By James Ibechi
The race for the Benue South senatorial election entered a fiery stage, Saturday as the Social Democratic Party(SDP) led by business mogul and retired Federal Permanent Secretary, Chief Mike Onoja stormed Otukpo in a historic rally.
Addressing a tumultuous crowd at the rally, the SDP senatorial candidate, Onoja, affirmed a resolve to end impunity and to dethrone the cabal who presides over politics in the Benue South, freely hires and fires loyalists and distributes political offices at will.
“The days a handful individuals decide what happens in Benue South are over. I have come to terminate the reign of the cabal and to start an era of developmental politics for the economic and political survival of our land ,” he said.
Onoja possesses the political will and paraphernalia to put his threat to work but will require his victory at the 2019 poll to actualizing this. Being a late starter, he needs more than an average tact and wisdom to pull through an election the immediate past minister of Interior, Abba Moro is leveraging on his good grassroots reach to win.
Moro emerged as senatorial candidate of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) after a controversial primary held in October which Onoja also featured in. Faulting the outcome of the PDP primary, Onoja bided farewell to the party and picked the ticket of SDP, ready to confront Moro at the February 2019 senatorial poll.
Both Onoja and Moro will contend with the APC candidate and immediate past deputy governor, Steven Lawani in the Benue South senatorial election.
Aside experience, Moro is counting on the popularity of PDP in the area to win. He is also taking advantage of his tutelage under David Mark to make an impression.
The immediate past president of the senate, Mark, will be willing to support his key ally so as to preserve his image and to sustain PDP in power but how this will translate to Moro’s victory among a public that has recovered from two decades of political pillage in the hands of their taskmaster and is unwilling to succumb to misery and chicanery of the past is a source of fresh worry in the camp of Abba Moro.
The larger than life political image of David Mark is crumbling as Onoja leads a crusade for a new political order in the Benue South. It is jubilation as the news of Onoja’s plan to succeed Mark in the red chamber of parliament spreads across the landscape.
Onoja was close to realizing his goal of succeeding Mark in 2015 but stepped down in the heat of the PDP primary election he was favoured to win.
Whatever influenced his dramatic retreat is gone and Onoja is determined to proceed to senate to restore hope to the people.
“I am going to senate to work. There is so much to do in Benue South after twenty years of PDP’s underperformance.”
Onoja wields a remarkable political influence he can utilize to attract lasting dividends to the area. His popularity was first tested at the 2007 PDP governorship primary which he emerged top in Benue South but lost to a warped a bizarre culture of votes donation at the state level. Those he defeated in 2007 included Moro and Lawani and this may not change in 2019 due to his growing popularity against diminishing solidarities for Lawani and Moro.
The reality of Onoja, Moro and Lawani meeting at the 2019 poll is the reason for current political alignment and late night meetings in Benue South among political leaders who arrogate to themselves the power to decide how the pendulum swings. Unless the leaders are noble in their decisions the people may abandon them to avoid a return to the trenches.
The cry for a fresh beginning is loud throughout the Benue South and a strong yearning for ‘new hands’ of the electorate a clear indication of a waning public confidence on old politicians like Moro and Lawani. As a cabinet minister, Moro was selective and only youths from a few political wards secured employment through him.
Aside from this Moro’s temperament and style are outmoded by the rising political consciousness while Lawani may battle with a rising perception of not being generous. This compared to Onoja’s unmatched records of generosity and clear thoughts, gives him an edge.