Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
With the 2019 general election over, the stage is now set for the contest for who becomes the next Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly.
The list obtained from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) indicate that those who made it to the 9th Benue Assembly include Agnes Uloko (Ado, PDP), Edoh Godwin (Agatu, PDP), Abu James (Apa, PDP), Bunde Torkuma (Buruku, PDP), Agaibe N (Gboko East, PDP), Terna Achir (Gboko West, PDP) and William Marange (Guma, PDP), Agbatse Geoffery (Gwer East, PDP), Chemetyo Damian (Gwer West, PDP) and Agbidyeh Akute (Katsina-Ala East, APC).
Others are Orban Terungwa (Katsina-Ala West, APC), Dyako Tavershima (Konshisha, ADC), Tertsea Gbishe (Kwande East, PDP) and Sugh Abanyi (Kwande West, PDP), Yagba Victor (Logo, PDP), Kwaghzer-Kudi Thomas (Makurdi North, APC), Terwase Aondoaka (Makurdi South, PDP), Onche Peter (Obi, PDP), Peter Enemari (Ogbadibo, PDP) and Christopher Adaji (Ohimini, PDP).
The rest are: Ogbu Otumala (Oju I, APC), Okanga Okponya (Oju II, PDP), Anthony Agom (Okpokwu, PDP), Odeh Baba (Otukpo/Akpa, APC), Michael Audu (Adoka/Ugboju, PDP), Mngutyo Bem (Tarka, APC), Thomas Mlanga (Ukum, PDP), Abass Akoso (Ushongo, PDP), Ucha Domnic (Vandeikya-Tiev, PDP) as well as Uba Titus (Vandeikya-Kyan, PDP).
The INEC list shows that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with 23 of the 30-member House has the majority while the All Progressives Congress (APC) has six members just as the ADC has only one member.
Of the 30 members of the 9th Assembly, there are five returning members from PDP and two from the APC which brings the total number of returning members to seven while the remaining 23 members are made up of largely new members and a few members from the seventh Assembly.
Daily Sun gathered that the position had been zoned to Vandeikya Local Government Area where Dominic Ucha (Tiev Constituency) and the incumbent Speaker, Titus Uba (Kyan Constituency) both hail from.
In 2015, the PDP though had the majority, it couldn’t produce the speaker because two members from its fold, James Okefe and Nick Eworo decamped to the APC during the horse trading, thus reducing the number of PDP members from 15 to 13. They decamped barely 24 hours to the inauguration of the 8th assembly.
Ucha who was in the contest for the speakership slot with Terkimbi Ikyange in 2015 couldn’t win because he was from the PDP which suddenly became the minority after the two PDP members decamped.
Following the development, the APC then had 16 members; PDP had 13 members while Labour Party had one member, a development which made it easy for Ikyange to eventually emerge as Speaker in 2015. Ikyange was sponsored by former governor, George Akume in 2015. So, when in 2018, Ortom parted ways with Akume, Ikyange was allegedly tipped to impeach the governor so that he could automatically become the governor.
Unfortunately, the impeachment plot against the governor failed and Ikyange lost out as he, alongside seven other principal officers of the House were in turn impeached by the PDP members who were then in the majority with 22 members as against APC which had only eight members.
When Ikyange also couldn’t get the nomination of the APC to contest for the House of Representatives during the last primaries, he defected to the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) to actualise his dream but failed in the end as he lost to the PDP candidate, Bob Tyough.
Daily Sun also gathered that for now, the governor, Samuel Ortom, seems more disposed to Uba’s candidature, although, he is yet to make it public. It was learnt that when the governor visited Vandeikya for his political campaign ahead of the just concluded elections, he had promised the people that if the people supported him to win the election, he would ensure that their son remained the speaker of the House of Assembly.
According to close political watchers, the governor’s support for Uba may not be unconnected with the fact that he had had a good working relationship with him after he replaced the erstwhile Speaker, Terkimbi Ikyange following the latter’s impeachment in 2018.
Meanwhile, as the political battle rages on, the two contenders are also consulting. One of the contenders, Dominic Ucha, who spoke to Daily Sun in Makurdi said he had been seeking the support of his colleagues that if they find him worthy, they should vote for him.
“I have been able to reach most of the new members and they have assured me. It is now left to them to choose between me and whoever is contesting for the seat. I have remained in the PDP since I joined politics and so, it’s time for the party to repay me for my loyalty and if they do, that will give people a lot of confidence that democracy is back. “
While commending Governor Ortom for ensuring that the promise he made to the Vadeikya people had been partially fulfilled after Ikyange was removed, Ucha prayed that he (governor) would still go ahead and fulfil the promise by ensuring the return of a Vandeikya member to the seat in the 9th Assembly.
But he debunked insinuations that the governor is more favourably disposed to Uba than him saying the governor, having been in politics for many years would not want to meddle in such sensitive issue.