By James Ibechi
Former Governor Gabriel Suswam might not be the one who mooted for Terhemen Tarzor the idea of joining the race for Makurdi North State constituency’s seat at the Benue State House of Assembly. But he was the one who handpicked the ex-lawmaker and made him speaker in the past.
Tarzor’s reign as speaker of the House was ephemeral because Election Petitions Tribunal’s verdict, confirmed by appellate court sitting in Makurdi, sacked him not long after he became speaker of the House.
Kicking Tarzor out of the Assembly, the court premised its judgement on massive electoral fraud. The court established electoral malpractice and fraud against him and his election into the Assembly.
Consequently, it could be written of Tarzor that his political trajectory has a scintilla and an odour of fraud, as at least, the court by that judgement had established it so.
However, when Benue voters rejected him in the 2015 governorship poll, in preference for Dr. Samuel Ortom, his rejection was not necessarily predicated on his being an electoral fraudster. There was no evidence of a link between his loss of the guber seat and his sack from the Assembly in the past.
Rather, his rejection at the poll was because of Suswam, who, as it was palpable, Benue people did not want to see anything or anyone that had Suswam’s imprimatur or anything to do with the former governor in the political firmament of the state anymore; because his legacies were considered as ruined.
With the immense power of the governor and the alleged looted billions at his disposal to buy the governorship seat for his anointee, who would have thought he could lose a ticket to go to Senate let alone lose the governorship for Tarzor to Ortom? But all the hopes for the two slots crumbled like a pack of cards.
So Benue people dissatisfied with Suswam’s performance and they did not hide it in the general elections. They did not allow him to foist Tarzor with a scent of fraud on them. And now they have a new baby, a fresh hope in Ortom and they must guard him jealously against the PDP’s opposition or predation.
But the extent to which people can guard him with their mere goodwill is limited by legal issues. And now, the cloud is ominous. With the current legal fireworks that are on going in the tribunal and at the court, the probability of having PDP/Tarzor removed Ortom is one.
But I guess someone would say God forbid! Yes, because that will be a very big setback for a state still in the euphoria of celebration of freedom from whatever PDP was to the state. Or was it Suswam?
Ortom and APC media machine have already gone to work to try to douse rising political tension as a result of uncertainty over the unknown tribunal verdict that comes shortly.
But do we pretend that all is well in the state that has been reduced to a basket of political intrigues and suspense?
At the heart of the matter is the manner Ortom emerged candidate of the APC in the April governorship election in the state.
Until the day Ortom was pronounced candidate of the party by the state’s APC leader, Senator George Akume, he was a member of the PDP and guber aspirant of the party.
However, moments after losing the party’s guber ticket to Tarzoor, Ortom surfaced at state APC sectretariat in Markurdi where Akume handed him the APC ticket. This was in utter negation of the principle of primary as pescribed by the Electoral Act and INEC.
Ortom himself would gleefully declare, before a Television cameras that he did not emerge candidate of APC through any primaries but ‘through God’s doing’.
His controversial emergence polarised the state APC, with original members of the party wondering why a stranger should be allowed to reap where he did not sow.
As it were, the defeated PDP candidate is relying on this to ask the Tribunal to declare that the APC did not have any candidate for election, Ortom having emerged through ‘God’s doing’, a process alien to the law.
Tarzoor’s case is helped by INEC which also testified that APC never conducted guber primaries. He is therefore, in his petition, asking the Tribunal to declare him winner of the guber polls.T
Tarzoor polled 313,878 votes to come second against Ortom’s 422,952 votes.
Ortom’s woes are also compounded by his opponents in his party who are pained by the manner he was imposed on the party as its guber candidate. One of them is his rival for the APC ticket, Emmanuel Jime who was in January chosen by the party as its consensus guber candidate before Akume gave Ortom the party ticket.
A leader of the party in the state, Sen. Joseph Waku was equally up in arms against the governor. Apart from Tarzor,Jime and Waku were also in court contesting Ortom’s choice as their party’s guber flagbearer. But the duo of Jime and Waku was recently said to have reconciled in the interest of the party.
Despite that, the fear of APC losing the state is potent and real.