By Peter Duru, Makurdi
Last Saturday’s Governorship and State Assembly elections in Benue state, once again reenacted the deep rooted rivalry between the two dominant political parties in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC. However the PDP candidate and incumbent Governor, Samuel Ortom got the better of his rival though the election was declared inconclusive by INEC.
At the end of collation of results from the 23 local government areas of the state, the Collation Officer for the Governorship poll, Prof. Sabastine Maimako declared that Governor Ortom polled 410,576 votes ahead of Mr. Emmanuel Jime of the APC who garnered 329,022 votes.
Prof. Maimako noted that “the number of canceled votes which is 121,019 is more than the margin of lead between the PDP and the APC which is 81,554.”
According to him, a total of 2,480,101 voters were registered for the election but 816,969 voters were accredited and of the said number 804,662 votes were cast explaining further that 710,102 was the total number of valid votes while 14,560 were rejected votes.
“Based on the aforesaid therefore, I hereby declare the election inconclusive. INEC will conduct supplementary election for this purpose,” he declared.
Election violence: What remedy for victims?
But one significant feature of the governorship election in Benue state was the fact that Governor Ortom earned majority of his votes from areas of the state that suffered the brunt of marauding herdsmen in the last two years.
These areas which are known high voting areas includes Logo, Ukum, Guma, Agatu, Buruku and Gwer West local government areas.
His APC rival on the other hand enjoyed the support of the Idoma speaking but low voting areas where his wife comes from, aside Agatu.
From the spread of the votes, it might therefore not be wrong to hold that the people through their ballot somewhat expressed their stance and disapproval of the manner the APC led federal government handled the killings in the state hence they rallied round the governor and showed gratitude for his resilience and forthright defense of the people in the face of adversity.
Reacting to the outcome of the polls, Convener of the Middle Belt Movement for Justice and Peace, MBMJP, Comrade Joe Bukka took a swipe at INEC for not declaring Governor Ortom winner of the election stressing that available records showed that the PDP candidate clearly won the election.
Bukka said, “the declaration is shocking for some of us, INEC is a body that works with statistics and they keep records as well. We all know from the records that 179 Polling Units, PUs, were affected in the cancelation.
“Instructively from our record which was obtained from INEC, the total number of Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, collected by the electorates in the effected communities that hosts the PUs stands at 61,040.
“Our verifiable findings is that all of the places where INEC cancelled the results, which are known PDP strongholds, the total number of people who came out to actually vote and were actually accredited before the elections were cancelled was just about 28,000 in the totality of the 179 polling units.
“This is except Mbalon where the people worship the Governor as their hero, and where no election took place because the electoral materials were completely burnt.
“This clearly indicated that there is no way the APC can cancel the deficit. So why did INEC which is the custodian of this statistical information not declare Governor Ortom Governor?
“We smell a rat and INEC must come out clean in this matter. They must convince us that what we are hearing of a plot to subvert the process in favour of the APC is not true,” Bukka added.
In his reaction, Governor Ortom appealed for calm. In a statement through his Chief Press Secretary, CPS, Terver Akase, the Governor stated that “from the results of the Presidential, Governorship as well as National and State Assembly Elections, Benue people have demonstrated that the PDP remains their preferred choice.
“PDP won all the three senatorial seats in the state, six out of the 11 so far concluded in the House of Representatives, 18 of those announced from the State Assembly with bright chances of winning the others not yet concluded.”
The Governor expressed appreciation to the people for voting massively for the PDP and wished that they remained resolute in their determination to give their mandate to candidates of the PDP.
He stated that he was confident of winning the rerun overwhelmingly and pledged to support security agencies to curtail electoral malpractices on the date to be scheduled by INEC.
The Governor appealed to the people of the state to turn out en mass for the repeat elections in the affected areas even as he expressed the hope that INEC would also be patriotic enough to discharge its duties professionally.
On his part, the APC candidate through the party’s Campaign Secretary, Prof. Eugene Aliegba said his party would submit to the decision by INEC and would present itself for the rerun elections.
“As a law abiding party, we recognize the decision by INEC as legally binding. We remain upbeat and urge our supporters to stay calm and optimistic ahead of a rerun date. We will do the work required to clinch victory and earn the mandate of Benue people,” he added.