The political conundrum in Benue
FOLLOWING the frenzy that has overwhelmed Benue State, the House of Assembly has been turned into a showground of monumental lawlessness. A mountain of illegalities is being built by the lawmakers in furtherance of selfish political agendas. The first act of illegality was the reconvening of the state legislature by 22 of the 30 members on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, fourteen days after the house had, on July 10, 2018, properly adjourned sitting till August 15, 2018. Some authority other than the speaker, Terkimbi Ikyange, had reconvened the House in a clear breach of the House rules. The House could only be reconvened by the speaker or the deputy speaker, acting on the instructions of the speaker. In either case, the Clerk to the House would be directed to issue appropriate notice, announcing to members the reconvening of the House. But that was not the case.
The members reportedly got into the House of Assembly complex through a back door that links it with the Government House and succeeded in removing, albeit illegally, the leadership of the house. That subterfuge was said to have been facilitated by the State Governor, Samuel Ortom, in a proactive counterpoise to an alleged plot by some other forces to use the Ikyange leadership to impeach him. It was a case of “before you impeach me, I would remove you.” A day after the removal of Ikyange and the election of a new leadership, the governor defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with ten APC legislators. Ikyange had reported the illegal sitting to the police authorities in Abuja, which understandably redeployed the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, and replaced him with Mr. Besan Gwana.
Policemen were deployed in and around the premises of the State House of Assembly to restore law and order. But daringly, on Friday, July 27, the morning of the day that Gwana resumed in Benue, the legislators despised the security cordon by the police and forced their way into the Assembly Complex by scaling the fence. When they could not gain access into the chamber, they moved into the Old Banquet Hall of the Government House where they sat and suspended the “impeached” speaker, Ikyange, for six months, for what they described as “unparliamentarily behaviour.” On both occasions –the sitting of July 24 and that of July 27 – they allegedly procured a mace that was not the authentic mace of the House to confer legitimacy on the illegal sittings. Ikyange had claimed that the authentic mace was in his custody. There was no let up in the political drama in the House as the group reconvened on Monday, July 30, purportedly to set the stage for the impeachment of Governor Ortom. Latching on a court injunction restraining Ikyange from parading himself as speaker, the other group led by its speaker, Titus Uba, met and announced the suspension of the Ikyange eight-member group before adjourning to August 21. The drama is getting convoluted by the day amid nationwide condemnations.
It is now very clear how Benue got enmeshed in this crisis that has the potential of damaging political reputations and structures. The genesis was the decision by the leader of the APC in the state and former governor, Senator George Akume, to pick Ortom as the governorship candidate of the party in 2014. Ortom had reportedly placed third in PDP’s primary where he was checkmated by the then Governor Gabriel Suswam and had crossed over to the APC where Akume ensured the ticket was given to him . That arrangement probably turned out to be a veritable bugaboo to Ortom who devised a strategy to contest the 2019 governorship election on another party’s platform. The governor claimed he had been given a red card. Although there is a sense in which his claim could be validated. Two things allegedly informed his decision: the first is the resolve by the party not to give automatic tickets (throwing the race for the ticket open) and, second, to deliberately deny tickets to elective office holders that have not performed. Ortom was apparently caught in those webs.
But having moved to the PDP, will he be able to beat the 12 aspirants in the party to the governorship ticket? How will he and Suswam relate with each other? If the PDP prevails on Suswam, and Ortom clinches the PDP ticket, will his candidature sell statewide with the basic issue of salary and other issues still unresolved? Will he be able to defeat the APC candidate in the 2019 election? Already, the APC leadership has reportedly heaved a sigh of relief on Ortom’s exit from the party. Why then is the PDP exIs there a potential electoral capital it sees in Ortom’s candidature? Time will tell.
- Ojeifo writes via firstname.lastname@example.org