As the 2019 general elections gather momentum, politicians in Benue State have started intense alignment, realignment, and regrouping of forces to actualise their goals and aspirations. New Telegraph who has been following political activities as they unfold observed that the choice of who becomes the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Benue North East senatorial contest in the forthcoming general elections has torn the party into shreds.
Benue North East Senatorial District, which is regarded as Benue Zone A, is made up of Kwande, Sankera and Jechira. According to two chieftains of the Benue APC who spoke to New Telegraph on condition of anonymity, they said the state governor, Samuel Ortom, who is also the leader of the party in the state, is presently having it tough with his estranged political godfather and former governor, Senator George Akume, who is currently representing Zone B (Benue North West) at the Senate, over his (Ortom) choice of Senator Barnabas Gemade. Senator Gemade who hails from Jechira, has been representing Benue North East in the Red Chamber since 2011.
He became senator under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2011 and was re-elected on the platform of APC in 2015. Senator Akume who has reportedly shown his interest in the candidacy of the chairman of the Benue State Internal Revenue Service (BIRS), Chief (Mrs) Mimi Adzape Orubibi, is hinging his argument on the fact that Kwande has never produced senator for the zone since the creation of the state.
Some top APC officials who confided in New Telegraph about the political cold war, which Ortom’s choice of Gemade has caused, hinted that at one of the meetings held recently, the governor allegedly openly told Orubibi not to resign her appointment as BIRS chairman with the explanation that it is the incumbent Senator Gemade that he prefers to return in 2019.
“There was a recent meeting where the governor told Madam (Orubibi) to focus her attention on her assignment at the BIRS. The governor went on to say that it is Gemade that he wants to return back to the Senate in 2019,” an APC chieftain told New Telegraph.
Asked what Orubibi’s reactions were to the governor’s choice of Gemade, the APC official said the BIRS boss asked the governor to go and tell Kwande people who are calling her to come and represent them at the Senate, that it is he who is asking their daughter to stand down for Senator Gemade.
But on his part, Senator Akume was said to have summoned Governor Ortom to several meetings, where he reportedly warned the governor to steer clear from the Benue North East senatorial ticket.
Akume was said to have told the governor that he must forget about the plans to use his executive powers to impose Gemade on the party (APC) and thereby rob Orubibi her chance to fly the party’s flag in 2019. During one of the meetings with Akume, Governor Ortom according to a source among his trusted associates, repeatedly made it known to his estranged godfather that nothing could change his decision to get the Zone A ticket for Gemade at all cost.
However, Akume at the meetings told the governor to remember how he secured the APC gubernatorial ticket for him against all odds in 2014. He was said to have also reminded him that the Senate seat in Zone A has never been occupied by anyone from Kwande before.
This, our source said has torn the party into many factions. While a faction which is loyal to Akume has decided to make sure that Ortom is stopped from getting the APC’s gubernatorial ticket ahead of the 2019 election if he succeeds in robbing Orubibi of her rights, another faction which is loyal to the governor has allegedly threatened to make Akume lose his grip on the party.
The faction loyal to Akume has threatened to support Emmanuel Jime, the rightful winner of the 2014 APC gubernatorial ticket, as a way of spiting the governor if he imposes Gemade on the party.
On his part, the Benue State APC chairman, Abba Yaro, was reported to have warned the governor against his choice of Gemade which he reportedly explained is capable of ruining the party’s chances in 2019. New Telegraph gathered from reliable source that during the last meeting held between Governor Ortom and Kwande stakeholders at the New Banquet Hall of the Government House, immediately after Fulani herdsmen attacked and killed scores, leader of the Kwande delegation and Second Republic Minister of Steel, Chief Paul Unongo, vowed not to concede the Senate position for which Gemade is eyeing.
Senator Gemade once told journalists in his Makurdi residence that he was going to seek re-election into Senate in 2019. He stated that his records and score card in the Senate for the past seven years makes him eligible to contest again the coming election.
Gemade, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Works also dismissed insinuations that the ticket had been zoned to the Kwande axis of his constituency and maintained that the assertion was wrong and unattainable.
His words: “It has always been the turn of Kwande since I started contesting election to the Senate. I started contesting election to the Senate from 2007 which I lost. At that time I contested with a candi-date from Kwande.
I contested in 2011, which I won. I also contested in 2015 and won. “At no time did my election go opposed. And there was no time during those elections that no Kwande person contested.
So, nobody can come and chose a particular time and say this is our time. It has always been their turn just like it has always been other people’s turn. “If it is not your turn you sit down and allow those who it is their turn to go, but they have always contested.
So it has always been Kwande’s turn. “I am contesting and my score card is so large and convincing enough for my people to want me back at the Senate. For example, in my first tenure, I delivered over 140 projects in my constituency apart from over 2,000 items I distributed and lots more. “In this my second tenure I have already done over 160 projects in my constituency.
These include schools, clinics, skills acquisition centres, water projects, motorized solar powered boreholes, electricity projects, solar light projects, roads and whatever benefits that I have to bring to my people, I had given them. “You know that the Federal Government has no presence in my constituency apart from the Federal Government College Vandeikya where I have also done much.
In fact, my main concern is to dedicate my energy to ensuring that my people enjoy the benefits that should accrue to them and that is my major concern as their representative in the Senate and they appreciate what I am doing for them.”
Clearly, the coming days are full of drama from both interests but whatever the outcome is, the people of Benue North East will still make a choice between the APC and other political parties at the general election.