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11 Feb 2018

BENUE: Is Samuel Ortom flirting with PDP?

By: Uja Emmanuel

SINCE the new year killings of 73 farmers in Benue state by suspected Fulani herdsmen, Governor Samuel Ortom had being at loggerheads with the federal government and security agencies, particularly the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris. Even though Governor Ortom visited Aso Rock alongside some prominent Benue elders and met with President Muhammadu Buhari recently, observers say the relationship between the duo may be worsening.

Governor Ortom is simply that those who attacked and killed Benue people are known and must be arrested and prosecuted. He pointedly accused Meyitta Allah Kautal Houre , a Fulani group, of being the brain behind the attacks and killings in the state . “I had informed the Inspector General of Police through a letter and all other security agencies of the plan attacks but nothing was done ” said Ortom.

The governor, while organizing mass burial for the victims of the killings, lambasted the All Progressive Congress (APC) for failing to protect lives and property in Benue state. In addition, he had at several fora, called for the resignation of the Inspector General of Police.

The continued altercation between Governor Ortom, who of the ruling APC and the federal government has provided an opportunity for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party( PDP) to exploit the situation to its advantage. So far Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, had visited Benue and donated N200 million to support the internally displaced persons (IDPs). Wike ,who also visited the grave site where 73 persons are buried, advised Ortom to return home.

Many commentators are now interpreting Wike’s statement as an invitation to the Governor to return to the PDP where he originally belong to before defecting to APC to contest in the 2015. Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti state, another PDP governor also came calling on Governor Ortom during the week. Like Wike, he visited the burial site and donated N10 million. He told the Governor to “join another vehicle” to continue his political journey as the one he is currently has broken down.

Fayose used the occasion and told Governor Ortom that ‘ When you entered a vehicle and there is break down, you come down and join another to continued your journey . The message from Ayo Fayose was quite understanding ,he was telling Ortom to return to PDP. Before he joined APC during the 2015 was the minster of state for under President Goodluck administration ,he also over see Aviation Ministy when Oduah was sacked from office.

With such development and recent statements of the governor himself, many observers are insinuating that Governor Ortom may be done with APC and on his way out of the party. Thus, his recent romance with PDP governors is seen by many as indications of the things to come as the 2019 general elections draws nearer.

Following the above indications, some people within and outside the state are already asking the pertinent question; which party will he joined ? The easily available platform for him to seek is the PDP. But he will have to cross some hurdles to achieve that given the current soured relationship between him and the leadership of his former party in the state. A commission of enquiry set up by Ortom probed former Governor Gabriel Suswam and many PDP leaders in the state.

The commission turned in a verdict which suggests that over 109 billion was looted during the eight year tenure of Governor Suswam. Suswam, his aides, Commissioners and many others were harassed by several anti graft agencies. Suswam is still standing trial in an Abuja federal court alongside Oklobia Omadanchi, his Finance Commissioner, over alleged diversion of some investment funds.

Suswam on his part denied any wrong doing and accused Governor Ortom of deliberate attempt to run him down politically. The two prominent Tiv sons took their fight to the media. There was and still biter rivalry between their political camps. Suswam is the leader of PDP in Benue state and the sole financier of party. Both Wike and Fayose visited Gabriel Suswam in his Makurdi residence during their visit to Ortom, This is to under score his important in PDP.

If Ortom joins the PDP, how will he handle his relationship with Suswam and other PDP leaders across the state? Will he drop the cases against Suswam and others? Well, in politics as they say, there is no permanent enemy while only permanent interests exist. But is Ortom toying with the idea of returning to the PDP? Only Time will tell.

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