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Governor Samuel Ortom Executive Governor-Benue State

Benue LG Polls: Clean sweep for APC

The Ruling-All Progressives Congress’ stunning showing at the just concluded LG elections in the Food Basket State of Nigeria has left many, especially the opposition aghast.

From John Shiaondo, Makurdi

When Chairman of the Benue state Independent National Electoral Commission (BSIEC) Dr. John Tsuwa announced the overall results of the Local  Government Election on  June  4, which gave the All Progressive Congress APC an unassailable victory at the polls, it left many people pondering what has gone wrong with the Benue opposition.

Majority of supporters of the leading opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, among other parties seemed not to be worried over the outcome.

Though some raised questions to why the election results were announced by the State Independent Electoral Commission without providing figures to show how many votes each political party candidate scored in the election, particularly for the chairmanship positions.

They accused the BSIEC boss of playing double standard by hiding information so that the true scores of the election would not be revealed buttressing allegations making round that the election did not hold in most parts of the state.

Some alleged that the election was stage managed and manipulated to exclude the John Ngbede-led PDP faction resulting to the general voters’ apathy that characterised the election.

On the Election Day, It was observed that many people were seen hanging around commercial joints chatting as if the election was not holding.  Most electorate did not turn out for the polls.and some who went to vote returned home immediately to spend the rest of the day with members of their family not minding what transpired after they left the polling units.

However, declaring the  results of the election, BSIEC boss Dr. Tsuwa said the election was one of the most credible, free and fair elections ever conducted by the state election body.

He noted that electoral materials arrived polling units on time and ad hoc staff employed to assist in conducting the election performed their job credibly and without hitches. He said though body was vested with the responsibility of conducting state elections, it was not in their schedule to mobilise people to go out and vote.

Dr. Tsuwa explained that the reason, he did not announce scores of the results was because it was already declared at the polling units, council wards and local government levels.

It is worthy of note that while previous polls in Benue were marred by violence, snatching of ballot boxes and intimidation of political opponents by thugs, there was no such incident recorded in the recent election.

Political analysts in this regard scored the state governor ,DrSamuel Ortom high for creating an enabling environment for the peaceful conduct of the election.

The APC on the other hand rolled their drums celebrating that the election was the most free, fair and peaceful ever conducted in the state.

They commend  Governor Samuel Ortom for putting modalities in place to strengthen security in the state to provide a conducive atmosphere for the election to take place.

An APC chieftain and Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Special Duties Mr. Abraham Kwaghngu said: “This is democracy in action.” “The governor has strengthened security and made it as duty to bring democracy to the doorstep of every Benue man.”

Dr. Sylvester Tachin Chairman of State Universal Basic Education Board said, APC has been on ground and has done its work very well, based on the campaign done there was no way could not have witnessed such victory.”

But while the ruling party was celebrating victory, some political analysts were of the opinion that the landslide victory recorded by the APC could not have been possible if but the internal crisis in PDP.

They argue that, if there was no crises between Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi, at the national level and Mr. Dan Ale and John Ngbede at the state level respectively, the APC would have had a stiff battle in the election. Others wonder what had gone wrong with the ‘biggest party in Africa’ which few years ago had boasted of ruling Nigeria for fifty years.

Contrary  to this thinking, supporters of the APC are  of the opinion that, while both factions of the PDP were busy battling in court over who should be recognize between them by state electoral body, their party the APC, had already mapped out their strategy and gone all out campaigning to get votes from the electorates.

Governor Samuel Ortom in an interview with newsmen in his hometown Gbajimba said, “of all the eight parties that we heard were contesting for the election my party, the APC was the only party that went out to canvass for votes from the electorate.” He said:

“I personally led party supporter to zonal campaign rallies in the three senatorial districts in the state and we also went to campaign in local government areas and council wards.”

“Why we were doing this the PDP was busy fighting among themselves. You see, that was why I had to leave the party for the All Progressive Congress, because there is lack of internal democracy in the party.”

It could be noted that prior to the June 3 local government polls in the state, the Makarfi- led faction of the PDP chaired by John Ngbede in Benue, along with their candidates, dragged BSIEC, Dan Ale, PDP, among others before the Federal High court sitting in Makurdi for rejecting their list of candidates for the council polls and accepting Sheriff faction, chaired by Dan Ale in the state as the authentic list.

The Ngbede faction had complained that the purported letter from the National Secretariat of the PDP which John Tor Tsuwa and BSIEC relied on to decline recognition of the John Ngbede-led State Exco as the authentic one, was not right claiming that the crisis the party was experiencing was only at the national level and not at the state level.

In the originating summon, the plaintiffs sought to know, whether, in accordance with section 223 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria (as amended) and articles 25,47 and 49 of PDP constitution, the John Ngbede led state executive, having emerged through the State Congress on 10th May, 2016, did not have right to submit candidate’s list to BSIEC, ahead of the poll.

It also cited the judgement of an Appeal Court in Port Harcourt on 17th February, 2017, which affirmed the chairmanship of Sheriff, with a clause that, “the status quo ante should be maintained.”

The Ngbede-PDP also urged the court to stop BSIEC from holding the elections into the 23 local government councils of the state pending when the commission accepts their own candidates list for the polls.

The faction also prayed the court to compel the commission to recognised their State Chairman, Mr. John Ngbede and his executive as the authentic PDP in the state and to forthwith stop all forms of recognition of the Alhaji Ali Modu Sherriff’s group, Mr. Dan Ale as State Chairman of the party.

The party also, among other things, urged the court to make an order of declaration, for the Nigeria Police to seal off the “illegal” office currently being operated by Mr. Ale in Makurdi, to polarise the party.

But delivering judgement on the matter, the presiding Judge, Oneke JHC who said, though the federal high court lacked jurisdiction to handle the case but will hear it on its merit ruled that, article 50 (1) of the PDP constitution gives the National Secretariat of the party the right to rectify list of party candidates “for elections into public offices, at all levels.”

The Judge also cited OkaforvsOnuora (supra), Khaki vs PDP, as decided at the Supreme Court, that the issue of nomination of candidates was purely an internal affairs of the party and as such, BSIEC was right to have fielded the list from Dan Ale, having received letter from the National Secretary of the party.

The judge was howsoever mute over the argument by the Plaintiffs counsel that, the Appeal Court judgement of Port Harcourt gave legitimacy to John Ngbede-led executive, having emerged before the May 21st, 2016 botched national convention.

The judgement of the court, which was decided on the 2nd June, a day to the election edged the John Ngbede-led PDP faction that has majority of supporters of the leading opposition party out of the race, leaving Dan Ale faction which had only six candidates for the election which paraded 299 positions for contest.

Shortly after the judgement, Hon John Ngbede, state PDP chairman of the Makarfi led faction, addressed party supporters at the state secretariat of the party in Makurdi, and described the judgement as unfortunate and unacceptable.

He urged PDP members across the state to be law abiding and go about their normal businesses, saying the legal team of the party were putting heads together for the next action in the legal tussle.

The judgement, gave the APC unfettered opportunity, with less opposition to clinch all the seats in the local government election as the other parties were merely a walk-over.

Presented with this opportunity, the APC did all they could to ensure that every single candidate that contested election under its platform was announced winner, believing that the situation would bring humiliation to the party in payment for ‘maltreatment’ meted on their party and its members when PDP was ruling the state.

With all these happening, the State Election umpire body on its part found it quite easy in completing their job by announcing  the result of the council polls in the 23 local government areas in the state with APC emerging victorious in all.

It was alleged in some quarters that, the Dan Ale led state faction of the PDP, was being sponsored by the ruling APC to destabilise the party and cause confusion to make it less effective.

According to peddlers of this view, it was why BSIEC rejected the Ngbede led faction, which parade heavy weights in Benue, like former Senate President David Mark, former governor Gabriel Suswam, former NAFDAC boss Paul Orhii, former Minister of Interior Abba Moro, Solomon Wombo, John Tondo among others who could have given the ruling party tough race.

They argued further that Dr. John Tsuwa, a university don, was specifically drafted to BSIEC to do the bidding of the APC, justifying the adage, ‘one who pays the piper dictates the tune.’

But in a chat with our correspondent in his office, Dr. Tsuwa said he owes no allegiance to any political party including the ruling All Progressive Congress APC that brought him on board as chairman of the electoral body.

“Yes, the ruling APC or still better, governor Samuel Ortom appointed me, but immediately after my inauguration, I owe my allegiance to the law establishing the commission and the people of Benue state, not a politician or any political party,” the BSIEC boss said.

He said when he assumed office, he visited all political parties in the state beginning with the, ruling APC or  better still, governor Samuel Ortom appointed me, but immediately after my inauguration, I owe my allegiance to the law establishing the commission and the people of Benue state, not a politician or any political party,” the BSIEC boss said.

He said when he assumed office, he visited all political parties in the state beginning with the People’s Democratic Party PDP, to familiarise with them and inform them of his desire to conduct a hitch-free local government election.

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