By Peter Duru
The routing of the Peoples Democratic Party by the All Progressives Congress in the presidential and governorship elections in Benue State marked an end to the 16 year dominance of the PDP over the politically conscious people of the state.
One remarkable fact from the governorship election in Benue State was the fact that the people were decisive in their resolve to effect change in the polity for reasons which may not be farfetched.
The expectation of change was on the basis of bitterness by many civil servants against the outgoing administration’s failure to regularly pay the entitlements of civil servants.
Benue being a predominantly civil service state, the failure of the Suswam led government to offset the salaries of its workforce and pensioners which piled for close to five months contributed in no small measure to what is now referred to as ‘the political Tsunami of Benue State’.
In fact the situation got to a point where aggrieved civil servants, pensioners and their close and distant family members took it upon themselves to campaign against the administration and all it stood for.
Unfortunately, the PDP led government perhaps took the resolve of the people for granted and this invariably led to the demystification of the party in the state.
Reacting to the outcome of the polls, the Benue State chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, Mr. Baba Agan stated that, “Governor Suswam and the PDP ought to have seen the defeat coming, when about five months salaries of workers and pensions in a purely civil service state like Benue, was not paid before the elections.
“Perhaps they took everyone for granted but failed to realize that the women, traders, students, workers, pensioners at both the state and local government levels were deeply aggrieved and the only way we could openly vent their anger was by voting out the PDP,” Agan said.
Another major factor that affected the fortune of the hitherto ruling party was the perceived imposition of candidates and particularly, the decision of Governor Gabriel Suswam to contest for the Benue North East senatorial seat being occupied by former National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Barnabas Gemade.
Also related to that issue was the decision of Governor Gabriel Suswam to allow close to 30 aspirants to jostle for the governorship position in the PDP. After spending huge sums to curry the support of party members at the party’s primaries, these embittered aspirants were asked to jettison their aspirations in the collective interest of the party; and this certainly did not go down with the outraged aspirants.
That accounted for the decision and resolve of Chief Barnabas Gemade to leave the party alongside Dr. Samuel Ortom both of whom formed a resolute alliance with the enigmatic Senator George Akume.
That alliance certainly contributed in no small measure to deal a devastating blow to the wining streak of the party in the three senatorial zones of the state. It would therefore not be out of place to emphatically state that most of these aggrieved aspirants and their supporters also contributed to the routing of the party.
Information gathered on good authority clearly revealed that the infuriated aspirants and other erstwhile PDP stalwarts and their supporters worked against the interest of the party in order to express their disaffection and also, to make the governor pay for the perceived sins of the party. The outcome of the polls in the state was unarguably a crushing defeat waiting to happen even when the leaders of the party pretended that all was well with the once bubbling family.
The minister of interior, Mr. Abba Moro who is from the state in a remark on the spate of defeats suffered by the party in recent times spoke as much when he alleged that some members of the party, in the state sabotaged the party.
“It is regrettable that what happened on March 28 was an accident that was aided and abetted by some PDP members,” he said in an interview. The Minister also acknowledged the adverse effect and challenges posed by the non payment of salaries to civil servants and pensioners, to the fortunes of the party.
Pundits also believe that the exit of Dr. Ortom from the party also dealt a devastating blow to the PDP in the state.
Ortom is a renowned grassroots politician whose reach in the entire state could best be described as second to none and this obviously accounted for the double standards some of the PDP stalwarts played during the periods leading to the elections.
It was not a hidden fact that majority of the PDP members who did not exit the party at the heat of the crisis remained in the party to work for Ortom whose support base was certainly underestimated but the court jesters surrounding Governor Suswam failed to avail him the true picture of the political situation and the wishes and aspirations of the people.
Suswam while speaking to journalists in Makurdi, shortly before the governorship elections, observed that many of those he trusted and also entrusted with responsibilities during the electioneering period, worked against his interest and that of the party.