Since the inception of politics in 1999, Benue state which is widely
acclaimed to be the engine room of politics in North central Nigeria,
has been in mainstream politics, producing and voting for elected
officers from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This position
has therefore made the state a centre of major contest between the
ruling PDP and arrowhead opposition parties in the nation.
Benue has also been a true reflection of the general political
scenario nationwide, as whatever opposition party seems to carry the
day nationwide, struggles to find in-roads into the state.
In 1999 when All Peoples Party (APP) carried the flag as the leading
opposition party in the nation, the party also engaged the PDP in a
fierce battle for the political soul of the state. Fiercely fought,
the PDP carried the day but last was yet to be heard of the APP, who
by her next outing had metamorphosed into the All Nigeria Peoples
Party (ANPP), which seemed to have strengthened the party that had now
assumed the status of leading opposition party in the nation with a
large followership in the north.
By 2003 the opposition had a better outing as the ANPP succeeded in
producing a handful of National Assembly and state members, one of
whom eventually became a senate minority leader. Owing to the desire
for an alternative, the opposition in the state was so strong that the
newly assembled United Nigeria Peoples Party (UNPP) won her only
elections in Benue state.
With this wonderful parade in 2003, the stage was set to upset the PDP
in the next outing -2007. Thus by 2007, the opposition was seeming a
wonderful bride as erstwhile vice president, Alh. Atiku Abubakar had
after a protracted battle with his boss President Olusegun Obasanjo in
a display of power decamped to the Action Congress, a party with had
its generals drawn primarily from Benue state. It was then also
believed that since a foundation for take over had been already laid
in previous outings, the opposition will outrun the ruling PDP.
When the time for elections came the AC which was heavily pregnant
with expectations, had an abysmal outing as it did not even win a
councillorship seat in the state. Meanwhile the ANPP had another
glorious outing against the PDP also winning National and state
Assembly seats and a couple of local government positions. It is
touted that it had even won the governorship position but was rigged
out, a process which was even took a judiciary angle that culminated
in out of court settlement, this availed the PDP the right to ruling
party in the state, once more.
By the next outing which was in 2011, the PDP was met with the
stiffest opposition ever in Benue politics- a re-energized AC which
now became Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). This renewed gusto was
out of the fact former governor of the state Sen. George Akume, had
decamped into the party with a large followership occasioned by his
fallout with his political godson, the serving governor, Gabriel
Suswam.
The ACN in this outing made an impressive show, running a tsunami
styled campaign which swept through all the nooks and crannies of the
state. It won the hearts of the people who were seemingly tired of the
PDP dominance and longing for an alternative.
Although there was another viable alternative in the newly assembled
Congress for Positive Change (CPC), which had strong roots in the
north as opposed to the ACN which is largely regarded as a
southerner’s party, the ACN won the day as the CPC did not posses the
zest and panache exhibited by the ACN who also had a large financial
chest to back them up.
The ANPP at this time had lost its glory as a leading opposition party
in the state owing to the earlier withdrawal of the law suit by its
governorship flag bearer, Prof. Daniel Saror, who also resurfaced in
2011 to reclaim the mandate he alleged was stolen from him.
At the end of an intense campaign and intriguing outing, the PDP
carried the day, defeating the believed to be vibrant ACN, who did not
go down without a fight as they also proved their mettle by winning a
couple of National and an all time overwhelming 11 State Assembly
seats and have also won the senate minority leader position owing to
this performance. This outing seemed tio establish that an opposition
party had come to stay. It also became the darling and beacon of hope
for the populace who have been known to be in search for a veritable
alternative to the PDP who have been ruling them since the return to
democracy. This was has however been doubted by political pundits who
base their arguments on the circumstances and personalities that gave
rise to the ACN. The party fulcrum is constituted by dissidents and
disgruntled elements from the PDP who had jumped ship to find solace
and political relevance in this alternative, thus many have tagged it
PDP2 as opposed to the original PDP which has become PDP1.
Watchers have already affirmed the above analogy given the recent
conduct of local government primaries in the ACN.
In the build up to the primaries, many aspirants along with their
sympathizers decamped to the party (ACN) owing to its widely perceived
acceptance thus; there was a massive influx of new members. Aspirants
also viewed their style of conduct of the primaries- option A4; worthy
as it was supposed to give the masses a voice but unfortunately this
dream never saw the light of day.
Investigations have shown that most contestants and even members of
the party have become disgruntled owing to the decision of the party
leadership to impress candidates on the party at various levels
without free and fair elections.
Widely fingered to mastermind this development is the Senate minority
Leader, Sen. George Akume and his wife Regina Akume who are the major
financiers of the party in the state. The duo through their hatchet
man, Bar. Targema Tarkema have been said to bear great influence in
the nomination exercise, imposing family and cronies as candidates on
the party. Typical of such instances is the imposition of the senate
leader’s sister-in-law on the party as the party’s flag bearer for
Tarkaa local government Area a situation which is reflective in nearly
all 23 local governments of the state.
Although apologists of this exercise claim that this is in line with
the theories of power consolidation which Akume is trying to execute
which has unfortunately caused a rift and disaffection between the
party and followership as it stands to loose support consequent to the
undemocratic practices which had earlier driven electorates from the
PDP.
Also counting against the party is its lack of presence in the Benue
South Senatorial District where there is little or no opposition to
the PDP who in turn have an overwhelming support . it has also been
gathered that the ACN scarcely sold forms in the nine local
governments that constitute this senatorial district which ironically
produced the party’s chairman.
With these political watchers have began to ask the fate of opposition
in the state as this party has been seen as the beacon of opposition
politics in the state .

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