Simon Imobo-Tsam is a seasoned journalist. He has been editor of some national dailies. He is currently the Senior Special Assistant to Prof. Steve TorkumaUgbah on Media and Publicity. He spoke to journalists recently in Makurdi, on Benue 2015, the APC game-plan in Benue, Governor Gabriel Suswam and the imperative of Prof Ugbah’s aspiration for 2015
What is your take on the rumoured zoning of the Benue governorship slot of the APC to the MINDA axis of Tiv land?
If something is rumoured then it is not important or serious enough for a comment or analysis. Please let us not dignify rumours. Zoning is not part of our body of laws, neither the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria nor the Constitution of the APC. Therefore it is not true that Benue APC has zoned governorship slot to any particular place or area. As I speak to you now there is nothing like that and hopefully there will be nothing like that in the calculations for 2015. For one, MINDA is an association .And to the best of my knowledge, we have not yet started negotiating the governorship of Benue state on the basis of associations. This is because, besides MINDA there are other such asssociations like KUDA, JEDA, SADA. But these associations laudable as they are, have never been platforms of canvassing for the Benue governorship. To introduce MINDA or any such development association as a tool for gubernatorial negotiation would be curious, retrogressive and self-serving, to say the least. So we are looking for a credible candidate who has statewide appeal, a tested, confirmed and experienced politician who combines charm with action; someone who will talk less and work more. We want a visionary person who is eminently prepared for the challenges of leadership especially now that the Tiv nation is beset on everyside by decay, violence and terror merchants. So zoning is not on the cards. What is on the cards is the search for merit. And this is why we are bringing in Prof. Steve TorkumaUgbah to come and savage project Benue, come 2015. We have no other state. This is our commonwealth, our heritage.
Prof. Ugbah contested before and after being defeated, he proceeded to the courts where he still failed. What is the guarantee that things will be different in 2015?
Thank you very much for this question, and I hope our teeming members read my answer. First of all, there is a correction to make. Prof. Ugbah was not defeated in the 2011 governorship election, despite joining the race so late. He join the race three months to the election date, but Ugbah was able to knock the PDP engine, to cripple the PDP machines and humble the clay-footed gods in that party. In just three months, he made a mince-meat of the PDP, including here in Makurdi, the state capital where this government’s impact should be most felt, and hence most appreciated. He won so clearly and so conveniently that PDP went into shock and only recovered in time to a employ the Nigerian factor. Although he won, he could not announce himself and the compromise INEC officials did what they wanted. Ugbah went to court but his petition was not heard. Even when the matter went to the Supreme Court, the apex court jurists were so audacious as to rule that whether the petition was heard or not was immaterial so long as 180 days had elapsed. In effect, the Nigerian factor, and not PDP or Suswam per se, oil Ugbah in. But the APC knows better today. Since the tribunal cannot be relied upon to give petitions justice, the polling units will be the tribunals. The collation centres will be the Supreme court. We are guided by the Edo model and lately the Osun state example. We will mobilise people to vote, but will also sensitise them to guard their votes until the results are announced at the polling units and thereafter follow the result and the INEC officials to the final collation centres where the final result would be announced. No, we have no budgets for tribunals or SANS. Let the losers go to court and battle with the monster of 180 days. Anyone who tries to rig us out, anyone planning to take advantage of our lawful disposition, let them be prepared to kill all of us first. We will never allow it. Not again. Never again. Those who want to invest in chaos, they are most welcome. If we loose and transparently so, we will return to the drawing board faithfully, but God-forbid that we should be ruled again by a minority party relying on not votes, but by powerful Abuja connections.
There are big names that have left Ugbah’s APC. People like Sen. Joseph Akaagerger, Sen. David Iornem, Hon MzendaIho, Sen. Daniel Saror and Waku is contesting. Can Ugbah still pull the 2011 magic?
Yes, some people have decamped from the APC but others have joined too. That is life; you win someone you lose someone. That is politics. Politics itself is a game of interest, and as interest change, so do the alliances. Now, concerning big names, let me say there are no big votes. No matter how big a man is, he has only one vote. And all voter cards have just one size, so the big names who go, go with just their vote. And as the big names go, other big names come. Some Reps. left, some Reps. joined. Some senators left, but other senators are lining up to come in or return. And by the way let me say this. Although politics is about numbers and inclusion, sometimes it is good to let some people go. Take senator Akaagerger, for instance, he has a PhD in law, he is very erudite. He is a retired colonel. He once ruled Katsina as military administrator, but as a serving senator, he could not hold his own, he was dislodged by an outsider. This means he has no political viability. He may be deep as a person, but he has no deep political roots. In as much as the APC want numbers, we want numbers that will add electoral value and political capital. We are not mourning some people’s exit. As for Senator Waku, he is still in the APC. If you look around well, you will even see his posters, he is one of the governorship aspirants.
But mind you sir, Waku is an aspirant himself, how do you believe he will still campaign for Prof. Ugbah again?
To me, it all proves the viability of Prof. Ugbah, it shows his enduring political capital and his enduring electoral value. Recall that Waku did not join the race until two/ three weeks ago. For the elder statesman, it was dispassionate reading of APC’s poor standing in terms of her governorship contenders. He saw the people who have so far come out for governor in the APC, he then compared them with those in the PDP, and concluded that the APC is aspiring to be defeated. Waku want a new Benue, a transformed Benue and fearing that his party did not have a credible candidate to challenge the PDP, he threw his hat into the ring, as they say. I believe when Ugbah formerly joins the race, Waku will step down for him, and possibly become one of his promoters. You can quote me.
There are insinuations that Dr. George Akume who is the leader of the party in the state, is not actually in support of Prof. Ugbah’s bid for governor this time around. How true is this?
First as you have rightly pointed out , Dr. George Akume is the leader of our party in the state. And when you say someone is a leader, it means he has followers. If a leader has no followers then he is a loner, not a leader. So every leader must try to keep the connection between himself and the led. Mind you, democracy is not about leaders , democracy is about the people . And Akume our leader knows this. Remember I told you earlier that I don’t deal in rumours or insinuations. Whether Akume is fighting Ugbah or he is not disposed to Ugbah’s second coming is still in the realm of speculations. When Akume himself confirms it or it becomes public knowledge, I can venture my opinion. When we get to the bridge we will cross it. For now I will say: politics is about interest. But when interest clash, the thing is to talk over it. So I cannot say more than this now. You know, as Ugbah’s Media aide, parent of my brief is to make friends for Ugbah, win support for him, paint him in good light, help him maintain his cordial relationship and even try to reconcile him with his enstrenged friends/supporters. So I must handle some of these rumours with utmost care. Personally, I happen to know that there is an ocean of mutual respect between Ugbah and Akume. On this, you can quote me.
At the national level, we see both AtikuAbubakar and Gen. MohammaduBuhari gearing up to run for the presidency on the platform of your party. If there is no zoning in the APC, how come only Northerners are contesting?
I am not sure the two frontline members of the party are running because the presidency has been zoned to the North. Mind you both Atiku and Buhari are from two different zones: Atiku is from the North-East, while Buhari is from the North-West and you cannot zone one office to two zones. So the fact that two people from two different zones are vying for the presidency ticket of our party means it is an open race. And I know that the Imo state Governor OwelleRochasOkorocha is also warming up to join the presidential race, that is if he has not joined already. So zoning is not it. We are operating a law-based party and in a law-based system. We are not running our party on the whims and caprices of one man and neither are we operating in a system of impunity or arbitrariness. And there is something that should worry us. If you have a party that has the country for almost 16 years and is intent on perpetuating itself in office for 60_100 years, if you want to wrest power from such party, you do not field cripples against its candidates-you do not shop for zoning, you shop for merit. You do not just wake up and begin to zone people out. If you do that, you may end up your second 11, a second 11 political Lilliputians, a second 11 of electoral midgets and political tourists or opportunists. If we are serious about developing Nigeria, or our Benue, let us not be afraid of men of ideas, let us not be intimidated by the promise of excellence. We cannot be talking of our Benue as a state can once again vibrate, and then we will be at the same time, shopping for mediocrity to court and celebrate. If we seriously want to rescue Benue from the grip of mediocrities, dealers and contractors, if we really want to reclaim the promise of our destiny, the man for Benue 2015 is TorkumaUghah, a world-class Professor, with world-class ideas for world class transformation. His candidature is an imperative.
Finally sir, Ugbah is from Sankera just as Governor Gabriel Suswam. Don’t you think he will be the same with Suswam if elected?
This is not a fair question either to me or to Suswam. Even twins from the same womb can be different. Look at Esau and Jacob, twins from one womb, from one father. Esau was a contractor, a perverse man, a short-sighted man for whom anything that had no immediate value counted for nothing. And then look at Jacob his brother. He was a man of vision , a man of destiny and a man of God. So let us not try to compare Suswam and Ugbah at all. One is home boy with local education and resultantly local experience; the other is international man with international education and naturally an international world-view. One is obsessed with showmanship, the other is concerned with substance. One defies power the other wants to dignify it. One exemplify the classic ruler, in a classic African sense, while the other one typifies or model the quintessential leader, in the classic democratic sense. In fact even their names are different in poignant way: Torwua means, the king has killed. What about Torkuma? It means: kingship or royalty fits or look good on him. The two are different.