By Peter Duru, Makurdi
The inauguration of Governor Samuel Ortom for the second term on May 29 has opened a new vista in the political history of Benue State. It was a day power broker, political leaders and stakeholders publicly let out of the bag why Benue, despite the overwhelming external pressure and scheming, resolved to hand Ortom a second term.
It was also a day a sitting governor publicly admitted that he made mistakes in his first term but promised to make amends after learning valuable lessons.
Makurdi witnessed a lockdown by massive human traffic which besieged the state capital to catch a glimpse of the man who the people have christened ‘the defender of the Benue Valley.’
That occasion also availed the leaders of the state an opportunity to tell the world why the outcome of the governorship election in Benue should not be a matter for adjudication or judicial contest since it was the decision of the vast majority of the people of the state to reward Ortom with a second term due to his avowed commitment and bravery and dogged determination.
Explaining why Benue resolved to give the governor a second term, despite perceived gang-up by external forces (foreign political gods), former Governor Gabriel Suswam, now a senator for Benue North-East, commended the people for contributing immensely to the victory of Ortom despite all odds.
“Benue sent a message to Nigeria in that election that we have to be respected. We urge Nigerians to respect us. We told Nigeria that we want peace and we want to live peacefully with other Nigerians”, Suswan said.
On his part, senator for Benue North-West, who defeated serving Senator George Akume, Mr Orker Jev, observed that never in the history of the state had a governor, through popular support, enjoyed a smooth ride to a second term victory like Ortom had last March.
“By that election, the people spoke loud and clear that they are prepared to swim and sink with Governor Ortom. It clearly indicated that the election was won fair and square because the people spoke unequivocally through a free and fair ballot. As leaders we will continue to give him the support he deserves,” Jev said.
A former Senate President, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, on his part, stated that he had been working with Ortom in the political front for over 27 years, stressing that his sincerity of purpose and commitment to every responsibility entrusted in his hands counted for him and convinced the leaders and people of the state to root for his re-election.
“Benue people stood up to support his second term bid because it was time to pay him back. Through that election, we told the world that we are not a conquered people and can never be one.
“We demonstrated that in that election despite the allied forces that were thrown at us but we overcame. The people without inducement supported Ortom and ensured his victory through their overwhelming votes.
“I urged the governor to also pay back by not disappointing the people. As for us the ‘generals’ in the political field we will continue to stand by him and as far as he serves the people diligently without selfish interest we will continue to support him to excel in line with the dictates, wishes and aspirations of our people,” said Ayu.
And to another former Senate President, Senator David Mark, “this is the first time notable elders and stakeholders in the Benue project came together to declare support for a particular governorship candidate in the state”.
Mark added, “The reasons are not far-fetched. Ortom demonstrated an uncommon commitment to the well-being of Benue people and his only crime against those fighting him is that he defended his people when it mattered most and did not sell out.
“The ordinary Benue man loves you for that and that accounts for the mammoth enthusiastic crowd that turned out to witness your inauguration. No doubt the people came out in their numbers and genuinely voted for you to say thank you for standing for them and we commend Benue people for standing for the truth.
“For us the elders of the state we will continue to support you because this is the time that the people will reap the rewards and dividends of democracy with the gradual return of peace to Benue communities”.
As for the leadership of the ethnic groups in the state through their chairman, Chief Edward Ujege, “Governor Ortom genuinely won the governorship election in the state because he ensured the enactment of the grazing law the people themselves prepared and presented to him.
“It is that law, which he fully supported and ensured its implementation despite obvious threats to his life and position that is gradually ensuring the return of peace in the state. That is why Benue people decided that he deserved a second term in office and they massively voted for him as you can see the electrified atmosphere here at the inauguration ground as a testimonial to that fact.”
Former Minister of Interior and now a senator for Benue south, Comrade Abba Moro, said Benue is on the threshold of making history in the politics of Nigeria.
“We had a governor who won the election the platform of a party and by his conviction given the demand of his people moved to another party and won re-election, which clearly showed that his leadership qualities are exemplary.
“The outcome of the elections in Benue state clearly shows that the will of the people will always prevail and because God is involved it is clear that the election has been won and lost.
“So, I plead with my brothers on the other side of the political divide to withdraw the suit challenging the victory of the Governor so as to give him respite and breather to serve the state diligently and without encumbrances,” Moro added.
Also speaking, convener of the Benue Youths Forum, BYF, Comrade Terrence Kuanum observed that the “outcome of the general election in Benue which saw the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, producing three senators, six House of Representatives members and about 23 State Assembly members was a clear indication that Benue is a PDP state”.
He added, “In that election, our people clearly expressed their disenchantment and anger over the way and manner the APC-led Federal Government mismanaged the herdsmen crisis in the state.
“So, anyone contesting the outcome of that election in whatever form is embarking on a mission of self-deceit because the people undisputedly expressed their resolve through the ballot and it should be respected and not challenged in whatever form. “Doing so would amount to challenging the voice of the people, which is the voice of God”.