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Ortom and Benue’s political puzzle

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Ortom Wh APC ‘rigging machine’ collapsed in Benue

*Governor makes u-turn
*We’ll not allow him leave-Oshiomole
*APC’s assurance is a fluke, a paw in the bottle-Political analyst
*Party may sacrificeGov for Jime
*My stay in the party unresolved, an ongoing process-Gov

In Benue State, there is a political puzzle between Governor Samuel Ortom, the All Progressives Congress, APC, both the state chapter and the national headquarters, over Ortom’s place as a member of the party. Chief Correspondent, Sunday Ogli, writeson the current issues and intrigues ahead of 2019.

THERE is a twist in the politicsof Benue State. Governor Samuel Ortomhad claimed that he is being pushed out of the party by Senator George Akume who facilitated the platform with which he rode to power in 2015.

It all started last Monday during the swearing in ceremony of Jerome Torshimbe who replaced Titus Zam as Special Adviser on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.

The governor, at the event, told the unsuspecting audience that he has been issued a red card and as a result he is no longer a member of the APC.

“I have been given a red card and I am outside the pitch. So, if I have been given a red card and I am standing outside, I am a free man.

“So I don’t know what will happen next but I am waiting. If anyone approaches me, then I will tell Benue people that I am joining another ‘football club’. I am a child of destiny and it is only God that will decide what I will be,” Ortom said.

Upon getting knowledge of Ortom’s statement, the national secretariat of the party convened a conciliatory meeting between the governor and Senator Akume last Wednesday. While Akumehonoured the invitation, the governor, who was away in Kwara State to condole AlhajiAbubakarBaraje over the passage of his mother, allegedly called the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, to shift the meeting to Thursday.

Addressing journalists at the APC secretariat in Abuja, last Thursday, Governor Ortom said he has been assured by the party leadership that no individual in Benue has the power to push him away from the party.

“I was given a red card by a senator, but the leadership of the party told me that its decision is superior to any individual and I think that is good enough.

“We have spoken to him, he has spoken to me, stakeholders are going to be spoken to and that is where I belong. We have not concluded the matter, it is an ongoing process because I have always stood for peace and I always want peace to prevail.

“I appreciate the intervention and I hope we would be able to resolve our differences and this is the funny thing about politics. I am here in the APC, a member of the APC, I am still flying the flag of the APC, I only said I was given a red card but I have been corrected by the national chairman,” Ortom said.

The national chairman, while speaking, said Ortom would not be allowed to go back to his former party. “I have as the national chairman assured him that the APC does not have a red card in its cupboard so we cannot give what we do not have and we recognize that in several states, there could be legitimate legal issues, there could be agreements, disagreements, some contestations and these we are familiar with.

“In Benue, we are going for a win-win solution. Governor Ortom is not going anywhere. He is a very prominent member of our party. We appreciate his leadership in Benue and we will do everything possible to help those who have issues,’’Oshiomole emphasized.

However, political analysts see the reaction by the APC as a deft move to stop other governors from leaving the party. “The assurance given to Ortom is a fluke. The real intention is to stop the trending defection from the party by governors.”

Another analyst considered it a move to entrap Ortom and prevent him from defecting to the peoples Democratic Party, PDP, since that is the only credible opposition, not just in the state but in the entire country.

According to him, “APC has become a ‘paw in the bottle’ for Ortom. If he is not careful, the party will use whatever grievances Akume or even the presidency has with him over the anti-open grazing law to deal with him by refusing to allow him fly the flag of the party in 2019.”

The story of Governor Ortom has remained a sympathetic one since he took over the affairs of the state in 2015. In fact, naysayers never believedthat he would survivethe political alliance with his godfather, Senator George, until recently, when they parted ways.

Throughout this period, Ortom exhibited humility and absolute submission to Akume who many believed rode rough shod on the governor in several ways.

In those years, those close to the corridor of power in the state had reminded those of us who are not, that the governor was merely enduring the excesses of his godfather whose demands were ridiculous.

In fact, according to a close political associate of the governor, the three-year sojourn with Akume in the APC was like a journey through the valley of the shadow of death.

Besides taking over juicy positions at the state executive council, Senator Akume, who was also Governor of Benue State between 1999 and 2007, maintained his stranglehold over the party arrangement in such a manner that he had total control over party executives and delegates who decide the fate of aspirants seeking elective offices.

According to a source, it became obvious with the above political composition that Ortom who is the sitting governor does not have a voice in the APC arrangement in the state not to talk of having the opportunity to pick the party’s gubernatorial ticket for the general elections in 2019.

The governor was not comfortable with the development which many believed is skewed in favour of Emmanuel Jime, the currentChairman of Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority, NEPZA, who is said to have the backing of the federal government.

Jime on his part has not hidden the fact that he is interested in running for the governorship in 2019 as he has been holding several consultative meetings with stakeholders in the state and paying condolence visits to bereaved families, the recent being in Igede land.

Conscious of these developments, it became incumbent on the governor to seek an alternative political platform to pursue his second term ambition which perhaps, resulted in his recent declaration of being given a red card by the APC.

Another factor which may have triggered Ortom’s defection from the APC is Akume’s approach to issues which often result inabusive language. Most of his political allies and supporters who fell out with him could not forget Akume referring to them as animals.

One of Ortom’s many instances of being abused by Akume was during the presentation of staff of office to first class chiefs in Makurdi. According to a source, when the senatorarrivedthe venue of the event, he pointed at Ortom and started insulting him.

According to the source, “when Governor Ortom was to present the staff of office to the recently appointed first class chiefs in Makurdi, the time he was to deliver his speech and present the staff of office was when Senator Akumearrived.

“When he came in, he started pointing at Ortom, saying ‘you should be careful with me, you were nothing, I picked you from nowhere’ and all that.

“In fact Ortom had to bring down his hand right there in public.
Even at a meeting convened by the Catholic Bishop of Gboko Diocese, Bishop Avenya, Akume reportedly “said repeatedly that Ortom was stupid and a fool.”

“So things got to a point thatOrtom said since he was born he had not seen the kind of pressure Senator Akume brought to bear on him.”

Part of the pressure, the source said bothered on money, despite the fact that he has his loyalists overseeing juicy positions like the ministry of works, bureau for local government and Benue Internal Revenue Service, BIRS.

The above offices, particularly the bureau for local government and BIRS were reporting to Akume instead of Ortom who is the governor.

Therefore, the governor was reported to have said that “even if Akume used to cook cow eggs for him, he should cook his egg and eat, that he is no longer interested in the cow egg.

“And that if he has the governorship position in his pocket like a handkerchief, he should give it to whomever he wants, that he is not interested, it is impossible for them to work together again.

“So the governor saidAkume used to report him to so many people, to state his own side of the issue, he calls their political allies and narrate the issue to them. They all agreed to meet and speak with the senator and get back to him.

“Regrettably when they spoke with him, he was insulting everybody.

“So the governor thinks that the time God allotted to both of them to work together has elapsed and there is nothing anyone can do to bring them together again.”

Efforts to reach Senator Akume or his close associates to comment on the matter failed, but sources claimed that the senator has sworn to stop Ortom’s ambition owing to what he described as acts of disloyalty.

These acts, the source said included his posture on driving the anti-open grazing law to a logical conclusion, a decision which does not go down well with the federal government.

According to him, “Akume is not happy with Ortom. He will show him his true colour as he is going about hobnobbing with strange politicians; those who wished him well.

“You know him very well, this is his turf and he knows how to handle situations like this better. Ortom will see hell, he doesn’t know he is playing with the tail of a tiger, let him go ahead and fraternize the way he wants to, at the appropriate time, he will give account of his sins.”

Perhaps, the solution to the political intransigence will be determined after the meeting of stakeholders billed to be convened by the governor.

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