By Peter Duru,
Less than 90 days to the 2019 general election, the shape of things to come in the race for the political soul of Benue State is becoming clearer, no thanks to the crises that have plagued the two main opposition parties in the state, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Social Democratic Party, SDP.Ortom, Gemade and Akume
The development, according to analysts, may smoothen things for the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, and re-election of Governor Samuel Ortom.
APC leaders in the state are enmeshed in battle over the picking of a running mate for their governorship candidate, Mr. Emmanuel Jime, leaving the party without an authentic deputy governorship candidate at the moment.
The battle in the Benue APC is woven around the party’s political heavy weights with grave consequences for it in the forthcoming elections.
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The party has not been able to pick a running mate from Benue South or Idoma speaking area of the state where the position is usually zoned to.
Though they still could exploit the window of substitution of the candidate but the possibility of the party coming out of the problem unscratched, even after a candidate eventually emerges, seems quite slim.
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There is no gainsaying that the APC is like a house divided against itself especially with most of the party’s former governorship aspirants who control the party’s structures still nursing the wound of being compelled to jettison their ambition and having a candidate allegedly imposed on them from Abuja.
It was gathered that some top APC members in the state have been attending nocturnal meetings in the PDP in a bid to sabotage the party as revenge for the manner Abuja ‘hijacked’ the election of its governorship candidate to the exclusion of those who gave their all to galvanize support for the party even when many Benue people have nicknamed the APC the ‘Miyetti Allah party.’
The SDP is also, analysts say, fast losing the steam that propelled it into the Benue political arena following the bitter legal tussle over who should be the party’s gubernatorial flag-bearer in the coming elections.
Mr. Hinga Biam, the preferred candidate of the majority of the founding members of the party in the state, has instituted a legal action against the party and INEC for denying him the ticket of the party by substituting his name with that of a new entrant, Dr. Stephen Hwande.
The party is in disarray and without proper coordination of its activities ahead of the elections.
Not a few faithful of the party are said to be embittered over the manner a senator, who recently defected to the party, allegedly took over the party’s structure to the exclusion of founding members.
Its fortune in the elections would obviously be determined by the individual efforts of few vibrant candidates who could make an impression in the election owing to their respective affinity with close allies.
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However, the internal wrangling in the party has left its chances in limbo, leaving candidates on its platform with the option of going into the race without a coherent superstructure needed for electoral victory.
Meantime, the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, a new but small political platform, has joined the fray throwing up Pastor Fredrick Ikyaan as its gubernatorial candidate. The PRP looked more like an organised political party out of the array of opposition parties in the state but the greatest challenge confronting the party is its poor support base and obvious lack of reach and finance to run general elections.
The ruling PDP, on the other hand, is said to be having a smooth sail ahead of the 2019 elections, especially with those who lost out at the party’s governorship primary aligning themselves with Ortom and pledging allegiance to his leadership.
Majority of the former aspirants have openly demonstrated their allegiance to the party and the governor by handing over their respective campaign structures to the PDP and Ortom.
The bond of unity in the PDP has given the party that unassailable lead and control of the Benue political terrain ahead of the elections barring any unexpected development.
Perhaps the party seemed to have caught its groove and the party’s major selling point at the moment is the much celebrated Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law of 2017 which the people of the state unanimously agitated for and got on a platter from Governor Ortom.
For the average Benue person, that law represents the collective vision and symbol of strength of the Benue people. And the fact that Ortom brazed all odds to have it enacted has stood him out as the man they could entrust with the leadership of the state.
Speaking on the unfolding drama in the state, Convener of the Middle Belt Movement for Justice and Peace, MBMJP, Comrade Joe Bukka said it was expected.
According to Bukka, “I see the hand of God in all that is happening in Benue state ahead of the general elections and the earlier members of the opposition realized this the better for them.
“I recall that I had told you some time ago that with the manner the APC was going about its governorship primaries, the party would be engulfed by deep rooted crisis because of the manner its governorship candidate was surreptitiously imposed on the party faithfully from Abuja which as expected would be a source of bitter squabble among its members and major stakeholders.
“That is what is currently playing out and that is why it would be difficult for the party to make any reasonable impression in the coming election.
“Mark my words, even if at the end of the day a running mate is picked for Jime, that would be another source of dissension and disagreement in the party.
“At the moment I have on good authority that several of those who are considered the pillars of the party are already romancing the PDP. They pretend to be APC members in the day but at night they are full blooded PDP members.”
Continuing, Bukka said, “the truth of the matter is that the average Benue person supports the grazing law and for that reason even members of the opposition cannot hide their preference for Ortom despite his shortcomings which is natural with every living being.”
“As for the SDP and PRP, we may see some individuals in some constituencies making a mark which we cannot also deny the APC but on the whole it is most unlike to see them recording any significant upset in Benue.
“Look, the killings in Benue and the manner Governor Ortom courageously stood up against the pogrom despite obvious threats, harassment and intimidations he suffered in the hands of powerful forces has stood the man out as the preferred governorship candidate of the people of Benue state and there is nothing anybody from within and outside can do about it.”