Benue 2015 – As Southern Zone Pushes Position

George Okoh, in Makurdi, looks at the move by the people of southern senatorial district of Benue State to produce the next governor of the state.x10_governor-gabriel-suswam-and-deputy-governor-chief-steven-lawani.jpg.pagespeed.ic.XxMrS5zxZg

Ahead of the primaries of the political parties, aspirants to various elective positions have intensified their consultation with relevant stakeholders. In Benue State, the contest for Governor Gabriel Suswam’s successor in 2015 is hotting up, with aspirants and their supporters debating which zone should produce the next governor. Several arguments have been put up by the aspirants and interested groups. Virtually all the three senatorial zones in the state – Benue North East, Benue North West, and Benue South West – have people who are jostling for the governorship position.

Aspirants However, the people of Benue South West have made a strong demand that power should shift to the zone next year owing to the fact that they have never had the opportunity to govern the state since its creation in 1976. So far, five aspirants have indicated interest in the governorship race from the zone. They include former Minister of State for Niger Delta for Dr Sam Ode; former commissioner in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Paul Harris Ogbole; Dr. Mathias Oyigheya; Mrs. Ada Chenge, and the incumbent deputy governor, Chief Steven Lawani.

The last few weeks have witnessed intensive consultation and lobbying by the five aspirants from the zone as well as pressure groups of southern extraction. They have been busy crisscrossing the state, engaging in high level consultations with political stakeholders, royal fathers and the clergy in order to drum up support for their aspirations.

Zoning Many pundits believe that the determination of the predominantly Idoma-speaking southern zone to govern the state will be met by a stiff opposition from the MINDA axis of Benue North West, which is equally determined to govern the state for the first time. Even though someone from Benue North West – Senator George Akume – had governed the state from 1999 to 2007, the MINDA people argue that it was a person from the Jemgber axis of the five Tiv families that did so. Traditional rulers from the Tiv speaking areas have expressed support for the MINDA extraction by pruning down over 19 aspirants who had indicated interest in the race to the quartet of Minister of State Trade and Investment, Dr Samuel Ortom, former Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly, Prince Terhemem Tarzoor, Dr Hinga Biem, and Mr. Felix Atume.

The action of the Tiv traditional institution, though popular among the electorate in the state, was rejected by aspirants who failed to make the list of hopefuls. But Governor Gabriel Suswam has continued to play his card close to his chest, refusing to make obvious his favourite successor. Suswam said at a recent function that he did not know who would be the next governor, but he was also quick to add that he certainly knew those that would not succeed him.

Benue South-west Quest Despite the position of the MINDA people, the southern zone has continued to agitate that the governorship position should be zoned to the area. Recently, women under the umbrella of Benue Southern Women in Politics (BSWP) told the state chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, Dr. Emmanuel Agbo, at the party’s secretariat in Makurdi that the governorship position should be zoned to the area. Mrs. Susan Adoba and Mrs. Mary Akut, who spoke on behalf of the women, observed that since the current democratic dispensation PDP had continued to win the governorship elections in the state, from George Akume, from Zone B between 1999 and 2007, to the incumbent, Suswam, of Zone A, who took over in 2007 and is expected to quit by next year. The women said, “Since creation of Benue in 1976, Zone C has never produced a governor for the state. There is need for power to shift to Zone C, premised on the principles of equity, justice, fairness and good governance as enshrined in the constitution of PDP and of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

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