By Peter Duru
IT is obviously not in doubt that governor Gabriel Suswam and his one time political godfather Senator George Akume have parted ways and the development has thrown up a new vista in the politics of the state given the continuous backlash that has trailed the action of the hitherto political allies.
Senator Akume against all odds handed over the baton of office to Suswam as his successor as governor in 2007 but no sooner had he ensured Suswam’s emergence that a crack emerged in their alliance.
This development gave room to deep rooted animosity and backstabbing from supporters of the duo who fired from all cylinders in order to rubbish one another and their masters who however pretended that all was well with their battered marriage.
However, it was not long before it became public knowledge that Governor Suswam and his predecessor Senator Akume were locked in a battle of supremacy.
This actually came to the fore as it hit a feverish peak when the Benue State chapter of the ruling PDP recommended the suspension of the erstwhile governor for anti party activities.
At this point it became what the late Afro King maestro Fela Anikulapo called ‘rofo rofo fight’ between the two camps and the reactions that trailed this has left the ruling PDP in the state split into two camps, that is the pro Akume and Suswam supporters.
The situation has been made worse with the near complete absence of a semblance of an opposition challenge to the dominance of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Benue State. What emerged as opposition in the form of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) especially through second republic minister, Paul Unongo and former Senator Daniel Saror.
But political watchers are of the view that any opposition to the political order in the state would stem from within the party and that is where the Akume factor comes in.
It is public knowledge that Senator Akume would go the extra mile to ensure that Governor Suswam does not secure a second tenure in office and this is even more evident from utterance of supporters of the former governor and the failure of prominent indigenes of the state including the paramount ruler of the Tiv nation Dr, Alfred Akawe Torkula to convince the duo to bury the hatchet.
The division that characterized the ruling PDP in Benue State reached its feverish peak few days back following the rumoured reunion of Dr. Iyorchia Ayu and his godson Senator Akume.
The relationship between the duo nosedived at the twilight of the Chief Obasanjo’s administration when Akume in a bid to avoid his ouster from the party aligned with the then President Obasanjo who was neck deep in power struggle with his then vice president Alh Atiku Abubakar who was a known associate of Ayu. During the heat of that power struggle Akume parted ways with his godfather Dr, Ayu who since then has remained an ardent supporter of Alh Atiku Abubakar.
But just few weeks ago, the rumoured reunion between the hitherto estranged political bedfellows Akume and his political godfather Ayu who finally buried their political differences and resolved to jointly launch an onslaught to dislodge Governor Suswam at the forthcoming 2011 polls.
Vanguard gathered that the duo held their initial discussions at the Gboko residence of Dr. Ayu which lasted several hours.
It was further gathered that the duo and their supporters ended up in Senator Akume’s palatial Gboko residence for a lavish dinner to cement the reunion.
According to one source, the former Senate President has continued to address his supporters on his reunion with Senator Akume and the need to effect change in the leadership of the state.
Indications emerged that the two PDP chieftains have already formed a common formidable political force to unseat Governor Suswam citing the Governor’s political recalcitrance and unwavering support for President Goodluck Jonathan which according to them is against the interest of the North.
Vanguard investigations revealed that two names are on the cards of the two political warlords to succeed Suswam, one of them is Mr. Terve Kaki, former State publicity secretary of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Manasseh Denge both of whom have already picked and submitted the PDP nomination forms in Abuja to challenge Governor Suswam at the 2011 gubernatorial race.
Denge and Kaki are said to be enjoying the blessings of Senator Akume and Dr. Ayu as the beneficiaries of the recent reunion of the two political gladiators, a development that is generating exceptional tension across the state and the ruling PDP where Senator Akume enjoys a strong followership.
Kaki has already instituted litigation against Governor Suswam at the Federal high court Makurdi for an alleged certificate forgery and is bent on pursuing the case all in a bid to stop Suswam.
From all indications the reunion of Ayu and Akume would find a political baseline in Alh. Atiku Abubakar in whom Dr. Ayu is well pleased; and from where the onslaught to wrestle power from Suswam would be launched in view of the fact that Ayu being an ardent supporter of Atiku would release all salvoes to crunch any supporter of the Goodluck/Sambo agenda especially in his home state.
But this renewed gang up might not find Governor Suswam an easy prey.
Apart from being in absolute charge of the party machinery in the state, Suswam has found in the Senate President, Dr. David Mark a father figure of some sort; and political ally who dictates the tune in the politics of Benue South senatorial district and who also wields a lot of influence at the national level.
That Benue South senatorial district is renowned for determining who becomes the Benue state Governor at every given gubernatorial election and Mark is absolutely in charge of the zone.
It was for this reason that the Senate President and Governor Suswam resolved at a breakfast meeting recently in Makurdi to form a common front against any opposition to their re_election at the forthcoming 2011 elections.
The duo also agreed to work in partnership to ensure that the PDP sustained its winning run in Benue State and the North central geo_political zone.
Briefing newsmen on the outcome of the brief meeting, Governor Suswam stated that it was normal for them to partner to ensure resounding victories for both camps and the ruling PDP in the state.
According to him, “I am expected to work with the Senate President to ensure that our party sustains its overwhelming dominance in our state”.
“You know that the partnership between the Senate President and I is paramount and cannot be jettisoned because it is the tonic our party needs to achieve resounding success at the forthcoming polls.
In his remarks, Senator Mark informed that he was also in the state to discuss issues that would be of immense benefit to the Benue people.
Vanguard gathered from insiders that the meeting was part of the ongoing appraisal of strategies to uproot perceived opponents to the reelection bid of the two power brokers.
As it stands today in Benue, Mark and Suswam seem to have struck the right cord and are determined to go for the kill politically and from all judgments they have taken over Benue State despite the ranting of the pro northern elements in the state.
Though the union of Akume, Ayu and Chief Abu King Shuluwa, the Benue State coordinator of the Atiku campaign organization that are determined to undo Suswam and Mark and the Jonathan/Sambo agenda in the state, majority of the people of the state seem to have finally resorted to queuing behind the Marks and Suswams of the state.
Mark is regarded by his kinsmen as the symbol of the Idoma race who in the last eleven years has broken all barriers to ensure that his people have their say and way in the national scheme of things. He has single handedly made certain a systematic integration of his people in whatever part of the country they are found and by extension availing them the opportunity of Federal Government appointments.
He is today worshiped by all the political bigwigs of Idoma extraction and some Tiv notables and therefore wields a commanding influence in what happens in that part of the country. No wonder the paramount ruler of the Idoma race HRH Elias Ikoyi Obekpa recently conferred on him the grand title of the Indomitable Lion of the Idoma Race (Okpokpowulu K’ Idoma).
Mark being who he is and going by his antecedents and deft is not known for losing a political battle and definitely not to the likes of Ayu, Akume and their likes who tested that dose at the battle for the Senate Presidency.
One can safely conclude that the battle for the Political soul of Benue will be long drawn and with the likes of David Mark entering the fray and being on the side of Suswam, the like of Akume, Ayu and Shuluwa might be in for a trouncing. It is sure going to be a one way traffic for the Mark_Suswam alliance, except a miracle happens.