By Iorliam Shija
The paths of Samuel Ortom, Barnaba Gemade and Gabriel Suswam shall cross in a monumental way soon, and possible change their destinies forever; and that begins in festo omnium sanctorum; that is , on the Catholic Feast of All Saints, 1st November, 2014, when they shall participate in the PDP ward congresses to elect the 3 delegates who will form part of the about 1069 delegates , who shall be subsequently charged with the task of nominating flag bearers for all the elective positions that their party shall participate in preparatory to the 2015 general elections; elections in which the three of them are eyeing juicy positions.
In 1992/1993, Engr. Joseph Iorhemen Igbetar brought a new dimension to party primaries in Benue State. During the military era that lasted roughly from 1966 through 1999, a Director of Public Works, who was in charge of executing contracts, and the likes, was more powerful and better positioned to make money, than even a commissioner of works ministry . That was from what position Igbetar came. He was not just an ordinary civil servant; but one with cash and ready to use to win the Social Democratic Party(SDP) Primaries. Seemingly Lucky for Igbetar too, his main challenger then, was just a poor catholic priest; although with radical ideas, yet seen even amongst his brother priests as something close to an “apostate”, who had no money but wanted to bring the church of Christ to disrepute.
Mr Micheal Ornguga Mku came to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Primaries in 1998/1999 from Benue Cement Company (BCC), now Dangote Cement. He was General Manager(Commercials)-what that meant ,firstly, my investigations show, was that, Mku was in charge of the sales of every bag of cement from BCC; secondly, it meant, from that position, Mku didn’t have to be corrupt to be rich. In addition to the big money he brought, Mku was a well-known philanthropist. Seemingly lucky for him too, his main challenger was a poor permanent secretary who was wearing old suits to campaigns.
Engr Igbetar was the most popular aspirant in 1992 SDP primaries; he lost to Moses Orshio Adasu, strangely. In 1998, Mku was the most popular aspirant, but still, he lost to George Akume. As Chief Dr Samuel Ortom , former minister of state, Trade, Industry and Investments, who unarguably is the most popular aspirant in the 20014/2015 PDP primaries, picks a nomination form this week, many analysts who have followed all these carefully, are asking that will Ortom break this jinx of popular aspirants loosing or will he be consumed as Igbetar and Mku before him?
Chief Sen. Barnabas Iorhee Andyar Gemade, Nonyange I Tiv has used his close to four years in the senate from 2011, to redeem himself in Tivland. Before now, he was said to be just another Tiv elite with so much money but seen by many as a stingy, doesn’t-want-to help-another-Tiv-Person- politician, who although had had opportunities in the past as Federal Minister, Managing Director, BCC, Chairman Change for National Consensus(CNC) and also Chairman of the then five political parties, Chairman of PDP, but “refused” to help his people. He was to be disgraced out of power as Chairman PDP and subsequently, rejected at the party’s nomination for the Benue State North East Senatorial zone in 2007, so remained redundant and almost politically irrelevant till 2011 when fate brought him to the senate.
In the senate, he has done well. not on the floor and execution of community projects, the before only known for his tight -fistedness-politician, has broken down and is giving gifts left and right; but there is problem. He still wants another term. That is something even his star performance at the senate can not just give him. Since 1999, no senator has had a second term in PDP in this zone; Prof Daniel Saror 1999-2003(he defected to ANPP before winning another term,2003-2007), Dr Joseph Akaagerger, 2007-2011 and then now Gemade. Will he break this jinx? Gemade’s woes are heightened due to the fact that the outgoing Governor of Benue State, who is in charge of the party machinery in the state, also wants to go the senate. The two are from the same senatorial Zone.
By the time Dr Gabriel Torwua Suswam Tingir Dom Agya, CON, outgoing governor of Benue State was joining the Katsina-ala-Ukum-Logo Federal House of Reps race in 1998/99 , an old vicious political veteran, Atoza Hindan appeared to be the Shitile consensus for the seat. But Suswam won the sit- he won his second term against a much loved Mamould Akiga in 2003; beat so many others at the PDP gubernatorial primaries in 2007; defeated Prof Daniel Saror and others at the general election same year-Suswam is also going down in history as the guy who withstood/defeated the greatest mass movement in the history of Benue State in the 2011 General elections; the movement led by Prof Steve Torkuma Ugbah of the then Action Congress of Nigeria, A C N. As a result, we can say that Suswam is a lucky , shred, intelligent and smart politician. so even though he has failed as a governor, but he wants to return to the national assembly as a senator and take over from Gemade. Suswam has always done it, will he still do it? Many are asking.
Why did Igbetar and Mku lose their respective primaries? Igbetar, to my investigations, lost because his campaign was based on money, alone. He almost bought everybody-in those days, he had come to the table with 13 million and dropped on the table before the then political leader Wantaregh Paul Unongo to help him win; but when the chips were down, the people chose a poor priest, who they believed could lead them to the promise land. Igbetar lost because his source of appeal was just because of the money and the flamboyance of his elaborate campaigns. He didn’t just loose because he was a popular aspirant.
Mike Mku lost simply because of David Mark. In that epic battle, Mku had won in Tivland, but the margin was such that when David Mark brought his bloc votes from Zone C; the Idoma/Igede axis, Mku’s local votes had to give way. He didn’t just lose, because he was popular, he lost the strategic Zone C votes. We can therefore deduce here that popular aspirants lose primaries in Benue not just because they are Popular; it goes beyond just being popular.
Why is Ortom the most Popular aspirant in Benue Today? As compared to the times, my investigations show that, Ortom didn’t even come with same amount of money that Igbetar and Mku brought to the table; the money that Igbetar and Mku spent or were ready to spent, was more. Rather Ortom is popular because every Benue Man, most who come from poor backgrounds, find in an Ortom, a part to identify with. Although, he is a man of means today and has brought his money to the campaign, to the people, they see him rather, as an Adasu; a man who like many Benue Children, couldn’t pay his school fees at a time, a man who depended on crumbs, like many Benue men today, from the garage for survival -Benue People, seem to have reasoned that if Ortom with such background could rise to be a minister, then if elected, he wouldn’t disappoint them. To the people, Ortom has no other reason than to perform as governor.
Secondly, today, Ortom is the largest employer of man power in the state apart from the state government. With his vast interests in printing, agro-allied ventures, water, transport education, and the likes, he has proven to the people that he is goal-oriented visionary leader. He, unlike the others, have won the people through his unassuming lifestyle-many people believe that as someone who listens to counsel and comply; and as a man who has the capacity to interpret complex and sophisticated situations, when chosen, he shall deliver. They see him, as a man who couldn’t be easily distracted, or overwhelmed by the labyrinths of Government House Makurdi.
Thirdly, Ortom has rose steadily as an ordinary politician who, at many points in the current dispensation, stood behind, after party events/rallies, as it is culture in the state, to receive “transport”: hope you know what this means; to a position of Transport Giver; he has played local politics; often times, going around to seek for favours , here and there, seeing clearly how the game is played; he has played it with the very best and the very worst; like a typical PDP man, he has always been at the centre of the intrigues and drama, at times, having called derogatory names for being so. So all the PDP people see him as their type- and they like him.
With the bulk of the 1069 delegates who shall nominate a guber flag bearer for the party obviously coming from these lot as outlined above, will the Ortom’s popularity still go the way of Igbetar and Mku ?We shall know the answer on 29th November, 2014.
Lastly and most importantly, Ortom comes to the race as a man on a Devine Mission; someone who holds it clearly that, God can make him governor. All the successes, the challenges overcome by the Team Ortom are ascribed to the favour of God. So with God, to Ortom, all things shall be possible.
Suswam clearly showed to the world four years ago, in 2011 that his senate in 2015 was going to be a do- or- die affair when he threw up some guy by name Mathias Ibyuan for the race against men with intimidating profiles like Akaagerger and Gemade, amongst others. His reason was simple, although, Byuan, a driver in FCDA, who had understudied the land business in Abuja and conducted lucrative land deals to surface with cash which he would readily drop here and there, was nothing senatorial; but to suswam and his reasoning, he was the best man to hold brief for him-A call is said to have come from Abuja, that changed everything. Today, it is Suswam himself who is the race, no stooge is used and clearly, he has told everybody that cares to listen that the PDP senatorial slot for the zone is for himself-like George Akume , he must also go to the senate after 8 years as governor.
To be continued…
Iorliam Shija is the Editor-In-Chief of Nigerian Peoples Post