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Ortom’s defection: Battle ahead

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Ortom Wh APC ‘rigging machine’ collapsed in Benue

Last week’s defection from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, by the Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom, has yet again opened another vista of political conflict in the state. The clash which will come from all flanks, the APC, on the side of godfather of Benue politics, George Akume and the other, PDP governorship aspirants, will in the days to come be explosive in who and which party eventually governs the food basket of the nation as elucidated by Chief Correspondent, Sunday Ogli
AT laST, the bold action taken by the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, has put to rest speculations and tension which pervaded the political atmosphere in the last few weeks. After he was forced from traveling to Abuja where he was billed to meet with the leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC and urged to renounce his membership of the party by Benue youths, the governor went back to his office and announced his defection to his former party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The youths who laid siege on the governor at the early hours of last Wednesday, blocked the road leading to Government House, Makurdi, to prevent him from traveling, even as they displayed placards with several inscriptions: ‘Ortom don’t go back to APC’, ‘We don’t have land to donate for ranching,” “APC is Miyetti Allah party,” “Ortom is our party,” and “2019: On Ortom we stand.” Few hours after the youths stopped his trip, the governor announced his defection at a meeting with 13 elected council chairmen and 276 councilors, all of the APC stock at Government House, Makurdi. The chairmen and councilors also defected to APC. “I have just resigned from the APC, so I’m going to approach my ward and also get a card and get my name registered. It’s a familiar terrain; it’s a matter of reopening my name in the PDP list.” Before his defection, speculations
were rife as to which party he was going to defect to. While some thought he would defect to the Social Democratic Party, SDP, under which platform he served as chairman of his local government area, Guma in 1992, others said he would resolve the problem he had with his erstwhile political godfather and return to APC. Those who thought he would not defect to PDP argued that it would be an uphill task for the governor to pick the party’s governorship’s ticket against the backdrop of the disposition of some PDP gubernatorial aspirants, who had vowed to stop him from defecting to the party. The aspirants, according to sources, were privy to the arrangement between the governor and the nationalsecretariat of the party to the effect that he may be given automatic ticket if he defects to PDP and therefore threatened to do everything humanly possible to stop his defection to the party. Perhaps, it was this line of thinking that gave rise to the rejection of the governor’s defection by 13 governorship aspirants on the platform of PDP last Monday at a press conference in Abuja. They said they were”not against the return of defectors but against the return of people with negative values. The aspirants who spoke under the umbrella of the Forum of Governorship Aspirants, from the state, vowed to resist any attempt to disrupt the internal democratic process in the state chapter. The group said efforts must be intensified to “nip in the bud” what they called the”plot to shortchange the party’s executive in the state”. Led by Professor David Ker, the forum said the PDP had promised free and fair primaries, adding that anything short of that would spell doom for it. “We reiterate that a level playing field for a free, fair and transparent primary election which has been promised us by the Benue State leadership of the PDP remains the only option by which the party could credibly and successfully nominate a governorship candidate in the 2019 governorship election if indeed the party is serious at recapturing power from the present APC-controlled government in the state.“While we may not oppose any group or individuals from joining and participating in the affairs of the party in the state, we are strongly opposed to a purported unilateral decision to dissolve the executives of the party at all levels in the state to accommodate or give undue advantage to any group or person angling to join the party.” Other aspirants, including John Tondu, Terhemen Tarzoor, Paul Orhii, Gabriel Nyitse, Felix Atume David Iorhemna, Eugine Aliegba, Tor Iorapuu, Richard Gbawuan, Kenneth Iyo and Simon Anchaver, said the governor is a liability and has no electoral value to make the PDP beat. But the governor said he would consult with them. Fielding questions from journalists after his defection, Ortom said: “I’ll still consult with them. This is a game and we’ll play it together, you can’t stop anyone. So, there’s no cause for alarm. “They are all my brothers and so, there’s no issue. It doesn’t matter their misgiving about me. “Everybody has the freedom, I’ll go in and contest and I think that all that we should be concerned about is to work together.” The national secretariat of the party, in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbodinyan, lauded Ortom’s courage for dumping the APC, a political party in which he said has failed to defend Nigerian citizens as a result of avoidable killings across the country. In the same vein, the state chapter of the party under the leadership of Sir John Ngbede, have formerly welcomed the governor into its fold. The party in statement entitled “We welcome Governor Samuel Ortom into our great party,” and signed by the publicity secretary, Bemgba Iortyom, described Governor Ortom as a national officer of the party who has served as state secretary, state deputy chairman and national auditor. “His coming back into our fold, therefore, is a home-coming, one which has no doubt increased the membership strength of our great party, and in line with our cardinal objective to maintain continual membership growth. This is a welcome development. “It must be further stated here that the ongoing defections of politicians into the PDP is a reflection of the party’s quality as the most attractive and viable political platform ahead of the 2019 general elections; a platform which offers Nigerians the best guarantees for a return to good governance and true practice of democracy. “It is our assurance to the Benue State governor that it remains the general principle of the party that as a member, he is guaranteed rights and privileges entitled him under the party’s constitution, same as there are obligations prescribed to him therein. “Our adherence to the democratic best practices of Inclusive Participatory Internal Democracy has united the PDP membership and leadership in the state towards the goal of recapturing power at the 2019 elections, and it is our expectation that Gov. Ortom, as an experienced former party official, will key into this existing template in the overall best interests of the party,” the party stated. Meanwhile, the defection of the governor to the PDP, will swell the ranks of credible politicians who will work for the victory of the party in all the elections in 2019. The development would also avail the governor the opportunity to pursue and propagate the ideals of PDP and influence the return of other politicians, who defected from the party a few years ago. However, the governor has the responsibility of doing everything
humanly possible to offset the backlog of salaries which were accumulated, owing to the depleting accruals from the federation account. The opposition APC which until few days ago, was the ruling party in the state may, according to sources; capitalize on the salary matter to sabotage the governor’s efforts and that of his party, since majority of the electorate at the rural areas may be aware of the issues involved. Besides, even members of the PDP, particularly among those who are eyeing the governorship race may also use the nonpayment of salaries as a tool to campaign against the governor, since that was one of the issues they raised during their press conference in Abuja. The governor would also be conscious of that fact that he has stepped on the tiger’s tail by defecting to PDP and therefore, should be ready for assault from Senator George Akume, who is said to have tipped Hon. Emmanuel Jime, chairman of NEPZA, as the likely flag bearer of the APC for the 2019 gubernatorial election in the state. “Ortom has hit Akume where it hurts and the ‘political war lord’ is licking his wounds, therefore, the governor should be prepared to defend blackmail, propaganda and falsehood as they unveil in parcels,” an associate of Sen.” Akume stated last Thursday.

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