Benue: Battle for Ortom’s successor begins

CEPHAS IORHEMEN reports on the move by political leaders across the three senatorial districts of Benue State to have their respective areas produce the next governor of the state in 2023


The battle over who succeeds the incumbent governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, has commenced in earnest with various interest groups, especially the Idoma tribe pushing for power shift to their territory in Benue South (Zone C senatorial district) that will see them take over power from the largest ethnic group in the state, the Tivs, come 2023.


Already, as a prelude to the general election, major political players and game changers from the other two geopolitical axis, zones A and C, excluding Benue North West (Zone B), where Governor Ortom hails from, are intensifying lobby and making wide consultations to produce the next governor of the state.


While the Tivs are bent on not leaving anything to chance, their Idoma counterparts are “pleading” for power shift this time around. Their quest is premised on the argument that since creation of the state in 1973, they have not produced a governor.


The state has a total of 23 local government areas with the majority Tivs that make up zones A and B controlling14, while the Idoma and Igede people, who constitute Zone C sharing the remaining nine. A breakdown shows that Zone A in Tivland, where Senator Gabriel Suswam (a former governor of the state) holds sway has Vandeikya, Kwande, Logo, Ukum, Katsina- Ala, Konshisha and Ushongo local government areas, respectively.


Zone B, where Governor Samuel Ortom holds sway has Guma, Buruku, Makurdi, Gwer, Gwer West, Gboko and Tarka local government areas, respectively. Zone C, where former Senate President, David Mark and Senator Abba Moro dictates the direction of political movement has Otukpo, Okpokwu, Ogbadibo, Oju, Obi, Ohimini, Ado, Apa and Agatu local government areas, respectively.


Those who have indicated interest to succeed Governor Ortom among the Tivs include the member representing Vandeikya/ Konshish (Jechira) federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Herman Hembe who has defected from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Barnabas Gemade, who recently dumped the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for the APC.




Others also said to be nursing ambitions to join the race from Zone A include a university don, Prof. Terhemba Shija and Governor Ortom’s Commissioner for Education, Prof. Dennis Ityavyar all from Vandeikya  as well as the Governor’s Chief of Staff, Mr. Terwase Orbunde, who hails from Kwande.


From Benue South Senatorial District according to findings by New Telegraph is a former Managing Director of Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority (LBRBDA), Chief Mrs. Roseline Ada Chenge. She is Idoma by birth but married to a Tiv from Vandeikya Local Government Area.


While the number of Benue 2023 governorship hopefuls keeps swelling by the day, some political analysts are however of the view that a majority those who have shown interest to run are not governorship materials.


They stemmed their position based on the antecedents of the politicians most of whom they said are not serious and are simply “political jokers who want to still remain relevant even after Governor Ortom.” For instance, New Telegraph gathered that Mrs. Chenge, a native of Owukpa in Ogbadibo Local Government Area, announced her ambition on a WhatsApp group known as “Owukpa Advocacy Group.”


She told members of the group that Mother Mary has given her the mandate to run the race. “For the information of the house, I am a member of the APC, I am in the national campaign council of my party and by the grace of God, I will be contesting to be governor of Benue State in the 2023 election, according to the divine mandate of God given to me through our Mother Mary.


“I urge well-meaning sons and daughter of Owukpa to pray for me and support me when the time comes. I pray that when the time for elections comes, all the zealous people on this platform will channel their energy towards pulling power to our village,” she wrote on the platform.


It was also observed that the Idoma people are seriously aligning forces to square up against their Tiv brothers and produce a governor this time. Against this backdrop, they have approached Suswam whom they feel can make things happen for them.


A group, Benue Rebirth Movement (BRM), led by top politicians from the area, including, General Lawrence Onoja (rtd), Justice Adah Onum (rtd) and a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Dr. Sam Odeh, among others were reported to have met Senator Suswam in Abuja to push for an Idoma governor.



Sources privy to the meeting hinted New Telegraph that in their collective speech, they said that “it has become necessary at this particular time to come together as people of common social, economic and political challenges in a Nigeria that has become polarised on ethnic, religious and other mundane considerations.”


General Onoja in his speech was said to have particularly emphasized the need “for all peoples of minority status and like minds to form local and national political alliances and consensus.”


Senator Suswam, in a response, was said to have urged the group to continue to consult leaders, stakeholders and other relevant groups and wished them luck. But talking about Zone C politics cannot be exhaustively discussed without mentioning the position of the Igede people who occupies two out of the nine local government areas of Zone C (Oju and Obi).


The people are alleging continuous marginalization by their Idoma brothers in the politics of the state. Speaking to New Telegraph on the quest for Idoma governorship in 2023, an Igede chieftain, Mr. Ogbu Onah said that “Igede people are also qualified to be governor of Benue State.”


Onah added the idea of power shift to Benue South is the brainchild of Air Vice Marshall Monday Morgan from Idoma extraction, who in his wisdom, felt that Igede people should not be left out in the agitation. He wondered why the agreement has now been misconstrued to mean garnering support for Idomas to enable them get the crown and dump them midstream. Onah posited that the plan of BRM is to concede the Senate position to Igede, a position they never held before, if they finally clinch the governorship slot.


“Igede people are now rudderless; their political appointments are always decided in the government house by Governor Ortom, the state chairman of the PDP, John Ngbede and the deputy governor, Engr. Benson Abounu,” he said.


While the jostle hots up, Ortom had declared that he would not anoint a candidate for the seat of governor of the state in the 2023 general election. He urged PDP members and other Benue people to regard anyone who claims to be his “anointed” candidate as a liar.



The governor, who made this known while addressing the expanded caucus of PDP at the party’s secretariat in Makurdi earlier in the year, stated that respect for zoning was the only thing that could engender unity and team spirit in the party. He added that stakeholders from the 23 local government areas should deliberate on the zoning arrangement and submit their reports to the party secretariat for consideration.


For now, consultations are going on ahead of the 2023 general election, but the question on the lips of most people is: Where will the pendulum swings to? Whether the Tivs, who are in the majority will still produce the next governor of Benue State after Ortom or the Idomas will have their way this time, only time will tell


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