CEPHAS IORHEMEN reports on top governorship aspirants of Idoma extraction aiming to succeed Governor Samuel Ortom and their chances in the 2023 polls
As the battle for who succeeds Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, hots up ahead of the 2023 governorship election, various interest groups in the state have commenced alignment and realignment of political forces even as contenders from the second largest ethnic group in the state, the Idoma, are gearing up to wrest power from the dominant Tivs. The move is premised on the fact that since the creation of the state 45 years ago, no Idoma has occupied the coveted seat. The agitation for a governor of Idoma extraction is coming on the heels of the belief that since all the Tiv ruling houses in zones A and B have produced governors, it is only fair that the next governor of the state should emerge from the Zone C axis. The governorship hopefuls of Idoma extraction include the incumbent deputy governor of Benue State, Benson Abounu, Maxwell Loko, Senator Abba Moro
The current Deputy Governor of Benue State was picked as the running mate of Governor Samuel Ortom in 2015 under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) but later defected with his principal to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the platform on which they were re-elected for a second term in 2019. Though yet to publicly declare his intention to succeed his boss, reliable sources claim that the state’s number two citizen is interested in the race for the Benue government house in 2023. If the reports are anything to rely on, Engr. Abounu has ample chances to succeed his boss, especially if the Tivs, who are the majority in the state and the ruling party in the state PDP, zone the governorship to Benue South Senatorial District where Abounu hails from. Abounu, who would be 74 years in July of 2023, is an engineer and hails from Otukpo Local Government Area, the most populous council in Zone C. He came to public limelight in the state when he contested for governorship as the standard bearer of Social Democratic Party (SDP) and thereafter served as Special Adviser to Governor Moses Adasu between 1992 and 1993. Given his stewardship at various public service posts held in the past, one can safely assert that Abounu has garnered the needed experience and political acumen to pilot the affairs of the state if given the chance in 2023. Popularity wise, the deputy governor’s political followership has increased following his outstanding performance as the Chairman of the Benue State COVID- 19 Committee. He also currently enjoys enormous support of the Tivs who appreciate his diligence and loyalty to their son, Governor Samuel Ortom, as his faithful and dutiful second-in-command. If the lot falls on Benue South to produce the next governor of the state and, Abounu declares his interest, he will be the candidate to beat.
Maxwell Loko is been pressured from different quarters to contest the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Benue State. He is a technocrat and presently the Managing Director of the NTA-TV Enterprises, a subsidiary of the Nigerian Television Authority. He is seen as a detribalized person given that he was responsible for the appointment of Tiv persons into the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) and of note is the appointment of Mr. Barnabas Gbam as Principal of NTA TV College Jos. He is been pressured to run for the governorship a powerful political group within the Tiv nation. Though Loko is said to be seriously weighing the option whether to run or not, he is seen as a green horse that could emerge as a compromise candidate. He hails from Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue State and holds a Bachelors Degree in Economics, MSc. Political Economy and Development Studies, an MBA in Marketing and is currently doing his PhD. He has over 25 years experience in both the private sector and broadcast industry in Nigeria.
Senator Abba Moro needs no introduc-tion in the political sphere of Benue State, and Nigeria in general. Born on 3 July 1956, Moro is a Nigerian educational administrator, politician and philanthropist. In 2007, he contested for the governorship of the state on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but 0lost at the party’s primary election. In 2015, he was appointed as minister of Interior. Presently, he is the senator representing Benue South Senatorial District at the red chamber of the National Assembly. Although, Senator Moro is yet to declare his intention to contest for the governorship seat in 2023, he has been reportedly tipped by many, especially his teeming supporters who cut across all zones of the state to succeed Governor Ortom come 2023.
Chief Steven Lawani is a former Deputy Governor of Benue State. He was the defunct National Deputy Chairman of National Republican Convention (NRC). Lawani, who would be 75 by December 2022, a few months before the elections of 2023, also hails from Otukpa, Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue South. He led a vigorous governorship campaign in 2015 after his tenure as deputy governor elapsed, but finished second at the PDP primary to Tehemehn Tazoor, who lost to the then APC governorship candidate, Samuel Ortom at the polls. In 2019, he contested against the PDP candidate and eventual winner, Comrade Abba Moro, for the Benue South Senatorial seat. With the 2023 polls gathering momentum, and as the call for an Idoma governor continues Chief Lawani, who holds the traditional title of the Ochagwu K’Idoma, has all it takes to succeed incumbent Chief Dr. Samuel Ioraer Ortom in 2023.
Dan Onjeh Daniel
Onjeh is a politician, activist, former president of West African Students’ Union (WASU) and National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). He is currently the chairman, Governing Board of Project Development Institute (PRODA). He etched his name into the political landscape of Zone C and Benue State when he became the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main challenger of former Senate President, David Mark, in the 2015 Benue South Senatorial election. Though he lost to Mark, the Ogbadibo born activist is generally adjudged by many political players to have fought a good fight, almost bringing to a halt, a political juggernaut that had moved unchallenged for 16 years. He again showed interest to contest against Mark’s eventual successor and PDP candidate in the 2019 Benue South Senatorial election, Abba Moro, but was beaten at the APC primaries by Chief Steven Lawani. The Ghana-trained former unionist, who is the youngest among the aspirants, enjoys a large followership among Benue’s youthful population. Owing to his charisma, the young comrade will be a tough contender. Although his posters are making the rounds on social media, courtesy of his supporters, he is yet to make his intention known publicly.
By the next general election in 2023, Mathias Oyigeya will be 60 years old. A medical practitioner and philanthropist, he is one of the prominent contenders among the political gladiators in terms of resounding achievements from his time as the Medical Director of Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi. His performance contributed to the growing calls for an Idoma governor in some Tiv quarters, a gesture believed to have influenced his decision to resign his position as the Medical Director at the FMC in order to be able to get himself properly girded ahead of the 2015 governorship election, which, unfortunately, ended for him at the PDP primaries. The Efekwo-Otukpa native is reportedly showing interest in the race to succeed his former opponent at the PDP primaries, Governor Ortom, come 2023. His governorship campaign posters were spotted online recently. If indeed, he is vying for the governor’s office once again and there is no doubt that Dr. Oyigeya will enjoy the support of Tiv and Idoma people alike. He has won the confidence of his Idoma kin and also earned the trust of some Tivs. Back home, he holds the traditional title of ‘Oyame K’Efekwo’ which roughly translates as “the overdoer of Efekwo land.” He singlehandedly brought the FMC Makurdi, Efekwo outreach centre to Otukpa in Ogbadibo Local Government Area, to his rural community which hitherto had no healthcare facility. Dr. Oyigeya is a member, Board of Management, Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi, and member, Governing Board, Federal Medical Centre, Keffi.
Dr. Ada Chenge is the first female Managing Director of Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority (LBRBDA). A renowned politician, she was the only female aspirant in the contest for the 2015 PDP governorship ticket. She also contested and lost the 2011 primaries of the party. She has been said to be eyeing the governorship seat again. So far, she is the only female aspirant on this list. Nonetheless, Mrs. Chenge doesn’t agree that she has limited chances in a male-dominated world. She made her intention known on Owukpa Advocacy Forum, where she claimed Mother Mary (Holy Mary, Mother of Jesus) has given her the mandate as the next governor of Benue State. No doubt, when Dr. Change eventually officially declares her aspiration to succeed Governor Ortom in the Benue Peoples’ House come 2023, her candidature will not be a walkover.
Dr. Sam Ode is a seasoned administrator and politician. He was Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs during the Goodluck Jonathan administration and erstwhile Director General of Niger River Basin Authority. He contested for Benue governorship in 2015 on the platform of the PDP but lost at the primaries. In 2019, Ode was the running mate of the All Progressives Congress’ governorship candidate, Barr. Emmanuel Jime. Sadly, they lost to the incumbent governor, Ortom, of the PDP. As the 2023 governorship race draws nearer, his supporters are calling on him again to run for the number one seat in the state. Some people have based their call on the fact that with a mixed Idoma-Tiv parentage, Ode has for long been considered to be the first man to break the ceiling against an Idoma man becoming governor of Benue State. Though born of an Idoma father, his maternal parentage flows directly from the late Senator Joseph Tarka, one of the torchbearers of the Tiv political hegemony.