BY PETER DURU
The struggle for political ascendancy by the Idomas of Benue State has been a perennial struggle. When leading agitators thought the battle was almost over new permutations have been thrown in.
The last few days have witnessed intensive consultations and lobbying by the over 25 governorship aspirants in Benue state ahead of the 2015 governorship election.
They have continued to weather on, criss-crossing the entire state, engaging in high level consultations with political stakeholders in order to drum up support for their aspiration.
On his part, Governor Gabriel Suswam has continued to play his political card very close to his chest for obvious reasons, thereby refusing to give anyone an inkling as to who his preferred candidate or successor could be among the lot.
Governor Gabriel Suswam
Though the incumbent at a recent function clearly stated that he did not know who would eventually clinch the plum job, he was also quick to add that he certainly knew those who would not succeed him.
Whatever that poser meant is certainly a matter of conjecture, it is also pertinent to note that no democratically elected Governor in the state has ever handed over to an older successor; and Governor Gabriel Suswam’s body language somewhat bespeak that he is tilting towards that line.
It is, however, left to be seen if Suswam would be able to muster enough will to replicate same in 2015 given the calibre of aspirant in the race.
Pundits are of the view that the race would certainly be a straight fight between the Idoma speaking minorities and the Tivs of Masev, Ihiarev and Nongov extraction otherwise known as MINDA of the Tiv hegemony.
The Idomas are laying claim to the position on the premise that in the 38 years of the existence no Idoma has had the opportunity of governing the state or any of the three arms of the state government.
Only recently, the Idoma National Forum, INF, an umbrella body of all Idoma sons and daughters, through its National President, Mr. Okopi Momoh, threatened to boycott the governorship election if the position was not ceded to them for the first time.
“Other states in the country have embraced the concept of rotation in the interest of fairness and equity, we expect same to happen in Benue State starting from 2015 governorship election.
“We want to sound it clearly that if the Benue South zone does not get the concession on rotation, we will not participate in the governorship election in 2015.” The INF said.
Despite this threat, it is noteworthy to point out that aspirants from the area have not left anything to chance in their bid to break the jinx and ensure power shift.
On the other hand, political leaders of the MINDA group of Tiv extraction are also laying claim to the governorship position on the grounds that they have, since the creation of the state, been cheated out of the power equation and not allowed to produce the governor of the state.
Interestingly, these two contending sides are close neighbours who are only separated by a common boundary and are remarkably, closely knitted socially and culturally especially in Gwer and Gwer West local government areas of the state.
Speaking on the MINDA agitation, University don, Mr. Frank Kyungun contended that the position should be ceded to the people of MINDA who should be given the right of first refusal before any other zone could be considered.
Kyungun who pointed out that the contest would be a direct contest between the MINDA and the Idomas, however, insisted that the people of Nongov should be given preference in view of their several years of political marginalization in Benue.
Recently, the leaders of Jemgbagh socio-political bloc in Benue Southwest zone, while receiving one of the governorship aspirants in Gboko, advised all other aspirants, except those of the MINDA extraction to withdraw from the race.
Meantime, while heated arguments on who succeeds Suswam persists across the state, six aspirants in the governorship race are obviously blazing the trail in their final lap of consultations with critical stakeholders, pending the formal flag off of campaigns.
Among the lot is Dr. Samuel Ortom, the current Minister of State for Trade and Investments, who hails from Nzorov, in Guma local government area who by virtue of the traditional title his people conferred on him, is known as the ‘Lion of Nzorov”.
He is a grassroots politician who cut his teeth in politics long before most of the current aspirants and rivals delved into the game.
Since he openly declared his intent to gun for the number one position, many have ceaselessly volunteered to be part of the train while Ortom has carried on believing that it is only God that can enthrone a leader.
Dr. Sam Ode is perhaps regarded as one of the most widely acceptable Idoma contenders in the race. The former Otukpo local government council chairman, Special Adviser on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and one time Minister of State in the Niger Delta Ministry is presently the Chairman of Upper Niger River Basin Development Authority.
Also an experienced politician in his own class and an astute politician of Idoma extraction counting for him is his parental background which cuts across the three senatorial zones of the state.
While his father is Idoma, his mother is Tiv, and for extremist ethnic champions of the Tiv and Idoma stock he is seen as a bridge between the two tribes.
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