The quest by interest groups for reckoning in the post-Suswam years in Benue State is beginning to take shape with two supposedly politically marginalised blocs drawing attention to themselves.
BY PETER DURU
The quest by political stakeholders to position themselves and their protégées on the line to succeed Governor Gabriel Suswam is increasingly taking the centre of place in covert and not so covert political and indeed social gatherings across the state.
Nocturnal meetings are regularly organised by supposed contenders, pretenders and their associates to strategise on how to gain the advantage in the unfolding contest.
As at last count, no fewer than 30 individuals had indicated interest in running for the governorship and that in the midst of agitations by various groups and political blocs who are laying claim to an exclusive prerogative to produce the next governor of the state.
The Idomas who dominate the Benue South senatorial district have insisted that the zone deserves the political right to produce the next governor of the state, given the fact that the zone had never produced a governor in the 37 year history of the state.
The position of the Idomas was recently buttressed by the Idoma Youths Progressive Movement, IYPM who after a monthly meeting urged political stakeholders in the state, to support the agitation for power shift to the zone in the interest of fairness, equity and good conscience.
“Our agitation for power shift in Benue state is galvanized by the singular fact that since the creation of the state, no one from Benue South senatorial district has had the opportunity to lead the state as Governor,” the group’s national president, Mr. Ameh Igoche, maintained.
Among the contenders from the zone include Dr. Sam Ode, a former Minister of State for Nigeria Delta, the deputy governor, Chief Steven Lawani, who even though he has not come out to declare but is through his body language showing that he is in the race.
Ode has been one of the personalities that have been looked upon to break the jinx against the Idomas given his mixed Idoma/Tiv parentage. While his father is Idoma and his mother Tiv, Ode was known to have been brought up as Tiv, and it is no wonder that he is considered by some Tiv in the state as an acceptable “Idoma” governor of the state.
Paul Ogbole is another contender from the zone, but many doubt his ability to stand when the when the contest gets into full shape.
Irrespective of the agitations of the Idomas, they will still have to contend with the quest by another politically deprived bloc in the state.
The Masev, Iyarev, Nongov Development Association, MINDA, an acronym referring to a geo-political bloc in the Tiv speaking area is also laying claim to the governorship position come 2015.
Among the leading contenders for the position from this bloc are the Minister of state for Trade and Investments, Dr. Samuel Ortom, renowned journalist and Permanent Secretary Government House Administration, Dr. Tivlumun Nyitse, Commissioner for Lands, Mr. John Tondu and former Speaker, Prince Terhemen Tarzor
Others include Chairman House of Representatives Committee on FCT, Barr. Emmanuel Jime, former registrar, Council for the Registration of Engineers in Nigeria, COREN, Engr. Felix Atume, National President of the Agricultural and Allied Employees Union of Nigeria, AAEUN, Comrade Simon Anchaver and university don, Prof David Ker among others.
There is no gainsaying that the two blocs with their claims of marginalisation will need a lot of lobbying, horse-trading, reciprocal concessions and political maneuvering for any of them to produce the next governor.
Political pundits are of the view that where this is lacking, it may lead to a possible cleavage of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in Benue State.
That is a development opposition parties in the state could exploit to undo the ruling party given the unfolding events in the last few months in the state.
That indeed had been the practice of opposition parties in the state given their past “wait and see” attitude of allowing a fault line to emerge in the ruling party following which they swoop on rebels within the PDP to confront the PDP.
That is why many believe that whoever or which ever bloc is favoured by the PDP to produce the next governor, that there would still be trouble in the party and a mass exodus and realignment of political forces.
Governor Suswam in a recent interview with journalists in Makurdi stated clearly that the race for his successor would not be zoned to any political zone or bloc, insisting that the ruling party would toe the part of justice and fairness to produce his successor.
“Even when I contested, aspirants from the three senatorial zones also contested with me, so we cannot at this time stop anyone from indicating interest in the race.”
Despite these assurances by the governor, many of the leading contenders believe strongly that Governor Suswam would largely determine the person that will succeed him.
It is not surprising that the governor has become an unwavering chorister in the Jonathan Choir, supposedly believing that that would guarantee him a leverage in the control of the PDP structure in the state.