Benue 2019: Akume’s Godsons In Fierce Battle To Unseat Ortom

With the exit of Governor Samuel Ortom from the ruling APC following the ‘red card’ from his estranged political godfather the structures of the party are now said to be in the firm grip of Senator George Akume whose loyalists are seeking his (Akume’s) anointment to succeed Orton in 2019.

Last week the Benue State chapter of the All Progressives Congress reportedly adopted indirect primary in selecting candidates for the 2019 general elections, a decision that was, however, rejected by a party stalwart from the Benue South Senatorial District, Daniel Onjeh.

The state chairman of the APC, Abba Yaro, said after the APC State Executive Committee meeting in Makurdi that direct primary would not be possible in the state because of the absence of a comprehensive membership register. According to Yaro the decision was reached after due consultation with the party’s stakeholders in the state and National Executive Committee of the party.

“The Benue State Working Committee of the APC wishes to state that it has adopted the indirect primary mode of selecting the party’s standard bearers. Direct primary method is not applicable in the state due to the absence of a comprehensive register of party members.”

But Onjeh, who is the Chairman, Governing Board of the Project Development Institute reportedly, said that some of them would prefer that direct primary be used as the register of the senatorial district was updated and were still intact. He spoke at the APC State Executive Committee meeting in Makurdi last week, where the decision was taken but the suggestion was, however, ruled out.

He may be a lone voice in opposing the indirect primary method to pick APC governorship candidate but at least six aspirants who have indicated their interest to run for the exalted seat may be going through that mode of primary. All of them are said to be currying the support of their perceived godfather Senator George Akume who is believed to have firm control over APC’s structures sequel to Ortom’s exit from the party.

Observers are watching to see if Akume will effectively play his godfather role by installing his preferred candidate for 2019 election from among his loyalists namely; Barrister Emmanuel Jime, Chief Titus Zam, Chief Audu Akange, Chief Mike Iordye, Barrister Benjamin Adanyi and Achema Achado. The big question is who gets the blessing of Akume to fly the Benue APC governorship ticket in 2019?

While there are strong opinions that the sole fixer of the APC in the state has preference for Zam, who was recently kicked out of the Ortom’s administration as the Special Adviser on Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs following disagreement between the governor and Akume, Jime is rumoured to be the man likely to clinch the party’s ticket.

Jime, currently the Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, (NEPZA) was the APC’s sacrificial lamb for Ortom in the 2015 election and is now said to have been penciled down by the powers that be from the presidency to serve the party gubernatorial interest in 2019.

On the other hand, former permanent secretary, Akange Audu, a close friend of the godfather and the one who first mustered courage to intervene on the feud between governor Ortom and Akume is seen as a smokescreen in the guber race.

Speculations are rife that Audu, though preferred in 2015 to Jime by the Akume before the advent of Ortom may not curry same favour this time. Nonetheless, Akume was said to have asked him to show interest in the race as a spoiler for certain aspirants on the APC’s platform.

Also, a former Head of Civil Service in the state, Iordye, in the eyes of observers would not make any meaningful impact as a game changer just as Adanyi, a recently ousted Majority leader of the state Assembly and Achado, multi-millionaire businessman is believed to poses no threat to the contenders.

At the moment, Jime is the man to beat and the presidency, it was learnt, has insisted that the NEPZA boss should be allowed to pick the gubernatorial ticket of the APC even though the godfather allegedly have his eyes on his political son, Zam, who observers says can’t make the slightest headway for the party in the general election.

It would be recalled that on July 25, this year, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State dumped the All Progressives Congress (APC) on which platform he rode to power in 2015 to rejoin the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The decision was no doubt sequel to the love lost between him and the leader of the APC in the state, Senator George Akume as a result of conflict of interest over the forthcoming 2019 election which had already redefined the political status of the state.

Things started falling apart between the duo following the outcome of the APC congresses held in May, this year in the state, a development which not only allegedly deepened the internal crack within the party but paved the way for Ortom’s defection to the PDP.

Ortom had lose out in his bid to control some of the delegates in the state, and by implication he completely lost out in the battle to control the party in the state to Senator Akume who had since the inception of the APC in the state dictated the pace.

The delegates election which was however the only avenue for the governor to fix his men which earlier exited the PDP with him in 2015 so as to enable him have some measures of control of the party was hijacked by Akume; hence Ortom’s ‘red card’ alarm that heralded his eventual defection.

Apart from contention for the party control, the alleged effort by Akume to sabotage the governor’s reelection bid was the final straw that broke the Carmel’s back and led to the bickering among the duo.

Interestingly, the series of developments thereafter was coloured with melodramas both at the State House of Assembly and at the entrance of the Government House where coalition of Benue youths comprising of at least forty groups prevented the governor’s convey from proceeding to a scheduled meeting with the APC national leadership in Abuja intended to reconcile the warring men.

Consequently, Ortom on that same day formally dumped the APC, leaving Akume who had also been accused severally in the past by some of his estranged political associates of the likes of Alhaji Usman Abubakar (Young Alhaji) of running the party as his personal estate to continue to dictate the pace as he had always done.

To this end, the contenders for the APC’s governorship ticket are striving harder to become the aspirant favoured by the ‘godfather’ in order to fly the party’s banner in the forthcoming election.

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