As the tussle among Benue politicians heighten over who clinches the APC guber ticket in the forthcoming general election, Uche Nnorom, our Benue state correspondent x-rays the chances of Prof. Steven Ugbah, ACN guber aspirant in 2011, against stiff opposition from a section of the political class and how it will impact on the fortunes of the party. Uche Nnorom, Makurdi.
Controversy seems to be brewing in the governorship race in Benue state especially in the camp of the major opposition party, the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Only last week, posters of former governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria in Benue state Prof. Steven Ugbah surfaced in major areas of Makurdi, the state capital.
The inscription on the poster read ‘Hope Alive, Continuity 2015’ Steven Ugbah for Governor 2015’.
It could be vividly recalled that Prof. Ugbah contested against the incumbent governor Gabriel Suswam for the governorship position of the state in 2011 and lost. He later proceeded to the election petition tribunal to challenge the outcome of the election. The suit dragged on for over four years and was finally dispensed off this year at the Supreme Court.
With the dispensation of the suit in favor of Governor Suswam, nothing has been heard about the professor or his political ambition. Many party followers in the state had even thought that he had returned to the US to carry on with his lecturing career, only to see his posters adorning the streets of Makurdi again.
It should be noted that Prof. Ugbah does not only hail from Zone A as Governor Gabriel Suswam but both of them come from the same Logo local government area of Benue state.
There has been a strong agitation in the state political landscape amongst the MINDA axis that power should rotate to them. This is even as the Idoma people of Zone C are equally angling for the number one seat which has continued to elude them since the creation of the state in 1976.
While the agitations get stronger by the day, the MINDA axis perhaps perceiving foul play, had at a meeting held in the residence of Sen. Joseph Waku come out with high worded statement condemning moves by certain influential individuals of Tiv extraction to persuade, lobby and otherwise influence the leadership of the APC, Benue state chapter to reconsider its stand and position with a view to throwing open the contest to all qualified, fit and proper candidates outside the MINDA area so as to enable such qualified candidates to enter the governorship contest in 2015.
Spokesman of the MINDA which comprises Iharev, Masev and Nongov people of Makurdi, Gwer, Gwer West and Guma local governments, Justice Augustine Utsaha, a retired Justice of the Customary Court, also noted with regrets and a calculated insult and disdain on them, insinuations by those attempting to dissuade the leadership of the two dominant political parties in the state to the effect that MINDA is devoid of qualitative and credible sons and daughters to govern the state and take it to greater heights if given the opportunity.
“We condemn this mischief in all its ramifications and urge such people to desist forthwith”, he warned.
Furthermore, the political group expressed disapproval at the mischievous attempt to introduce into Tiv political arena, the concept of Ichongu versus Ipuusu dichotomy, maintaining strongly that such dangerous connivance is capable of polarizing Tiv nation politically on the basis of Ichongu and Ipuusu If allowed to rear its ugly head.
“We note and appreciate the fact that the question of leadership of Tiv politics since the introduction of partisan politics in Tiv land has always been resolved and canvassed on individual leadership qualities as exhibited by the likes of late Sen. J.S. Tarka, late Mr. Aper Aku, first civilian governor of the state late Mr. Aper Aku and presently Sen. George Akume”.
“We also note and recall that when the leadership of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Benue state invited Prof. Steven Torkuma Ugbah, a renowned Professor from the United States of America to come home and contest the governorship election in 2011, his choice was not based on the fact that he is a son of Ichongu, while Governor Suswam was from Ipuusu but it was purely on the basis of their individual merits and the fact that both are from Sankera intermediate area. The ACN leadership was mindful of the fact that for the Sankera people, it was purely a question of ‘head or tail’ and Sankera people and indeed Benue state in general stood to have benefited a lot “if Ugbah had emerged as Governor of the state”.
The statement which was signed by over 39 prominent APC members from the four local government areas including Hon. Augustine Utsaha, Hon. Fidelis Anweh, former Head of Service of Benue state, Hon. Avine Agbom and Hon. Benjamin Adanyi both members of the state assembly, insisted vehemently that the governorship seat belongs to MINDA and urged other parties in the state intending to contest the governorship position to adopt a MINDA candidate for the election in 2015.
The sudden interest by Prof. Ugbah who was given overwhelming support by the party in 2011 governorship election to enter the race again especially at a time that the opposition party is angling to take over the reign of powers from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), inordinate ambition is a clear case of putting spanner in the wheel of progress in the MINDA agenda.
His action is one that will definitely divide the party and it may even witness mass defection of members. Already some prominent aggrieved members like Prof. David Iornem who was APC’s master strategist, Hon. Ralph Igbago, former deputy speaker of the Benue state House of assembly, Hon. David Mzenda Iho, a one time member of the House of Representative, Alh. Usman Maishanu Abubakar a.k.a ‘Young Alhaji, amongst several others has abandoned the party with their large supporters alleging high handedness by Sen. George Akume.
If Ugbah who was so popular in 2011 failed to win the contest then, what gives him the confidence that he can do it now that his popularity has waned?
Though for now it is not known yet who the sponsors of Ugbah are but in due course, they will be unmasked. For Ugbah, it is most honorable for him to denounce his ambition and throw his weight behind the MINDA agenda because he would be embarking on a wild goose chase.