“If we (PDP) go in a hurry and nominate someone from Zone C (Benue South), and our opponent (APC) does not do same in Tiv land, it means that the PDP will lose the (governorship) election completely, even with the overwhelming support that we have today in PDP. That is a fact.”
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State says agitations for power rotation between the Tiv and Idoma speaking areas will not be feasible in the 2023 governorship election in the state.
Mr Ortom stated this in exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES in Makurdi, on Thursday.
Since the creation of Benue State in 1976, the Tiv ethnic group has held the elective position of governor to the dismay of the Idomas who constitute the second largest ethnic group in the state.
The Tivs are found in the Benue North West and Benue North East Senatorial Districts while the Idomas are in the Benue South Senatorial District.
To quench the desire of the Idoma ethnic group’s desire to occupy the state’s number post, Mr Ortom, as governorship aspirant, had in 2014, pledged to work for the emergence of an Idoma successor should he become governor.
Non-Tiv governor not feasible
But Mr Ortom, who was first elected governor in 2015 under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), but defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), told this newspaper that zoning the PDP governorship ticket to Benue South (Idoma) will jeopardise the party’s chances at the polls.
“If we (PDP) go in a hurry and nominate someone from Zone C (Benue South), and our opponent (APC) does not do same in Tiv land, it means that the PDP will lose the (governorship) election completely, even with the overwhelming support that we have today in PDP. That is a fact,” the governor said.
Mr Ortom noted that the surest way of producing an Idoma governor in Benue is when “all the political parties will agree to zone their governorship tickets to Benue South Senatorial District. Then that ambition will be realised.”
He pointed out that lack of unity amongst stakehokders from the nine local governments that constitute Benue South Senatorial District, remains a major obstacle to the actualisation of an Idoma governor.
“I had earlier advised them (Idoma) that we must work together– ensure that the political class, the traditional rulers, and the other stakeholders are brought to the same table.
“When the agitation came, I advised that the Idomas should reach out to their Tiv brothers, and ensure that at the end, all the political parties should come together and agree that this time — 2023, we would zone the governorship ticket to Zone C. But as it is now, they (Idoma) have not been able to coordinate themselves well, which I have communicated to them,” Mr Ortom explained.
The governor denied any rift between him and the National Chairman of the PDP, Iyorchia Ayu, who is also from the Tiv ethnic group of the state.
“Dr Iyorchia Ayu and I have no single problem. We talk every day. I have just spoken with Distinguished Senator (Gabriel) Suswam now, before the commencement of this interview. And after our conversation, I’m going to call the National Chairman (on the PDP) to also hear what is going on at the national level of our party,” Mr Ortom told this reporter.
“How can there be any conflict when we are working together. Those were insinuations from our opposition, because they (the APC) are overwhelmed,” the governor said.
He boasted that the PDP was firmly in charge of the state with all three senators and majority of state legislators, requiring no “extra hard work to win elections in Benue State.”
The governor added that with the PDP leadership in Benue under him, he would work with other stakeholders to realise its victory at all times.
Major contenders locked in battle for PDP ticket
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly, Titus Uba, and the immediate past Education Commissioner in the state, Dennis Ityavyar, are locked in a fierce battle to clinch PDP’s governorship ticket.
Messrs Uba and Ityavyar hail from Vandeikya Local Government Area in Benue North-east Senatorial District, where the PDP has micro-zoned its governorship ticket to for the Tiv ethnic group.
While the incumbent Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu, has already emerged as the consensus candidate of the PDP in the Idoma speaking area of the state, there are speculations that he will not fly the party’s flag at the general election.
There are also speculations that Messrs Ortom and Ayu are in a supremacy contest over who flies the party’s flag at governorship polls.
According to a party source, who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, Mr Ortom’s preferred candidate for the state’s number job is Mr Ityavyar, a professor, who served as commissioner under him, while Mr Ayu prefers the candidature of Mr Uba, who is the Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly.
With the Tiv ethnic group comprising Benue North-east and Benue North-west Senatorial Districts, constituting the largest in the state, hope appears dim for any governorship candidate of any party from the Idoma speaking area of Benue South as Mr Ortom alluded that “this is a game of numbers, and that is what democracy is.”