By Solomon Ayado
With the seeming neck-to-neck conduct of political campaigns by various political parties in the country, and the wit to undo another, install candidates in varied elective positions, the agrarian state of Benue should have been the one where one would expect that the electorates should by now be ‘eating’ and ‘choping’ anyhow, having so much money exchanging hands. But there are contemplations, as party men have alleged that money is not circulating, thus, sending a strong message that the new electoral arrangement may be devoid of money-politicking.
By nature, the planting season would always be a period of sowing a seed, and there is usual expectation that such seed would later germinate, grow and metamorphose into high yield. Same way the harvesting season. Those that had planted would naturally want to achieve a bumper harvest.
In politics, the ‘eat’ before you ‘chop’ syndrome is real. That is why political parties are platforms that aspirants/ candidates climb to vie to seek representation and attract the needed development to the generality of people. The parties would field candidates, and campaign to ensure that they are not only well sold to the people but also massively acceptable. In doing this, so many things are involved. Gifts of all kinds are shared, including money. The people are aware of this, time immemorial, and would want it not to vanish. Just like that?
In Benue State, almost all the political parties registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are said to have fielded carefully selected candidates. Although they are countably three leading political parties in the state; that is, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Labour Party (LP). Others are striving hard but not making the big waves compared to these mentioned. The ruling party, the PDP is all out to remain in power while the opposition parties are striving to wrestle power from the incumbent. Whichever way, one thing remains important and that is, there must be an election.
Talking to electorate on how and who to vote can be very tricky and somewhat difficult. Buying them over with money or gift items can sometimes propel a big disappointment. The voters can collect the money but vote another. However, understanding the sentiment of the people, social safety and level of voter education, it becomes imperative that whoever may want to win any election must stick to the principles of influence.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, an astute politician, while positing on the mathematics of his political calculations especially about the 2023 elections, stated that “elections should be voted according to the elections.” This, to many political pundits, depicts that the electorates should vote based on candidates, and not by political parties.
It is also important to note that a lot of unexpected circumstances may prevail. For instance, it may not be about any political party, but might be about the candidate, and it would also not be about the money but personal conviction.
This is why Governor Ortom of PDP had recently declared his support for Labour Party’s Presidential candidate, Peter Obi, per chance the crisis rocking the PDP which culminated to the breakaway of the strongly bonded G-5, is in anyway not resolved. According to Ortom, the politics of the day is all about good conscience, not betrayal, not malice, not treachery or undoing, not deception or renegade to agreement, but by ensuring that equity, fairness and transparency thrives. It goes to saying that rigging and money can no longer be a force, unlike before where ballot snatching and bribery of electoral actors became the order of the day. What it further indicates is that a lot of candidates will win elections based on track records or pedigree.
As a nation, we have gone virtually through hard times in the past years when talking about political and leadership challenges. To some extent, it can be safe to adduce that the notorious hardship and bitter sufferings the people are passing through is as a result of leadership failure at all levels. You name it, hunger, abject poverty, adverse corruption, sordid economic instability, banditry, robbery, kidnapping, wanton killings, looting and many other callousness are fallouts of bad leadership.
As political parties are strategizing and planning to acquire power, the electorates are fully prepared too, ready to pay the bad leaders in their coins and reward the good ones as well. Although the new Electoral Law is sacrosanct, serving as book of life, regulating all electoral conduct and generally putting things in the right perspective. One major fear is how Nigerians have the penchant of navigating their ways through every condition. It is not sure whether the stipulations in the new Electoral Law would not be meddled.
In Benue State, the umbrella PDP has since commenced statewide campaigns. Governor Samuel Ortom, accompanied by the three Senators, Gabriel Suswam of Benue North East, Orker Jev of Benue North West and Abba Moro of the Benue South, and all National and State Assembly lawmakers, as well as state leadership of the party, among other stakeholders, have moved round from local government area to another. While moving, the governorship candidate of the party and Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly, Titus Uba, and all PDP candidates in the state, were on the campaign train.
The message was short and clear. The crux is to ensure that PDP wins from top to bottom. The party men and women are strongly appealed, preached to good conscience and also begged to vote All PDP candidates, irrespective of whatever snag the people may hold.
Governor Ortom had said APC is a party that has brought so much affliction on the state and voting it to power would amount to continuity in hell. He cited killings by herdsmen, and the general hardship as some of the many issues.
For many people, the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know. To them, even though the PDP administration in Benue has not satisfied all their yearnings, there is much hope to meeting their demands sooner or certainly later, meaning that they would vote for the party.
After the statewide campaigns, the party has now moved into LG councils, going from council wards to every kindred to solicit support and ask the people to vote the PDP.
To complement the campaigns, wife of the governor, Mrs Eunice Ortom, has mobilized women for another round of campaign tour across the federal constituencies. Same way, the message is simple, calling women to vote for the ruling PDP.
Meanwhile, the APC, Labour Party and other political parties are determined to give winning the election their best shot. The Leader of the APC, Senator George Akume who is minister for special duties and Intergovernmental Affairs is not resting. For the LP, a member of the House of Representatives, Herman Hembe, who is also the governorship candidate is full chest that the ruling PDP is defeated.
Conversely, while the PDP is moving in the umbrella shield of influence, the main opposition APC appears to be sweeping the broom with dillydally. The seeming unresolved internal squabbles that emanated from the judicial cases, sequel to the guber primaries, is persisting. While some are accusing the PDP of fueling the litigations in the APC, others have countered the allegation, insisting that no way PDP would sleep in its house and put legs in another’s.
For analysts, as PDP is moving round, the APC and other parties are also moving, not expectedly though. Especially that, the APC is not having the best of times. But the APC and other opposition political parties have appeared to be having the support of the masses. The perceived reason is that the majority of people in the state are civil servants and that they are being owed salaries, and so it will count against the PDP. But one can only be deceived. Non-payment of salaries is minor among the many major issues that determine winning an election.
Take it or leave it, the 2023 election is dicey. No one can actually tell. You cannot even predict it. Except for those who are deeply involved in the party and politicking; they are not taking chances. To them, it is a competition and it is not a joke. It is do or die affair. Everyone is digging issues to scuttle another, brighten their chances and eventually coast to victory.
But let us be frank. Is it normal that campaigns should thrive without the people actually benefiting from it, financially? How was it done before? Is it same the way it is? Can the political parties have a smooth ride to victory? Which party will eventually win the election? Who becomes the next President or governor? And so many unanswered questions on the lips of many.
No matter the circumstances, campaigns are here and the political parties with their candidates are moving round, talking to electorates, with money or no money. One thing above campaigns is the voting power of an electorate. That single vote can change things. Some have said candidates or political parties are prepared to dish out monies on the day of voting, since it appears they are hoarding. Should it be all about the money? But not joking, the people want to ‘eat’ and if they don’t, the candidates with their political parties cannot ‘chop.’ There may later be a smack. It is real!
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