Benue 2015: Would Suswam, Tor Tiv make or mar PDP?

By Kula Tersoo

KULA TERSOO writes on the criticism trailing alleged involvement of the Tor Tiv in the Benue governorship race and Governor Gabriel Suswam’s seeming intervention

As the race to who occupy the Food Basket’s  Government House in Makurdi, Benue state gathers steam and time of reckoning drawing closer for aspiring governors,   politicians and their political parties at different levels have been attempting to balance forces  to arrive at possible answers that would favour them.
The race, perhaps because of emphasis on zoning, has indeed become more of an all comers affairs with over 25 aspirants including the main contenders,  pretenders and even jokers all involved and jostling for just one seat.
Investigations and observation of the various aspirants, especially in the main political parties- the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), revealed that their mode of consultations and public goodwill have simply given out the main contenders. The list of those considered serious aspirants include; , Minister of states for Trade and Investment, Chief Samuel Ortom whose campaign train is damned intimidating, former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Mike Aondoakaa(SAN), former Registrar of COREN, Engr. Felix Atume, Mr. Eugene Aliegba, former Minister of states for Niger-Delta, Chief Sam Ode, Mr. Hinga Biem, former speaker of the state House of Assembly,  Terhemen Tarzoho, Alex Adum, Dr.Terhemba Shija, all of PDP with Emmanuel Jime and Akange Audu in the All Progressives Congress(APC).

Royal link
The MINDA (comprising of Iharev, Masev and Nongov) political bloc who have relentlessly argued amongst other things that they were the only section in Tivland that has never smelt the number one seat, have a crowd of over fifteen aspirants in PDP and three in APC.
Tor Tiv, Chief Alfred Akawe Torkula, himself a son of MINDA, is alleged to have been doing everything within his powers to ensure that no other section than his people produce the next governor.
Perhaps for fear of the seat eluding them in view of the plethora of aspirants from the area, the paramount ruler and his Tiv Traditional Council (TTC) were recently alleged to have attempted rather awkwardly to conduct a screening that will prune to just four, the number of PDP aspirants from the area, a development that sparked condemnation and criticism even amongst the aspirants and seems to have already divided the party. Those allegedly favoured in the selection process were: Ortom (Guma); Biem (Gwer); Tarzoor (Makurdi) and  Atume (Gwer West).
Sources within the PDP elders forum in the area said, they(the elders) in conjunction with the TTC, took the decision to reduce tension, acrimony as well unnecessary spending by the aspirants, none of whom is ready to  withdraw from the race. The axis is where the next governor is likely to be zoned if the body language of politicians in the state is anything to go by.
Curiously, the TTC through His Royal Majesty’s Chief Press Secretary, Godwin Ber exonerated the monarch from partaking in the screening. Ber exonerated the monarch, clarifying that the TTC was still mourning the deaths of those killed by the Fulani insurgents and cannot meddle in such affairs for now.
While other aspirants including Ortom and Simon Anchaver at different fora confirmed the development, the MINDA PDP Governorship Forum, under the chairmanship of Professor David Ker, dismissed the purported endorsement, saying they were in the palace of Tor Tiv, who only advised them on how best to go about their campaign devoid of violence.
“Tor Tiv only advised us to maintain peace and respect for one another during consultations as only one person would eventually emerge as governor. At  no time did we subject ourselves for screening and four governorship aspirants selected and others told to step down,” said Professor Ker in a press statement he issued.
Even at that, many have faulted the paramount ruler and his TTC on the strategy, suggesting that the Begha u Tiv would have been more tactical and totally unblemished if he had invited all aspirants from the other blocs in Tivland and across party lines.  Observers believed  that by singling out aspirants from the area and from only the PDP, it could best be interpreted that he has already not only taking side but confirmed his constantly alleged favoritism of the PDP.
Insisting on the need for neutrality of the paramount ruler in partisan political actions, a political pundit, James Zaior said, ” politicians have no business meeting in TOR TIV’ palace to determine a political issue, especially when such issues are exclusively of their party’s internal affair.
“The palace cannot be an extension of PDP office. MINDA as a group should not take undue advantage of the Tor Tiv being their son to reduce the Tor Tiv crown for parochial discussions. Tor Tiv belongs to all and it should not be seen otherwise.”
Speaking  along same line of thought, an anonymous watcher of political events in the state,  also noted that  “since those who decide who become governor live outside the Tor Tiv palace, it is demeaning to convey a keen political chat in the hallow palace. The Tiv crown has suffered enough criticisms. Besides, the political pendulum is still flocking and it might just be APC producing the next state governor. No one should play God for what will happen in 2015″.

Suswam’s bombshell
As the dust allegedly raised by the TTC was yet to settle, Governor Gabriel Suswam gave what is seen as a shocker to other aspirants outside MINDA.  Addressing  stakeholders at the Government House Banquet hall recently, the governor warned those contesting the number one seat outside the MINDA bloc to note that it was sabotage, insisting that only MINDA is at the moment favoured by zoning to produce the governor come 2015.
The governor’s pronouncement, it was  gathered has generated bad blood from his associates,  including his deputy, Chief Stephen Lawani, Chief Mike Aondoakaa and Sam Ode all of whom he allegedly pushed into the race and  promising each the party ticket.
Elder statesman, Sen. (Chief) JKN Waku who also attended the meeting confirmed the development and berated the governor for such “undemocratic pronouncement” insisting that other sections of the state too have equal rights to contest the seat.
” He said that any other section of the state contesting the seat is only playing sabotage. Sabotage on what? On democracy?” he queried.
Social critic and former Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Tsav who was also at the meeting, said,  zoning was undemocratic as it is capable of shutting out better candidates from other senatorial zones.
Tsav said the governor’s decision was not because of the carnage in MINDA since other areas in the state were also seriously affected by the Fulani invasion.
“No, that was not the reason he gave. He said first it has been ordinarily zoned to them, not because of the carnage; so he is urging people to obey that zoning arrangement. I think they should give the governorship seat to the best candidate in the state; I think that is more democratic enough,” Tsav said.
With the alleged effort of  the monarch and holder of  most respected stool in Tivland coupled with Suswam’s intervention to favour  a PDP/MINDA ticket  as the latter’s successor in 2015, analysts are of the view that the PDP needs to sit up to avert a drift into the APC as it was the case in  2011 when some PDP stalwarts dumped the party for the then Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN).

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