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Benue South rerun: The grand battle for Idoma nation



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THE rescheduled Saturday, February 20, 2016, rerun election in Benue South Senatorial District means different things to different stakeholders in Benue State, particularly, in Idoma nation. To certain sons and daughters of Benue South, the rerun election implies a battle against external domination of Idoma nation. To others, it is a search for true representative of the senatorial district in the National Assembly to strengthen democracy.
Various stakeholders in the state acknowledged that Senator David Bonaventure Alechenu Mark, former President of the Senate, is the main cynosure of the rerun poll, among the other contenders.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), through the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Benue State, Professor Istifanus Dafwang, formally confirmed February 20, 2016, as the date for Benue South Senatorial rerun election. This was after it had earlier been reported that INEC had scheduled the rerun poll for February 13, 2016. The REC, however, said that the earlier February 13 date should be ignored.

Available statistics shows that Benue South Senatorial District has nine local government areas, 102 Registration Areas, 1,016 Polling Units and a total of 1,174 voting areas. These constitute the battlefield where Mark engages candidates of other political parties this Saturday.

National Daily investigation revealed that the former Senate President, will be contesting the election mainly against the All Progressives Congress (APC), and not necessarily with any candidate, though the APC is fielding Daniel Onjeh through whom the Appeal Court nullified Mark’s election of the March 28, 2015, poll.

ALSO SEE: Young Alhaji mobilises grassroots for Mark

APC, the political party currently controlling the Federal Government, has two prominent political leaders in Benue State, Senator George Akume, a former governor of the state, and Senator Barnabas Gemade. Both Akume and Gemade are celebrated as political godfathers dominating the state politics in Tiv land. They both constitute notable power competitors with Mark in Benue State, from where they seek to launch themselves into national prominence at the centre.

Akume, Gemade and APC’s federal might are perceived to be providing the political machine Onjeh is relying on in this Saturday’s election.

Some stakeholders from the state who spoke to National Daily were of the view that in a transparent election, Onjeh is not a candidate to contest with Mark in Idoma nation. Mark has been a political colossus in Idoma land.

Meanwhile, this is the first election that Mark is contesting as a member of an opposition political party since 1999. He won all his elections as member of the dominant Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the past 16 years.

Mark is, however, going into this Saturday’s election as a ‘two-in-one candidate’. Mark has the endorsement and support of Alhaji Abubakar Usman Umar, Dan Maishannu, popularly called Young Alhaji. Usman Umar has high political capital built around strong politician machine in Idoma sufficient to win election even for himself. He also has high name recognition score capable of generating household influence across the senatorial district.
Young Alhaji has, since December 2015 commenced “bloc campaign” for Mark, traversing the various political blocs, mobilizing support for Mark. National Daily gathered that Young Alhaji embarked on the campaign and mobilization across the nine local governments without collecting any fund from Mark.

National Daily investigation also revealed that notwithstanding his previous difference between Mark since he contested against Mark in 2007, the rerun senatorial election in Benue South is a litmus test for Young Alhaji to show that he is a true leader of his people in Idoma nation. He is a renowned political leader in Idoma whose reputation creates balance of power that could give victory to any candidate or political party in an election in the zone. Young Alhaji has massive grassroots loyalists and army of supporters.


The rerun election provides testing ground for Young Alhaji to prove his leadership potential as he is expected by his people to succeed Mark in 2019 when the former Senate President may give way to younger leaders in Idoma land.

Mark is being celebrated in Idoma nation as a hero and living legend of the people who has over the years promoted the interests of Idoma people. He has used his various positions since 1999 to invest massively in the Idoma people, creating congeries of opportunities for both the rich and the poor, the young and the old, including welfare humanitarian gestures, essentially, education scholarships.

The Youths have not only declared their massive support for the former Senate President, they also took over Mark’s campaign across the local governments in his absence, just like Young Alhaji.

Political calculus in Benue power equation indicated that Daniel Onjeh is seen to lack the capacity to stand against external domination of Idoma nation. Mark and Young Alhaji are leaders conceived to have the political capital to stand against any external domination in the clime. Invariably, Mark had earlier told the people that the election is about the Idoma nation not about him.

ALSO SEE: Mark, Young Alhaji join forces to crush APC

Senator Mark has taken the centre stage of Idoma politics since 1999 beside his military exploits in the 1980s. The popular expectation is that he should exit the political scene dignified and retain his legacy. Mark will always be remembered in the annals of the history of Nigeria’s political development for leading the National Assembly to reach consensus on the “Doctrine of Necessity” in 2010 during the succession crisis when former President Musa Yar’Adua’s ailment and his incapacitation created leadership vacuum, before his eventual death, craving way for Goodluck Jonathan to step in as Acting President.

“Idoma people cannot afford the luxury of allowing Mark to face a string of humiliating defeat; or exiting office with diminished political clout,” a prominent stakeholder in Benue South declared. Mark has acquired unparallel wealth of experience and rich democratic credential in the National Assembly. On Senate ranking, even though Mark chose not to occupy any position in the Eight Senate, he ranks among the highest and most influential lawmakers in the country. He can influence the Senate President to get patronage for his people with ease; he understands the dynamics of power exchange in patronage bargaining at the centre. These are democratic credentials Idoma people cannot take the risk of entrusting into the hands of a neophyte in national politics who may not have the courage to influence the senate president, given his low ranking. The people have a lot to lose outside Mark at this juncture of Nigeria’s developmental democracy.

Meanwhile, Dafwang had highlighted that INEC would be conducting accreditation and voting simultaneously, advising voters to go to their polling units with their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) by 8.00am this Saturday.