As speculations continue to trail Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom’s next political move, HEMBADOON ORSAR captures the intrigues arising from the recent defection of former national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Barnabas Gemade to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
With 2023 elections in sight, defections are becoming the order of the day as part of political realignments.
Barely days after former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara returned to the All Progressives Congress (APC), erstwhile national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senator Barnabas Gemade defected from Social Democratic Party (SDP) to APC.
Gemade’s defection has since triggered political permutations and speculations ahead of the 2023 general elections in Benue State.
Interestingly, his defection came at a time speculations were rife that the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom was also nursing plans to return to the APC.
Ortom and Gemade had moved from PDP to the APC in the buildup to 2015 election following their inability to get the party’s governorship and senatorial tickets respective as the then governor, Senator Gabriel Suswam denied them the tickets.
The former governor who muscled Gemade out of PDP because he was eyeing the Senate seat which the former national chairman was aiming for, also ensured that Ortom didn’t get the PDP governorship ticket.
However, Ortom and Gemade defected to APC, got the governorship and senatorial tickets respectively and won their elections.
They returned to the PDP in the buildup to the 2019 elections following the crisis of confidence that hit the party. After their reconciliation with Suswam, Ortom retained his governorship position for a second term while Gemade lost his seat to Suswam and defected to the SDP.
While Gemade is back to APC, Ortom continued stay in PDP is shrouded in a cloud of doubt.
In a speech when announcing the defection, Gemade gave an indication that the APC will uproot PDP in the state come 2023.
According to him this will be made possible because of his political re-alliance with the minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs Senator George Akume, a combination which he described as a winning team
He said, “My alliance with Senator Akume has always been Instrumental To Electoral victory in Benue, since the return to party politics in 1999.”
While some speculate that Gemade’s return to the ruling APC might be related to a gubernatorial ambition, other watchers of allude that Gemade’s decamping to the ruling APC is to facilitate The possible shot at the presidency in 2023.
Although he is yet to give a specific reason for his return to APC, those who argue that it might’ve related to the governorship seat, argue that the position of governor come 2023, would be zone to Benue North East Senatorial District and he reasons that in the event of the zoning, he is the most qualified and experience aspirant with the required political war chest and resources to take a shot at the position.
What’s more, a speculation is rife that the decision of the ex- PDP national chairman to join APC might be to take over the political leadership of the party from the minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs Senator George Akume.
For those who share this view, they aver that minister has not shown the zeal and passion in leading the party, and on account of this party leaders in the state have not gotten much appointment at the federal level.
Relatedly, the failure of the APC to clinch the gubernatorial, three senatorial seats, 11 House of Representatives and 30 House of Assembly seats in 2019, have been attributed to the failure of political leadership of the minister to reposition the party in the state.
At the Tiv Community level, the argument is that Gemade’s decamping is occasioned by the recent call by the Tiv Traditional Council for Tiv political elites to close ranks and work together for the development of Tiv Nation.
The council has consistently pointed out that lack of unity and cooperation among Tiv political elites is responsible for the prevalent infrastructural underdevelopment, economic backwardness and the teeming youth unemployment, hence the need for Tiv political leaders to work together. The decamping is seen as a heeding to this clarion call.
On the broad Benue political plane, the Gemade defection is viewed as throwing spanner in the wheel of the campaign for power shift to the Benue South Senatorial District.
Recently, 16 diverse groups agitating for power shift to Benue South Senatorial District coalesced to form Benue Rebirth Movement(BRM) under the chairmanship of former Chief of Defence Intelligence, retired Air Vice Marshal Monday Morgan.
The defection of Gemade is seen as an indication that the power shift to Benue South does not represent the dominant opinion of the political class in Benue State.
It was envisaged in certain quarters that given the close political affinity between Gemade and top political leaders from the southern senatorial district he would throw his weight behind the power shift project.
At his decamping, many of his political associates from the southern senatorial district such as former Permanent Secretary ministry of Defence, Chief Mike Okibe Onoja and many others joined him in moving to APC.
In a similar vein, the Gwer Intermediate area is putting up a strong case for the rotation of the governorship to the area. They contend that since the creation of Benue State in 1976, no one from Gwer intermediate zone among the five Tiv intermediate areas has clinched the position.
They see the rotation of the governorship to the area as addressing a historical injustice.
Kwande intermediate in the Benue North East Senatorial District is also angling to take a shot at the position, however, their bargaining power is weak because the incumbent Tor Tiv, His Royal Majesty, Prof James Ayatse is from the same area, and in the Tiv political calculations, the governorship and Tor Tiv seats are hardly zoned to one place.
Nevertheless, Gemade, who was accompanied by a crowd of party faithful on Friday July 31, 2020, to mark his official move to APC, said,
“My coming back to APC is home because between 2015 and 2019, was at the Senate to represent the Benue North East on the platform of APC.”
He described Senator Akume as an undisputed leader of the party in the state, adding that his reunion with Senator Akume to work as a team in APC had already sent a great panic to other Political parties in the state.
While expressing profound gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari, the acting national chairman of the party and the entire APC family, Gemade promised to work hard to reshape the party in the state to regain back it’s lost glory
In a welcome address, the APC state chairmen, Comrade Abba Yaro likened Gemade’s joining their like to catching a big fish saying, “We were not happy when you left us, now that you are back we are happy and most grateful.
“Let me assure you that there is no new APC or old APC; everyone is treated the same in our party and we all have equal rights. We are all brothers and sisters. Therefore, let us support one another and work together as a team”
“If the state secretariat of the party has offended you in anyway, forgive us,” Comrade Yaro add.
Speaking also, Chief Onoja,who was represented by Simon Agbo Akorche, pledged his support to Gemade saying all his supporters from Benue South Senatorial District will join Gemade in the comings days.
Meanwhile, PDP leadership in the state through its publicity secretary, Bemgba Iortyom described Gemade’s defection to the ruling APC as a mere habitual charade by political nomads.
He said, “Ordinarily, the PDP should not concern itself with an exercise which is a mere charade by well known perennial political nomads, however, considering Senator Gemade’s quoted statement at the decamping that his move to APC has sent jitters down the spines of PDP and other political parties in the state, it is noteworthy to state a few facts salient and relevant to the situation.
“Firstly, underscoring the irrelevance of this charade of a decamping is the loud question; As a former national Chairman of a ruling party, former Minister and former Senator, why was the Benue State Leader of the APC, Senator George Akume, conspicuously absent at the decamping ceremony yesterday?
“Was Senator Gemade’s diminishing political value not highlighted by his abysmally poor performance in his Senatorial re-election bid in 2019 on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), where he lost even in his native Mbawar and placed third in the race behind a political greenhorn like Mimi Orubibi, after he had junketed from APC to PDP and then to SDP all in the space of a few months?” he asked.
However before Gemade’s defection, Ortom has been speculated as planning to return to the APC. The party’s chairman in the state, Comrade Abba Yaro had insinuated that Ortom will soon be returning to the party, a claim which the governor’s chief press secretary, Terver Akase, debunked.
But the publicity secretary of the APC in the state, James Ornguga, described the rebuttal by the CPS as an attempt to fly a kite to gauge public opinion regarding the governor’s next plan of action.
Ornguga said the CPS mischievously quoted Comr. Yaro as announcing Governor Ortom’s return to the party which was not what he said.
“Much as it is safe to ignore the statement and rather watch as the Ortom media handlers are known overtime for anticlockwise statements which oftentimes, negate the actual actions of their boss, it is important to straighten the facts, touching on the quotes foisted on the APC State Chairman,” he said.
But Governor Ortom confirmed that APC approached him to return.
He, however, said after much consultations with some of my close allies and the State Congress of the PDP, “I have made up my mind to decline the carrot offered him by the APC.”
The governor who disclosed this during the State Elective Congress of the PDP held at Aper Aku Stadium in Makurdi said: “It is true that the APC invited me to come back to APC as being speculated by people, but I refused, I told them that I am not leaving PDP, so the rumour of my Ieaving PDP for APC is far from the truth. I also told them I would come and ask you (the state congress). Do you want me to decamp to APC?” Ortom asked and the delegates in a chorused answer say, “No, no, no”.
The governor then said, “I will remain in the PDP, I was a prodigal son, I left the party, came back again and my people welcome me and gave me the fatest cow which is the governorship position so I am not going to leave, I am comfortable here, I promise to work assiduously to ensure the victory of PDP come 2023,” he said.