By Peter Duru
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State on Sunday secured a hard-earned second term victory after being declared winner of the gubernatorial election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on March 3 and the follow up supplementary election of March 23 after polling a total of 434,473 votes to defeat Emmanuel Jime of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who garnered 345,155 votes.
Recall that at the end of collation of the first election held on March 3, the INEC Returning Officer, Prof. SabastineMaimako had declared the election inconclusive after Governor Ortom polled a total of 410,576 votes ahead of Jime who got 329,022 votes.
A supplementary election was ordered by INEC on the premise that his lead margin of 81,554 was less than 121,019 being the figure of registered voters in the 204 Polling Units, PUs, across the state where elections were either cancelled or did not hold.
The supplementary election availed the PDP candidate to consolidate his lead and was declared a winner by INEC.
It is, however, instructive to note that Governor Ortom’s second term victory, like other governors before him was not gotten on a platter of gold.
It must, however, be noted that the road leading to his victory was full of intrigues, conspiracies and scheming.
Governor Ortom’s challenges started when in 2017 he yielded to the demands and yearnings of the majority of the people state and enacted the Open Grazing Prohibition Law.
That bold initiative certainly did not go down well with powerful forces in Abuja who saw him as an ‘enemy’ working at cross purposes with their interest.
Ortom was caught in between satisfying the yearnings of his people and acceding to the demands of the powers in Abuja.
In no time his relationship with his political benefactor, Senator George Akume went frosty and the plot against him thickened. He was thereafter forced to leave the APC after it became obvious that the APC would not be willing to hand him a second term ticket, and he pitched a tent with the PDP.
From that point, there was no love lost between the governor and the leadership of the APC both at state and federal levels. He became a target.
It almost became a sing-song by the APC in the state that federal might would be deployed during the just concluded election to remove Governor Ortom from office.
Various herdsmen groups who would not want to embrace the Benue anti-grazing law also joined forces with the powers in Abuja to get Ortom out of the way by denying him a second term in office.
The Governor also acknowledged the gang up when before leaving the APC, he told the media that “I have been given a red card in APC.”
Perhaps, the Governor was chased into a fertile political ground in the PDP where he truly belonged from the onset and where the likes of former Governor Gabriel Suswam, former Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, former Senate Presidents, IyorchiaAyu and David Mark held sway with the deep-rooted cult-like support base.
In fact a combined force with these political heavyweights of the state was all the governor needed to re-establish his political groove and crush the APC which he wasted no time in doing.
But of significance to the development was that despite the formidable federal might, the governor gained more grounds, acceptability and popularity among the people of the state over the manner he stood up for them during the herdsmen killings in the state.
This was also acknowledged by the Chancellor, Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, Rev. Father Christopher Bologo in his homily at the funeral mass held for late Senator Joseph Waku in Makurdi
Father Bologo in his sermon said, “Governor Ortom who I am meeting closely for the first time in this funeral mass won the last election, though they say they want to do a supplementary election.
“You won not because you have paid civil servants all their salaries, it is not because you have done all the infrastructure but for that singular fact of defending the people, period.
“The number one assignment in a democracy is for you the leaders to ensure the defence of the people’s lives and property.
“You may decide to build the best schools in a community where everyone is in an Internally Displaced Persons Camp, but who will attend the said schools. That is simply why the people love the Governor,” the cleric said.