanyi and Audu Akanger have to watch the scene very carefully before involving in the race.

Pundits have it that, Both Adanyi and Audu are only canvassing votes for the sake of it, as a bargaining chip for appointments in future.

The Benue state chapter of the Social Democratic party SDP so far has a sole candidate, Hinga Biem whose ambition is not new. Hinga Biem who aspired for the same position in 2015 under the PDP has staged a comeback on different platform.

Pundits argue that the candidate lacks the financial capacity to sponsor himself.

Just like the SDP, the state chapter of Labour Party has Angya as its sole candidate who is likely to fly the flag of the party for governorship election come 2019.

Angya, who is not from the political axis where the governorship ticket is being zoned to, is being looked at as a joker by many.

Benjamin Agesan, Makurdi.

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