ANALYSIS: How Ortom, Jime will fare in Benue governorship election

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state.

All eyes will be on Benue State, ahead of the governorship election that will determine who pilots the affairs of the state for the next four year.

The race will be a straight fight between two major political parties; the ruling party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).

However, there are other political parties participating in the election.

The incumbent governor, Samuel Ortom, is seeking for another term of four years in office while his main challenger, Emmanuel Jime of the APC seeks to oust him.

Mr Ortom was first elected governor in 2015 on the platform of APC; he later defected to the PDP after he fell out with his former party.

In 2015, Mr Jime was the candidate of the APC until he stepped down for Mr Ortom to participate in the general election against the PDP which he eventually won.

Unpaid salaries

Some factors will determine decision making by the 2,480,131 registered voters in the state.

While Mr Ortom will have an edge over Mr Jime considering he is a sitting governor, that assertion may not necessarily apply today.

The governor will rely on some state apparatuses and his political appointees to be his foot soldiers across the state.

However, where the incumbency factor may likely count against Mr Ortom is in the aspect of unpaid salaries.

Benue State has an estimated 60 per cent population of civil servants.

Civil servants in the state are being owed as much as five months salaries. This alone will be a major setback for the governor.

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The opposition candidate has used the issue of unpaid salaries to campaign vigorously against the governor.

The recent violent attacks that rocked the state will also play a significant role in the voting pattern on Saturday.

There were a series of attacks from suspected herdsmen in some parts of the state that claimed scores of lives.

Some residents of Makurdi have said the governor’s concern over the killings is one of the reasons many residents will still prefer to vote the governor for another term despite salaries backlog.

“It is better to live and be owed salaries than to be killed and get full salaries,” a resident of Makurdi told PREMIUM TIMES putting the killings and salaries backlog side by side.

Most Benue people easily relate the ruling APC to President Muhammadu Buhari, whom they think did not handle the crises properly.

“Jime is seen as an agent of Buhari, many people will not support him for that reason,” another resident of Logo, a town ravaged by suspected Fulani herdsmen said.

Presidential Buhari lost the state in the recently conducted presidential elections.

He was defeated by former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who polled 355,355 votes against Buhari’s 347,368.

The margin is however not wide enough to determine who wins the governorship election.

The Godfather syndrome

Another prominent factor that shapes the politics in Benue is the presence of godfathers.

Until September 2018 when Mr Ortom defected to the PDP, he had always enjoyed the support of former governor, George Akume who is undoubtedly a godfather in Benue politics.

Since the fall out of the duo, both of them had been plotting each other’s political downfall by sponsoring candidates to unseat the other.

In what could be described as unprecedented, a member of the House of Representatives, Emmanuel Orker-Jev, defeated Mr Akume in the just concluded senatorial election for Benue North-west zone.

This brought an end to the 12-year representation of Mr Akume in the red chamber.

Since the defeat last week, the senator has been warming up for the governorship election where he seeks to ”get his pound of flesh”.

“Our leader will shed his last drop of blood to see that Ortom is defeated,” a supporter of the senator said.

Having lost a godfather, the governor has intensified his campaigns, and now has the support of other godfathers such as former senate president David Mark and former governor Gabriel Suswam.

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