Saturday, 18 November 2017

Benue - The Road To 2019

Ahead of the 2019 elections, political gladiators are already strategising on who becomes the next governor of Benue State, SUNDAY ISUWA reports.

It was Professor Chinua Achebe who said and I quote, “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership.” Achebe was right. More than 30 years after, Nigeria, and Benue State in particular has not crossed that threshold. But another opportunity to right the wrongs is knocking. The 2019 governorship election, although with more than 12 clear months away, the electorates must put on their thinking caps to be able to make the right set of choices.

So far, the political gladiators have commenced subterranean moves, holding consultative meetings with stakeholders across the length and breadth of the state before going into full blast.

Chief Samuel Ortom of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is the incumbent governor, entitled to another term. Yet, the kind of strength required of an incumbent appears to be missing in this current Benue situation as result of the flip-flop style policies of the regime.

The allegations of incompetence and lack of political will to provide the kind of leadership that the people yearned for appears to be overwhelming, the basics of life looks  totally scarce and the future appears blink and full of uncertainty.

Seemingly absence of the required strategy to move beyond partisanship and work to heal and make the lives of the people of Benue better appears worrisome.

The dumb decision of the state government to owe worker’s salaries for 9-10 months after being bailed out twice by President Muhammadu Buhari, and a heavy interest loan for the purpose of offsetting worker’s wages and it’s failure is to hope for the worst.

It would therefore mean that the regime learnt nothing and also forgot nothing about why the people of Benue handed a harsh verdict on the PDP in 2015.

Governor Ortom’s approval ratings now stands extremely low and deserves a bottom space on any performance chart, an indication that a darker Benue beckons with the current regime.

The administration appears to have resigned to fate  or still better ‘hopes’ things could improve, but hope is not a strategy.

Even if the hope is to collect federal allocations and pay salaries, the state needs to understand that payment of salaries, which is just a compulsory requirement, is not an achievement.

Where both the mandatory and the expected are absent, there cannot be any justification whatsoever and that is the case of Benue; no development no payment of salaries as it stands.

Turning the state into a theatre of allegations is just unfortunate and misplacement of priorities.

It is frightening that the globetrotting and gallivanting attitude of state government officials with tax payers monies has yielded no positive results.

This explains why the contest for who would salvage the state in 2019 is interesting and the electorates must wear their microscopic lens in other to make  set of choices  that would define their future and decisively too. These choices are simply;  to stick with incompetence and lack of sophistication or to chose competence with  sophisticated world-view.

First civilian governor of Benue State, late Mr Aper Aku saw into the future and left an indelible mark on the sands of time; that is what good and wise choices can offer.

The era of flip-flop policies must go with the election of 2015. The 2019 plants must be bountiful two years after. Benue must be first and above any parochial interest. This tall order has indeed, reduced the search to true leaders who would drive this dream; opportunists don’t think out of the box, but leaders do with a sense of commitment.

This new thinking requires people of stable character, right temperament, mental preparedness, vision and the electorates must activate a leadership recruitment model that would see to the emergence of a candidate who would by all means, be of the school of leadership. This is a challenge to political parties as they elect their flag bearers.

Prof David Ker: A former vice chancellor of Benue state and Veritas Catholic Universities is from Gwer-East and has indicated interest in the race, he also declared in 2015. Ker’s age is his first major challenge and his 2015 outing showed he lacks the political clout therefore, unelectable. His politics of inconsistencies and his role in the endorsement of Prince Tarzoor in the 2015 was considered a sell out and an act of impunity by his followers. This and many more have placed him in a disadvantaged position and cannot be the kind of person required to wrestle power from an incumbent, Ker, according to many, is in the race for the fun of it. Many feel he would cause a divide within the PDP and the state in general and there is a school of thought that believes he should do more of fatherly role by offering moral support to a fresh and younger candidate.

Engineer Felix Atume: He contested in 2015 but dropped out of the race in the last minute. Atume, a former commissioner in the state and former registrar of COREN is seen as a hardliner, ethnic bigot and vindictive. This worked against his aspiration in 2015 and fielding him in 2019 would mean a walk over for the APC.

Prince Terhemen Tarzoor: A candidate of the PDP in the 2015 governorship election,  he hails from Makurdi local government. He has indicated interest to run in 2019. The factors that worked against the former Speaker were his perceived immaturity and rascally nature. There were also allegations that he was imposed on the state.  Tarzoor had no known strong political structures and all he relied upon was the myopic thinking that the PDP would always win, therefore failed to cement his relationship with other aspirants. He was wrong. His party’s approval ratings were very low at the time and handing him the PDP ticket a second time would spell doom for the party.

 Tivlumun Nyitse: A journalist and former permanent secretary in the state, he was an aspirant in the 2015 governorship and has indicated interest to try a second time.

Nyitse was believed to be amongst those who silently worked against the victory of the PDP candidate in the 2015 polls. There is a thinking that should Nyitse emerge as candidate of the PDP for the 2019 election, the party would be more polarized than it was in 2015. He will certainly not get the support of many who still nurse grudges against him.  Nyitse hails from Guma like Governor Ortom and,  the need to allow another section of MINDA to taste the governorship would also play out.

Honourable John Tondo: Surveyor Tondo was commissioner for Lands and Survey during the Suswam regime. He contested for the Guma/Makurdi House of Representatives seat on the PDP platform but lost. Tondu’s defeat was rightly attributed to the way he handled land matters in the state. There was an overwhelming disapproval of his candidature. Tondo’s antecedents would turn him a liability rather than asset to any political platform that would field him.

Dr Paul Orhii: The former NAFDAC boss is also in the race, brilliant and organized. The hurdle before him is that the governorship of the state by the unwritten zoning policy, remains within the four local governments of MINDA, namely Makurdi, Gwer-East, Gwer-West and Guma till 2023. Orhii hails from Ushongo local government.

Professor Eugene Aliegba: He is the head of department of political science at the Nassarawa State University. A former education commissioner in the state, Prof Aliegba also lectured at the Benue State University. He was in the 2015 governorship race and still interested in the office.

He hails from Gwer-West, but his immediate constituency forms his first layer of opposition due to his alleged high handedness. His tenure as commissioner did not improve the quality of education in the state. In fact, the state Assembly once passed a resolution that he be removed from office over very wealthy allegations.

He is certainly not the right person for the job of governor and even his close allies know this fact.

Professor Tor Iorapuu: He is a university don; two time dean of faculty of Arts and member of the governing board of the prestigious University of Jos. He hails from Gwer-East. Information from the grapevine is that there is pressure on the Professor of Applied Theatre with majors in community organizing, a top activist with huge travel experiences to be the ‘doctor’ who will conduct the surgical on the dying soul of the state.  If convinced to run, the don would be coming into the race with his wealth of experience and huge contact base. Completely stainless and with age on his side, it is the thinking of most people, particularly the youths and those in the academia that his entrance would redefine politics of the state with a class. An independent search on Prof Tor Iorapuu reveals a man with a vision, driven my passion and commitment to serve his people.

He is believed to have  no known political enemies and his coming on board would heal the wounds, is expected to be a stabilizing factor. His support base cuts across political party affiliations. He exemplifies openness, competence, selflessness and humility. Straight from the class room, Tor might not have the financial war chest, but his ability and integrity which are the requirements for leadership, are not in doubt.

What the state needs at the moment is the likes of Professor Iorapuu; his wide network and acumen. The reservoir of good will he has build around himself over the years are an indication that the desired development the state yearns for, would be actualized if handed the mantle of leadership of the state. He is a candidate to beat and would make a good governor.

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