By James Ibechi (Makurdi) and Ejikeme Omenazu (Lagos)
Recently, the Benue State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has increased its opposition strategies in the state. The party has recently taken its attack against the administration of Governor Samuel Ortom to a higher level.
Observers of the unfolding developments in the state are now witnessing an upsurge in the criticisms of the former ruling party, now turned opposition, against the new administration in the media in recent times.
This is to ensure that the party recaptures the state from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) government. The party now seems to be picking the pieces after suffering an electoral loss in the last governorship election. The former Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, and the immediate past governor, Gabriel Suswam, who is seen as the party’s leader in the state, and the party’s state chairman, Emmanuel Agbo, are presently fine-tuning strategies for the rebirth of the former ruling party.
The PDP, which has become Ortom’s main traducer, has adopted the potent weapon by using social and traditional media to make several allegations against the governor, who many now see as “the adorable new baby of Benue.”
Thus, it is not strange for people to read of some unwholesome allegations in online and traditional media against the new government.
Three chieftains of the Benue Chapter of the PDP, rising from a stakeholders’ meeting of the party in Makurdi recently, alleged that Gov. Samuel Ortom used his 100 days in office to lay foundation for massive corruption in the state. They pointed to why loans of N10 billion and N5.5 billion were obtained, yet salary arrears of workers have not been cleared. The PDP chieftains include Gabriel Suswam, Comrade Abba Moro and Agbo Emmanuel.
Ex-governor Suswam accused Ortom and the APC of being responsible for the news of his arrest in the UK, which he described as falsehood; over the alleged beating of his wife and that the Ortom administration used that to dampen the spirit of PDP members in the state. He maintained that Ortom was witch hunting the PDP.
The PDP State Chairman, Agbo, on his own described Ortom as an interim governor and that his mandate is a stolen one. He also accused Ortom of corrupt practices, although he could not substantiate it.
One George Ocheja, writing in some sections of the media, alleged that Ortom is not prepared for leadership and that he does not have a large heart for leadership.
According to him, Ortom had nothing to celebrate in his 100 days in office while his counterparts in other states were celebrating landmarks achievements.
He faulted the setting of two probe panels on purchase of cars for government officials, stressing that Ortom could not account for the loans he has so far obtained.
He added that the move by Ortom to renovate Governor’s Lodge was not only needless, as the complex is not yet due for renovation.
It would be recalled that after several Benue politicians, who were traditionally of the PDP family, had dumped the party for the APC in the last elections following Ortom’s defection after he was allegedly cheated out of the state’s gubernatorial primaries, those who are left in the party (PDP) have now turned their war machines against the governor.
The Benue PDP, in its current war against Ortom, is only following the footsteps of the party’s national headquarters, which through its spokesman, Olisa Metuh, has continued to pummel President Muhammadu Buhari at the centre the same way the APC’s Lai Mohammed did to the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, which he (Mohammed) saw as rudderless.
However, what is at state now in Benue, as it is all over the nation, including the Federal Government, is good governance, provision of democracy dividends, accountability, probity and essence of politics, which those who believe in Ortom maintain that he is providing for the people now after what they see as the 16 years of disaster during the administration of PDP in the state. To the people, the new governor now seems to be redressing what they see as unfair treatment of the past.
During a PDP stakeholders’ meeting recently, the state chairman, Emmanuel Agbo, lamented the loss of the state to the APC even as he urged his fellow party chieftains to seek ways of returning the state to his party’s grip.
For the avoidable of doubt, PDP’s problem started with its unpopular action of rejecting the popular will of the people, represented by Ortom, then its strong chieftain and governorship aspirant during the primaries. A protest vote by the people in favour of Ortom saw to the defeat of PDP after he had jumped ship to the APC. This, observers see as the effect of PDP’s tardy way of doing things. The people saw PDP are running corrupt primaries through impunity. Tke PDP chieftains in Benue now seem poised to return the party to reckoning, even as the average Benue man seem to agree to sink or sail with Ortom.
Those Benue people who fall behind their governor point to the sad situation whereby several PDP chieftains in different parts of the country, at one point or the other during their stewardship to the state and the nation, were facing probes, or are presently facing investigative panels for allegations ranging from financial malfeasances, gunrunning, party’s maladies to general corrupt practices.
At a recent stakeholders’ meeting of the party, in what appeared like a review of Ortom’s 100 days in office, allegedly levelled what some close watchers of political activities in the state have already passed off as unsubstantiated allegations against the governor.
The PDP chieftains reportedly accused Ortom administration of corruption, among other allegations.
But, to the government’s side, such allegations, they have so far failed to substantiate.
As analysts stress, the Ortom administration has moved against crime and criminals in the state and no one should expect any protection, even if they continue to allege witch-hunting by the administration.
It is in this respect that observers see the recent allegations of corruption, witch hunting, and false propaganda being levelled against Ortom, as credited to the PDP in the media, as baseless.
It is instructive that the Ortom’s traducers have so far made efforts to prove or substantiate any of the allegations against the governor.
Close watchers of events in the state may maintain that since his assumption of office, the governor has been disclosing the full situation on ground.
He has also been giving regular accounts of monies received and how they are being spent.
This, they see as being consistent with his policy of transparency and accountability. They point at Ortom’s judicious use of scarce resources in the state which has seen the commencement of payment of full salaries, reopening of the Benue State University, full accreditation of the College of Health Sciences for five years, ongoing comprehensive rehabilitation of the School of Nursing and Midwifery for re-accreditation, resumption of pumping of water in Utobi and Katsina-Ala, as well as ongoing construction of laboratories at the College of Agriculture, Yandev.
Also, there has been the commencement of the upgrade of facilities at the permanent NYSC camp in Wannune, release of funds for the completion of the House of Assembly complex and resumption of work on the Daudu-Gbajimba road and several other projects.
They also mention the return of development partners to the state and rekindling of confidence in governance.
They therefore feel that there was no basis for the PDP chiefs in the state to level allegations of corruption against Ortom.
Therefore, the common belief in the state, especially among the governor’s lovers, is that the PDP is trying to pay back Ortom in the APC’s coins, not only due to the no-love-lust situation between the two parties at every level, but also due to how Ortom ditched the party to emerge not only the APC’s flag bearer, but also the Benue State chief executive at their expense.
But, how far they can the PDP stalwarts go in the attack against Ortom in order to regain control of Benue State, only time will tell.