‘But for godfatherism, I was to beat my male opponents in the Primaries – Barr. Otor Jane’
Barr. Otor Jane, Principal Partner of Otor Jane & Associates, is a Makurdi-based legal practitioner and a former House of Representatives aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC in the 2019 General Elections. In this interview with select media including jamesibechi.com and Independent Newspapers Lagos, She reflects on the election experience.
You were the only female aspirant for the Oju/Obi federal constituency seat. What was your experience before, during and after your party’s primary?
Just like you have rightly observed, I was the only female aspirant under the platfom of the All Progressives congress from Oju/Obi Federal Constituency in Benue state. It was a challenging moment in my life, as it was the first time that I vied into active participation in politics. It was a welcome development from every nook and cranny of the constituency. I was highly encouraged. I was actually moved by the challenge of my town and wanted to change the narrative of the political scenario. But somehow, as we know, party primaries in Nigeria are usually at the whims and caprices of godfathers. It was at that moment our effort was truncated. Nevertheless, I kept faith with the party. I worked tirelessly to see that my party emerges victoriously, despite the manner in which the primaries were conducted.
What were your plans for the Oju/Obi constituency if you had contested and won the election proper?
So many plans! Like I told you earlier, I came in not out of pressure or to show up. I came in because I was challenged by what I saw. I came in to change the hand of time and the narrative. I discovered that when you travel far and near and take a look, you discover that Oju Local Government is above 40 years, and it is one of the largest local governments in the country. In terms of development you cannot count it. So it actually beats my imagination and if given the opportunity I actually wanted to bring it to the development map in Nigeria in terms of infrastructural development; because if you are talking about food security, if you are talking about food basket of the nation, Oju contributes a very high percentage yet there is no rural network and there is no road. In fact, the level of infrastructural decay is alarming and it’s disappointing. These are the area I will attract in my constituency if given the opportunity.
Would you say your gender affected your performance in the Primaries?
Not at all. I cannot say my gender has actually affected me. If it has affected me whatsoever, it was positively, because I received serious encouragement. Like I said earlier, it was the act of godfatherism – not allowing the conduct of the primaries to be free and fair. It was a handpick thing. So it wasn’t as if I was not voted in the primaries because of gender. No! If it was allowed I know I was going to beat my male counterparts.
What was your acceptability rating compared to others?
I received acceptance even across party lines. Members of other political parties saw me as an asset. They told me if I ‘can scale through being the only female’, and being the first time a woman from that axis could venture into such a game, it was a challenge to them to say that I clinch the seat giving the background I am coming from, as a lawyer. It was part of the merit they saw in me and the fact that I am not just a lawyer, a legal private practitioner who has been practicing for quite some times. So I know if given the opportunity under a free and fair primaries I was going to scale through.
The party primaries of the APC were controversial in almost all the states of the federation including particularly in your constituency. What would you attribute that to?
Simple! Godfatherism. Even across the nation it’s still the act of godfatherism. This one wants this; these are party stalwarts; it is the candidate of the party stalwarts that must go. Not the wishes of the masses and in particular the constituency where I come from. Somebody wanted to hijack the identity of the place. And so in a way it has affected the performance of the party in the general elections, giving room for the candidates of other political parties who were unknown to become popular overnight. So I think it’s a food for thought for us to learn tomorrow that in democracy as it is said that democracy is government of the people by the people and for the people. So allow participation of the people and you will have a very peaceful atmosphere even in general elections.
Would you like to take another shot at the same position or another in 2013?
It all depends, if zoning favors me why not? After all President Muhammed Buhari tried so many times; he clinched the ticket of the presidency after four times. So I wouldn’t mind if the zoning favors my place because I am still pregnant to see that things change.
How do you see the declaration of Benue governorship election as inconclusive by INEC? What is your advice to Benue people in this regard?
Whatever has given risen to the inconclusiveness of the election is best known to the electoral empire which is INEC. My advice to all the parties and in particular the candidates, is to be calm and awaits the rerun and accept the outcome of it either way. The seat is just one; whether the seat of the governor or any other and it is one person that must occupy the seat. Becoming desperate or making it a do or die gives me the impression that you are not coming to serve the people because you cannot do or die to serve the people. So I believe that the atmosphere should be relaxed, you don’t count yourself until the umpire declares you winner. And if you are dissatisfied rather than ordering your supporters to go on rampage or destructions of lives and properties you should take a legal channel to address your grievances.
What is your take on the performance of Gov Samuel Ortom in his first term?
Rather than saying yes or no, I will make an analysis of his administration. As you can agree with me, this is a purely civil service state. In a civil service state, what is paramount is salaries of workers. That is the paramount achievement of any governor in a civil service state being not an industrial state like Lagos where you can find alternatives in business and other things. Any governor who governs in a purely civil service state and who fails to live up to his expectation in payment of salaries certainly must be adjudged to be underperformed. And in this case it will not be out of place to so rank my governor. I campaigned for him tirelessly in 2015 elections, not for any interest but I thought expecting him to beat his incumbent, the person he was taking over from. But unfortunately while that one was chased out for owing up to four to six months, as I am talking now some civil servants at the local government or state are being owed arrears ranging from ten months, eleven months, and seventeen months. So given this scenario it will be wrong on my part to say he has performed very well. These are remedial problems it can be remedied.
The governor said it was because he was in APC he wasn’t able to pay salaries. Do you agree with that?
Anyway he has not told us while he was in APC he wasn’t given allocation from the federal government. He has also not denied that while in APC Paris Funds and other bailouts were given to him. Was he denied all these funds? If he wasn’t denied his defense cannot avail him. So he did not deny accessing this funds then his defense cannot avail him at all because these funds were main to either develop a state and pay salaries of workers can he account for them? N28billion for something was given as Paris fund at different installments, what becomes of them, what is the wage bill of Benue state that cannot be offset? We hear contradictions, while the former governor still maintains his stance even in his recent press release, that is Gabriel Suswam the senator-elect maintains that up to this moment the wage bill of Benue has not even increased to N3billion not to talk about the acclaimed N7billion. Something is wrong somewhere. It’s either somebody is using the wage bill to siphon money or something is happening somewhere. So I believe that, that is not a good defense.
Would you say that Emmanuel Jime of APC would be a better governor than the incumbent Gov Ortom?
I think so. Given the chance, the opportunity, given every support like Governor Ortom has been given I think Jime will be better.
What is your dream for Benue State?
My dream for Benue is to be ranked in the development map of Nigeria. I want Benue to come first in everything we do, social, economical and even educationally because we are all given the opportunity. This idea of looking ourselves under developed it is a new cast to ourselves; we should librate ourselves from that underdevelopment and bring ourselves to competition. What of Ebonyi of yesterday? Look at the rate of development there. What of Nasarawa of yesterday? It was just created in 1991. Benue state was created almost twenty years before Nasarawa, but the pace of development is not the same. Something is wrong somewhere, our attitude to governance must be changed if we must go far beyond our level; until we disabuse our minds from such behavior we won’t go anywhere.
So I believe Benue can still be better than this under good leadership.
What are your final words?
My people, Benue state, election is not a do or die. We are here again preparing for rerun. Nobody should engage any child, any man or woman for any thuggery either suspecting that you are going to be sub changed. It’s about people; if you are clinching to any leadership around people then you don’t need to be desperate about that. That is my take and I enjoin every Benue indigenes to be calm and await the final declaration by the umpire.