BY PETER DURU, MAKURDI
As political activities continue to gain momentum across the country ahead of the 2015 general elections, there is a simmering battle for supremacy in the Benue South senatorial district between Senator David Mark and a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Chief Mike Okibe Onoja. Onoja, a member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, few days back, declared his interest to contest the Benue South senatorial seat with Mark.
His interest in the plum job is coming against the backdrop of the adoption of Mark as the sole candidate of the PDP by his constituents. Not deterred by the resolution of the party, Onoja has vowed to dethrone Mark by clinching the seat against the decision of the the people of the area.
He recently held a declaration rally in Otukpo where Chief Obande Obeya, among others, presented him to his constituents and vowed to weather the storm with him. At that rally, Onoja was quoted as saying that he was in the senatorial race because the Benue south seat was not the private property of anyone.
Meanwhile, the nine local government chairmen in Benue South zone mobilized to purchase the declaration of interest and nomination forms for Mark to seek re-election for a record fifth term in the Senate.
At a public presentation of the forms in Otukpo, the headquarters of Benue South, notable politicians, including politicians rumoured to have lent their support to Onoja, came out to reiterate their support for Mark. Among the politicians was Mr John Ochoga regarded as a brother and close ally of Onoja.
Addressing the crowd, Ochoga, who claimed he was one of those who encouraged Mark to run for the Senate seat of the area way back in 1999 when the latter returned from self-exile, acknowledged that the Senate President had kept faith with the people and deserved to be sent back to the Senate to fly the flag of Idoma land.
On their part, the nine local government chairmen, through the Chairman of Okpokwu local government council, Chief Julie Obetta, said their decision to purchase the forms was to compel Mark to contest the coming senatorial election.
Obetta said. “If we had failed to do this for our quintessential leader, we would have failed the ordinary man in the streets of Idoma land and posterity would certainly not forgive us; hence the only way we can actually say thank you to a man who has given hope to his people is to say to him, ‘please continue to lead us and we will continue to be good followers.’’
Also speaking on behalf of the Coalition of Civil Societies in the country, Comrade Philip Agbese maintained that the coalition would continue to rally support for Mark to enable him actualize a record fifth term at the Senate.
Agbese said, “For us in the civil societies, ours is a group that says it as it is without bias. If you are doing well, we will applaud you, but if an the contrary you fail in your responsibilities, we will also not hesitate to cry out and move against you.
“Today, we have come to publicly declare that the engineer of the ‘doctrine of necessity’, who saved this country from imminent political logjam at a time, deserves the support of every well-meaning Idoma son and daughter and indeed Nigerians as a whole in the quest of his people to have him back at the Senate’’.In his speech, the Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, who led PDP stakeholders and council chairmen to purchase the forms in Makurdi, urged anyone with senatorial ambition from the district to shelve it, noting that “such an ambition would be contrary to the wishes of the people of Idoma land.
In his speech after receiving the forms, the Senate President noted that he was overwhelmed by the gesture. He reiterated his determination to forthrightly lead his people, assuring that their trust was not misplaced despite the obvious challenges a leader had to contend with in Nigeria’s bumpy political terrain. Reacting to the unfolding drama in Benue South, the Benue State Chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, Mr. Baba Agan, said the race for the senatorial ticket may not have been lost and won. Agan said, “Chief Onoja is assuming much confidence, nobody at the moment knows the face or faces of the bigger masquerades that are urging him on. Though Mark is enjoying much support from his people, you definitely cannot tell what would happen at the end of the day. “I must add that with the manner he has been going about his quest, taking him for granted could be the under dong of those who would want to dismiss him with a wave of the hand.”