From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
From all indications, governorship aspirants on the platform of the All Progressives Congress(APC) in Benue are putting finishing touches to their campaigns as they go into primaries this Friday, May 20.
In Benue, the food basket of the nation, Daily Sun gathered from reliable sources within the APC that out of the 32 aspirants who indicated interest to contest the number one seat, only 12 have purchased the nomination and expression of interest forms.
Of the number, it was further gathered that 10 were favoured by the zoning arrangements of the party while two others who were zoned out of the contest went ahead to get the ruling party’s nomination forms.
The party had zoned the governorship seat to the Jechira intermediate area of Zone “A” comprising Vandeikya and Konshisha Local government areas as well as aspirants from the Benue South Senatorial District known as Zone “C.”
APC’s Publicity Secretary, Dan-Morgan Ihomun, in an interview with our correspondent, disclosed that with the new zoning arrangement, only two aspirants who had bought the nomination forms for the governorship seat were not favoured.
According to Ihomun, the names of those aspirants zoned out of the contest who bought nomination forms include former Attorney General of the Federation, Mike Kaase Aondoakaa as well as immediate past Chief of Staff to Governor Samuel Ortom, Pastor Terwase Orbunde.
Asked what becomes of those who had bought the nomination forms but were not favoured by the zoning arrangement, the Publicity Secretary said the party will not stop them from participating in the primaries in any way.
“The issue is very simple for those from the local governments that are zoned out of the contest but went ahead to buy forms. As you know, the zoning and consensus has to be accepted by all the candidates themselves and in the event that they do not accept the decision of the party, of course they are free to go into the election. If they win fine, it is as simple as that.
“So, as it is, only Aondoakaa and Orbunde are out of the zoning arrangements,” Ihomun added.
The Party’s publicity scribe also disclosed that the leader of the party in the state and Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Senator George Akume, as a party man and law abiding citizen of the country, would not intefer in the selection process of who emerges as the party flag bearer during the primaries.
“The leader of the party has said clearly that he is not going to be involved in choosing who will fly the flag of the party. He asked the party members to choose a candidate they know will win the election, because the most important thing is who will win,” Ihomun stated.
And so with this assurance from the party leadership, 12 gubernatorial aspirants on the platform of the APC in the state are ready to slug it out at its primaries this Friday.
Ihomun listed aspirants who are ready to go into the party’s primaries to include, Barnabas Gemade, Arc Bernard Yisa, Chief Steven Lawani, Prof. Terhemba Shija, Dr. Terlumun Ikya, Sam Odeh, Mike Kaase Aondoakaa, Iorwase Hembe, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, Terwase Orbunde and ESV Godwin Tyoachimin.
With this development, the above listed aspirants have thus, intensified their consultations to pick the ticket of the party at the primaries
Judging from the way things are going, our correspondent gathered that of the 10 aspirants, while all of them are well qualified to clinch the party’s ticket, six among them are said to have more prospects of emerging the party’s flag bearer.
Those who are said to be more likely to come out victorious during the party’s primaries include Senator Barnabas Gemade, Chief Stephen Lawani, Prof. Terhemba Shija, Chief Michael Aondoakaa (SAN), Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, and Terwase Orbunde.
Reliable sources within the party have however hinted that Senator Gemade is more likely to clinch the ticket judging from his wealth of experience and age.
Those who hold this view believe that Gemade has for many years now, been involved in politics both at the state and National levels and even rose at some point to become the National Chairman of a ruling party.
In the estimation of this school of thought, if Gemade gets the party’s ticket and eventually gets elected the governor of the state, he would bring his wealth of experience to reposition the state in terms of security, agriculture, critical infrastructure among others.
It was gathered that some big names in the party including Chief Akange Audu, the Zone B APC leader and Chairman APC Elders Advisory Committee and Consultative forum, Rtd Gen. Lawrence Onoja, Rtd Col. Edwin Jando, Senator Joseph Akaagerger, Elder Nzughul Anshibi who is the leader of Jemgbagh elders forum, Dr. Benjamin Ashaver, former commissioner have all queued behind Gemade to ensure he realizes his gubernatorial dream.
Others who are also routing for him are Rtd Col. Anshungu Igbaya, Chief Theophilus Adzaagee, former head of civil service, Benue State, Citizen Richard Asema, former federal commissioner for revenue mobilization and fiscal commission, who is also the DG of the Campaign, David Umah who is a national political stalwart, as well as Alh. Usman Abubakar, alias Young Alhaji who is the leader of the party in Zone C.
Also leading the women folk to support Gemade’s gubernatorial ambition is Mrs Jane Odor, a strong supporter from Zone C who was nominated by the women to endorse Gemade on the day he presented his nomination form to his supporters.
Odor who expressed the assurance that Gemade has all it takes to govern Benue well if given the opportunity, urged the women to get their voters cards ready to vote him in saying he is the right man for the job.
According to Comrade Solo Dzuah, Media and Publicity aide to Senator Gemade, aside the above mentioned big names in the party, many other prominent APC stalwarts in the state are in support of his principal’s governorship ambition and are going all out to ensure he comes out victorious in the primaries.
Dzuah who noted that there are a lot of advantages for both the party and the state if Senator Gemade becomes the APC’s gubernatorial flag bearer, said it was as a result of this that those who know his capacity have joined in drumming support for him.
Dzuah emphasized that his principal possesses enough Corporate experience that have placed him above other contestants in the race.
He noted that Gemade had been Managing Director of the Benue Cement Company (now Dangote Cement Company), a major manufacturing company in the state as well as a Minister of a major ministry, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.
“My principal is a political party administrator who has been National Chairman of two political parties including the then ruling PDP. He also has legislative experience as member, constituent Assembly and Distinguished Senator for two terms. He had all these experiences, so if elected to govern the state as against others, he will creditably perform.
“Senator Gemade has demonstrated that he is development-minded and can perform. As it stands, he is the senator with more projects in Benue North-East Senatorial District and if given the ticket, the people will be happy to vote for him so that he can replicate that in Benue State.
“Also, Senator Gemade is an astute politician who has deep grassroots penetration, because of his vast experience in electoral matters, he has a large number of followers who feel electing him is the best option for the state and these people will ensure they vote and protect their votes.
“Senator Gemade also has the requisite knowledge, and connections, internationally, nationally and locally to prosecute his elections. If he emerges the APC flag bearer, he will ensure the elections are not violent and are rancour free, without rigging and intimidation from the PDP and other parties. He will ensure that every voter expresses his/her franchise and at the end, APC will come out victorious.
“Gemade, is the man with the capacity to wrest power from the PDP government. He has the agility and energy, he has the financial war chest and he does not rest when he has a project at hand to do,” Dzuah added.
But while some people in the state have expressed concern over Gemade’s age, the man at the center of it all has insisted that he is the best man for the job, adding that his age is not a barrier but rather, an added advantage to show that he has the requisite experience and capacity to handle state affairs now that its dilapidated nature doesn’t need a novice.
Gemade who stated this during the formal declaration of his gubernatorial ambition, maintained that “abundant evidence and common knowledge indicate that Benue State building efforts have endured obstacles and deficits that can only be addressed by a competent and capacity leadership.
“I will use my influence and diplomatic skills to address prevailing challenges and restore prosperity and viability as an entity and as well rebuild and reconstruct the broken Benue.
“This will be done by redefining its institutional integrity, geopolitical and economic centrality as a sovereignty beyond mere political rhetoric,” Gemade assured his teeming supporters.
Chief Stephen Lawani was deputy Governor of the state for eight years during the administration of former Governor Gabriel Suswam.
The business mogul who hails from the Zone “C” axis of the state has also shown that if given the opportunity to clinch the party’s ticket, he would do all in his powers to attract development to the state.
Terhemba Shija, a lecturer with the Nasarawa State University, Keffi and a former Commissioner in the state is in the race and by virtue of the fact that the APC’s zoning arrangement favours him, his supporters believe that he has the requisite capacity to occupy the number one seat of the state.
Mike Kaase Aondoakaa (SAN) is a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation during the administration of late President Yar’Adua. He is also the Chairman of some business conglomerate including Miva Rice Mill.
Although not favoured by the zoning arrangement of the party, Aondoakaa has put his hat in the ring by going ahead to purchase the intent and nomination forms of the party and is set to participate in the primaries with the full backing of his supporters.
Fr. Hyacinth Alia, a priest of the Catholic Church enjoys the support of the Benue people who endorsed him even before he picked his intent and nomination forms to contest the 2023 governorship race.
He is seen by his supporters as one ordained by God to take Benue out of the woods and place it on a high pedestal to take its rightful place among the comity of states.
Pastor Terwase Orbunde is the immediate past Chief of Staff to Governor Samuel Ortom and had served in that capacity since 2015 when the governor came on board.
However, he defected from the PDP and joined the APC after the PDP zoned the governorship slot to Vandeikya LGA which automatically knocked him out of the race since he hails from Kwande LGA.
Although the same fate has befallen him in his new party which also zoned the governorship seat to Jechira, Orbunde still went ahead to purchase the form with assurances from his supporters that he can still emerge as the party’s candidate during the primaries.