Governor Ortom’s return to PDP stokes acceptability challenges
Benue State governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, began another historic journey in his political career last Wednesday. It was on that day that he damned all ‘consequences’ and retreated to the current major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Most observers said taking such a decision in the prevailing political dispensation of APC and President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, is like breaking a hard marble stone with one’s teeth.
But, this is not the first time Ortom has moved from one political party to another. He was once a member of the defunct All Peoples Party (APP) and was elected chairman of his Guma local council. After that stint as council chairman, when a wind of change blew, he moved to the PDP where he secured several leadership positions.
He was at first general secretary of the party in Benue, deputy state chairman, and national auditor and was later appointed a minister by President Goodlock Jonathan. Against that rich background, the Ortom’s return does not make him a stranger on the platform.
It could also be said that Ortom’s rejection of APC makes him one of the few politicians in the state that always thread alongside his people by accepting their will when they feel unfairly treated.
But, it was the same way Ortom left PDP to APC, when he contested governorship election under the party and was manipulated by the powers that be to lose, despite that he was the most popular aspirant. He however, achieved his political ambition in APC that came blowing the wind of change.
Giving reasons for his return to PDP, the governor explained that he is not a lone ranger in the defection galore, stressing that the state APC chairman and other party officials of his council and ward have equally indicated readiness and interest to join him in his new political voyage.
He said: “I am too young to retire from politics. I was in PDP and I discovered that my interest and that of my people (Benue) was not protected and I left the party. Now, I am in APC and I discovered to my dismay that my interest and that of my people are not being protected in APC.
“The party has been hijacked and is being run by one man who is behaving like a dictator. But, now that the PDP is rebranded and a lot of reforms are going on to ensure that the true tenets of democracy are observed, I feel if I return to the party I will be able to add value to my people.”
He disclosed his intention to consult widely with other aspirants, “most of who are my brothers. I do not have issues with them resisting my return to the party. The more, the merrier and I think we are stronger together.”
He expressed disgust that despite efforts by the national leadership of APC to broker peace between him and some APC stakeholders in the state, the hostility towards him persisted.
The governor maintained that such people have continued to peddle falsehood against him so as to dent his image, even when they were the same people that endorsed him for a second term during the state congress of APC.
“I was the one that advised them to allow other people to contest against me in line with the tenets of democracy. They said they endorsed me, because I performed creditably. I wonder why the same crop of people are now criticizing my administration,” he stated.
At the last count, not less than 276 legislators at the grassroots level and 13 out of 23 council chairmen have declared to join Ortom in his new party to ensure that he wins his re-election bid.
Meanwhile, 22 members of the state Assembly sat and sacked the Speaker, Mr. Terkimbi Ikyange, accusing him of high-handedness, while pledging to sink or swim with the governor.
Intriguingly, a former commissioner that served in Senator George Akume’s eight years’ administration, Chief Clement Adzuanongo, promised to mobilise support for Ortom in PDP, stressing that the governor is a grassroots politician that is not self-acclaimed.
Adzuanongo commended Ortom for enacting the anti-open grazing law, which has stopped herdsmen from wiping out the people of the state, but has become a source of envy by some selfish politicians in the state.
Another staunch PDP elder, Chief Mrs. Lydia Nyor, said the giant step taken by the governor to return was home coming, just as she pledged that women who form the bulk of voting population would support him for another mandate in 2019 under PDP.
Mrs. Nyor, however, urged the governor to do better by appointing more women into his cabinet to achieve more in his second term.
Another former Akume commissioner, Mr. Jacob Oguche, urged Ortom not to be deterred by a fraction of critics of his administration, stressing that his decision was gratifying to the people of Benue South Senatorial District.
Oguche said: “In Benue South, some people joined APC because you (Ortom) were there. We noticed that despite the persecutions, you have not done badly. The only thing now is for you to remain steadfast, nothing good comes easy.”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Benue State Chapter, leadership in the state has formally congratulated and welcomed the governor back into its fold. In a statement by its state Publicity Secretary, Mr. Bemgba Iortyom, Benue PDP said Governor Ortom is a former state and national official of the party.
“His coming back into our fold, therefore, is a home-coming, one which has, no doubt, increased the membership strength of our great party, and in line with our cardinal objective to maintain continual membership growth, this is a welcome development.”
The party remarked that the ongoing defections into PDP is a reflection of the party’s quality as the most attractive and viable political platform ahead of the 2019 general elections, stressing that the platform offers Nigerians the best guarantee for a return to good governance and true practice of democracy.
But, reacting to the defection, the APC state director of publicity, Apeh Peterhot, in a statement said Benue APC feels greatly relieved from the unnecessary public show of shame that characterized the governor’s journey out of the party, lamenting that the governor made relentless efforts to demonize their party and it’s leaders before decamping.
According to Peterhot, “as a party, the governor’s decamping returns us to our position of strength as an opposition party, where we were before the 2015 general elections when our party members and supporters thronged out in their numbers to give us victory over the PDP, a gesture we are confident still awaits us in 2019.
He further asserted that those who have left the APC in Benue State are those who the party platform was made available to them when they were rejected by other political parties.
“This we did that at grave costs to us as a party by availing them our platform at the eleventh hour, yet, the Benue people voted for our party, believing quite correctly that the time for change had come,” Peterhot maintained in the statement.
However, the general atmosphere at the moment reveals that Ortom’s defection cannot be wished away with the wave of hand as himself is rated among the political gladiators of the state with a lot of following.
An enormous task before him is to accommodate his former friends and assimilate good ideas and strategies to usher him into proper campaign across the state.