Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Governorship candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue State have taken a swipe on each other following the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the governorship election in the state was inconclusive.
Mr Emmanuel Jime of the APC on Sunday accused his PDP counterpart Governor Samuel Ortom of massively rigging the election which was eventually declared inconclusive by the electoral umpire.
He particularly accused the trio of the former governor of Benue state, Gabriel Suswam, senator-elect for Benue South, Abba Moro and Ortom of perpetrating what he described as “unprecedented electoral heist ever seen in the history of the state.”
But in a swift reaction, Governor Ortom stated that Jime had resorted to making an unfounded accusation of rigging against the PDP because he knew he had lost the Benue governorship election.
Jime’s allegations which were contained in a press statement signed by the Deputy-Director of his campaign organisation, Mr. Kula Tersoo, also accused Suswam and Moro of manipulating the results in favour of the PDP.
While Suswam was alleged to have, prior to the polls, activated his link with a section of the militia from his area recruited by the wanted militia leader, Terwase Akwaza, aka Gana, for the electoral fraud, Moro was being accused of manipulating elections in his Okungaga and 21 other polling units of Ojiego ward.
“This militia helped him to intimidate and sack voters from polling centres to pave way for massive multiple thumb printing and general rigging in the five wards of Gaambe Tiev section of his Logo Local Government. Eventually, a cooked figure of over 30,000 votes was awarded to Ortom and the PDP while about 2,000 miserable votes donated to Jime and the APC.
“Same Suswam, we gathered on good authority, connived with the resident electoral commissioner in Benue State and got only his blood relations and kinsmen of Shitile appointed as returning officers in the Benue North East senatorial district. We have the names of these returning officers, their relationship with him and will at the appropriate time, make the list public.
“This also explained why with glaring manipulation of votes, gubernatorial and House of Assembly results from the northeast part of the state and particularly, Sankera axis were not canceled.
“All petitions written against these elections by our collation agents were ignored. The returning officers would always make sure they detached all petitions from Form EC40(G) before submitting at the INEC office in Makurdi,” the statement said.
Jime went ahead to accuse Governor Ortom of hijacking electoral materials meant for the three council wards of Nongov namely, Nzorov, Saghev and Kaambe in Guma local government where he manufactured over 28,000 votes for his party and allocated a laughable less than 200 votes to APC.
Meanwhile, Governor Ortom who reacted to the allegation through his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, asked Jime to tender proof of his rigging claims against the PDP, adding that with over 81,000 result margin facing him, the governorship candidate of the APC already knew he was at his wit’s end.
“The APC governorship candidate in Benue State, Emmanuel Jime, knows he has lost the Benue governorship election and has resorted to raising unfounded allegations of rigging against PDP. With 81,554 result margin facing him, he knows he is at his wit’s end.
“Every Benue person is aware that APC tried to manipulate the March 9 polls in the state but failed because the people stood firmly behind Governor Samuel Ortom.
“He should be concerned about the public alarm raised over APC’s plot to thumbprint ballot papers during the March 23 election. Jime should tell us what he knows about the plot by APC to use militia parading in army uniform to intimidate voters during the supplementary election.”
Ortom who also accused Jime and Sen. George Akume of boasting about ‘federal might’ which they hoped could help them thwart the will of Benue people called on him to explain the case of his personal driver who was arrested with money meant for vote buying.
“Jime should answer questions over the case of his personal driver who was arrested with freshly-minted notes running into millions of naira for vote buying on the day of the last election in North Bank.
“Lastly, Jime should explain to Benue people his pact with enemies of the state to cause a political crisis when Governor Ortom is declared the winner of the election,” the statement read.