By Barrister Manni Ochugboju
This is a solemn message to the APC members in Benue State, the rank and file, hard working members in particular, not to get drawn into any elitist fractional squabble over the choice of Dr Sam Ode as Emmanuel Jime Esq’s running mate for the position of governor of Benue State, come 2019.
The Elders and leaders of Benue APC organised a rigorous, transparent screening process and resorted to voting to decide the running mate of the party’s governorship candidate. It is remarkable that the candidate, Emmanuel Jime, wisely waived his discretion to appoint his running mate, taking cognizance of the peculiar political terrain of Benue State. As a consequence of that democratic process of selection, Dr. Sam Ode, emerged as the elected deputy-governorship candidate by the party leaders.
So soon thereafter, pandemonium broke out in the party. One or two party elite felt their name should have been substituted as the running mate. We heard threats of switching party allegiance, ridiculous anti party activities to subvert the electoral chances of the party’s governorship candidates, all sorts of threats, noise, discontentment, real or feigned, etc.
Audu Ogbeh, the noble High Chief and Distinguished Senator George Akume, with other party leaders did their best to ensure that Dr Sam Ode is not undemocratically substituted by another party member. We salute their dynamic leadership role on this occasion, and trust this renewed spirit of cooperation and culture of consensus building will be sustained. The refusal to undemocratically substitute Dr Sam Ode is also a significant departure from the usually dysfunctional political party governance in Nigeria. Historically, political parties in Nigeria are dominated by “Big Men” or petty bourgeois godfathers at the expense of party members who hijack the control of the parties by undemocratic means associated the payer of the piper dictating the tune.
This is also an opportunity for the APC in Benue State to build and assert its identity as different from the PDP, demonstrating a more democratic, inclusive and transparent party management ethos with a clear ideological framework of welfarism, state participation in the process of sustainable development, poverty alleviation, radical institutional reforms and restructuring, including state creation.
State creation is already constitutionally guaranteed and would be vigorously pursued by those of us committed to it as a fundamental developmental right. Nevertheless, the APC led Federal Government must make unambiguous policy pronouncements and initiatives to convince the electorates that the Mallam Nasiru El Rufai led APC Committee report on ‘true federalism’, restructuring and state creation is not a mere 2019 election stunt.
Still on the petty, churlish hue and cry over who clinched the gubernatorial running mate ticket of the APC, the question one is forced to pose is whether being a deputy- governor is the only platform to provide progressive leadership to our people? I recall a conversation with Professor Yakubu Ochefu a few years ago when I was pondering the prospects of running for the Otukpo/Ohimini Federal House of Representatives position. He asked about me running for the then vacant position of Chairman of Otukpo Local Government Council. And he was spot on. It is also a veritable strategic position to provide good, popular governance. We can’t all be members of the House of Representatives or be all be Senators, governors, deputy-governors, etc. But we can all, individually and collectively, provide commendable, distinguished service to our people in various spheres.
Is it constructive leadership for folks who feel aggrieved that they were not appointed as Jime’s running mate to threaten to quit the party? Or for others who feel unhappy that that their preferred candidate was not selected to rally their supporters and others to decamp from the APC? Is that a wise or progressive response?
Many of the APC members and others are aware of my support for Dr John Ofutu as Jime’s running mate. Dr Ofutu (whom I fondly call Dr Jay), is one of my closest childhood friends. I lived with Dr Jay when I first arrived London nearly three decades ago. Dr Jay was at one point the front-runner in the selection of the running mate. When the tide was turning in favour of Dr Ode, I was with him at Zanzibar, Maitama when he told Jime Esquire that he would energetically support whomever the party selected as his running mate. That he does not have to be the deputy-governor to be of qualitative service to Benue State and our beloved country, Nigeria.
In fact, some of us close to Dr Jay had to plead with him to even remain in the race as he was frankly blasé about it. Many times, Dr Jay threatened to pull out of the race, fly back to London, for many reasons, especially as Honourable Nelson Alapa whom he was initially campaigning for would not readily endorse him. Neither would Honourable Alapa appraise the fact that he was constrained to join the race, not for his personal ambition but what is conceived to be for the better interest of APC in Benue State. Whence, Ms Maureen Agboh Attorney and a few others, sounding as bell weather, hinted there were critical reviews afoot. Dr Jay asked us to support whomever Jime and the party settled for as the running mate. That is progressive, collaborative, selfless leadership.
I hereby respectfully urge all members of APC in Benue State, particularly those expressing dissatisfaction over the party’s inability to select their preferred candidate to please, reconsider their stance. I understand their feelings. I too was supporting Dr Jay. Should we all, therefore, resort to anti party activities because our preferred candidate was not selected? God forbid. That would be cutting the nose to spite the face.
Folks, we are supporting our party APC, Jime Esquire and Dr Ode as the next governor and deputy-governor of Benue State. To succeed in the 2019 election, we must strengthen the pillars of our party, rally the base, deepen internal democracy and canvass a radical, transformative vision for Benue State. The era of “automatic” dysfunctional leadership in Benue State, that reproduces poverty, porous philosophy, purposeless policies and penury, is over. As a valedictory 2019 message to the Ortom’s PDP regime, all the Senators, former governors, former ministers and goons trying to resurrect that moribund regime, we say, Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin!!
We however salute a few of the PDP leaders like Engineer Benson Abounu who tried to provide equitable leadership. We understand the duress of circumstance they are ensnared in. Nevertheless, we have no goodwill message this Christmas for the majority of them that have continued to pervert the process of democracy, governance and social justice in the last nineteen years in our homeland. To all such leaders that have betrayed and abused our mandate, the “automatic” handwriting on the wall is – Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin!! You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Your asphyxiating grip on the politics of Benue State, Zone C and Idoma land has been ripped asunder. The old order of backwardness, bad roads, bad schools, bad hospitals, bad water supply, no job opportunities, bad living condition, and utterly bad governance in Benue State shall inevitably crumble. “For the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.”
One would like to call on all members of the APC and the good people of Benue State to say, “peace, be still”. Vote for Jime & Ode in 2019. Vote for a radical break with the past. Vote to break the chain of backwardness in our homeland. Vote for a new era. Vote for a bountiful, better Benue State.
Alutta Continua !! Victoria Ascerta !!