• As Mark battles to secure Idoma nation
By SUNDAY ODIBASHI
ALHAJI Abubakar Usman, Dan Maishannu, popularly called Young Alhaji, seems to be a determinant factor in the re-ordered Benue South Senatorial District election. A reliable source from Idoma nation has it that Young Alhaji is currently under intense pressure from the national leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to assist the party to overwhelm Senator David Bonaventure Alechenu Mark in the election.
Our source disclosed that because of the protracted impasse between Young Alhaji and Senator George Akume, the senator and Governor Samuel Ortom appealed to the national leadership of APC in Abuja to approach Young Alhaji to work for the party in Benue South.
Our source further disclosed that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also approached Young Alhaji for support and to work with the party in the election.
National Daily investigation revealed that notwithstanding the difference between Mark and Young Alhaji, since he contested against Mark in 2003 and believed to have defeated the former Senate President at the poll but was robbed of his victory, the re-ordered senatorial election in Benue South is a litmus test for Young Alhaji to show that he is a true political leader of his people in Idoma nation. There are indicators that whichever side Young Alhaji pitches his tent, the candidate and political party will win the election – whether APC or PDP because of the massive grassroots support from his people.
Apparently, while awaiting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to announce a new date to conduct the fresh election in Benue South Senatorial District after the Appeal Court in Makurdi annulled the election of Senator Mark and ordered a fresh election within 90 days, both the APC and PDP have found a new political bride in Alhaji Abubakar Usman, a prominent political leader in Ogbadibo Local Government Area.
Young Alhaji, a renowned political leader, has high political capital in Idoma Land. Invariably, as Mark prepares for the fresh election ordered by the Appeal Court against the APC political machine, Young Alhaji has become potent balance of power machinery in the zone that either of the political parties places high premium for victory.
National Daily inquiry revealed that the APC political machine in Benue State is being consolidated by Senator George Akume; reinforced by Senator Barnabas Gemade; both of whom are considered arch-rivals of David Mark in Benue politics. Both Akume and Gemade are prominent leaders in Tiv land who have been working assiduously to entrench total domination of Benue State by APC. A victory for APC in the southern senatorial district would accomplish their mission of overwhelming hegemony of Benue politics.
Political calculations in Benue power equation indicated that Daniel Onjeh, the APC candidate, is no match to Mark in a transparent election. Thus, APC leaders from Tiv land, in particular, are compelled to woo Young Alhaji to reinforce the party’s candidate in Idoma land. Winning Young Alhaji to their camp would establish APC stronghold in Idoma nation.
A reliable source from Oturpo told National Daily that the struggle between APC and PDP to win Young Alhaji to either camp has been so intense in the recent weeks. The source disclosed that APC has become so curious in Young Alhaji, considering him a potent power bloc in Idoma nation, that the party mobilisers were thinking of making him a replacement for Onjeh if time had not elapsed for party primaries, nomination and submission of candidates’ names to INEC.
The PDP, on the other divide, built its overture team for Young Alhaji around Idoma leaders. Various community leaders have been holding meetings on behalf of David Mark over the awaited senatorial election. Engineer Peter Igoh, former Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), is leading the negotiation team for the Mark camp.
National Daily inquiry also discovered that Senator Mark has taken the centre stage of Idoma politics since 1999 beside his military exploits in the 1980s. The former President of the Senate has been dominating the political space which made several other political actors aggrieve over his entrenched leadership hegemony in Idoma land. Those aggrieved political leaders received the Appeal Court judgement which nullified the election of Mark with excitement and the belief that it would give opportunity to other leaders to rise to public relevance.
However, non-partisan community leaders from Idoma clime felt that eliminating Mark from political leadership in Benue at this stage will not only destroy his political career but expose Idoma nation to external domination. The Idoma elders and leaders of thought, at their decisive meeting, penultimate week, reached a consensus that supporting Onjeh and the APC will jeopardize Idoma interests and stake in Benue. They had the belief that Onjeh will not have the courage to resist the domineering influence of Akume and Gemade who would want to annex Idoma nation under Tiv domination. They saw more threat in Tiv domination which they acknowledged that Mark has stoutly resisted over the years. Accordingly, they concluded that they should allow Mark to remain in power in the interest of Idoma nation but he should give way in 2019.
Igoh and his mobilisation team commenced negotiations and initiatives to reconcile Young Alhaji and Mark over past political experiences and form a formidable power bloc in Idoma nation. Igoh sent out emissaries and mediators to Young Alhaji who have been facilitating the appeal for his support for Mark and the PDP.
The PDP are considering Young Alhaji to succeed Mark in 2019. The PDP leaders considered his close affiliation with the youths, his charismatic leadership traits and humanitarian commitment to the poor in Idoma land, as political assets that cannot be ignored. The overall political calculus indicated that Young Alhaji has high political capital in Idoma nation that can make a difference between the two strong candidates in the senatorial election.
The Court of Appeal, Makurdi Division, had, penultimate week, nullified the election of the Mark, ordering the INEC to conduct fresh election in the Benue South senatorial district within 90 days. Daniel Onjeh, APC candidate in the March 28, 2015, National Assembly election, had challenged the victory of Mark at the Benue State Legislative Houses Elections Petition Tribunal, seeking the cancellation of the election and an order for conduct of fresh election but lost.
Justice Mosunmola Dipeolu, leading the State Tribunal, had on October 7, 2015, threw out Onjeh’s petition “on the ground that evidence tendered before the tribunal were documentary hearsay evidences.”
However, Justice Peter Ige, leading other judges in the Appeal Court, Makurdi, made a unanimous judgement, quashing the judgement of the tribunal; upheld the appeal of Onjeh that “Mark’s election failed substantially to meet with the provisions of paragraphs 39 and 40 of the INEC approved electoral guidelines and sections 73 and 74 of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.”
The Appeal Court had raised objection to the failure of the tribunal to admit evidences tendered by the appellant to canvass his case and in another instance refer to the same evidence to arrive at its decision.
According to Justice Ige in the judegment, “the lower tribunal cannot be seen to blow hot and cold at the same time. The appellant has established his case on the balance of probability. It is our considered view that the appellant’s appeal is meritorious.” He maintained that, “the appellant showed by oral evidence that collation of results was still ongoing a day after the declaration of results of the election in seven local government areas of the district.”
Thus, “The judgement of Justice Mosunmola Dipeolu-led tribunal of October 7th, 2015, dismissing the petition is nullified. Therefore, the election of Senator David Mark is hereby set aside. INEC is by this judgement to conduct fresh senatorial election in the Benue South district within 90 days,” Justice Ige had declared.
Mark had expressed optimism that he will win the proposed fresh election but Idoma leaders are not leaving anything to chance. The Idoma elders have vowed to get Young Alhaji to the side of Mark and ensure that the Idomas are united against external domination.