Benue 2023: Why Ortom’s mantle may fall on Akase
By Steve Oko, Umuahia
As the agitation for power by various political blocs in Benue State gradually gather momentum ahead of 2023, there are some key factors that will ultimately determine who takes over the mantle from Gov. Samuel Ortom.
The governor, other stakeholders, and Benue electorates should not toy with these factors if the state must survive the onslaught against her by the invading Fulani herdsmen.
Benue has in the recent years, become a security flash point as the Fulani cattle rearers have their eye on the lush vegetations adorning the Food Basket of the Nation.
This squabble has claimed hundreds of native folks mostly farmers who were gruesomely murdered in cold blood by the rampaging herders often times in the most dehumanizing manner.
This sad development has turned Benue into a slaughter ground by the mindless herders while the federal government seems to be unconcerned.
The killing spree by the Fulani murderous herdsmen reached its crescendo in 2018 when over 70 innocent people were slaughtered in one day and scores wounded by the invaders.
Their mass burial drew the attention of the global community to the on-going secret genocide by Fulani herdsmen in the state.
Irked by the sad development plus the nonchalance of the federal government, Gov. Ortom who was then a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, dumped the party for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in protest not minding the political risk involved.
By this brave step, the governor won the admiration of many, hence, despite the federal might deployed against his second term bid for daring the gods, Ortom won a landslide because his people whom he did not sacrifice on the altar of political correctness and personal interest firmly stood by him.
Ever since then, the governor has courageously stood firm in defense of his people, gallantly fighting the legion of principalities bent on annexing Benue State at all cost.
In the light of the foregoing, a man with the spirit and character of Ortom will obviously be the quality to look out for as the shopping for the governor’s successor hots up.
Ortom has remained undaunted in his avowed determination to protect Benue people and ancestral lands against the invading cattle herders, and needs an uncompromising successor that will sustain both the spirit and the fight.
Irrespective of the political permutations including zoning arrangements, the persecuted people of Benue do not seem to be ready for any chances capable of putting the state at the risk of conquest by herdsmen.
One of the names that readily comes to mind is Ortom’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Terver Akase, who has, like the biblical Arron and Hur been supporting the arms of his principal through the media.
Akase, a seasoned journalist and award-winning Radio Nigeria Correspondent, brought to the fore his professional expertise when he used every available media space to draw the attention of the world to the ethnic cleansing by Fulani herdsmen in Benue State.
Through his handling of information in synergy with other media aides of the governor to project Ortom’s firm stand against the invasion by herdsmen, the attention of the world was indeed drawn to Benue State, highlighting efforts to stop the bloodletting.
As a result of his sterling performance and commitment to duty, Ortom, only a day after he was sworn in for a second term, renewed Akase’s appointment as his CPS.
Akase has since bowed to pressure by his people and the youths across the state to join the goversorshp race, and so far remains the youngest aspirant in the PDP fold with a very strong support base among the youths.
With the current spate of mass defection to the ‘Big Umbrella’ across the state, PDP remains the party to beat in 2023 as its flag bearer is as good as the winner of the contest.
Born on April 2, 1977 into the family of Mr and Mrs Pius Akase Ikpor of Agbeede, Gaav in Konshisha Local Government Area of Benue State, Akase had his primary and secondary education in the state.
He later graduated from Benue State University, Makurdi where he read Mass Communication and also holds Masters degree in the same field; and recently completed his dissertation for a second masters degree in International Relations.
The father of four is an alumnus of the prestigious International Visitor Leadership Programme, IVLP of the United States of America (2012 class).
Before his appointment as CPS in 2016, Akase had earlier worked as Principal Editor at the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN, Headquarters, Abuja (2014-2015).
He served as FRCN Correspondent in Rivers State between 2008 and 2013, during which period he rose to become the Chairman, Correspondents’ Chapel of Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Rivers State.
Apart from having the zeal of Ortom in defending Benue against the invading army of the killer herdsmen, Akase is visionary and intelligent.
With his enterprising spirit which distinguished him at the FRCN coupled with his youthful dynamism, Akase stands a chance to succed his principal.
Politically, Benue is divided into zones A, B and C with the first two comprising the dominant Tiv nation determining the movement of the pendulum because of their population advantage over zone C comprising the Idoma and Igede tribes.
The Tiv ethnic group has 14 LGAs spread in Zone A and B (seven in each zone). The Idomas, who are the second-largest ethnic group in the state, have seven and Igede ethnic group has two LGAs, making a total of nine LGAs that constitute Benue South Senatorial District (Zone C).
In spite of the understanding so far believed to have been shown by some stakeholders in Benue politics from Zone A and B on the need for power to move to Benue South in 2023, there are those from the Tiv speaking area not yielding to the pressure being mounted by Zone C for power to shift.
As a likely beneficiary of this factor, Akase enjoys a strong backing of the Jechira people, a Tiv political bloc in Vandeikya and Konshisha LGAs of Benue North East now joining forces to produce the next governor come 2023.
Being part of the Tiv nation that constitues over 70% population of Benue, this bloc has a case in its agitation for power shift, and would easily have the support of their kinsmen in Benue North West (Zone B) as politics is a game of number.
Although there is also serious agitation for power to move to the Idoma-dominated Benue South, the Jechira people argue that Benue South should have to wait until they complete their own tenure as they only tasted power for barely one year and nine months under the late Military Administrator, Rev. Fr. Moses Adasu (Jan. 2, 1992 – Nov. 17, 1993).
For this royal kindred, the period is too infinitesimal to be counted for a share, so, 2023 is their turn to complete their tenure like their fellow royal kindreds.
To actualise this, a tactical lobby and advocacy group known as the Jechira Gubernatorial Movement (JGM) was launched, and it has been on aggressive and intense lobby among other Tiv kindreds for their support.
Their argument is supported by the fact that of all five Royal kindreds of Tiv kingdom, they are the only one with the shortest period on the seat of power.
Proponents of this argument insist that before power will shift to the minority South the Jechira kindred will have to complete their tenure like their other kindreds.
For example, George Akume from Jemgbagh Royal kindred ( comprising Gboko, Buruku and Tarka LGAs) ruled for eight years under Obasanjo; Senator Gabriel Suswam from Sankera (Katsina-Ala, Ukum and Logo) also ruled for eight years under Yar’ Adua/Goodluck Jonathan, while the incumbent Gov. Ortom from Minda ruling house (comprising Makurdi, Guma, Gwer East and Gwer West LGAs) is serving out his eight years.
The Kwande bloc consisting of Kwande and Ushongo LGAs in Benue North East senatorial district produced the first Executive Governor of Benue State in the person of late Appolos Aper Aku from Ushongo who was in office between October 1, 1979, and December 31, 1983.
With this sharing formula, the only ruling house with the least shot at the seat of power is Akase’s Jechira kindred.
“So, our contention is that Adasu ruled under military transition and Jechira should be allowed to produce the next Governor” Comrade Dan Nyihwagh, President of JGM said recently.
End.Steve Oko, Publisher/C.E.O, WaWa News Global. For more information on advert placement and news coverage, contact us on: 08038725600, or via email [email protected]; [email protected] Always read WaWa News Global - Your most dependable online news platform for the latest breaking news in Nigeria.