Benue 2019: As Ortom, Jime draw battle lines

ortomAfter the primaries of the major parties in Benue State, Johnson Babajide looks at the chances of incumbent governor, Samuel Ortom of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and main opponent, Emmanuel Jime of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as election draws near. 

WITH the conclusion of party primaries, Governor Samuel Ortom and a few other candidates are set to battle for the soul of Benue State in the 2019 governorship election.

The other candidates are: Dr Emmanuel Jime of APC; Hingah  Biam of the Social Democratic Party (SDP); Paul Angya, Labour Party; Stephen Akuma of the National Conscience Party (NCP); John Tseayo of  All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), among others.

Despite the long list of governorship candidates in the state, political observers have posited that the battle is mainly between Jime and Ortom.

Governor Ortom is seeking a second term in office, while Jime, who is currently the Director General of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZAN), is in the race to oust Ortom and occupy the seat.

The duo had a political battle in 2015 leading to a pre-election legal firework that was eventually amicably settled.

So, political pundits say that the coming election will surely stir up a renewed battle between the two gladiators which, this time, will be settled on the political field.

A political observer, Jonah Kumun said that people of the state would have to assess every candidate according to his pedigree, stressing that security, welfare and economy among other indices would mould the people’s opinions in electing the next governor of the state.

In assessing the candidates, Kumun hinted that both public and private lives of the candidates would be dissected in the consideration of who gets the mandate of Benue people in 2019.

He said, “personally, one of the strong things that will count for Ortom in the forthcoming election is his stance against the invasion of Benue land by Fulani herdsmen.”

Kumun recalled that killings of Benue farmers had gotten to unbearable level which, he said, the  implementation of the anti-Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Law in 2017, would soon be a saving grace.

According to him, it takes someone with courage to face the challenges that confronted the implementation of the law. He added that despite the opposition to the law, he said sooner than later, the law would become like the celebrated June 12 in every part of the country would embrace.

“Governor Ortom stood his ground and insisted that no part of Benue land would be ceded to anyone no matter the attack. He stands on the side of the people.

“The singular reason which I think will make many Benue people especially the rural dwellers  to support the candidature of Governor Ortom in the forthcoming election is the anti-open grazing law,” Kumun said.

Speaking on the welfare of the people of the state, Kumun advised the incumbent governor to brace up to clear the salary arrears of workers in the state expressing fear that the salary arrears may rob off the achievements recorded in the past few years.

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While speaking on the chances of APC candidate, Kumun noted that Jime also has the chances of making it in 2019, but expressed worry on the party he stands to contest.

“For the candidate of APC, he is a brilliant person who can deliver and revive the economy of the state. But my worry is the party. He has to work hard to remove the toga of Miyeiti Alla that APC is given in the state.

“We must not rule out the other candidates in the state, I have assessed them and see that Benue is blessed with abundant  human resources, so any of the candidates can show surprise, I only dwelled on APC and PDP candidates because they are the major contenders,” Kumun concluded.

When asked of  the position of the pan-sociocultural group in the state, the spokesman of the group who is also President General of Mdzough U  Tiv,  Chief Edward Ujege,  said the group  will choose all,  as all the candidates  are  indigenes of the state.

“The Mzough U Tiv as a socio-cultural organization will choose all of them. We don’t mind who emerges as governor at the end of the day because they are all our children. We wish them goodluck.”

Interestingly, an APC chieftain in the state,  Senator, Chief Joseph Waku said he had queued behind the incumbent governor insisting that he is still the best man for the job.

“I’m too old to be following APC. No. I follow people, I believe in people. I trust in people and I work for that. So, I am not working for PDP, I’m not against APC but I am working for Ortom. Full stop. And no man born of a woman can stop me from doing what I’m doing.

“Whether he (Ortom) becomes governor this second term is a different ballgame all together. But I will be satisfied with my conscience that I supported him. And I have no apologies to anybody. In fact, if he invites me to accompany him officially with a letter as a guest speaker during his campaigns, I will go,”  Waku said.

Advancing reasons for the chances of the incumbent governor, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Terver Akase said that his principal  stands a better chance to win next year’s election because he has been tested and trusted by the Benue people.

“He has left no one in doubts that he is the right man for this job. Benue would have been in very big trouble if the state was in the hands of another person at this time. But God knows why He brought Governor Ortom to the at this time; at a time that Benue faced a lot of challenges in security and the economy.

“Only a Samuel Ortom would have been able to steer the ship of the state away from the economic and security iceberg. And he has done that successfully and admirably and the people have told him that look, we understand the challenges that you face. We understand that at a very difficult time that the country ran into a recession, the allocation that came to Benue at the time you came was very low and the internal revenue from the state despite your efforts was not much.

Putting the challenges side by side, they told the Governor that he has done creditably well and we have it on record that the governor has gone round the state and the people have always told him this.  So, in spite of the challenges, he has been able to do a lot in all sectors.

“Also, the governor has stood firmly for his people by refusing to betray Benue people when the state came under heavy attack at the beginning of this year. He stood out and spoke against injustice and he stood firm until the federal government reluctantly responded by providing Operation Whirl Stroke which has done so much in securing Guma and Logo Local Government areas communities of Benue to ensure that some of the people leave the IDP camps and return home to continue with their farming activities.

“So, it is only from a Governor Ortom that would have been able injustice to speak in the face of oppression, criticism and intimidation that herdsmen are invading our communities and what they are doing is wrong. And this is why Benue people are happy that at last they have been able to find a governor who is not willing to betray their trust or throw away the mandate they unanimously gave. A governor who is here doesn’t travel anyhow, who is willing to stay and look at the problems of Benue.

“A governor who is telling workers of the state the true financial situation, a governor who has opened the books on the table and told the people about the wage bill of the state. The wage bill of Benue is the highest in northern Nigeria.

“So, Governor Ortom is the best candidate that can win in 2019 and he is ready to work for the people again and we believe that they are giving him the second mandate and he is ready to serve the people of Benue. That is the only thing he knows to do now. He is serving God and serving the people of Benue State,” Akase said.

But the Benue APC publicity secretary, Ape Peterhot expressed confidence that the party’s candidate will win the coming election.

According to him, “we have what it takes because the options left for Benue electorate are a simple one: it’s between an incompetent sitting governor who practically lacks the matrix of administration or governance and a robustly experienced lawyer who has displayed competence in his political field.

“It is apparently misleading for the outgoing governor, Ortom, to make things appear like he’s accepted by the Benue electorate who are angry at the governor for impoverishing them as a result of the non-payment of salaries. Ortom’s seeming acceptance is only on the pages of newspapers and the social media because he can afford it,” he said.

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