By Amos Aar
THE Benue South zone of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has still not made up its mind on who to pick as the running mate to Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia, the party’s governorship flagbearer for 2023 race to Benue Peoples House Makurdi.
This is as the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) stipulated deadline that all Gubernatorial Candidates of political parties must submit names of their running mates latest by the end of August, 2022.
While other major political parties like the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue State have announced the running mates to their candidates a couple of months ago, the APC in the state is still grappling with the challenge of who should take the position.
National Record learnt that the Benue South Senatorial District (comprising the nine local government areas in Idoma area) is to unanimously recommend a candidate to be adopted by the APC gubernatorial flagbearer of the party, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Iormem Alia. But Zone C, as Benue South is also called, is still arguing amongst themselves as regards who should be chosen.
On the 16th July, 2022, a press release, credited to the APC State Publicity Secretary, Mr Dan Morgan, announced that Rev. Fr. Alia had chosen one Hon. Shima Vembe as a placeholder for the position of Deputy Governor to enable him to consult widely with the stakeholders, party leaders and groups to arrive at a collective and acceptable choice of a running mate.
The decision was vehemently criticised by the Benue public as some political analysts observed that it was a plot to cede the position of Deputy Governor to a Tiv man.
Others were of the opinion that the APC leader in the state and Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Senator George Akume, wanted to nepotically give the position to his brother, Shima Vembe, from Mbakor, Tarka LGA.
But few hours after Dan Morgan’s press release, there was a myriad of Facebook scoops by APC social media writers claiming that the APC image maker was not the author of the press release, but that his account was rather hacked and the matter was put to rest. Nevertheless, it was an indication that APC was in the state of crisis over that critical decision.
On 24th July, 2022, Fr. Alia reportedly nominated the former Minister of State for Niger-Delta Affairs, Sam Ode, as his running mate. But it was gathered the choice was greeted with stiff resistance from Benue South APC elders who were quoted to have said that the Elders’ Council, under the aegis of the “Committee of Wise men,” did not consult them and so the recommendation for the nomination did not emanate from them (the elders).
Ex-Senate President, Chief Ameh Ebute, former Benue State Deputy Governor, Chief Stephen Lawani, Alhaji Usman Abubakar, popularly known as Young Alhaji, and 10 others in a statement on Monday, 25th July, 2022, strongly disagreed on the emergence of Ode as a running mate to the Catholic Priest.
According to Chief Ebute and others, the slot is not for Otukpo LGA, National Record learnt.
The authenticity of the press release countering Ode’s nomination by Benue South APC elders was confirmed to National Record by an aide to Alhaji Usman Abubakar who co-signed the statement. The aide further stated that his boss, Young Alhaji, like other elders, wanted the deputy governorship to be zoned to Apa and Agatu LGAs rather than Otukpo where the incumbent deputy governor, Engr. Benson Abounu, hails from.
A member of the APC from Otukpo, who pleaded to anonymity, expressed a different opinion from the elders’ who kicked against the nomination of Sam Ode.
The source said: “Sam Ode has party structures but APC is saying Otukpo has produced deputy governor in the person of Benson Abounu. I want to say that there is no zoning system, if there were zoning, why are the Tiv people always producing the state governor? They would have said that if Zone A enjoys governorship, let B and C also benefit. But has Zone C ever got the slot? APC wants to zone deputy governorship to Apa and Agatu local government areas so that it will be micro-zoned to Apa.
“It’s not that zone C doesn’t have competent people to be Deputy Governor, see Young Alhaji, see Ameh Udoh. But they are seeing to it now that if they give it to Young Alhaji, the current APC State Chairman, Comrade Austin Agada will have resign his position because they are from the same place, Orokam in Ogbadibo Local Government.
“But if APC has been respecting zoning, the current APC State chairman is from Ogbadibo where the immediate past state chairman of the party, Comrade Abba Yaro, comes from, is that how zoning works?”
But some APC members had posited that since the PDP has zoned the deputy governorship slot to Agatu LGA, where the party’s State Chairman, Sir John Ngbede, has emerged as candidate, the APC may suffer a setback if it zones its slot to Otukpo where the pendulum is not supposed to swing.
Other sources from Benue South were at variance with the pitching of Sam Ode on the basis that his maternal home is of Tiv extraction, from Tarka LGA, in particular.
According to these sources, making Ode a deputy governor is just like putting a Tiv man in that position. They further argued that Sen. George Akume alone cannot plant a governor in the person of Rev. Fr. Alia and still makes his maternal brother a number two citizen of the state.