By James Ibechi
Relax convention, or just forgive my breaking of it, and let me start this insightful journalistic analysis like this: maybe, just maybe Chief Steve Lawani has no idea what the word contradiction means. Or he would not have said that APC showed Ortom the exit door from the party because of poor performance in an interview he recently granted Vanguard, whereas in another breathe earlier, during the state Congress of the party, Same person alongside other party stakeholders lauded the same governor for good performance, the basis on which the party handed the governor a consensus visa into second term.
I think many people would view Chief Lawani as contradictive, dishonest and bereft of truth. And these traits do not befit an aspiring senator who is once deputy governor.
Well, that is just a digression. I still abide by the code. So let us return to the headline: 2019: ‘APC, PDP In Test Of Strength In Benue’.
Despite mass defections from the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue State, senatorial aspirant and immediate past Deputy Governor, Chief Steven Lawani has further said that the APC is deeply rooted and can withstand the storm.
But a former member of the National Assembly, Senator J.K.N Waku disagrees with him, stating that mass defections from the party leaves much for concern and the probability of the party losing the next election in Benue state is high.
Lawani observed that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) lacked the capacity to win the 2019 general elections and defections from APC in a few states were not a significant breakthrough for PDP.
He noted that APC had a strong presence in many states of the federation to retain power in 2019 and PDP would wait 20 years to return to power.
Lawani is counting on his political influence and achievements as Deputy Governor to win victory for APC in Benue South senatorial district, while Senator Waku’s fear for the party in the state derives from emerging political development and Governor Samuel Ortom’s defection to PDP.
Waku contends that Governor Ortom’s political credentials are intimidating and his influence arresting.
He explains that Ortom is a reasonable political force in the state and there is no doubt that APC will miss him.
But Lawani differs, stating that performance and reality favour APC and PDP does not constitute a threat.
In Benue South senatorial district, the gale of defections has taken many political gladiators away from APC.
Notable politicians left in APC include the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe and Lawani, both from Ogbadibo Local Government Area. Another notable politician still in APC is Dr. Isaac Egboja, a senatorial aspirant for the Benue South. Many elected political office holders are currently in PDP.
In Ado Local Government Area, all elected political office holders alongside influential political leaders are currently in PDP. This goes for Otukpo, Ohimini, Agatu, Apa, Okpokwu, Oju and Obi Local Government Areas that make up the senatorial district.
Albeit Rt.Hon. Nick Eworo representing Obi at the state Assembly and the present chairman of Oju LGC, Austine Okwoche have not said that they are decamping from APC.
Go to Benue North East (Zone A), immediate past Governor and chieftain of PDP, Gabriel Suswam has firmed-up iron fist around the electorate. The combined influence of senators George Akume and Barnabas Gemade was required to win the area for APC in 2015 when Suswam was yet in power.
The Akume and Gemade winning formula has dwindled by recent development and the formidable presence of PDP in the zone is red alert for APC.
A killer punch against Suswam in his senatorial ambition in 2015 was the non-payment of salary for five months. APC is counting on this factor to trounce PDP in the next election as Governor Samuel Ortom contends with a similar salary crisis with arrears of an upward of five months.
While Governor Ortom is sincerely exploring possible avenues to pay all outstanding salaries to workers, APC thinks that this will not substantially change the vote.
The economy of Benue State depends largely on the salary of workers. When the salary is pended, the banks are out of business, markets, schools and every business outlets are crippled.
Some critics of PDP as a party note that the coincidence of Suswam and Ortom in PDP indicates that salary crisis is a culture of the opposition party and APC is likely to use this to its advantage; while other pundits of the APC in the state say the inability of Ortom to pay salaries while still in APC could be largely blamed on Akume’s leadership of the APC government, reason Ortom had to exit the party when push came to shove.
But the current policies of APC have reached to the grassroots level and the rural populace is not likely to shun the party. Beneficiaries of N-Power and Food vendors are in a large proportion and may want to protect their interests.
Analysts believe that there is a growing political awareness and the culture of blind followership is reducing, therefore, political leaders will lose their relevance in many communities and people will vote their conscience in 2019. They believe voters will vote because of individual and not because of party, which means wherever the choice individuals maybe – whether in APGA, SDP, PDP or APC – voters will go to vote them there.
According to APC bad eggs PDP claimed had decamped to APC are now returning home (PDP) and the party has regained stability. Also the gradual ‘ballooning’ of PDP with the return of members from exile may cause an implosion APC may profit from.
The trio of Akume, Ogbe, Egboja and Lawani in APC will surely test strength against the combination of Samuel Ortom, David Mark, Gabriel Suswam, Iorchia Ayu, Abba Moro, John Ngbede and Agbo Emmanuel in PDP as 2019 beckons.