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The choice of Senator George Akume representing Benue North West senatorial District as minority leader had raised a lot of dust in the Senate. It was marked by intrigues and evoked some levels of disagreement. Some PDP senators had insidiously kicked against his choice, some of his colleagues from opposition parties made attempts to reject him. In fact, Senator Chris Ngige also of ACN openly opposed Akume’s choice by writing a protest letter to stop his confirmation.

However, the leadership of the ‘majority-minority’ party in the upper chambers (ACN) stood firmly in his support and Akume was confirmed. Akume’s experience in his bid to become the minority leader of the 7th Senate is not different from what transpired in the state where he was forced to dump the PDP for the ACN. In spite of the PDP’s enormous powers in the state as the ruling party, Akume was able to trounce his estranged political ‘godson’, Hon. Terngu Tsegba to return to the hallowed Senate chambers for the second time.


Hence Akume’s triumph both at home and in the Senate have confirmed the goodwill and popularity he enjoys amongst his people and political associates. It is pertinent to state that the former governor raised the stakes of opposition politics in the state in the last general elections. In less than six months to the elections, Akume alongside some of his political disciples brought Professor Steve Ugbah all the way from the US. Ugbah instantly became a household name and gave Governor Gabriel Suswam the political fight of his life. Before the defection of Akume to the ACN, the PDP had enjoyed unfettered dominance in the state. In fact, after the death of Mr. Jonathan Biam, an ANPP gubernatorial aspirant, Suswam was virtually coasting to victory unchallenged until Ugbah emerged on the scene. But Akume changed the tide; he popularized what is now widely known as ‘shoo changi’-the game had changed in the state.

It must be emphasized that Akume had been in the PDP since 1998 and had all along played politics from the mainstream. He served as governor of the state for eight years and proceeded to the Senate for another four years. Now, the question that is agitating the minds of many is what kind of opposition politician Akume would be.

Can he fit the bill? Will he be able to transform into an opposition leader that could match anti-peoples policies and laws initiated by a ‘monster’ like PDP? As a PDP senator, Akume was criticized for being largely anonymous. Most commentators carpeted the strong man of Benue politics for keeping sealed lips in the upper house even when matters of national interest were discussed on the floor.


Although, there has been a defence from the Akume’s camp that the challenge he gave David Mark for the position of Senate President in 2007 may have affected him. But that is a topic for another day.

As opposition leader, Akume is the mouthpiece of the down-trodden; the oppressed; the hopeless and the hapless citizens. As the ACN leader, Akume has stepped into the shoes of the Great Awo and is carrying on his shoulders the burden of all Nigerians who crave for good leaders and good governance that has unfortunately eluded the nation for many years.

Those who know Akume closely have agreed that the senator is not timid; neither is he a coward or a push over. And I intend to agree with them at least based on what I have seen of him so far. It is clear that in the face of daunting opposition and intimidation, he stood firm and was able to succeed. When he came to the Senate in 2007, the ‘ranking’ order was in place but he courageously dared the ‘gods’ and was able to garner at least 39 votes against Mark’s 68.

Apart from his experience in the legislature, Akume is an accomplished bureaucrat having risen through the ranks in the civil service to the top. He started as a lands officer and retired as a permanent secretary. As a politician, he held forte as governor for eight years and senator for four years. Before then, he had a stint as administrator in two local governments.   He comes from a very courageous and political family and can hold his head high anywhere. I believe he has the facility to carve a niche for himself as an opposition leader.

Therefore, it is time for Akume to show the stuff he is made of; for him to light the matches and let the fire of opposition rage on in the interest of the common man. People around him say he is a good man, humble, non-violent and God fearing.


But these attributes, as good as they are, cannot translate into good governance and provision of social amenities for the people unless it is matched with action.

Akume has to speak out. He cannot remain in the background while things go sour in the upper legislative chambers. The ante of legislative democracy must be stepped up now.  Akume, cannot afford to fail because a preponderant population of the youth in the country is looking up to him to give the PDP objective and rabid opposition that would engender good governance and enactment of proactive laws that would be beneficial to the common man. If he plays this role well, in the run to the 2015 Presidential Election, his name would loom large in a possible Akume/Raji Fashola ticket.

OFFICIAL STATEMENT OF THE ACTION CONGRESS OF NIGERIA (ACN) GOVERNORSHIP CANDIDATE IN BENUE STATE, PROF STEVE TORKUMA UGBAH, ON THE JUNE 8, 2012 RULING OF THE SUPREME COURT ON HIS ELECTION PETITION.

PROJECT BENUE: THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES

Our country is experiencing the necessary growing pains that all nations that aspire to a relatively decent form of democracy must go through. The path that other great nations took to that destination was always checkered. Our path has been no different, but with the right injection of concerned patriots, willing and able to chart the course of the future history of our nation, we will build a country we can all be proud of.

Within the confines of the resources that were available to us, we did the best we could. I refuse to engage in any post mortem analysis as that would indeed trivialize the unbelievable sacrifices that were made by ordinary citizens to see the “Benue Project” succeed. I will never forget:

- the old women who would come up to me during the campaigns and squeeze all sorts of modest denominations of naira into my palms and say “Ishor Chenji, use this and buy petrol;"

- the okada riders who would see us on the road and suspend their original drop destination (passenger and all) to escort us where we were going before continuing on;

- the young children who gyrated to the sounds of “Ishor Chenji” as if there was no tomorrow;

- the many people who believed in us and walked with us by faith on Facebook and everywhere virtual communities could be found.

If I live to be a hundred, these images will forever be vivid in my mind.

Following the April 26, 2011 governorship election in Benue State, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Rt. Hon. Dr. Gabriel Torwua Suswam of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as winner, despite our overwhelming majority of lawful votes cast at the election.

2. Dissatisfied with the outrageous declaration by INEC, we dragged Suswam, PDP and INEC to the Benue State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi on May 17, 2011, challenging the declaration on the grounds that Suswam did not score majority of lawful votes cast in the election; that the election was void in some Local Government Areas due to non compliance with the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and that Suswam was not qualified and/or disqualified from contesting the election for refusing to present any certificate or presenting forged certificate(s) to INEC.

3. The Tribunals and the courts refused to go into the merit of our case, but rather concerned themselves with technicalities of process and timelines without doing substantial justice to the Constitutional issues raised in our petition.

4. On Friday, June 8, 2012, the Supreme Court of Nigeria finally ruled that we cannot recover our stolen mandate because 180 days as prescribed by Section 285(6) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) have lapsed since May 17, 2011 when our petition was filed at the Tribunal despite a subsisting retrial order of the Supreme Court made by the Chief Justice of Nigeria; Justice Dahiru Musdapher on November 14, 2011 “that the petition be heard on the merits”. Ariwoola JSC while delivering the judgment also ruled that the issue of qualification and disqualification or non-presentation/presentation of forged certificate(s) to INEC by Gabriel Suswam cannot stand in the face of effluxion of 180 days. The learned justice also concluded that an election tribunal could arrive at a decision without hearing the parties.

5. These pronouncements, if not ridiculous are certainly disheartening. It is only in Nigeria that a petitioner who has done everything within the law is denied justice. The Legislature in their wisdom introduced timelines into the Constitution to discourage situations where election petitions dragged for too long. However, the construction of Section 285(6) on 180 days by the Supreme Court has created more mischief, as litigants are shut out of the temple of justice and not allowed to ventilate their grievances due to effluxion of time. The construction has also rendered the known legal maxim, ubi jus ibi remedium inoperative. The maxim presupposes that where there is a wrong, there must be a remedy. It has also taken away the constitutional right of appeal from litigants and made Tribunals the final court in election adjudication in Nigeria.

6. God knows that in the electoral battles of 2011, we fought diligently and hard. Our methods and weapons were clean and decent and in the best traditions of democratic contest:

- We had limited funds

- We had no structure

- We had no militia

Even the State Security Services wondered if we were serious about playing politics without these staples on the occasion of a pre-election debrief of candidates for the 2011 elections in Abuja. The one thing we did very well was to connect with the people and to show them how much better things could be. Then we put God front and center in everything we did – and for his many graces, we are most thankful. 

The people of Benue State overwhelmingly voted for us. It is the shame of the Nigerian system, though, that our obvious victory has not survived the onslaught of the monstrous conspiracies of the Nigerian State, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and the Judiciary.

7. As law-abiding citizens, we have fully kept faith with the legal process. Although we lost the case at the Supreme Court, we have won the moral victory, as the people know whom they actually voted for. Whereas the law has refused or failed to deliver justice to us, we are full of strength on account of our moral and civil convictions that a great deal of injustice has been done to the people of Benue State and indeed, Nigeria.

8. In this wise we believe as a former Nigerian Leader once said “Legal justice is not necessarily social justice.” I therefore, urge you, my teeming supporters to be calm and law-abiding even as you remain committed and glued to our aspirations of bringing positive change to Benue State. Of course, the best we can do for our democracy and for the development of Benue State is to remain a virile and focused opposition that jettisons any evil machinations that aspire to hold Benue State’s development hostage.

9. As we lost our mandate to the grand conspiracy of State and the Judiciary, we also lost some of our comrades such as Charles Ayede and Egbe Nack, and several associates to the roguery and thuggery of the moment that have confronted us. We must solemnly and sincerely mourn their demise and hope that they did not die in vain. The only epitaph to their memory is to continue with the struggle until such a historic day when Benue will see good governance, until such a day when the ordinary Benue State citizen will go to good schools in Benue for free, have functional and affordable health facilities, get potable water to drink, and his or her quality of life will be improved. 

10. Let me emphasize that we have come this far because our cause was right and our mission just. We have stood on the truth. We have stood for the oppressed. We have stood for the down trodden. We have given hope to the hopeless.

11. For all those who conspired to truncate the will of the Benue people, we leave them to their consciences, to the judgment of history and to God Almighty. As the Zik of Africa and Owelle of Onitsha, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, once said in similar circumstances in the wake of the much-discredited 1983 general elections, “History will vindicate the just, but God will punish the wicked.”

12. As members of the ACN, a political party that evidently believes in the sanctity of peace and the rule of law, we can only let go. However, we affirm our great concern for the people’s mandate, the supremacy of their wishes and their overwhelming quest for change. We also affirm that both hard electoral and legal lessons have been learnt. These lessons will guide us in all our future political-cum-electoral interactions with other parties and institutions involved in the democratic process.

13. Now that the Supreme Court has abdicated its constitutional roles and is making unjust interpretations of the Nigerian Constitution, no justice is expected from the Nigerian judiciary. If democracy must continue to have its intended meaning, our supporters must stand up to defend their votes in subsequent elections. Otherwise, we may fall prey to the warning of General Buhari that further attempts to truncate the will of the people during elections will see “both the baboon and the monkey soaked in blood.”

14. As we recalibrate our position as Benue opposition, I wish to offer my profound gratitude to all who have walked in step with us and believed in a better tomorrow. You must stand tall and proud as you have all been spectacular in your support. You must remain peaceful, calm and respectful of the laws of the land. Benue State has many sunny days ahead. As an incurable optimist, I would love to believe that the awareness we created during these last elections will make it unlikely that the people of Benue will be hoodwinked ever again.

I wish to thank the good people of Benue State, the ACN family worldwide and other progressives around the world particularly, Senator Dr. George Akume; the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Dr. Iyorchia Ayu; Former Senate President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, ACN members in the National and State Assembly from Benue State, ACN National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, ACN National Leader, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the National and State Executive Committee of the party.

15. I wish to also appreciate in a special way, the ACN Deputy Governorship Candidate in Benue State, Alhaji Abubakar D. M. Usman (Young Alhaji) for all his contributions to the struggle; the Director-General of the campaign organization and his team, Prof David Iornem, friends of Prof Steve Torkuma Ugbah in the United States of America, the Mandate Recovery Group based in Abuja, and the Benue Coalition for Change (BCC) group. The support of the National media and the local Press cannot be overemphasized. They were actually refreshing and encouraging.

16. Let me particularly appreciate the small children who thronged the streets and paths of Benue chanting “Ishor Chenji” in acknowledgment of their hope for a better future in our mandate. The appreciation will be incomplete without a mention of the Ugbah Mothers, Ugbah Sisters, Ugbah Angels, Ugbah Babes, Civil Servants, Mbayegh Active Partners in Progress, courageous Benue Students, Okada Riders, Taxi Drivers, Market Women, Widows and Orphans, Benue Family on Facebook, our quintessential singer and composer-Terkura Kyumbur (alias TK Baba and Group), and all others singers who composed various “Ishor Chenji” music that propagated our message, and all the Pastors and Men of God who identified with the Benue cause. 

17. I thank you all for your support, your prayers, and your steadfastness. Never in history have a people shown greater commitment and dedication to a cause than your commitment to the “Ishor Chenji” project in Benue State. Never in history has one mandate been stolen from so many by so few. You have not lost; you have won! History will certainly accord you the pride of place.

18. I must also commend the industry of the ACN legal team led by Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN. You did your best for the advancement of the justice system in Nigeria and such efforts will not be in vain.

19. Finally, we all must thank and praise God for everything.

I love you all. The “Benue Project” continues.


Prof Steve Torkuma Ugbah

Jul 16

A joint meeting of the movements for the creation of Binda and Gboko States was held at the Makurdi residence of Wantaregh Paul Unongo with prominent Tiv sons in attendance where the following resolutions were adopted.

 

1.   That the Tiv people should unite under one body to pursue vigorously the creation of two states: BINDA and GBOKO States out of the present Benue State.

2.   That Binda should be composed of Kwande, Ushongo, Katsina Ala, Ukum and Logo; i.e. Kwande and Sankera while Jerchira and Jemgbagh comprising Vandeikya, Konshisha, Gboko, Buruku and Tarka is to form Gboko State.

3.   The meeting also resolved to support the creation of Apa and more Local Government Council Areas in the new states and the remaining Benue State.

4.   Coordinationg Secretariate were established in Abuja, Makurdi, Gboko and Katsina Ala. Chief Abu King Shuluwa and Mr. Peter Shande are to coordinate the Binda movement secretariat. Gboko State has Mohammed Gwa and Aondona P. Diwa as the interim secretariat.

The Makurdi coordinating secretariat is manned by Elder Toryima Orga and Kwaghtse Kuma.

Dr. Yima Sen and Barr. Linda Adzuanaga are to coordinate the Abuja office.

5.    The various secretariats have been mandated to propagate, enlighten and recuit more people to work towards the creation of these states.

6.   Any useful information, suggestions or contributions are encouraged and acceptable and should be forwarded to the nearest coordinating office.

7.    The next meeting is scheduled for 28th July, 2012, at Wantaregh Paul Unongo’s residence in Makurdi.

 

 

Present at the 1st Consultative Meeting were:

1.   Justice A.P.B. Utsaha

2.   Chief Abu King Shuluwa

3.   Dr. Yima Sen

4.   Prof. Steve Ugbah

5.   Mohammed Gwa

6.   Kwaghtse Kuma

7.   Prof. Anongo Lyam

8.   Hon. Clement Nanev Uhondo

9.   Dr. Aondona P. Diwa

       10. Mr. Peter Shande

       11. Rev. Peter Ichull

       12. Barr. Lynda Sewuese Adzuanaga

       13. Bem Iche-Ugoh

       14. Agema Gloria

       15. Myke Gbe

       16. Richard Agwa

       17. Prof. Targema Gire

       18. Kelvins Dzeremo

       19. Elder Toryima Orga

       20. Kpamor J.T. Orkar

       21. Wantaregh Paul Iyorpuu Unongo(OFR)

 

          Signed:

             Elder Toryima Orga

                   Rapporteur

Sep 14
The National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA Thursday said over 25, 000 persons have been displaced by flood in 14 communities in Benue State following the overflow of river Benue
In a press statement, NEMA’s Head Public Relations, Yushau Shuaib, states that “some of the communities at risk have remained adamant even as over 25, 000 persons in 14 communities were displaced in Benue State following the overflow of river Benue.
“Also, thousands of residents in Kaduna metropolis have been displaced by flood from Kaduna River and some communities in Kano State submerged after the collapse of Warawa dam.
“Similarly, more areas along the plains of River Benue and River Niger have remained under the threat of flood from the unprecedented rise of water in the upstream dams,” the statement said.
Mr Shuaib said “the agency has contacted the relevant States Governors and stakeholders as well as launched a series of awareness campaigns and advocacy to sensitize the vulnerable communities on measures to be taken. He however adds that some of the communities have remained adamant not to move to any place of safety and resigned their fate to the act of God.
Meanwhile, authorities at the Jebba hydroelectric dam has began discrete release of the excess water from the dam to safeguard the facility.
The Chief executive officer of the hydroelectric power plant, Lamu Audu attributed the high water level to excessive rainfall this year.
An assessment team comprising officers of NEMA and the stakeholders including the line ministries visited the dam and some of the threatened communities in Kwara and Niger States.
During the visit to Jebba and Old Jebba which are the two immediate communities located at the downstream of the dam, Mr Agbo advised the residents in the communities to relocate to the higher grounds for safety.
Aug 05


Former Chief Security Officer, CSO to late General Sanni Abacha, Major Hamzat Al Mustapha stormed Makurdi, Benue State capital yesterday in the company of his supporters, including the son of the late head of state, Mohammed Abacha.

Major Al Mustapha was recently released from prison by the Court of Appeal after spending 15 years over his alleged involvement in the death of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, wife of late business Mongol and acclaimed winner of June 12, 1993 general elections, Chief Moshood Abiola.

Decked in cream safari brocade with cap to match, he drove in a convoy into the waiting hands of his host, retired Prison Controller, Mr Iorbee Ihagh around 1.45pm few meters away to the toll gate in Makurdi. Mr. Ihagh who spoke to newsmen said that the visit of the former CSO was a thank you visit to the people of the state for saving his life while in Kirikiri prison.

Ihagh told newsmen that his friendship with Al Mustapha started while holding sway as the deputy controller of prison in charge of Kirikiri, explaining that the former CSO was to be arrested for planning coup but he (Ihagh) refused to release him to the military men who came for him.

“Our relationship started when I was in charge of Kirikiri prison where Al Mustapha was detained and some military men came for him to be handed over to them without protocol, they could not produce reproduction warrant and I declined releasing him to them.

“This however earned me an arrest and I was detained for almost two years in Lagos cantonment. I was released then promoted controller general but thereafter I was retired from service,” he said.

The former controller of prison said the purpose Al Mustapha’s visit to the state was to thank the people of the state for saving his life.

As soon as Mustapha arrived Makurdi, he was driven straight to the residence of his host, where he echoed ‘I thank you my brother, I thank you for my life, I appreciate you’ even as he hugged the relatives and friends of the host who were introduced to him.

The visitors who came in a long convoy with tight security spent only ten minutes in his house and told Mustapha that they should proceed to Jato-Aka in Kwande local government area of the state where they were to meet the former Minister for Steel during Shagari regime, Wantaregh Paul Unongo.

Mr. Ihagh however denied any political undertone to the visit to Unongo, saying, ‘he is our leader in Tivland and I told him that we should pay him homage in his country home about four hours drive to the capital city.

However, all efforts to speak with Al Mustapha were rebuff turned down as he was only smiling to the newsmen who approached for a brief interview until they drove away to Jato-Aka.













-Major Hamza Al Mustapha dressed up in Traditional Tiv Atire called Anger



Source: Nigerian Pilot NG, The Imongo Reporters


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