Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Can Opposition snatch Benue In 2015?

It is an undeniable truth that for any democracy to thrive and be effective, the opposition parties have  a significant role to play by putting the ruling party on its toes through actions aimed at checkmating abuse of power and non-performance of the ruling political party especially in advanced democracies.

In such a system, the ruling party indeed becomes cautious and meticulous in its activities and programmes, living up to its duty of rendering a responsive services to its citizens as it is being constantly challenged on its policies. Thus, it cannot afford to take the electorate for granted, but rather, it must ensure that they are always on its sides by ensuring fairness through an equitable distribution of resources and projects.

However, the case is quite different in the Nigeria's kind of democracy where the ruling parties since the return of democracy in 1999 remained largely unchallenged and completely ignored the role of the opposition which it rather considered as the voice of the enemy. As a result, it devises all forms of dubious strategies to render it irrelevant.
This not-withstanding, the opposition parties, despite the frustration from the ruling parties remain resilient in its quest to form a new government in every dispensation by fielding candidates to contest for all the available positions from Councillorship to the Presidency.

In Benue particularly, even marginal registered parties like the Labour Party, All Progressive Grand Alliance, Accord Party whose offices and officials could hardly be located have also joined the 2015 race by fielding candidates.
But the fact remains that the battle will be a straight contest between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the leading opposition party, All Progressive Congress (APC), considering the calibre of chieftains paraded on both divides.
Indeed, despite the fact that the opposition has never ruled Benue State since inception in 1976, this contest appears dicey and too close to call.

    In 1979, little known Aper Aku of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) slugged it out with the popular and rich Barrister Paul Belabu, a Director in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)  and was able to coast home with victory partly due to his performance as a former Chairman of the then Kwande Local government Council and the strong backing of the late J.S Tarka, considered as the emancipator of the Middle Belt People of Nigeria.
    When Governor Aku intended running for a second term in 1983, he met stiff resistance from the NPP, this time led by the National Secretary of the party, Wantaregh Paul Iyorpuu Unongo. The Campaign war chest of Chief Unongo was intimidating to the seating Governor Aku.

An orator and crowd puller, Unongo was able to buy into the people’s conscience by telling them to reject the NPN government which owed workers salaries for months and had accumulated the state debt profile running into billions.
As colorful and soul touching as the electioneering, Aku was able to get a second term despite the allegation of massive irregularities that attended the polls.

In 1990 when the ban on partisan politics was lifted by the Ibrahim Babagida administration, Benue joined the league of states controlled by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) under the governorship of Rev Fr Moses Adasu as against the National Republican Convention (NRC) represented by Prof Ignatius Ayua.
Again in 1999, Benue was seen as the home of the PDP producing two National Chairmen; Chief Barnabas Gemade and Audu Ogbeh with Governor George Akume and Gabriel Suswam each doing two terms on the party’s platform.

However, the PDP had it tough in securing victory in the 2011 general election particularly as it concerns the governorship. With the defection of notable and influential founders of the party like Audu Ogbeh, George Akume, Prof Daniel Saaror, Col Jeseph Akaagerger, Isaac Shaahu, Gen Geoffrey Ejigah amongst many other bigwigs couple with the entrance of an American based Professor of Entrepreneurship,  Steven Torkuma Ugbah who is a nephew of Wanteregh Paul Unongo, the ruling party it was widely believed rigged itself to the Makurdi Government House and also survived through the expiration of the 180 days stipulated by the constitution and the Electoral Act for hearing and determination of all election petitions.
One interesting scenario in the 2015 governorship contest is marriage of convenience solidified by former top notchers of the ruling PDP  with the mega progressive fold to wrest power from the incumbent government for the first time.

It is no exaggerating  the fact that with the defection of Senator Barnabas Gemade and former Minister of State in charge of Industries, Trade, and Investment Dr. Samuel Ortom to the APC, the PDP in the state has been unsettled and could be dealt a deadly blow by the opposition.
Again there is no denying the fact that the calibre of candidates paraded  by the APC against the PDP in many positions are more sociable, grass root accepted and men of impeccable qualities who can sprang a surprise on the ruling party during the election.

Although the APC also have problems within their ranks pertaining to the emergence of their candidates particularly Dr. Samuel Ortom, who from the blues was awarded the party’s governorship ticket. It is believed that whenever the issues are amicably trashed out to the satisfaction of members, the party will give the PDP a serious contest.
Speaking with Daily Times, former Minority Leader in the 6th Benue State House of Assembly, Hon. Chris Tergu Abari said the opposition is more organised and focused this time than before to capture the Makurdi Government House.
According to Hon Abari who was a delegate at the  recently concluded presidential primaries held in Lagos, Benue people who have been turned into slaves by the policies of the ruling PDP will reject them since their strategies are made known by the APC.

But to a chieftain and Ex Officio of the PDP from North Central Zone, Dr Jonah Ogbaji, all the noise being made by the APC will come to naught because the ideologies of Jonathan has been tested, assessed and acceptable by the people and only an opposition with a superior manifesto can unseat his government.
''Besides that, the PDP is well organised in implementing her programmes more especially that Goodluck Jonathan has performed so spectacularly that no gang up in form of opposition can stop his re-election and victory of the PDP in 2015'', Ogbaji stressed.

It is only a matter of time to see how the opposition will break the age long jinx which appears to have afflicted them for over three decades now.

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