As 2015 draws near clannish politics take centre stage in Benue

Posted: September 6, 2013 in political, Uncategorized
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With the present tenure of Governor Gabriel Suswam nearly coming to its end, Benue state has become a bee hive of activity with politician warming up to take over the mantle of leadership. In this piece ati terkula exposes the clannish underlines of this tussle.

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Benue State, acclaimed for her high level of political enlightenment has already began bustling with political activity ahead of an expectedly heated battle to succeed Governor Gabriel Suswam who is already on his way out of the food basket government house

The state which is divided to three Senatorial Districts is known to align to an unwritten sharing formula since the come back to democratic system in 1999, this is more so that it has been under the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which is known for her belief in the theory of zoning (though jettisoned in 2011 to make way for the theory of necessity).

This zoning policy is further strengthend by the fact that the Tiv ethnic group which is majority in the state owing to her occupation of two senatorial districts out of the three has a traditional power rotation formula similar to the PDP’s zoning system. Thus kingship amongst them is rotated between the Tiv clans.

It is on the basis of this arrangement that the electoral positions in the state have always been decided.

Even as this system has been touted to be working and full proof, it is believed that its real strength shall be tested in the upcoming polls as the zoning formula is becoming an issue of political controversy as zones have lined up in contest for the right to occupation of the highest seats in the state.

This is because in the consequent political arrangement and horse trading, federal and state legislative seats as well as the gubernatorial position are up for grabs, causing obvious ripples in the arrangements.

This is most fascinating as the seat of the governor of the food basket state is also up for grabs. Spicing this up is the alleged claim to the seat by the minority Idoma ethnic group who occupy the Benue South Senatorial District. This ethnic group has long cried of marginalisation from its Tiv neighbours who have occupied the seat since the creation of the state in 1976 with five governors to show for it while the Benue South is left to hold the Deputy Governorship slot.

Hoping to even up the alledged marginalization the Idoma folks have already lined up in quest for the much coveted seat, leading the pack is the state deputy governor, Chief Steven Lawani, former minister of state for Niger Delta, Sam Ode, Dr. Mathias Oyigeya, the Chief Medical Director of Federal Medical Centre Makurdi amongst others.

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According to analysts, the above allegation has further been heightened by alleged interest by the Senate President, Senator David Mark who has assumed the position of political leader of the zone. It is further emphasised by the touted opposition to senator’s believed return to Abuja, even as he is mentioned to be interested in the presidency, a plan which has seemingly  hit the rocks owing to Goodluck Jonathan’s much publicised desire to hang on after 2015.

Unfortunately, this development is not typical to the Tiv-Idoma political relationship only but also is becoming an issue in the Benue North-East and Benue North- West senatorial districts’ relationship.

Although both senatorial districts have variously enjoyed this position, rotated amongst them based on the Tiv rotation theory, they all seem to lay seemingly valid claim to this position.

Nigerian Pilot, research unveils that in as much as both Tiv dominated areas angle for this most elevated position, there seems to be a senatorial district which seems to lay claim to this position with a clan seemingly so naturally favoured to bear all seats presumably belonging to the zone.

The MINDA ethnic bloc located in the North West Senatorial district popularly known as zone B is the clan which looks to be the berthing place of all the goodies slated for this senatorial district. Although Zone B is occupied by the Tiv clans of JEMGBAH and MINDA, the latter will definitely produce the zone’s leadership come 2015.

This claim which is occasioned by the Tiv sharing formula  that has the senate naturally rotated between the JEMGBAH and MINDA blocs domiciled in the MINDA bloc since the JEMGBAH has taken her rightfully agreed two terms which will elapse by 2015.

 

Unfortunately as clear as this claim may seem, the MINDA could lose these positions even as it has began a massive campaign for what is rightfully theirs. The arguments are that their Tiv brother feels it will amount to over bloating of the clan with power, as the paramount ruler of the Tiv nation (Tor Tiv), the governor and the Senator will all have to hail from this zone.

Intrigues have already began to manifest as investigations reveal that ahead of these polls, have Propped up a series of political rearrangements targeted at denying them this due in the two leading political parties found in the state.

 

All Progressives Congress (APC)

 

This party which is the major opposition bloc in the state with its strongest grip in the zone is also believed to be in the scheme to deny this group of their rights.

The party who has Senate Minority Leader, Sen. George Akume, as its leader in the state and its  highest elected officer has this dilemma owing to his desire as her leader and sole financier in the state, to return to the senate. Akume, who is already in the green chambers, is speculated to be scheming to return, especially as his alleged shot at the presidency via the much touted Akume/Tinubu alliance, has become a mirage owing to the emergence of the All Progressive Alliance,  APC, which is likely to produce heavy weights like Buhari and Ribadu who seem to have bigger national clout, he is therefore left to the option of returning to the senate which unfortunately according to the rotation formula is supposed to take flight from his JEMGBAH zone to MINDA but many believe that his body language and longing to remain politically relevant  in the scheme of things gives him out as one who will not allow the seat evade him to install a MINDA successor.

Apart from the APC’s desire to sacrifice the MINDA senate seat to appease their financier, the party is also believed to be nursing a plot to also deny the MINDA of governorship which is presumably also their right as zoned.

This plot according to its belivers, is still hinged on the future of the party’s leader whose senate bid might be jeopardized or compromised if zoned to MINDA. This is believed to be so because Akume’s current term is said to be one loaned to his Gboko/Tarkaa constituency by the Buruku constituency who will want to get back their due come 2015 if the senate is allowed to remain with JEMGBAH. Based on the longing by the Buruku constituency of Zone B to get their senate back from Akume who wants to remain relevant by retaining it, there is believed to be hatched, a plot to appease the Buruku people with the Governorship by 2015 to take their eyes off the senate.

The above analogies are also justified by the Tiv maxim “a rat does not have two tails”, which means the MINDA cannot hold a traditional tool and an elective one since they already hold the seat of the Tor Tiv.

 

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)

 

The People’s Democratic Party, PDP, which has ruled the state for about twelve long years is still seeking to hang onto its superiority in the state as it is nationwide, even with the recent strong appearance of an opposition which gave the PDP a run for its money in the last elections.

Although the PDP stands a better chance to give way to the Tiv sharing formula owing to its own unwritten zoning agreements where most Zones in Tiv land have tasted the governorship courtesy of this formula. There is also the chance that this may be the spoiler for MINDA who by the Tiv system is favoured but unfortunately the PDP does not belong to one ethnic group and thus there is the tendency that if the party decides to adhere strictly by the code as earlier attempted by Suswam’s predecessor in 2007 when the Idoma’s of Zone C were enticed with the governorship pulling a handful of them into the race, then the whole Zone B not just the MINDA might not be the favourites as it stands. This is hinged on the fact that since the creation of the state in 1978, the Tiv have been at the head of governance which has provoked a cry of marginalisation from their Idoma neighbours.

It is thus generally rumoured that the Idomas might be given their long wished shot at the governorship. To further strengthen this school of thought is the fact that a former Minister who is a long standing friend of Suswam and of Idoma extraction, is said to have set in motion machinery for the race to the food basket government house and the recent entrance of the deputy governor Chief Steven Lawani.

Apart from the alleged attempt to be fair to the Idomas, is the claim by other Tiv speaking zone of North East Senatorial district to same rights, especially the JECHIRA and KWANDE blocs who both claim to have not completed their supposed eight years-two-term tenure. To deepen this fear is the fact that there are strong indications that the proponents of this theory are serious in their pursuit as a host of them have even declared openly for  this position.

To further give credence to this belief is the fear that the state governor, Hon. Gabriel Suswam might be interested to proceed to the senate after his sojourn at the government house. Although the governor has frequently been dodgy about his future after the Food Basket government house, many believe that his body language sings “senate”, with campaigns already taking place underground. Thus to achieve this it is believed that he will use the governorship as the carrot to dangle before the two contending blocs(JECHIRA&KWANDE), who share the same senatorial district as his SANKERA bloc.

He has been qouted to have promised the JECHIRA the seat while also having his known allies from KWANDE also declare their intentions for the positions.

 

Meanwhile as this situation persist; many political watchers have predicted that where ever the pendulum swings, Benue is set to face her biggest political tussle of all time by 2015.

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