In this report, HEMBADOON ORSAR (Makurdi) writes on the front runners in the Benue North-East senatorial contest in the 2019 elections.
The issue of who occupies the Benue North-East senatorial seat in the Senate come 2019 has become a tug of war among various gladiators – particularly the incumbent Senator Barnabas Gemade of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), former governor Gabriel Suswam of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Mimi Orubibi of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
This is even as aggrieved aspirants on the platform of the SDP in Benue state have called on the national leadership of the party to cancel both the state and National Assembly primaries conducted in the state.
The aggrieved members also appealed to the national secretariat of the party to order fresh primary elections into all the offices.
Spokesman of the aggrieved aspirants, who is also aspiring for the seat of Benue North-East senatorial district, Senator Joseph Akaagerger, at a press conference in Makurdi lamented that the primaries were characterised by manifested irregularities, which included snatching of electoral materials by hired thugs, violence and vote buying.
According to him, apart from the afore-mentioned irregularities, other electoral vices were that of predetermined choice of candidates before the so-called conduct of elections, and criminal manipulation of election results in all the 276 council wards of the state.
Senator Akaagerger also decried the compromise of the party officers and undue influence.
‘’Despite credible congresses earlier conducted at all levels of the party which produced the state executive officers, the National Secretariat of the party created and recognised a parallel exco in four local governments on the eve of the primaries to favour Senator Barnabas Gemade,” he claimed.
He listed the local governments to include Kwande, Ushongo, Vandeikya and Konshisha respectively.
‘’For example the Benue North-East senatorial district, all the returning officers posted to the seven local governments that comprised the zone left for Gemade’s house in Gboko after the purported primaries and they handed over some result sheets to him.
‘’In Benue North-West, in some local governments where elections never held, results were recorded in favour of candidates loyal to Gemade.
‘’The national secretariat should devise a credible free and fair mode to conduct the fresh primaries that would win the confidence of all aspirants and party supporters.
‘’The State Working Committee should also be cautioned against ingratiating itself with Gemade to the detriment of the party supporters,” he added.
But in a swift reaction, Senator Barnabas Gemade debunked the claims by Akaagerger that he was responsible for the electoral irregularities during the National and State Assemblies primaries in Benue.
Gemade refuted this in an interview with journalists, saying the primaries took place across the state and that the allegations leveled against him by Akaagerger were very far from the truth.
‘’The allegations leveled against me by Akaagerger were a pedestrian way of lying. It is nothing but lies. He is a loud trouble maker.
‘’The primaries were successfully done in five local government areas. It was only in Konshisha and Vandeikya LGAs that the primaries were not conducted because Akaagerger and his supporters disrupted the process.
‘’In Vandeikya, two principal aspirants and their teams were at dagger drawn fighting each other. No materials were taken there as such no result was returned. All of us got zero in the two LGAs,’’ he said.
He noted that he is relatively new in the party and it would not have been possible for him to hijack the structures of the party as claimed by Akaagerger.
‘’Akaagerger is someone who is so desperate for power. He is only ranting. All the elections that I have won, I won them without indulging in crooked means.
‘’He is hired by those who drove me out of my party (PDP). I can live with nuisance even insults but cannot take lies against me.
‘’He should leave my personality alone because I cannot take it lightly with anyone who wants to smear my reputation,’’ Gemade added.
LEADERSHIP Friday gathered that Senator Akaagerger had since left the SDP for Labour Party (LP) to actualise his dreams.
Meanwhile, the flag-bearer of APC for the senatorial district, Mimi Orubibi, is also optimistic of defeating the immediate past governor of the state, Suswam and the incumbent Gemade, who emerged flag bearers of PDP and SDP respectively.
Orubibi, a former Benue Internal Revenue Service (BIRS) boss, who made the boast during an interaction with journalists in her Makurdi residence after her emergence, said as the first female Senator to emerge from the state, she will break the jinx of relegating women to the background.
She noted that her victory at the primaries was epochal, maintaining that she will defeat the likes of Suswam and Gemade with landslide margin because her people were tired of “loaning out” the senatorial seat.
“I will beat Suswam and Gemade. My victory over them will be landslide. The orientation of the people has changed. They no longer vote big names. See the likes of Dickson Tarkighir, Herman Hembe and Hassan Salleh, who lost their primaries to unknown names.
“My people are more oriented and enlightened about girl child now. The ideology about girl child has changed, gone are the era of women ending up in kitchen,” she added.
The former BIRS boss posited that women have the intellectual ability to galvanize development and as such should not be relegated to the background.
“There is need to vote women in power, for relative peace in our polity. For me, I am not going to the Senate to sleep but to get information and disseminate same on government policies.
“While I was chairman of BIRS, I gave job to over 3,000 youths. I intend to do same with information I will get by liaising with federal ministries and parastatals. If voted into position, I will articulate a Bill for the protection of women especially widows and children,” she promised.
LEADERSHIP Friday also gathered that the PDP candidate, Suswam, who contested for the seat in 2015 but lost to Gemade, is optimistic to clinch the seat this time.
It will certainly be a battle royale and only time and the Benue Nort-East electorate will determine the eventual winner come 2019.
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