By Nathaniel Ikyur
The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Benue State, Chief Dr Samuel Ortom, and his Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, counterpart, Prince Terhemen Tarzoor, last Saturday attended the funeral of the late Pa Matthew Anyiku Agu, a respected community leader in Taraku, Gwer local government area of Benue State.
Chief Dr Ortom who was the first of the two to speak at the occasion.
With respect to the dead, his audience, counterpart and in consonance with his character, he completely avoided controversial comments that could generate resentment from any quarters at the occasion.
He said he reserved political discussion with supporters for a separate venue and spoke in conciliatory manner from the beginning to the end.
Unfortunately, when Prince Tarzoor took his turn to make remarks at a time that Chief Dr Ortom could not respond to any issues he raised the PDP candidate threw sense of occasion and decorum to the wind and launched an attack on Chief Dr Ortom.
It is this attack which can at best be described as an unfair and uncouth cut that he has proceeded to celebrate on his Facebook and other media platforms hence the need to counter his deliberate mischief and set the records straight.
Otherwise the contents of his funeral oration would have been ignored for the fact that it further infuriated voters who have already vowed to permanently terminate his political career which Governor Gabriel Suswam had resurrected after the election tribunal delivered its death blow in 2011.
Secondly, he clearly and in characteristic PDP fashion demonstrated disrespect for both the living as well as the late community leader he claimed to have gone to mourn. That said, let me highlight the gaps or if you want, contradictions in his speech.
Prince Tarzoor’s attempt to portray Chief Dr Ortom as a dishonest politician who does not practice what he preaches and to proceed thereafter to cast assertions on his faith and integrity is to say the least uncharitable. His claims that the former minister promised to support him if he emerged the PDP candidate or vice versa is strewn with fiction. The former speaker who the Election Tribunal ousted on account of electoral fraud did not provide the people he sought to impress with this ‘food for thought’ with details of those who witnessed the alleged pact. Meanwhile, Chief Dr Ortom had stated publicly at an expanded state PDP caucus that he would accept and support the choice of the party on condition that the process was transparent, free and fair. Those with a conscience who are willing to speak the truth such as Chief Engr Ada Chenge testify that the ward congresses which were the foundation upon which the state governorship primaries were based were anything but transparent as the larger number of party members were disenfranchised while a few sat in their houses and wrote names of delegates in accordance with preplanned outcomes. Several stakeholders including Senator Gemade and the former Minister of State, Industry, Trade, and Investment petitioned against the exercise but got no remedy hence their decision to exit from the PDP.
In this kind of situation how can an experienced politician of Chief Dr Ortom’s standing jettison his political interest on an account of a private discussion with a surrogate whose character has already been impugned by an Electoral Tribunal? What is the basis for anyone to believe that such a discussion was ever held since the person who made the claim is an interested party whose credibility has already been successfully challenged ?
This was the first time the two candidates would meet publicly and engage one another since they were nominated as flag bearers of their respective political parties. The other time they met was in Gboko where the Catholic Bishops in Benue organised a prayer pilgrimage for peace.
First, Prince Tarzoor’s action could be described as a political guerilla warfare tactic aimed at distracting the attention of Benue people from various ills the outgoing PDP administration which he represents has meted out to the people of the state. By this one-way jab at Chief Dr Ortom, he knew that the former Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment could not get the opportunity to respond to him immediately since he spoke before him. It clearly showed that Prince Tarzoor does not have the capacity to engage in a long drawn debate anchored on issues apart from esoteric creations.
For those who may not know, it was interesting to hear the PDP candidate publicly acknowledge Chief Dr Ortom as the governorship candidate of the APC. And the reason is this. Not too long ago, he had stayed away from a debate organised for governorship candidates of all the parties in Benue state by TIVNET INC, a body of Tiv intellectuals. ‘The Man Wey Sabi’ as this has become his catch phrase slogan, said his participation in the debate would give legitimacy to the candidature of Chief Dr Ortom becuause some aggrieved aspirants were challenging his nomination in court.
Between then and now what has changed? I am suprised, like many others, that Prince Tarzoor would finally recognise Dr Ortom as the legitimate candidate of the APC. That is not to say his refusal to so accept him as the legitimate candidate of the APC would have reduced the influence, integrity or widespread acceptability of his candidature. But the curious question here is: when has the PDP become the standard in measuring Chief Dr Ortom’s or any other candidate’s legitimacy ?
Everyone present acknowledged that Chief Dr Ortom’s speech at the funeral was laced with tact and candour. His words were measured and respectful. Prince Tarzoor himself acknowledged when he said Chief Dr Ortom “spoke as any responsible stakeholder in the Benue Project should. While recognizing the fact that the event was not one for politicking, he nonetheless reminded all that violence was not the path for any conscientious party man to tow and that the forthcoming elections should be devoid of hostility and fighting.” And so why did he choose to play the way he did?
What else should occupy the mind of “any responsible stakeholder in the Benue Project” as captured by Prince Tarzoor himself or any other more than peaceful conduct of elections and respect for one another? The tale signs from recent events have not been pleasant. The wave of political violence erupted too early. The last couple of weeks have been scary for any leader to keep mute. And this is why Chief Dr Ortom has been preaching peace at every turn.
But rather than join hand’s with him to denounce violence ahead of the forthcoming elections, Prince Tarzoor chose to play dirty and portray the former Minister as if he were a dishonest politician. To him, it was an opportunity to divert attention from the real issues of crunching economic hardship inflicted on the people of the state by the ruling party and create a semblance of superiority against the former Minister. But rather than succeed, he failed.
In any case, why should the emergence of Prince Tarzoor as the governorship candidate of the PDP foreclose the ambition of Chief Dr Ortom who honourably left the PDP to actualise his ambition elsewhere? What is so sacrosanct about the membership of the PDP? From the tone of the former speaker, he has little regard for independent minds.
And why should Prince Tarzoor be bothered more with what someone promised to do to him when has already been nominated ? Can’t he seize the initiative and galvanise support for himself?
A public commentator, Mr Iorliam Shija, captured it succinctly when he noted in one of his write ups that “Tarzoor’s silence over Suswam’s tenure has communicated very loud and clear what Benue should expect already.” Prince Tarzoor himself has consistently said he would consolidate on Suswam’s “achievements”? He has never challenged the destruction of the economy by Suswam, as expected- he has not spoken against the non-payment of salaries and pensions, what about the issue of busary allowances owed Benue students? The Prince is more interested in pursuing the redemption of so – called private promises than asking Governor Suswam to fulfill those he had publicly made to the entire people of Benue State.
Prince Tarzoor’s funeral oration at Taraku amounted to the second unprovoked attack on Chief Dr Ortom, the first took place at Adikpo at the funeral of Dr Samson Sambe.