By Sammy Iorhen
Since the 25th of July when Gov. Samuel Ortom of Benue State officially pronounced his defection from APC back to PDP, the political texture in the state has changed. His defection triggered a ripple effect scenario resulting to the defection of 22 out of 30 state assembly members the next day. This was followed by the expected defection of all 23 local council Chairmen and their Councillors two days later. Since then, a lot of political maneuvering has been going on.
Even though a lot of Benue elites do not seem to buy the dummy so sold through high level sensationalism and media hype, Gov. Ortom is seen to be making steady progress. Many elites are critical of him for nonperformance; a situation that has been compounded by a backlog of salaries owed state workers as well as erroneous removal of over 300 local govt staff from the payroll. Many believe that he lacks the morality to seek re-election.
Yet, as Niccolo Machiavelli said, “Politics has no relation to morals” and so the governor goes on with his strides towards consolidation. It started with the visit of the PDP National Chairman, Uche Secoundus who, during his visit, declared Ortom the automatic leader of the party thereby handing over the party structures in the state to him.
After attending his first welcome dinner with his latest party in Abuja, Gov. Ortom, on return, made a local radio broadcast through which medium he enumerated his landmark achievements in all sectors of life such as education, health, rural roads, water supply and electricity.
But in a swift response, the (now) opposition APC released a statement challenging him to a public debate on his acclaimed achievements. Many say that he simply listed ghost projects. On non-payment of salaries, Gov. Ortom called for prayers to overcome the challenge. He said he was being persecuted by the Federal govt. for the love of his people.
Meanwhile, a cross section of youth comprising university students staged a protest in Makurdi to express their solidarity with the Governor.
A few days back, he had ordered the reinstatement of the sidelined local govt. staff in 4/23 LGAs including his home Guma and Makurdi. The remaining 19 now have hope. Yesterday, on social media, I saw pictures of decampees from Ikpa-yongo led by a house of assembly member representing Ngyohov/Yonov; and my secondary school classmate, Hon. Stephen Tyochir. Just today, I also saw pictures of some old horns in politics – Joe Nyam and co. celebrating their decamping; towing the line of the Governor.
Meanwhile there is so much anger by state civil servants including teachers, some of whom say their salaries are owed up to 15 months for Teachers, 8 for state workers and 10 for local council workers. Responding to this, the Chief Press Secretary to the Gov. Terver Akase rubbished the assumption that the non-payment of salaries was capable of dwindling the chances of his principal. He was quoted as saying that “it is not only workers that vote in election. A peep into the social media space dominated by Benue people would show that only a microscopic few think Ortom should return while about 75% do not believe that he deserves to return.
But the question is: what are the people doing to unseat the Governor in 2019? The APC as a party in Benue State is no longer a marketable brand due to the propaganda of killings by Fulani herdsmen. It will therefore be a tall order for an APC candidate (no matter how strong) to assuage the people. Like Obasanjo would say, a third force is perhaps required to do the job. But, who will bell the cat? As the clock ticks, and while the Governor is working to cement his grounds, the opposition seem to be needing more time to think about what to do.
As Franklin Roosevelt said, “In politics nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way”.