ONCE again, the electorate in
Benue State will have the luxury
of casting their votes in June 3,
2017 to elect chairmen and councilors
in the 23 local government
councils in the state. As usual,
those endowed with extrasensory
perception are already telling
those of us who are not so lucky
to perceive political outcomes
the political party that would
pull a landslide during the elections.
And they do so with every
sense of confidence that tempts
any doubting Thomas to believe
that they had witnessed the election
even when it has not began.
So, what’s their take? Your
gaze is as good as mine.
In Benue, what comes to mind
when the issue of election into
political offices comes to the fore
is the two major political parties;
the All Progressives Congress,
APC which is the party in power
in the state and the Peoples Democratic
Party, PDP, its arch rival.
The others are mere political nomenclatures
lacking the needed
muscle to prosecute the ambition
of political office seekers.
To ensure the smooth conduct
of the election, the state government
led by Governor Samuel
Ortom in March, 2017, approved
the sum of One Billion, Two
Hundred Million Naira (N1.2Bn)
for the Benue State Independent
Electoral Commission, BSIEC.
Chairman of BSIEC, Dr John
Tor Tsuwa during a recent interaction
with newsmen assured
the state that the electoral body
would conduct a credible election.
Dr Tsuwa allayed fears that
the election might be concocted to favour only APC candidates as
rumoured in certain quarters.
“Nothing is going to stop us
from conducting credible, free and
fair local government elections in
Benue. This is because we already
know what it means for the masses
to choose their leaders; every vote
must count in the forthcoming
council polls in the state.
“My mission is very simply, to
establish a commission that would
deliver on its mandate where the
masses would be proud of the
outcome of the council polls in the
state,” Tsuwa said.
Speaking to newsmen on the
preparation of the party for the
forthcoming election, the state chairman of APC, Abba Yaro said
the party was working hard to
win the election. “We are preparing
for the June Local Government
elections and our party is working
very hard to ensure that we record
a clean sweep of the polls.
“We are not like the PDP that just
announce results. In some PDP
states where local government elections
were held recently result were
just announced, we will not do that
in Benue. Even if I’m beaten in my
local government so be it. But as
the state chairman will I be a fool to
allow the opposition beat me in my
local government?”
Yaro also boasted that his party
will spring surprise in the nine local
government areas in Benue
South senatorial district which had
always been won by the Peoples
Democratic Party, PDP.
The submission of the APC boss
is not unexpected as the party is
said to be taking the election seriously
and plans to unleash its political
armada against the PDP.
The party prides of gladiators like
Senators George Akume, Barnabas
Gemade and the minister of agriculture,
Chief Audu Ogbe, among
other who are vexed in grassroots
campaign, and they, wary of the
general elections ahead in 2019
are prepared to bring their experience
to near to ensure victory for
the party. It is widely believed that
after victory, the elected officials
would be used as launch pad for
the success of APC in 2019.
It is also pertinent at this juncture
state that the above trio had largely
been the tripod upon which political
matters had been determined
in the state since 1999. This would
leave the party with no other option
than to rely on their vision and
political prowess to navigate the affairs
of the election. After all, it was
through their effort that the wrested
power from the PDP which held
sway for 16 years in the state.
According to an APC henchman:
“It behoves on the party
(APC) to embark on vigorous
campaign in order to win the
forthcoming council polls since
that would form the bedrock
upon which the party will work
its way to victory in 2019.”
Another factor that could work
in favour of APC is the power
of incumbency. This could be
true since no ruling political
party had lost council polls to
opposing political parties since
the evolution of the state. PDP,
for instance, was able to record
landslide victories during council
polls for the 16 years it ruled
the state.
Apart from that, the factionalisation
of the PDP as led by Senator
Modu Sheriff and Senator
Ahmed Makarfi is another factor
that may work against PDP at
the polls.In Benue, the factions
are headed by Dan Ale and John
Ngbede.This division, unless
resolved also has the potential
of destroying the chances of the
party in all tiers of government.
BSIEC boss, Dr John Tsuwa,
responding to questions from
reporters on which faction the
electoral body would work with
during the elections said BSIEC
would rely on the interpretation
of court on the two parallel judgments
in support of the factions.
However, one factor which
pose threat to the ambition of APC is the backlog of salaries being owed
workers. A similar thing had cost the former
governor, Gabriel Suswam and the
PDP their ambitions. Although Suswam
was advised to borrow money to offset
the backlog of salaries owed civil servants
during his tenure but instead of doing that
took refuge in the elitist submission that it
was not logical to borrow to pay salaries
even when he knew that the poor masses
in the state depend on the pay packet of
civil servants to survive. The APC, then
in opposition, capitalised on that loophole
and used it against the former governor
and his party.
On the number of months presently being
owed workers in the state, the governor
and the state chapter of Nigeria Labour
Congress, NLC have conflicting figures.
While Samuel Ortom gave four and seven
months respectively for the state and local
government workers, the state NLC chairman,
Godwin Anya gave five and nine
months.
All the same, the governor seem to have
taken the bull by the horns. Last weekend, he
declared a state of emergency in the payment
of salary to civil servants as he said that was
the only way the state could offset the backlog
of salaries being owed the workers. This, he
said, would be a top priority of his administration.
The governor said the declaration of state of
emergency became necessary because of the
fact that ‘’a worker deserves his wages” and
in fulfillment of his electioneering campaign.
According to him, ‘’government is owing
state civil servants salary of four months,
while staff of local government are being
owed for seven months. We shall exploit all
the necessary avenues including going into
borrowing and approaching relevant institutions
to get money and ensure that all the
outstanding salaries of workers in the state
are cleared’’.
Ortom’s decision is considered a masterstroke
in several quarters as it is capable of
influencing civil servants and indeed the generality
of Benue people to support the government
and its policies, including voting for
APC during the forthcoming elections.
But the publicity secretary of PDP, Bemgba
Iortyom who stated PDP does not have faction
in Benue also said that APC cannot win
the local government election because it is
not prepared for it.
According to him, “The ruling party by
very clear indications has failed the people.
Now, they are confronted with local government
elections, ordinarily, they were not
prepared to conduct the elections. They were
forced by court actions of PDP and APC
members that were aspiring to local government
positions before the election process
was truncated last year. So, they are not prepared
for the election.”
Leading the campaign for PDP at a recent
caucus of the party in Makurdi, the state capital,
former senate president, David Mark,
urged PDP members in Benue to mobilise
voters and work hard toward victory in the
local government polls.
“The PDP is not in power both at the
centre and in Benue, but it is still a good
brand we must cherish and work hard to
promote and protect.
“The only way forward is for us to unite,
work together and ensure that the party
is stable and peaceful. You must vote and
ensure that your vote count. You must also
avoid any enticement by rival political parties,”
Mark advised.
Also speaking at the above party caucus,
the PDP governorship candidate in
the 2015 governorship election in the state,
Terhemen Tarzoor urged party faithful to
work hard for the victory of the party in
the election, stressing that the only way
to prove party supremacy is to go to the
grassroots and win the forth coming local
government election across the state.
Can the APC consolidate its 2015 victory
over the PDP by winning the elections?
Has the PDP learnt any new thing since its
abysmal outing in 2015 that could make it
snatch power from APC? The state waits.

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