Ahead of the March 11, governorship election, 17 candidates of political parties in Benue State are intensifying their campaigns to succeed Governor Samuel Ortom.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC in the state, Prof Sam Egwu, has said that the March 11, election in Benue State would hold across the 23 LGAs in 276 Registration Areas and 5,102 Polling Units involving 2,782,302 registered voters.
Egwu noted that the final figure of registered voters would be determined by the final cleanup of the register using the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) which had already aided in purging the register of 2.78 million from double/multiple registration, underage persons and fake registration.
He also said that 17 out of 18 political parties are participating in the Benue election because the BOOT party would not be contesting.
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Barely two months to the election, the governorship candidates are crisscrossing the state, selling their manifestoes and urging the electorate to trust them with their votes.
Most of the candidates have harped on the citizens’ concerns over the growing agitation for better life devoid of owed salaries, backlog of pension, primitive methods of farming and insecurity in rural areas.
Our correspondent reports that citizens of the state are eager to experience a positive change through the administration of a new governor.
Who among the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) Engr Titus Uba; All Progressives Congress’ (APC)’s Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia; Labour Party’s (LP’s)s Herman Hembe; New Nigeria Peoples Party’s (NNPP’s) Prof Bem Angwe or All Progressives Grand Alliance’ (APGA’s) Joseph Wayas, among others, will win the people’s heart to clinch the state’s foremost seat of power?
The chances of these contestants in the eyes of the voters are becoming clearer by the day, with the above-mentioned political parties topping.
The race to the Food Basket state’s government house will not be an easy ride for the two dominant parties – PDP and APC – as present developments have thrown up a fresh debate over the chances of LP and NNPP as being the third force to likely emerge next occupant of the state’s foremost seat of power.
The argument is that in the event that PDP’s Uba who just returned from a medical vacation voluntarily resigns presumably over his ill health and APC’s Alia is sacked by the various appeal cases in court, then the LP and NNPP candidates may have to battle for the soul of the state.
Observers, however, think that while Speaker of the House Assembly, Titus Uba, who is PDP’s flagbearer, has the advantage of his party’s incumbency, his counterpart in APC, Fr Alia, a priest of the Catholic Church, enjoys better grassroots popularity.
And if the pattern of their first wins at the primary elections which brought about their candidatures are anything to go by, then the scenario may likely impact their chances in the general elections, as many pundits posit that the PDP will have to work harder to retain the state.
The APC on the other hand in the eyes of political watchers must quickly close up every perceived gap – grievances and lingering legal battles – to cash in on the present goodwill of the electorate to take over the state.
A political observer, Attah Ede, opined that the 2023 governorship election in Benue State would be the most important and interesting poll, especially as the two main political parties, PDP and APC, were eagerly ready to coast home to victory.
Ede said, “However, looking at how Titus Uba emerged as the PDP candidate and the way Fr Alia equally became the APC candidate, you will agree with me that Uba will win the election. The process that culminated in Uba’s emergence was transparent and acceptable to the PDP family and devoid of litigation.
“PDP as a party in Benue State is more coordinated, more organised and less of an internal crisis than APC. Therefore, the PDP candidate in the person of Titus Uba will be able to win the governorship election in the state. His antecedents and leadership prowess demonstrated so far as speaker of the state assembly also stand him out to win the governorship election. Uba has what it takes to win the election more than Alia.”
On the other hand, the State Publicity Secretary of LP, contended that, “The predicament of Benue today is the product of Siamese twins of a detrimental status occasioned by the PDP and APC. So, the people are looking for something new and a breath of fresh air which Hembe represents.
“He is the youngest candidate of them all and most politically experienced as a fourth term National Assembly member. He has delivered all rounds in his local government areas including building the roads leading to the house of the PDP governorship candidate. He stands the greatest chance among the Benue people.”
Similarly, Dan Morgan Ihomun, who is APC’s Publicity Secretary in the state, posited that the chances of APC winning the governorship election remained very clear because in his estimation the candidate was well accepted across board and with an impeccable character.
Ihomun said, “Those in court with the party have their right to challenge any infringement, but I know that the court will not stop us from winning Benue. The court has only validated the primary done by the party and so there are no doubts that we will win Benue State.”
Meanwhile, four major political players for the governorship among whom one would emerge victorious barring any game changer at the last minute, are now holding the ace of their various parties as they dot their i’s and t’s in readiness for the exercise.
Titus Uba (57)
He emerged as the candidate of PDP through a consensus sequel to his alleged anointing for the number one job in the state by the PDP National Chairman, Dr Iorychia Ayu, and Gov Samuel Ortom. Initially, his emergence caused ripples in the party which led to the defection of some members, but the PDP promptly settled differences.
Uba’s strength lies in the current unity of the PDP in the state. The party appears to have tied all loose ends and as such is now more than ready to retain the state going by all human and financial calculations.
Nevertheless, Uba’s recent ill health has sparked further debates as to whether he would be able to continue with the race. The PDP has, however, dismissed such concerns, saying the antics of the evil doers had failed. Despite the campaigns going well for Uba, the candidature of the opposition APC in the eyes of the electorate no doubt poses a great challenge to the realisation of his dream.
Hyacinth Alia (56)
Many people in the state see Alia’s followership as a movement that cannot be tamed by the power of incumbency. The Catholic clergy is a greenhorn in the governorship race but can’t be wished aside following the crowd of people supporting his aspiration. But his insiders’ support and funds to enable him to clinch the party’s ticket are still doubtful as the majority of those who contested the primary election with him dragged him to court.
Alia defeated 11 aspirants to emerge as the party’s flagbearer. He recently also defeated some of the aggrieved aspirants, including PDP, at the high court and the legal battle has now proceeded to the appeal court. The odds against him in the thinking of political watchers are the court cases.
However, if Alia scales the legal hurdles, then the PDP will likely have a cause to worry about because “Yes father”, a popular slogan chanted in support of the priest, has gained huge popularity among residents.
Herman Hembe (46)
A lawyer and House of Representatives member for Vandeikya/Konshisha remains a powerful third force in the race owing to the support of most Benue people irrespective of party affiliation because of the presidential candidature of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi. The biggest strength of Hembe is serving his people at the lower chamber of the National Assembly for the fourth time. His critics are however quick to point to the fact that Hembe does not enjoy support outside his constituency of Konshisha and Vandekiya LGAs. But, he is generally believed to have the capacity to govern, plus the advantage of age on his side.
Bem Angwe (58)
Angwe, a professor of law, was returned unopposed as the governorship candidate of the NNPP for Benue’s number one seat after he established the party in the state. The former Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission’s (NHRC) adventure will likely be limited by the presence of his party, which is still struggling to gain recognition in the state. His strength will, however, surface in the undoing of the two dominant parties in the state while his antecedence of generosity will speak for him.