The back and forth defection ploy by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state, is a reflection of political indecision that typifies the metaphor: fear of the unknown, a development according to DANIEL AGBO, causing mockeries, confusion and uncertainty in the state
Intrigues and Gov Ortom’s ‘Red Card’ Saga Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state last week Monday announced at a public function in government House Makurdi, that he was given a “red card” and was out of his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The governor, however, did not at the event, which was the swearing in of his adviser on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, disclosed who gave him the red card.
Three days later, after a meeting with the chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole in Abuja, accused the leader of the party in the state, Senator George Akume, of sponsoring the red card.
Though the governor could not publicly say the reason why he was having issues with his godfather which have culminated to the red card, four reasons were obvious why the relationship between the two APC heavy weights was getting sour.
Why Akume wants Ortom out The first was the decision of Ortom to allow for a free hand in choosing who became the Tor Tiv.
During the contest for a new Tor Tiv V, after Tor Tiv IV Alfred Akawe Torkula died, Akume was alleged to have presented one Justice Ahemba Ikpambese for Ortom’s support for the highest Tiv traditional stool.
However, Ortom was said to have refused and allowed for a free hand in the selection of the Tor Tiv, which saw Professor James Ayatse emerged as the new king.
Second reason was the governor’s reconciliation with the former governor of the state, Gabriel Suswam, which seems to be threatening the Senators 2019 reelection bid.
Benue Open Grazing Prohibition The thirds reason being advanced for the fight between the two is Ortom’s insistence to implement the Benue Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law promulgated by the state government which the federal government and the Fulani oligarchy are clearly not to be comfortable with.
Akume was said to have offended President Buhari in his earlier dealings with him and felt stopping implementation of the anti-open grazing law was what could reconcile him with the president.
How Akume offended Buhari But is no news that Akume during the APC primaries had led the Benue delegates to vote former Vice President Atiku Abubakar against Buhari.
It was also alleged that Akume had while serving as governor of Benue treated Buhari, then, presidential aspirant with scorn and even prevented his plane from landing in Benue.
The two instances were said to have created cold relationship between the Akume and Buhari.
With the new romance between Ortom and his predecessor Suswam, because of the law, Akume saw that his 2019 reelection bid was threatened and his only way out was to warm himself in the heart of Buhari, whose body language indicates his displeasure with the Benue anti open grazing law.
It is however believed that though Akume had been desperately trying to persuade Ortom to jettison the law, the governor has blatantly refused to succumb to the idea, as the law seems to be the only string holding him and the Benue people towards the 2019 election.
Control over Soul of Benue APC The fourth reason which probably broke the camel’s back was the refusal by Akume to allow the governor control at least a percentage of the party structures of the ruling party in the state and the reaction of Ortom, by sacking members of his cabinet believed to be loyal to Akume.
Whatever reason that might be responsible for the fight, Ortom’s recent announcement had brought to the fore some issues and generated reactions from both his supporters and leadership of the ruling APC.
Following Ortom’s claims of red card, the APC leadership in Abuja, swiftly moved in to thaw the ice.
Politicising Ortom’s red card allegation or deft intrigues The party’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, in a reaction denied knowledge of a red card given to Ortom or any other member of the party.
Blueprint learnt that the deputy national chairman (north), Senator Lawali Shuaibu, also summoned a meeting between Ortom and a leader of the party in Benue, Akume, over the development.
Although Ortom was said to have shunned the first meeting, it was also learnt that at the meeting which took place last Thursday, Oshiomole, said the APC leadership was going to take urgent steps to ensure that Ortom does not leave the party.
Oshiomhole was quoted to have said that, “the APC will explore all available reconciliatory steps to see that the Governor remains a member of the party “In Benue we are going for a win win solution.
Governor Ortom is not going anywhere.
He is a very prominent member of our party.
We appreciate his leadership in Benue and we will do everything possible to help those who have issues to have those issues resolved.” But Ortom was reported to have told newsmen after the meeting with the national chairman of the party that the matter was not yet resolved as discussions were still ongoing.
According to him, they had spoken to him and further spoke with stakeholders but they had not concluded the matter yet.
Ortom was also in the interview reported to have accused Akume as mastermind of the red card.
Abuja reconciliation meeting But while the meeting was going on in Abuja, back home in Benue, the State chapter of the APC issued a press statement and denied giving Ortom Red Card, and claimed that the party only demanded good governance from Ortom.
According to the statement, the party rather at the last State Congress in Makurdi, endorsed the Governor and leader of the party in the state, Senator (Dr.) George Akume, for another term in office and in return for the endorsement demanded from the governor improved welfare for the people of the state.
The statement which was signed by the party’s Director of Publicity, Apeh Peterhot, for the state charman, Abba Yaro, explained that the demands became necessary due to the fact that, despite several interventions by the federal government in form of bailouts, Paris Club Refunds, budgetary supports coupled with the huge borrowings by Ortom’s administration amongst others, the state was still clouded with huge salary arrears and unpaid pensions of retired civil servants, huge deficits of basic infrastructure and porous security situation.
The party further explained that it was because of the issues that as a party, they demanded explanations on the handling of affairs especially issues bothering on security in the State.
The statement further noted that the party in the state was grossly embarrassed that the issues raised with the governor in confidence for the purpose of repositioning governance to better the lot of Benue people and position the party on the path of victory ahead of the 2019 general elections was being juxtaposed and treated unclad without regard to the code of secrecy on which premise they laid their demands for better governance.
Deft moves amid irreconcilable rifts “It is however disheartening that the Governor, apparently trying to shy away from accountability and to portray the party in bad light before the unsuspecting members of the public, resorted to public show over the matter that should have been treated and resolved internally.
“This is surely not how to reciprocate the blind trust, respect, honour and confidence reposed on Mr.
Samuel Ortom when he joined the party and was made its flag bearer within 24 hours after coming a distant third (3rd position) in the then PDP primaries.
The statement generated a swift reaction from Ortom’s Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, who described it as hypocritical, even as he referred to the APC in Benue as a one man show.
Akase also accused the party for choosing to mortgage the interest of the people of the state for a single a individual.
He said the attack on Ortom by the party and its leadership were coming because, the governor could no longer meet some inordinate personal ambitions and interests of those who want to perpetually shortchange the people.
Akase noted that the party’s unprovoked attack on Ortom was a pointer to the fact where its interest lied.
He challenged leadership of the party in state to bring out facts to back their claim that they had faulted the performance of the governor.
The chief press secretary noted that though the governor appreciated the platform which APC gave him to offer service to the people of Benue state, it was regrettable that the same party has now turned to demonize him for obvious selfish reasons.
He said: “The claim by the APC that such matters were raised at the last State Congress or at a secret forum is therefore not tenable, misleading and insincere.
“It is absurd for anyone to make heavy wind out of an endorsement that has no legal backing and could not be relied upon.
“Ortom has stated categorically that it was the leader of the party who said at several fora that he had given him red card.
“The Governor made efforts to resolve the matter within the structure of the party at the state level before going public.
“However, no amount of intimidation or personal attacks can make the Governor to abandon the people of Benue state.
“He has chosen to stand with the people and won’t be distracted now or in the future”.
Akume’s Political Relevance in Benue Akume, a governor of the state, between 1999 and 2007, who is in his third term in the senate, representing Benue northwest zone since 2007, weighs significant influence in the Benue politic since he became governor in Benue.
He had fought people like Senator Barnabas Gemade, former PDP national chairman and Wantaregh Paul Unongo, to became the political leader in Benue or at least in Tiv land.
He was able to install Governor Gabriel Suswam, in 2007, before they fell apart and he left the party.
Akume was able to regain his hold of the state and installed Ortom when the now serving governor could not make it through the PDP primaries in 2014.
Though he has been able to muscle serious influence in Benue his numerous fights to remain on top of the political radar in the state has pitched him against many people a situation which now seems to be working against him.
He was said to have championed the fight to remove Gemade, as the then PDP national chairman.
Few years after Suswam became governor, fight ensued between him and his predecessor Akume, due to alleged incessant demands by the later.
Akume was also alleged to be behind Ortom’s probe of former Suswam’s administration.
The Senator was also alleged to have fought Senator David Mark in 2007, when he discovered he (Mark) was also eyeing the position of Senate President.
His numerous fights against political leaders in the state to maintain control of political structures is viewed by many Benue people as what has constantly led to the underdevelopment of the state.
The Ortom’s red card saga has now raised some issues in the contexts of the reasons earlier provided.
It could be noted that Akume had, as far back as 2010, when it was clear that he was going to be denied the ticket to return to the senate in 2011 because of the fight he picked with his successor Gabriel Suswam, parted ways with the PDP on which platform he was governor for eight years and senator for one term.
He defected to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) on which platform he retained his senate seat in 2011.
Akume had, with people like Buruku House of Representatives member Orker Jev and Professor David Iornem, built the ACN in the state a platform which they used to fight against Suswam’s reelection bid in 2011, though without success.
The ACN in 2014, merged with some other parties to form the APC ahead of the 2015 general election.
Akume, therefore who was desperately shopping for a candidate to humiliate Suswam, paved the way for Ortom, who served as minister in President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, to join the APC where he was given the governorship ticket unopposed after he was denied ticket by the PDP.
Heavy weights undermine Ortom in Benue With the situations surrounding Ortom’s defection APC, Akume was from grapevine hinted to have undermined the position of the governor as he had even made the governor appoint many of his loyalists into key juicy positions in the government.
Places such as Benue Internal Revenue Board, Benue Investment and Property Company, Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs among many other juicy places were said to have been occupied by Akume loyalists until the recent cabinet reshuffle.
In Akume was before the cabinet reshuffle alleged to have controlled more than 60 percent of Ortom’s commissioners and Advisers.
According to the grapevine, Ortom had quietly suffered the indignity of political affronts and personal insults by the senator who recently was even alleged to have told the governor at an undisclosed event that he picked him from the gutter.
Knowing that the APC party structures were fully in the hands of Akume, Ortom had to lay low meekly obeying his leader.
The governor was also aware that Akume will never allow him the ticket to pursue his reelection under the platform of the APC.
Will Ortom’s facing the Gauntlet, Aligning with Old Forces work for Him? In other words, Ortom was aware that the race for the ticket would be thrown open by Akume and the implications for him, who had no control of the party structure or enjoy Akume’s endorsement, would be disastrous.
Defeat was staring him in the face.
Ortom with this reality staring in his open a romance with some of his friends he left from the People’s Democratic Party PDP where he defected to join the APC.
His recent romance and realignment with political heavy weights in the state including Suswam, senator Gemade, former Senate President David Mark, former Minister of Interior Abba Moro, former minister of State Niger Delta Affairs Sam Ode, among others, some of whom Akume’s had stepped on their toes was a pointer to the step he intends to take.
It could be noted that before the red card announcement by Ortom, there were reports that the Tor Tiv, Professor James Ayatse, and his chiefs had waded in the matter with a view to resolving it.
Still, Akume’s political leadership had been grossly undermined by the governor despite his investment in Ortom’s governorship.
it is worrisome that the royal intervention in the dispute collapsed like a pack of cards as Akume could not accept to work with Ortom’s new found friends.
Ortom on the other hand could no longer trust that his political destiny would be safe in APC structure with Akume as leader.
More over the body language of the national players in the APC, indicated to the fact that the governor was no longer welcomed in the party considering his outburst against the federal government following killing in his state, which has portrayed Buhari and the APC government in bad light.
These, pundits said were the basis of Ortom’s red card claim.
Now, the questions on most people’s lips is with Ortom outside the party, looking for a political platform to actualize his second term ambition in the PDP, will he be able to galvanise the people’s support on a new platform?