By Amos Aar
IT was a free-for-all on Tuesday in Gboko when Governor Samuel Ortom kicked off his campaign to be elected as senator under the platform of the Peoples democratic Party (PDP) to represent Benue North West as thugs loyal to him took on loyalists of PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
The Director of Publicity of the Atiku Grassroot Movement (AGM) in Benue State, Hon. Joe Asawa, was said to be a major victim of the brawl as he was allegedly beaten to a pulp.
A video of his interview being circulated on Facebook, however did not indicate the magnitude of the assault alleged as there were no visible wounds or bloodstain on his body or singlet he wore.
Other loyalists of Atiku in separate videos on Facebook also alleged harassment at the Gboko venue of Ortom’s campaign launch.
Asawa was said to have been saved by a youth leader before he was taken to a hospital in Gboko.
Narrating his ordeal in the video, Asawa, who was a former strong ally of Governor Ortom who appointed him as the immediate past Chairman of Ushongo local government council, alleged that some hired thugs who accused him of wearing AGM uniform at Ortom’s Campaign rally ordered him to remove it and before he could utter a word, they descended on him mercilessly.
According Asawa, he might have lost his life in the attack if a strong youth leader in Gboko, Shawa Ugye did not intercede. Despite Ugye’s intercession, Asawa said he was beaten to stupor and regained his consciousness only at a hospital where he was rushed to for medical attention and was there as at the time of filing this report.
It’s no longer news that Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State who is vying to go the senate at the end of his tenure in May 2023 has been at daggers drawn with the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, for some months now.
Ortom, who is advocating power shift from North to South was against the emergence of Atiku as the party’s flagbearer, describing the outcome of the presidential primaries as a gross injustice against his preferred aspirant, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. Owing to this rift between Ortom and Atiku, it has become very difficult for the PDP faithful to campaign openly for Atiku in Benue State.
Asawa’s narration of his ugly experience at Gboko pointed to the existing disagreement between Ortom and Atiku. He faulted and accused Ortom when he said, “that is the message [winning elections from bottom to top] that even the Governor himself is preaching”.
Asawa said: “I was given the beating of my life at this campaign rally, PDP zonal campaign rally which is marking the flag-off of our governor’s senatorial campaign rally”.
Asawa is from Benue North East senatorial district and so ordinarily, many people wondered why he had to grace Ortom’s senatorial campaign rally meant for Benue North West and wearing Atiku’s promotional campaign attire, Ortom’s political enemy, at the event.
“We got this information that the governor is going to flag-off his campaign in Gboko today. I’m a member, Atiku Grassroot Movement in Benue State. When we got this information, we felt that it’s a PDP function, I mean, it’s an opportunity for us to come and showcase the might of PDP in Gboko. So, we mobilised our members because we got information that various PDP associations are going to be here. We sensitised our people and we brought them here.
“When I went inside and was exchanging pleasantries with people on the high table because I am a key stakeholder of this party from Ushongo local government, I’m immediate past chairman, Ushongo local government and I’m deeply involved in this PDP activities and we were told that in Benue, PDP is from bottom to top and that is the message the PDP National Chairman is preaching, that is the message the governor himself is preaching.
“All of a sudden, when we came here, little did we know and I did not have a foresight that there was change of message or attitude.
“Those who approached me said who sent me here and who asked me to put on this shirt? This is the shirt they beat and tore away, and they asked me, haven’t I got instruction that they did not want to see anything PDP here? That’s what I heard from them and they started descending on me, beating me with irons, their legs, their hands, boxing me left and right. They were over fifty (50) people hunting on me. It was one youth leader in Gboko here, Shawa Ugye, that is the man who saved my life,” Asawa narrated at length as he cleaned his body.
In other separate videos, a PDP former chairman for Makurdi Central South Mission ward, Mr Yarima Ali, and Hon. Teryila Kormi, who are both members of the Atiku support group, said they were equally assaulted at the campaign rally.