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Benue 2011: PDP dominates Senatorial race

By  Peter Duru
It not in doubt that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party has continued to dominate the political landscape of Benue State since the advent of the current political dispensation.

The development has left virtually all leading political gladiators in the state scampering for relevance and for every available elective position in the party.

However, Prof David Iornem of the Action Congress of Nigeria ACN has indicated interest to run for the Senate but it is left to be seen how he hopes to make any meaningful impact at the poll in the face of near total absence of any form of presence of his party in the State.

In Benue North East Senatorial District which has over 18 aspirants jostling to clinch PDP ticket, four aspirants  considered leading contenders for the coveted seat include Mr. Mathias Byuan, Senators Jack Tiley Gyado, Joseph Akaagerger and Chief Barnabas Gemade.

Mathias Byuan
Fondly called the Dollar Senator by his admirers and youths of the area who form the bedrock of his support base, Mr. Byuan at the moment has taken his campaigns for the PDP senatorial ticket farther than everyone expected of him and this has inadvertently given him an edge over other known big names in the race who took him for granted.

Considered the most favourable and likely candidate to pick the PDP ticket from among the lot  despite entering politics for the very first time, Byuan who hails from Konshisha Local Government Area of the state has based his candidacy on his ability to create jobs especially for the youths in his constituency.

Despite Byuans’s strong showing, incumbent Senator Joseph Akaagerger will not let go easily. However he has to redefine his campaign strategies if he must retain his seat at the red chamber of the National Assembly.

Akaagerger was a fine military officer and former military governor of Katsina State who against all odds dusted Chief Gemade in 2007 to clinch the senatorial seat on the platform of PDP. Though critics are of the view that former governor George Akume played a critical role in his emergence at the time in order to spite Chief Gemade who also ran for the seat.

But Akaagerger’s second term bid could run into troubled waters especially in view of the fact that the likes of Akume would have enough to contend with and would not be there to pull the strings for him.

And for Chief Barnabas Gemade who also hails from Konshisha Local Government area of the state, this second bid for the Senate could be decisive for his political career.

A self acclaimed leader of Tiv politics and former National Chairman of the ruling party, Chief Gemade’s aspiration cannot be wished away considering his strong influence at the national political scene.

He is a consummate politician and one of the most successful politicians from this part of the country; but it is left to be seen if his political clout could be enough reason to sway delegates who would decide his fate at the PDP primary.

Another notable politician running for the Benue North East senatorial District is Senator Jack Tilley Gyado who hails from Vandeikya Local Government Area of the state.

Leader of the Gyado dynasty and successful business man, Jack had a stint at the Senate between October and December  1983.

He has not ceased to tell anyone that cared to listen that he was heading for retirement from active politics and is seeking a single term of four years at the Senate to cap his political career and thereafter retire peacefully to his business empire.

However Suswam has repeatedly proclaimed that he would have no hands in the process to pick candidates for elective positions in the party at the forthcoming primary. This leaves Senator Gyado with no other option but to deploy his political machine and enormous wealth in order to dust other contenders for the party’s ticket.

The Benue North West Senatorial District senatorial contest could easily be described as the ultimate battle field where Senator George Akume and his former political ally Hon Terngu Tsergba will slog it .

For Akume, though his first outing at the Senate could easily be described as lackluster his eight years on the saddle as governor of Benue State availed him the singular opportunity and platform to erect a formidable political machine that would not be cowed or defeated easily .

Akume who is of the Mbakor stalk same as the legendary Joseph Sarwuan Tarka from Tarka local government area, is generally loved by his people and backed by a strong grassroots support base that could pose a nightmare to any of his opponents.

Perhaps Akume’s undoing could be the soured relationship between him and incumbent Governor Suswam.

Terngu Tsegba who hails from Gboko Local Government area of Benue gained national prominence when he was elected Speaker Potempore of the House of Representative after the ouster of Mrs. Patricia Etteh.

A onetime close associate of Senator Akume,  he has been locked in a running battle with his former ally to the astonishment of close watchers of political development in the state.  The reasons are not far-fetched.

There are indications that  Tsegba could be banking on the close affinity with the incumbent governor to dislodge the Akume political contraption in order to establish his own.

The battle for the PDP ticket in the Benue South Senatorial District,  popularly referred to as the Idoma nation can well be described as the battle of two Generals.

These are the Senate President, David Mark and Gen. Lawrence Onoja (rtd).

The Senate President, David Mark is fully in charge of the district and in fact dictates the political tune in the area.
It is on record that his fourth term bid to the Senate was given a boost by 69 university Professors from his district who put cash together to purchase a PDP nomination form for him as a show of gratitude for his commitment to the upliftment of the living condition of the people of the district.

An astute politician and  master strategist, Mark now represents the icon of the Idoma nation. Recently the paramount ruler of the area, the Ochi’Idoma bestowed upon him the Okpokpowulu K’Idoma, meaning the Indomitable Lion of the Idoma nation.

But how Gen Onoja intends to dislodge Mark from the Senate is still a mystery to close watchers of unfolding political events in Benue.

Though Gen Onoja has based his campaign on the need for change in guards of the political leadership of the area but it is obvious that over ninety percent of the people of the district are in love with Mark’s leadership and are not ready to sacrifice that for whatever reason.

Of a truth Gen Onoja is up to a gargantuan task, which on paper looks almost impossible; but in politics anything can happen.


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