In about a month from now, eligible voters in Benue South Senatorial District made up of Ado, Agatu, Apa, Otukpo, Okpokwu, Ogbadibo, Ohimini, Oju and Obi will be trooping to the polls to elect their senator.
The questions that immediately comes to mind is what are the variables that will guide the electorate in making their choice. In Benue South Senatorial distinct today, many independent-minded political observers are of the opinion that the contest is largely between, the former Deputy Governor of the state, Chief Stephen Lawani of All Progressive Congress (APC) and others.
These observers in Idoma speaking areas of the state believe that this time around, the APC as a party has made a wise choice because of the antecedents of Chief Lawani whom the Idoma people have honoured with the title of the Ochagwu of Idoma land, which was re-enforced by the Federal Government of Nigeria with a national honours award of the order of the Federal Republic (OFR) would have been a senator representing his Senatorial district over two decades ago but for the unfortunate death of the then military head of state, Gen. Sani Abachi, in the middle of his transition programme in 1998.
The APC candidate started his early life like every other average youth when he enrolled into St. Augustine’s Primary School Otukpo, Mount Saint Michael Secondary School, Aliade, in the present Benue State and later proceeded to the prestigious Government College, Kaduna, where he did his Higher School Certificate Course (HSC) and in recognition of his leadership qualities he was made the school’s deputy head boy. He then secured admission to pursue a degree in Economics at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), graduating with a B.Sc. (Hons).
Armed with these qualifications and other certificates from oversea courses Chief Stephen Lawani was appointed into several prominent positions and was a one-time chairman of the deformed Savannah Bank, chairman of Nigeria Hotels Limited where he offered employment to dozens of deserving Benue State indigenes cutting across all local government Areas of the state especially those in Benue South Senatorial district.
Stephen Lawani is greatly worried that since the return of democracy in 1999 the people in the Senatorial district have not had a fair deal because their condition of living have continued to deteriorate as no single viable and meaningful democratic dividend has been brought to their land.
He has, therefore, entered the race not because he seeks anything for himself, but he strongly believes that he can make a difference in the life of the people.
One of the characteristics that has continued to govern the life of this gentle man is that he is not given to empty words and grandstanding but his words are his bond. For example, many Agatu people may not be aware that he was instrumental to the construction of the road from Oshugbudu to Obagaji which was a nightmare to motorists in the Local Government Area following passionate pleadings from late Bishop Benjamin Achigili that he should urgently intervene when he was a deputy governor.
Just recently at a rally at Obagaji the headquarters of Agatu Local Government Area recently when hundreds of people decamped to his party, he lamented the poor state of education in Idoma land but emphatically more so in Agatu citing an example that there is no presence of any tertiary institution in Idoma land and told the mammoth crowd that the situation was unacceptable and must be corrected soonest.
At different fora, Chief Lawani had a cause to caution the Idoma people not to be deceived once again by same politicians who believed that the destiny of the entire people rest with this self-styled leaders who over the years have contributed nothing meaningful to the development of their land.
A Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, like Caesar’s wife, should not only be above board, but should also be a man of an impeccable character, with no controversy baggage. He must be a man of honour and integrity. Chief Lawani has conducted himself creditably in all his activities both in and out of positions that he had previously held. Above all, he has remained his own man and will not be dictated to.
Many Idoma people agree with this aspirant when he noted in many of his campaign outings that “If the Idoma people can take their destiny in their own hands there will be enough for everybody’s needs but certainly not individual’s greed as has been the case in the past years.”
Happily for Chief Lawani, his campaign has been made easy by hundreds of frustrated and angry prospective voters who are mainly teachers and local government workers whose salaries have not been paid for months resulting in their wards who are now out of school because they cannot pay school fees.
His influence and connection in the present APC-led Federal Government has resulted in the massive road construction that is currently going on from the General Hospital end of the road up to the Enugu road roundabout in Otukpo. This stretch of the road which is not up to three kilometers and passing through the heart of the town is a nightmare to both motorists from outside the town and within the metropolis.
In addition, the Oweto-loko bridge with the determination of the present Buhari government that the project be given accelerated attention, will soon be open to motorist cutting a journey that will last over five hours to Abuja and other northern parts of Nigeria.
Furthermore, plans are underway for the approved School of Health Services at Otada-Otukpo is to be upgraded to full-fledged university. It is a priority which he and notable APC leaders in Idoma land are determined to actualise in the next academic year.
Finally those who know this icon of Idoma land believe that he is a clean hearted personality who eschews all forms of iniquitous tendencies and who detests gallivanting and making loud noises just to achieve relevance.
The proverbial story of the elephant and the ants is apt here: The elephant can trumpet and shake the earth but not the self-possession of the ants that hold the soil! Consequently Chief Stephen Lawani is quietly working with all notable Idoma sons and daughters to ensure that he achieves victory come February 16, 2019.
Usman Adams writes from OtukpoNo tags for this post.