Monday, 29 December 2014

Benue 2015: Akume in the eye of the storm

As in other political parties, the governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue State is still a subject of controversy. At present, the party is the only major opposition in the state that is capable of giving the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) a tough fight in the coming general elections.

For one, it was the platform the immediate past governor of the state, Senator George Akume, used to secure a seat for himself in the senate in the 2011 general elections. So also some members of the state legislature. Therefore, in terms of numerical strength and popularity, APC has all it takes to make a better showing in the state in the coming general elections.

However, it appears all is not too well within the party, as internal squabble arising from the governorship primary is al­ready tearing the members apart. Strongly dissatisfied with an alleged intrigues introduced into the process of the primary, some aggrieved aspirants are already threatening to fight what they described as ‘habitual arbitrariness and gross impunity’ of the state leadership.

And, of course, the man at the centre of this controversy is no other person other than Akume. He is said to be behind the news making the round that the state chapter of the party had adopted a particular aspirant as its consensus candidate for the coming governorship election.

But the group in a swift reaction has vowed not to let the arrangement stand. Consequently, four out of the five aggrieved contestants who claimed that they were not carried along before the adoption of the so-called consensus arrangement on Wednesday stormed Abuja to seek the intervention of the national leadership of the party in the matter.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja, the spokesperson for the group, Prof Steve Ugbah said the so-called anointed aspirant was not a member of the party and had no time participated in the screening exercise for the governorship contest.

“Until the day (Wednesday 10th December, 2014) that we heard a self-sponsored radio announcement to the effect that a PDP Chieftain was the APC consensus governorship candidate, we did not know that he had joined the APC after failing woeful in the PDP primaries a few days’ earlier,” he said.

Although no name was mentioned at the press briefing, it was obvious that they were referring to a former Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment and Acting Minister for Aviation, Samuel Ortom, who is said to be Akume’s preferred choice. He alone, they said, unilaterally took the decision without consulting concerned stakeholders.

Accordingly, the aggrieved aspirants con­sidered the alleged imposition as an affront, insisting that consensus candidate could only emerge from among themselves.

A release statement signed by four of the aggrieved aspirants reads: “As an opposi­tion party, we are becoming more notori­ous for impositions. Under the supervision of the state leadership, the Benue APC has constricted from a democracy into an au­tocracy; from a political party into an im­possibly arrogant, one man show!

“Consensus is the outcome of a meeting or a series of meetings. Yet, at no time did we meet with this “Consensus Candidate” or even met to discuss the issue, the group said.

It further lamented several losses the party had suffered as a result of the al­leged impunity of the state leadership. “It is not surprising, therefore, that many APC heavy weights have left that party for another parties, especially the PDP from where they came out! These include: for­mer senate President, Dr Iyorchia Ayu: two time-senator, Prof Daniel Sasor; former Speaker, Benue State House of Assembly and member of the House of Representa­tives, Hon Mzenda Ihyo, world class Man­agement Consultant and political strategist, Prof David Iornem; ACN deputy governor­ship candidate in the 2011 governorship election, Alh Abubakar Usman; one of Nigeria’s foremost diplomats, Amb Mike Gbasha; former military governor of Kat­sina State, Lawrence Onoja and Senator Joseph Akaargerger as well as member of the House of Representatives, Col Aboho (rtd).”

Concerned aspirants said they had un­covered the moves by the state executive to release concocted results of the gover­norship primary that never took place in Benue State.

“It appears the National Secretariat has been provided with manufactured results purporting to have come from an APC Governorship primary that did not hold. On both occasions when the primaries were about to hold in Makurdi, they were halted mid-way by the court injunctions,” the statement added.

The aspirants, pledging their continued loyalty to the party in spite of their griev­ances, maintained that they would explore every available option to ensure that due process is followed in the emergence of a candidate before the deadline for submis­sion of names of candidates to the INEC.

It, therefore, urged the national leader­ship not to give the party’s ticket to anyone parading himself as consensus candidate on the basis of fictitious primaries. They expressed the fear that the state may loss Benue State to the PDP if nothing was done to amicably resolve the matter, threatening to go to court as a last option.

In attendance at the press briefing were Senator Joseph Waku, Prof Steve T. Ug­bah, Hon Emmanuel Jime and Chief Mike Lordye.

If performance is to be a factor in the choice of who governs the state in 2015, it will be much easier for a camel to pass through the hole of a needle than PDP win­ning the state. Benue State as at today is going through one of its most difficult peri­ods in the recent time. Apart from its huge debt overhang, the economy of the state is said to be in a very bad shape. Schools are down, while teachers and civil servants are being owned arrears of salaries. And with the dwindling revenue accruing to the state from the federal allocation due to fall­ing price of oil at the international market, there is no doubt that harder times may be lying ahead.

These and many more are issues one would expect to be put at the front burner as campaigns for the next year’s election kick off in the state.

Therefore, there is no gainsaying that the extent to which APC can go in its bid to wrest power from PDP will depend largely on how soon its can put its house in order.

One of the aggrieved governorship aspi­rants, Senator Joseph Waku, in an exclu­sive interview with Sunday Sun, expressed the fear that the party may end up not field­ing any candidate, if the matter is not ami­cably resolved. “From the look of things, if the national secretariat does not intervene in this matter, we may end up not having a candidate. So, the end may be jeopardized because from what we found out, George Akume is the biggest saboteur of APC in Benue State. He is sabotaging the party for reasons best known to him. In fact, we are made to believe that he is working against the party.

But that is left to the national secretariat of the party to take the necessary disciplin­ary action so as to save the situation.”

For whatever decision to be taken, time is off essence. But the group is optimistic that the matter could be resolved before the deadline for submission of the names of candidates to the INEC.

All attempts made to get Senator Akume’s reaction to the allegations leveled against him proved abortive, as he did not pick several calls put through to his mobile phone.

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