Benue 2023: The chances of Suswam, Ortom, others

Benue state governor Samuel Ortom

As activities intensify for the 2023 general elections, one of the states to watch in the election is Benue. Three of the state’s former governors, former minister of justice and attorney general of the federation, former and current PDP national chairmen and several others will actively be involved in the election. This is really a spectacular state to watch.

The governorship election and two of the senatorial seats will be more spectacular.
In the governorship election, there are many candidates to watch. Senator Barnabas Gemade, Rev Fr Hycenth Alia and Chief Mike Aondoakaa SAN all of the APC. Then Hon. Terwase Orbunde, Dr Paul Orhii and Prof Dennis Tyavyar all of the PDP.

Senator Barnabas Gemade, a former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and a two time senator is not a pushover. He has a lot of structures across the state. If the APC gives Gemade a ticket, funding will not be the party’s problem in Benue. However, the people are insisting that Gemade should back a younger candidate for the position.

If Gemade decides to pick some younger aspirants into his fold and sponsor them for other positions, he will definitely pull a lot of favour to his table.
Second is Mike Aondoakaa, he is a wealthy politician with good follwership. There are petitions questioning his eligibility based on a judgement against him in 2010 banning him from occupying public office but he has challenged the issue.

Then we have Rev Fr. Hycenth Iormen Alia. He is a first timer and has no political structure but different groups such as the Benue Youth Movement have been mobilising across the state mounting billboards and organising rallies to garner support for his candidature. There is nowhere a political group will gather in Benue today and the name Fr Alia will not come up. His challenge is that the Catholic Church has threatened to suspend him if he gives into pressure to contest the election.

In the PDP, the lead candidate is Hon. Terwase Orbunde. He is the immediate past chief of staff to Governor Samuel Ortom who resigned to contest the 2023 governorship election. He was a member of the House of Representatives, local government chairman, and legislative aide to Senator Ayim Pius Anyim. His kinsmen accuse him of not attracting anything to the community despite the numerous positions he has held.

Next is Dr Paul Orhii, a former DG of NAFDAC. He has a deep pocket and has structures in all the local government areas since he contested in 2019 with Governor Ortom. The third candidate is Prof Denis Tyavyar. Prof Tyavyar was the commissioner for education in Ortom’s administration. He belongs to a religious circle with the governor called the Brethren. It is rumoured that Ortom may hand the ticket to one of his friends in the church.

In the senatorial elections, Benue South called Zone C which is being represented by Senator Abba Moro seems to be an easier zone due to the work the incumbent has done. Abba Moro has attracted al ot of jobs and constituency projects for his zone and may likely have less opposition.

Benue North-west, popularly called Zone B, which is represented by Senator Orkev Jev of the PDP will be interesting. Jev has not indicated interest to contest the 2023 elections. Already, Ortom is being endorsed by several groups as a concensus candidate to replace Senator Jev.

In the APC, Rt Hon Benjamin Adanyi, a board member of the North East Development Commission and Dr Philip Tachin a former SUBEB chairman in Benue have declared interest. With Senator George Akume losing out at the APC national chairmanship, or if Rt Hon. Emmanuel Jime the APC governorship candidate for 2019 decides to run for the Senate, Ortom will face a stiff opposition. Pensioners in the state are warming up to payback the governor. Ortom is owing several months of pensions and gratuity in the state.

The most interesting election in Benue will be the Benue North-east, popularly known as Zone A, senatorial elections. This is the zone where the senate committee chairman on power, Gabriel Suswam is representing. Suswam’s attempt to get the seat in 2015 failed. In 2019, he won the election because the APC candidate Chief Mrs Mimi Orubibi was brought io contest against the wishes of the Zone A elite.

Mrs Orubibi has since defected to the PDP and is the chairman of the state board of internal revenue services. Zoning was a major factor against Suswam but when the people were left with two bad choices, they had no option than to choose Suswam. In 2023, Suswam won’t find it that easy due to the problem of zoning and other issues of moral conduct.

His opposition has begun from his Sankera axis. His kinsmen who even though not favoured by the zoning arrangement are banking on the 2019 scenario where the people from Kwande favoured by zoning will not have a candidate with the financial muscles to contest. One of such powerful candidates from Sankera is Rt Hon Emmanuel Udende. He served as commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs in Benue and is a two time member of the House of Representatives.

The other is Dr Torngee Malu, from Logo local government area with Suswam. The only candidate favoured by zoning in the Benue North East Senatorial contest is one Comrade Martin Iorsamber. Comrade Martin, was youth Mobilizer during the days of Action Congress of Nigeria. In 2015, he was a popular campaigner for Rt Hon Emmanuel Jime. He is presently the Convener, Movement for Advancement and Peaceful Nigeria, an organisation that preaches peace and unity among ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.

The activist/anticorruption crusader is being pushed by former student leaders in the state who are forming alliances to ensure that he is voted into the senate. Also primary school teachers, retirees and commercial motorcycle riders are grouping to support his candidature should he get the ticket of any party. The believe is that Comrade Martin’s candidature will give hope to the common people. The odds against the young man is that he doesn’t have the financial muscles to prosecute the project.

As party primaries get closer, political observers are keen to see what will come out of Benue State. Will the likes of Senator Gabriel Suswam, Governor Samuel Ortom and Chief Barnabas Gemade use their money to get themselves into power in 2023 or the grassroot candidates such as Rev Fr Hycenth Iormen Alia and comrade Martin Iorsamber ride on the people’s wishes? Only time shall tell.

Terwase Pius Awuna,
Mpape Abuja.