The recent pruning of governorship aspirants has generated crisis among contenders for Benue governorship seat, even as the validated endorsement of four aspirants by Tiv traditional institution now seems to be the unifying force of political activities in the agrarian state, SOLOMON AYADO writes.
Nothing politically serious has caused rude shock and confusion in the 2015 gubernatorial activities in Benue State like the recent pruning of governorship aspirants by the Tiv traditional institution. Within the past few weeks, the Tiv paramount ruler, HRH Akawe Torkula and Governor Gabriel Suswam have not enjoyed a steady rest as they have been receiving valid political reports and or convening varied meetings to resolve issues that have arisen because of speculated trimming of governorship contenders in the state.
Members of campaign teams and supporters of the various governorship aspirants that have been reportedly screened out of the race are obviously not only saddened but too weak to pull stunts because their livelihood now only revolves around four selected contenders. Although none of the aspirants has publicly announced withdrawal from the race since the news broke in the state, their body language has been telling the obvious like a handwriting on the wall.
While many political pundits have expressed doubts about the streamlining of the governorship aspirants from the favoured Masev, Iharev and Nongov entity, otherwise known as MINDA, where zoning is reportedly favoured, the rampant declarations from different respected elders and stakeholders in the area on their firm resolve to support only the selected four candidates is enough to convince any doubting mind. And if the perceived soft peddling of consultation activities by some aspirants is worth taking into cognizance, then the pruning of the MINDA governorship aspirants is truly the kingmakers’ decision.
At the onset, the traditional authorities claimed that the pruning of the aspirants from MINDA was because of their large number and that the decision was taken to enhance commitment and focus of the entity to the project which has not enjoyed the seat since the creation of the state. It could be that the traditional institution must have probably viewed some contenders with some weaknesses.
Before the crisis over the cutting down of aspirants was triggered, more than ten out of twenty prominent sons of Benue from MINDA extraction had earlier declared their irrevocable decisions to run for the plum seat of the governor come 2015. They include a former registrar of Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Engr. Felix Atume, minister of State for Trade and Investment, Chief Samuel Ortom, a retired permanent secretary, Mr. Hinga Biem, former speakers of the Benue State House of Assembly, Prince Terhemen Tarzoor and Barrister David Iorhemba, former commissioner of Justice, Barrister Alex Adum and his environment counterpart, Dr. Eugene Aliegba, as well as a resigned permanent secretary of Government House Administration, Dr. Tivlumun Nyitse and that of local governments, Mr. Andy Uwouku.
Others are a commissioner in the Federal Character Commission, Prince Simon Aondona, an astute politician, Mr. Basil Mbatsiantim, commissioner for Lands and Survey, Mr. John Tondo, state chairman of Nigerian Labour Congress, Mr. Simon Anchaver, among others.
Desirous of clinching the juicy position of the governor, they had earlier launched campaign offices in strategic locations in Makurdi, the state capital and had appointed and inaugurated campaign teams and procured expensive vehicles for the executive coordinating members of their units. Even though some may appear not qualified to run based on past records or antecedents, they had but blindly forged into the race because they own the constitutional right to aspire.
The grassroots consultation kick-started and the aspirants had commenced movement from one local government council area to the other. Even as the heinous invasion of suspected Fulani herdsmen rudely interrupted the political drive, many of the contenders were undeterred. They had, rather than evolve proactive measures to end the insurgency, utilised the ugly period to sneak in campaign motives during their distribution of relief materials to the displaced persons.
This was how many aspirants were scored below the margin and the decision to reduce their numbers emerged. A crucial meeting was reportedly held in Gboko, between the Tor Tiv and the all governorship contenders from the MINDA extraction, where consultation waiver was granted unanimously to only four aspirants: Engr. Felix Atume (Gwer West); Dr. Samuel Ortom (Guma); Mr. Hinga Biem (Gwer) and Prince Terhemen Tarzoor (Makurdi).
Many political analysts have stated that other governorship aspirants from the Idoma enclave have also geared up their consultation activities with the hope that the contenders from MINDA may divide due to the seeming crisis from the pruning and they would take the advantage. The likes of deputy governor, Chief Steven Lawani and Mr. Sam Ode have intently stepped up their drive since the streamlining saga came to the fore. As it is, the four aspirants have been given waiver on critically imagined issues.
Engr. Felix Atume
He has been in public service for a long time and virtually understands the dire challenges confronting the nooks and crannies of the agrarian state. A consummate engineer, Atume has served as a former director general of Benue Rural Development Agency (BERDA), a former commissioner of works and president of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) and immediate past registrar of Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN).
He is a lecturer of Highways and Civil Engineering in the Federal University of Technology, Minna and Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi respectively. His choice among the four governorship aspirant is fetched from his iconic infrastructural development capacity and vast knowledge about problems of the state and how they can be best solved.
Chief Samuel Ortom
A party man to the call, he does not segregate and notably never created a divide between the ruling and opposition political parties. Ortom started his political career as council chairman before becoming the state secretary of the PDP. He rose to the position of national auditor and had chaired the board of Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) before he became a minister of the federal republic. He is picked among the four due his industrious nature and because Benue is lagging behind in functional industries, a situation which many believe he would transform if elected.
An erudite journalist and astute public servant Cvm core politician, he has served as editor of the Voice Newspapers, published by Benue State government. His career as a civil servant steadily peaked him to rank of permanent secretary in various ministries including internal affairs and special duties among others. The choice of Hinga is not unconnected to his focused ability to deliver any responsibility entrusted to him creditably.
The sail-through screening of this former speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly is widely regarded by the people as a right step in the right direction. Fondly referred to as ‘Man wey Sabi’, he is a loyal party man, easy going and someone who is ready to sacrifice for the betterment of his people and it is believed that he will impact development.
At the moment, less than two months into the primary of the governorship election, the political sphere of the agrarian state is dicey . The aspirants are in a battle of wit but the selected four preferred by the people to run the race under the platform of the PDP and clinch the juicy seat have appeared endorsed. They are now obviously enjoying a lively political environment while other contenders, believed to have being screened out are in serious state of chaos, not really sure of moving their consultation forward or backward.