694776 – Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP); 109680 – Consensus for Positive Change (CPC); 8592 – All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP); 223007 – Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN)
The elections in Benue have been very interesting and captivating. It has been so especially with the whole sway of opposition that seemed to appear from nowhere sometime ago especially as represented by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) gubernatorial candidate, Prof. Steven Tokuma Ugbah and to a larger extent, the man looked at as his godfather plus money bag, Senator George Akume, who is a former Governor of the state.
The National Assembly elections held some weeks back were dramatic and had the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) still dominate in the winning, with accusations of malpractice from ACN – who trailed a bit behind on the victory rung. An example is the celebrated case of Hon. Uhondo who contested on the platform of the ACN for the Makurdi/Guma Federal Constituency, who was defeated by the incumbent Hon. Emmanuel Jime after the former’s emphatic victory in Makurdi. The argument also stems from the fact that Jime’s eventual triumph came as a result of his victory in the less populated Guma, that Uhondo ironically hails from. There is the challenged victory of Senator David Mark by General Onoja who also produced pictures that he had to support his claim. Asked where he got them, he is said to have replied simply ‘I was a General. Once a General, always a General.’
The Presidential elections (results of parties with highest votes shown above) showed a greater leaning to the PDP than shown in the National Assembly elections. Several people have attributed this to be the lack of a consensus candidate between the ACN and CPC. PDP faithful have pointed out that this argument is invalid as the amount cast for PDP is far more than a combination of the other major contenders. The final argument by some of the opposition is that they voted for President Goodluck Jonathan and not the PDP. Well, whatever it is, there is still one day of elections coming up soon to settle all disputes and show everything as it is.
Concerning the general conduct of the election, it seems that despite the overall ‘free and fair’ stance that has baptized the whole process by observers, there have been some not so fair actions going on. There has been the usual pay (bribe) for vote culture continuing. This has found general meetings and doling out of huge amounts of cash to party strategists to be used to ‘convince’ people in their area to vote for candidates of that party in the election. It has been two fold, one which involves giving gifts to the collation officers in charge of Local Governments and ensuring that they are comfortable by powerful figures. A certain officer averred that he and his fellow officers get fifty thousand for each election. Hmm… He who pays the piper… On the election day proper canopies are set up in some places and refreshments given to people so they appreciate the goodness later by thumbing ‘right.’
There has also been lots of intimidation of people. Not in few cases have people been sent away from polling units by fierce looking people after confirmation of their loyalties to a differing party.
Ignorance has also been played on greatly. Now, it might seem quite easy but the new thumbprint ‘thing’ is still a wonder to several people especially in the more rural parts. People who are not so knowledgeable and ask how to thumbprint have their thumbs placed on the inkpad and told ‘Like this’ with their thumbprint forcefully put on the party of this ‘shower.’ Fortunately, for most of these voters, it happens once. It brings to mind the case of an old Baba who was told to come and ‘learn’ again. The vehemence that accompanied his reply was enough to allow him have his legitimate say…
Security concerns continue to be a source of worry. From the general uneasiness that started before the elections evident at the Ter Kwande’s burial, security has become an issue of concern. Some politicians are threatening to disrupt elections in places where they have noticed that there is strong presence of differing parties. Rumours of militia hurting people and threats of assassination to several individuals still rent the air. As it is now, there are accusations and counter-accusations between all the parties. Meanwhile, there was some disquiet in Gboko and unconfirmed news that Honourable Tsegba’s house was torched…
One final day of elections comes forth with the seats of Senatorial Zone B, the State House of Assembly and the big one, the Governorship. Campaigns have started anew with Governor Suswam going to the Benue State University, Makurdi to explain several issues especially the ‘overt’ school fee increment that he said was done solely by the school management though he doesn’t think it is unfair. Then, it was Harvest FM to explain some policies of his and do some more campaigning. His key slogan now is Benue has to stay in mainstream politics and as such should vote him so he can ensure this. Yes, he also has projects that he has started which he hopes to conclude in addition to many more. Top contender, Professor Steve Ugbah has not rested touring the state on campaigns. It sure seems that this is going to be one of the toughest Holy weeks for any of the contenders. No doubt they would pray their best, die with Christ on Friday and hope to enjoy Easter. Who continues in celebration after that remains to be seen with the two of them looking formidable. The major Senatorial contestants for Zone B Senator George Akume of the ACN and Honourable Terngu Tsegba of the PDP (both of them incumbent lawmakers at the Senate and House of Representative levels respectively) are still squaring it.
On the gubernatorial end, the strength of the opposition is a general love by the populace that has stemmed from the seeming dislike that people have for the incumbent government, who they accuse of not having done any tangible project and being ‘stingy.’ Governor Suswam has tried a lot in the last few weeks to clear the air on this, though people are wondering why he never mentioned anything till now. He has also been generous, donating items like motorcycles and some cash which people have aptly called ‘Ugbah yimam’ (a Tiv phrase meaning Ugbah has saved me, to imply that if Prof. Ugbah and the opposition had not come on the scene, such presents wouldn’t have come). Prof. Ugbah has the sympathies of students who believes he would make their condition better. His weakness lies first in the power of incumbency and a dislike for the major sponsors of the party (e.g. Senator Akume and Dr. Iyorchia Ayu). Governor Suswam has in his favour concerns that Prof. Ugbah might not be able to rule well having come from America and being ignorant of the local politics and terrain of Benue – which the latter has denied and tried to prove wrong severally. The new face of the Governor as amiable, project oriented and generous are also some points. The general victories of the PDP are a further boost to his confidence. His link to President Jonathan might also play to his favour. His major weakness lies in his late start to being the people’s ‘Governor.’ There is also a strong resolve to have change at all costs. There is the ill will of students across the state – in the university where the school fees has skyrocketed; students of other institutions that had been on strike for long – all these wrongly timed to this period. The continuous support and goodwill that the ACN continues to get might also not play in the interest of the Governor. The two contenders for Zone B also have their issues with Senator Akume’s major strength being the love that people have for him as a result of his magnanimity and eventful tenure as Governor that though mocked previously is being said to be far better than the current regime. His weakness comes mainly from a rejection by the Tor Tiv, Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula who the Senator has had some sour experience with during this season. Senator Akume’s opponent, Hon. Terngu Tsegba’s strength are his seeming achievements as a Representative and key man in the Federal House of Representatives. He is however looked at by several people as someone who would not be able to hold forth. He also doesn’t occupy a big place in people’s hearts. In the end, it looks like the Senate seat would be given to the man with lesser evil and more love. The contest to watch would definitely be the Gubernatorial.
As always, the general prayer is that peace should reign and elections should be as fair as possible. May God grant us leaders who would take us to the next level of peace, progress and sustainable development, Amen.