Monday, 12 January 2015

  Benue South Senatorial Contest: Battle Of David And Goliath?

As the countdown for the crucial 2015 general elections begin, Nigerians are waiting with bated breath to see how the entire exercise would turn out. CHIKA OTUCHIKERE looks at the impending electoral battle for Benue South senatorial zone

On the surface, the contest for the seat of the Benue South senatorial zone in the National Assembly can be likened to the biblical contest between the Jewish lad, David Jesse, and the hunky, well experienced Philistine giant warrior, Goliath.

The battle for the coveted Benue south senatorial zone seat has now narrowed down to a battle between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the avant grade, All Progressives Congress, APC. While the PDP is fielding Senator David Mark, incumbent Senate president and senator representing the zone for 16 years running, the APC on the other hand, is fielding Comrade Daniel Ojeh, a former president of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) who does not boast of any legislative experience.

Drawing an allusion to the famous encounter between David and Goliath, which has been reproduced into epic movies and best-selling books, the Philistines, having the veteran warrior who had led his people to several victories on the battlefield, the people were over confident that the Israelites would be made a mince meal of and served to the dogs in the field and birds in the air.

The Israelites on their part, having full knowledge of the character of the one leading the Philistines to the battlefront and his legendary exploits, could not find a volunteer among the well experienced soldiers in their Israeli army to confront Goliath. A chance visit to the battlefield and happenstance on the bragging of Goliath and his vilification of the God of the Israelites compelled David to volunteer to confront Goliath.

Meanwhile, David was certain that by his own strength and abilities on the battlefield, he did not stand one-in-a-million chance of defeating Goliath. Rather, angered by Goliath’s vituperations against God, he depended completely on the strength and ability of the God of Israel, whom Goliath had openly challenged to the battle, to fight for him and ultimately give him victory on behalf of the Israelites.

Senator David Mark, having contested the Benue south senatorial seat from 1999 when the country returned to civilian rule and being in the Senate for all the years of the current democracy, may not, like Goliath, boast or vilify the God of his opponents, but is more than confident that he would still win the election for the umpteenth time.

What with Mark’s reported huge financial war chest which Daniel’s can in no way equate, the scenario appears like a Goliath with his massive spear and arrow and a David with his little sling and a few stones.

Having knowledge now that his only opponent in the contest is the APC candidate, a rookie in the legislation business by every standard, Mark can only brag, like Goliath did those days, saying, “Am I a dog that thou comest to with staves?”

Daniel Onjeh made allusion to the semblance of the forthcoming electoral conquest in his senatorial zone to the reinvention of the David and Goliath saga. According to him, Sen Mark may have all the experience in the Senate and immense wealth amassed over the years both as a military administrator, minister and now professional senator, but all these endowments have not affected the people of the Benue south senatorial zone.

“The better part of my life has been politics. I am a political activist. It is in the quest and the desire to serve and sacrifice for the people that I continued politics after my sojourn as a student activist. It has become a part of me. I didn’t intend to stop living my life for the people that is why I went into politics.

“I ventured into politics in 2011. I came out for Senate but at some point, I was prevailed upon by some party chieftains in Benue State to step down for Onoja Lawrence, after he lost in the PDP primaries to David Mark. So, in due deference to Chief Audu Ogbe and former governor George Akume, I stepped down for Onoja and he ran for the Senate while I ran for House of Representatives under the ACN.

“It’s not news that I won the election at that time but It was rigged against me because the person who was my opponent forged a certificate. I was in the court for a period of four years trying to reclaim my mandate. It was long and tortuous but you know, we have a very, very weak judiciary in Nigeria. Justice has not found its bearing yet in our judiciary. I was about going to the Supreme Court when I realised that another election year was around the corner, so immediately I had to stop and concentrate on the election.

“I came out for the senatorial race again, and finally, I emerged the senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Today, I stand the only candidate to challenge Senator David Mark in the February 2015 election and I’m very confident to win because the people of the Benue South senatorial zone have resolved, not only to organise and mobilise votes this time around, but also defend their votes to ensure the votes count to oust Senator David Mark.

“He’s been there for 16 years and he’s still asking for another four years which I believe will not be the end of his ambition to remain in the Senate. We don’t have problem with that, but the problem we have with him, particularly, is that he has made promises he couldn’t keep. In 1999 when he came back from exile, the Idoma people gave him the mandate.

“They called him and gave him the mandate, in honour of his perceived steadfastness and uprightness during the dark era of the Abacha regime. That’s why the people gave him the mandate. But after people realised that he wasn’t really representing their interest or his conduct didn’t suggest he was the voice of the Idoma nation, they didn’t vote for him subsequently. All other election after the 1999 elections was embroiled in one controversy or the other.

“Of course, you know about the issue of Alh. Usman Abubakar, also known as the Young Alhaji, who won the 2007 election but was rigged out. The mandate was given back to him at the appeal tribunal in Makurdi. They later went to the court of Appeal and under the presiding Justice Bulkachuwa, the tribunal ruling in Makurdi was upturned and that is how David Mark got back the Senate.

“Year in, year out, the political gambit that David Mark throws up is the creation of the Apa State. He took advantage of the less privileged to mislead the Idoma people. He hung the hope of the people. It was later made clear that it was just a decoy. He played on the collective intelligence of the Idoma people.

“But all of that have fallen flat and now they have come up with a new issue; that a new entrant or greenhorn into the Senate will not be as influential as David Mark to create jobs for people and all sorts of story. But we have a simple argument here; all the federal constituency projects that are piloted by the various ministries, how has that helped us? Our people remain the most impoverished despite having the number three citizen all these years.

“The die is cast! I will slug it out with Sen. David Mark; I am poised to give him a run for both his money and status. My team has mapped out a comprehensive strategy to win the election”, Onjeh said.

Senator David Mark contested the 2014 PDP senatorial seat of the Benue South senatorial district primary held at Otukpo, Benue State, in which he contested with the another candidate, Mike Onoja. All other candidates stepped down for him on the advice of the party chieftains.

At the last minute. the only other contender, Onoja, a former defence permanent secretary, stepped down, making Mark the only contender to the seat.

Onoja, who stepped down just before voting commenced, said he decided to step down in view of the cordial relationship that exists between him and Mark and intervention of elders who said they anointed him as the sole candidate.

Mark noted that what Onoja did was commendable and for the interest of the Idoma nation. He dedicated his victory to the people of the zone.

The PDP candidate assured his people that he would continue to provide quality leadership and representation. “I will not let you down. I will do only those things that will bring honour and glory to the people of Benue South, the state and the nation at large.

After his victory in the 2011 primaries, the Senate president was quoted to have said, “I can assure you from the bottom of my heart that I will not betray this trust and confidence. I will do my best to meet the yearnings and aspirations of my people. What is dear to all of us is the creation of Apa State. I will drive the will to assure its actualisation.”

He however dismissed insinuation that he had lost the election, saying “you can see from the INEC result that I won overwhelming, squarely and convincingly.

The Senate president re-echoed the same promise of creation of Apa State to his people after they returned him as the PDP senatorial candidate for the zone. He vowed to do everything humanly possible to actualise the creation of Apa State for his Idoma people. He was said to have given the assurance in Otukpo, the ancestral headquarters of Idoma kingdom, after accepting the nomination form bought for him by the 9 local government chairmen from Zone C to run for the Senate.

While addressing the mammoth crowd that converged in his honour, Mark thanked ALGON, Zone C, for the kind gesture and promised never to let them down.

The chairman of the Zone C PDP caucus, Gen. Geoffrey Ejiga, was also quoted to have affirmed that any indigene that does not vote for David Mark in 2015 is a disappointment to the Idoma nation. He said Mark was the only candidate and remained the only person who will make the dream of Apa State creation come true.

As the clock ticks to the election date, while the ruling PDP is poising to consolidate its hold on leadership at all levels, including the National Assembly, the APC is rooting to cause a major upset, including routing the PDP and causing a major historical upstage by defeating a sitting president. Only time will tell.

No comments:

Post a Comment