By Peter Duru, Makurdi
The race for who occupies Benue State Government House in 2019 has begun; it is going to be a two-horse race between Governor Samuel Ortom of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and a former Managing Director of the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority, NEPZA, Mr. Emmanuel Jime, of the All Progressives Congress, APC.Ortom
Ortom is a renowned grassroots politician, a successful farmer and business man with over 35 years in politics. He rose from being the Guma local government council Chairman in 1991 to become a major player in politics both at state and national levels, capping it with the position of Minister and, since his first outing, politics seems to run through his blood veins.
On his part, Jime, in 1993, was the Speaker of the state House of Assembly and in the current dispensation served as a federal lawmaker. He contested in the APC governorship primary in 2015 but lost to Ortom who, at the time, was in the party.
While the debate on who crosses the finishing line first between the duo rages in the state, pundits have give an inkling as to which of the two political juggernauts would emerge tops.
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In her submission, a former federal lawmaker, who worked with the APC candidate during the 2015 governorship election, Mrs. Rebecca Apedzan, said, “In the 2019 race, I do not see Emmanuel Jime upstaging Governor Ortom because where Jime is coming from, he has a stigma already.
“The Presidency is the one imposing Jime on the people of Benue. Senator George Akume, who is the leader of the APC in the state, never wanted Jime, he wanted Benjamin Adanyi. But the Presidency wanted Jime because they want to use him against us.
“Their idea was to look for somebody who will abrogate the Anti-open Grazing Law which the people of Benue themselves demanded for and had under Ortom.
“Unfortunately Jime is a willing horse to be used and the people of Benue are aware of it. We all know very well, so he cannot upstage Ortom.
“I must add that Jime is a good person but he has his own problems. I worked for Jime in the 2015 election. If you work for Jime in one year, he will never pick your calls. Jime will not relate, he is not a grassroots person.
“Mind you, in our state, we don’t have class syndrome, but he has class syndrome. He has so many things against him. He is my brother, my mother is from his place but he cannot upstage Ortom.
“Governor Ortom has been uplifted by God through the fight he put up in defense of the people of the state against those who wanted to ruin our state.
“That is why they are looking for a willing person to be used but the Tiv people will not allow anybody who will come and make us suffer again.
“Akume himself knows the problems Jime has. Akume also knows that the fact that Jime came from the Presidency and he would have a problem here in the state.
“It will be difficult to sell Jime in Tiv land especially because of the killings our people suffered while the Presidency looked away. So the PDP and Ortom will overwhelmingly take Benue.”
On his part, the Convener of Middle Belt Movement for Justice and Peace, MBMJP, Comrade Joe Bukka, maintained that the APC is unsellable to Benue people in 2019 given the anger that trailed the killings in the state from January 1.
Bukka said, “Honestly, I don’t see the APC gaining any form of acceptability in Benue in the coming elections because of the way the Federal Government handled the killings in Benue by armed militant herdsmen.
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“The fact of the matter is that the people of the state, who went through harrowing experiences during the series of killings across the state, perceive and are obviously of the conclusion that the APC-led Federal Government supported the herdsmen against the people.
“Benue people are very angry and are not ready to forgive the Federal Government especially when you consider the absurd statements that came from top functionaries of this administration who rather blamed the open grazing prohibition law for the series of massacre in the Benue valley.
“Mind you, that law was initiated by the people themselves. It may also interest you to know that the people are still in trauma and several thousands are languishing in Internally Displaced Peoples, IDP, camps across the state.
“So, despite Ortom’s shortcomings, which is obviously not peculiar to him because we all have our shortcomings, the people would rather stick to him because of the manner he rose up in their defense at the peak of the killings.
“Forget what the opposition leaders in the state want their backers in Abuja to believe, discerning minds know that APC leaders in Benue are happy with Ortom for enacting the grazing law and are covertly supporting its implementation and enforcement.
“I have had the opportunity of listening to so many of them speak in private outside the state, and, honestly, what I deduced so far is that the average Benue person will support and stand with Ortom.
“The 2019 elections would avail the people an opportunity to pay back the APC-led Federal Government and its candidates the hard way.
“If you ask me, I would rather advise the APC to remove Benue its list of targeted states and I must warn that anyone who dares to rig elections in Benue will be inviting trouble and you know what that means in a state that has seen the worst of crisis and killings”.
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On its part, Benue Youths Alliance, through its Publicity Secretary, David Mzar, said the chances of the APC candidate in the election will be frustrated by internal revolts.
“APC in Benue is in disarray arising from the imposition of Jime on the party and they may not find their footing in the election proper.
Also speaking on his issue, Senator Joseph Waku maintained that Benue people would support Ortom in 2019 because, despite obvious challenges he recorded, tangible results and achievements have been made in various sectors of the state’s economy.
“Ortom has done well and he deserves a second term in office, just like other governors of the state before him, whose tenure were not truncated by the military. We will support him because a man who stood to defend his people cannot be abandoned by the same people he fought for in his time of need”, Waku said.
In his views, the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Bemgba Iortyom, said, “From the mood of the people out there in the streets, Nigerians are tired of the APC government in the country because we are witnessing the highest level of nepotism and mass killings especially in Benue.
“PDP is not losing sleep that Jime has come into the race, it’s not our problem. We have been made to understand that he is a product of the cabal in Abuja.
“I don’t even see him enjoying support inside the APC not to talk of the general Benue public. So I don’t see him being a threat to the PDP and Governor Ortom in Benue”.
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Meanwhile, the APC Director of Publicity in the state, Comrade Peterhut Apeh, insisted that Jime was the choice of the party, assuring that the APC would sweep the polls in Benue.
Apeh said, “The Benue APC, together with its very popular and well accepted candidate, Barr. Emmanuel Jime, will win the 2019 governorship election.
“We have what it takes because the choice left for the Benue electorate is between darkness and light.
“It is apparently misleading for Governor Ortom to make things appear like he’s accepted by the Benue electorate who are angry at him for impoverishing them as a result of no-payment of salaries.”Related