Less than five months to the primaries of most of the political parties in the country, politicians have intensified activities towards the next governorship election in Benue State. The much anticipated contest to succeed Governor Gabriel Suswam in 2015 has reached an interesting point, as aspiring persons continue to argue over factors that would be considered in determining who will succeed Suswam.
Several arguments have been made and the plethora of aspirants as to the best factors that should determine the right choice for the position. While some have argued that a more experienced and older aspirant should succeed Suswam, others expressed a desire that Suswam should follow the trend were almost all the past governors of the state were in their forties when elected.
The argument for an older and experienced governor is coming from the class of the elderly who at any given forum has criticised Suswam, seen as a young man who though meant well for the state, but he is considered to be lacking requisite experience in handling difficult state issues.
For instance, they point at the escalating Fulani and farmers crisis as one that needs a more experienced governor to handle. They also blame Suswam for not carrying the elders along in his government, a thing they believed an elderly governor occupying the position would not do.
At a recent burial of the father of Senator Joseph Akargerger, a former Minister of Steel, Paul Unongo, a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Abu King Shuluwa and Hon. Benjamin Chaha, took turns to blame the governor for the inadequate representation of the Tiv people in the planned National Conference, the Fulani crisis and the lack of interest that President Goodluck Jonathan has allegedly shown towards the state despite Suswam and the stateâ€™s support for him.
The statement of these elder statesmen has been viewed as a direct attack on the governor and the younger generation who are seeking to govern the state.
But for the younger politicians in their forties, their argument has been that the position of the governor, apart from needing experience, also needs a lot of energy which they claimed the elderly lack.
An observer, Ejimbi Oloja, told THISDAY that aspirants in their forties are highly favoured, looking at the tradition that had been established in the state.
“All the past governors from the late Aper Aku, Father Moses Adasu, George Akume and Gabriel Suswam became governors in their forties and the younger aspirants want the trend to continue despite the pressure,” he said.
One of the aspirants who pleaded anonymity said being young does not affect one being governor of the state, adding that Suswam has performed creditably well and deserves to be commended rather than condemned.
But in spite of the argument over age, one other factor that will determine the 2015 election is which zone should be allowed to occupy the position.
It has become very clear by the day that the 2015 governorship election is a direct fight between the people of Benue South also known as the people of Masev, Ihiarev, Nongov Development Association and a sub-group of the predominant Tiv Family lineage that occupies four council wards in Makurdi, Guma, Gwer west and Gwer east.
The Benue Southern zone with nine local government areas occupied by the predominant Idoma speaking tribe and the Igede people have yet to govern the state since its creation and have put up a serious argument for a power shift to the zone. One point they hold on to dearly is the fact that the Tiv-dominated Benue North-east and North Central have produce the last two governors in Akume and Suswam and so, it is natural that the position moves to the southern zone after Suswam.
One hitch the zone will face is how to convince the Tiv electorate to cast their votes for them in the race. The Tiv electorate had been rumored to be bitter with the leader of Idoma politics, Senator David Mark, for his bias against the Tiv people, especially when it comes to assisting the Tiv people in securing appointments in federal government establishment.
In an interview with reporters recently, Shuluwa, who is from Benue North-east, told Benue South to forget the 2015 election and based his reasons on Markâ€™s approach to the Tiv people. But his view has been dismissed by some Tiv people as well as a socio-political group, the Idoma Youth Progressives (IYPN).
According to the National President of IYPN, Mathew Ameh, Shuluwa and other critics of Mark got it all wrong. He said even though Mark is the Senate President, he is still the representative of the Benue Southern people in the senate. The zone has nine local governments under him with a very poor population.
“The demands for jobs from our people are so high and the senate president is trying his best to reduce poverty through job placement and in fairness, he has not done it to the detriment of our more populated brothers in the state. Since he became the senate president, no single Tiv man has failed screening at the senate and he has over three Tiv people as his staff at the National Assembly. So where is this story of marginalising the Tiv’s coming from? It appears they are not comfortable giving the people from the zone the position and so, they are using Mark as a scapegoat”
For the MINDA people, it is now or they would wait a long time. In the Tiv family lineage, the argument is that the governorship position is for the MINDA people. It is the only lineage of the five Tiv family that has not produced a governor for the state and the Tiv speaking people are determined that before the Idomas could have it, the MINDA should first complete the rotation amongst the Tiv family. The MINDA are backed by the huge Tiv population which is almost three times the size of the Idomas.
To show their intent, aspirants from the MINDA divide have been meeting under the umbrella of MINDA Governorship Aspirants (MGA) to fashion out the possibility of picking a single candidate from amongst them.
At the inaugural meeting held at the home of one of the aspirants, Felix Atume, immediate past registrar of Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), all the aspirants including Dr Samuel Ortom, Terhemem Tarzoor, Dr Ugim Aliegba, Professor David Ker and Dr Tivlumum Nyitse, agreed to work together in the collective interest of MINDA and perhaps, support anyone aspirant.
Curiously, the Benue South is yet to meet and take a collective decision on the governorship position in 2015 outside individuals that have shown interest.
Based on some of these factors, many prominent and qualified people from both the MINDA and Benue South have indicated interest in the position of governor in the 2015. Out of over 30 aspirants that have shown interest in the race, about 95 per cent is from the two blocks, clearly indicating that the position may have been zoned to both the MINDA and Benue south to slug it out.