Special Report

September 5, 2021

Herdsmen Killings: Backlash hits Benue APC

The herdsmen, tribesmen and statesmen: Discordant cord of three strands

File photo

By Peter Duru – Makurdi

This is certainly not the best of times for the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, in Benue state given the spate of high-profile defections that have hit the party in the last few weeks.

Privileged information revealed that the party is neck deep in a crisis which may not be unconnected with the resentment of members over poor leadership as well as the unending herdsmen killings in the state and the fast increasing prices of goods and services which have left Nigerians poorer.

In the same vein, the last Ward Congresses of the party which obviously left sore tastes in the mouth of many stalwarts of the party contributed in no small measure to the probable implosion that may see the party struggling for relevance in the state.

The drum of the gradual slump of the party sounded louder earlier in July when members of the APC and other parties renounced their membership of their respective political parties and pledged allegiance to the Senator representing the Benue South District in the Senate, Senator Abba Moro and the PDP in Okpokwu LGA.

Then came the sudden seamless collapse of the structures of the APC in Agatu LGA, into the PDP in what pundits described as a danger signal for the APC because these two LGAs, Agatu and Okpokwu, are regarded as strategic political enclaves in the Benue south district where sizable swing votes are usually churned out.

In fact, the Agatu APC Chairman, Hon. Josiah Isaiah, and members of his Exco including, the Secretary, Woman Leader, Youth Leader, Treasurer, Ex-officio members, as well as elders and stalwarts of the party in the area, including former Caretaker Chairman, Hon. Joseph Ngbede, Elder Echoda John and other grassroots leaders, all decamped to the PDP at that ceremony in Obagaji.

The decamping APC leaders in Agatu zones ‘A’, B” and ‘C’, in separate speeches lauded the track-record of cohesion and internal democracy in the PDP being championed by Governor Samuel Ortom which had helped in bonding members of the party in the state.

That event was followed later, some two week ago by what has been described by many as the mother of all defections when a former senatorial candidate of the APC in the Benue North East senatorial district, Mrs. Mimi Adzape-Orubibi defected to the PDP with over 80,000 of her supporters and followers in Adikpo, Kwande LGA.

Mrs. Orubibi who had blamed the failure of the APC led federal government to tackle the worsening insecurity in the country and the unending armed herdsmen killings in the state as well as the failure of the federal government to fulfill its promise to resettle the persons displaced from their ancestral homes by armed herdsmen and now taking refuge in Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs , camps as reasons for her defection.

She also blamed the worsening economic downturn and consequential rising prices of food, goods and services under the APC led federal government for her decision to dump the party with her teeming supporters for the PDP where she said would availed her a better platform for political relevance.

Mrs. Orubibi’s exit from the party was sequel to an earlier statement by the leadership of her party in her constituency which ordered her suspension after her famous speech at the IDPs camp at Abagena in the outskirts of Makurdi.

In her speech after donating relief materials to the inmates the former APC stalwart lamented that the level of poverty, hunger and spate of killings in the country clearly indicated that the APC had failed Nigerians.

She said “I am an APC member, I was the APC candidate in the Benue North East Senatorial election in 2019, I polled 84,000 votes, and I am not hiding the fact that I am APC. But the truth be told, we have failed the nation because when we took over the exchange rate was about N190 and not N503; and how much was a loaf of bread, how much a bag of rice, and a liter of fuel?

“It’s a pity, so I chose to visit the displaced people here because by now they are not supposed to be in the IDPs camps, they ought to have been resettled by the federal government.”

This outburst by Mrs. Orubibi obviously did not go down well with the party supremos who vicariously ordered her suspension and PDP immediately cashed in on that atrocious blunder by the party hierarchy to capture one of the prized stalwarts of the APC.

A week later, the defection bug also hit Ushongo LGA where thousands of APC supporters led by Dr. Akoso Aganyi among others dumped the party for the PDP citing the unending herdsmen killings in the state, the worsening insecurity and skyrocketing prices of goods and services for their action.

The train also berthed in Guma LGA in the Benue North West Senatorial district few days ago when the APC candidate in 2019 House of Representatives election, Engineer Conrad Utaan led over 6,000 of his supporters to the PDP alleging fraud in the conduct of the last Ward Congresses of the party which had turned the party to a “one man party.”

According to him, “people spent their hard earned money to buy nominations forms for the Ward Congresses but they were denied participation in the process because names were picked by an individual at his residence.

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“I was a stalwart of APC but today I have decided to defect to the PDP with 6,000 of my supporters in this axis because of the fraud that denied us our rights in the party. I appeal to the PDP and Governor Samuel Ortom who is a man of peace, wisdom, foresight and impeccable character to accept us into the PDP which is truly a party for our people,” he said.

Meantime while these defections were going on, no fewer than 100 aggrieved members of the party from the state also dragged the National leadership of the party to Federal High Court in Abuja seeking the dissolution of the 13 member Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee and nullification of all its actions.

The court action, an Originating Summons with Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/938/2021 as well as a Motion for Interlocutory Injunction was filed Wednesday August 18, 2021.

The aggrieved members premised the suit on the fact that the 13-member Caretaker Committee fell short of the constitutionally required 24 member spread across not less than two-third of the 36 States and the FCT for any governing body of a political party, whether substantive or acting, as stipulated under Section 223(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as altered).

They are also contending that the headship of the Caretaker Committee by a sitting Governor who by implication holds dual executive offices was prohibited by Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 17(4) of the APC Constitution, 2014 (as amended).

According to them by Article 13(4)(xvi) of the APC Constitution, 2014 (as amended) only the National Working Committee rather than the NEC of the party can constitute a Caretaker Committee in whatever form, nature or guise.

They also averred that the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, who administered the oath of office on Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State as purported Caretaker Chairman lacked the powers to do so under any provision of the APC Constitution, 2014 (as amended) as he was neither a member of the National Working Committee or even a member of the NEC of the APC.

They are therefore seeking among others an order of injunction restraining the Caretaker National Chairman from carrying out the functions, duties, responsibilities and privileges of the National Chairman of the party in dual capacity with his executive functions as the Governor of Yobe State.

While the rage of members of the APC continue to reverberate, creating a huge quake in the party leading to its top members deserting its fold for the PDP, pundits are of the view that if something is not done urgently to check the slide, Benue may turn out a one party state because more of the party’s stalwarts are also planning to defect in the coming weeks.

According to Comrade Clement Idyegh, President of Young Politicians for a United Benue, YPUB, the APC is currently facing its worst moments which could be an ominous sign of what awaits the party in the 2023 general elections in the state and country at large.

According to Comrade Idyegh “APC in Benue state is facing an uphill task to put its house in order and put an end to the spate of defections rocking the party which may persist for obvious reason in the coming weeks considering the mind set of majority of Benue people over the killings in the state and the failure of the federal government to arrest those who have claimed responsibility for the killings.

“Also the failure of the federal government to resettle the people displaced by these attacks has continued to generate anger amongst the people who feel that the Benue IDPs situation that has reached over 1.5million people does not bother the federal government. This is aside the rising food prices in the state because farmers cannot access their farms since armed herdsmen have occupied their communities and anyone who tried to return home is killed.

“So it is not a hidden fact that Benue people are not happy with the APC led federal government and they see Governor Ortom as their symbol of strength, the only voice that speaks for them as well as cater for the IDPs and also tries to ensure peace and security in the state.

“So the truth is that APC is not playing its cards well in Benue state and there is obviously no silver lining on the dark clouds of APC in the state at the moment and PDP is on a cruise which might be very difficult to halt.”

Vanguard News Nigeria