Benue re-run: Victory on three fronts for Mark

By The Citizen

For former Senate President David Mark, it was a triple victory yesterday when the Independent National Election Commission, (INEC) Returning Officer, Prof. Ishaku Eneji. declared him winner of the Benue South senatorial district rerun election.

Mark's victory is said to be significant for three reasons. It assures that the Peoples Democratic Party [ PDP] will remain a strong voice in the Senate and that it will give Senate President Bukola Saraki a loyal supporter in Mark. His victory reasserts the independence of the Idoma of the Tiv in the political choices of the former. It also assures Mark's continued relevance in Benue and national politics.

Running on the platform of his PDP, Mark beat Daniel Onjeh of the All Progressives Congress (APC), with 84, 192 votes to 71, 621. Of the nine local councils in the district, Mark led in five while Onjeh won in four.

In a related development, the PDP also won the three legislative positions contested for in Saturday's House of Representatives rerun polls in Taraba State.

In Kogi State results of the rerun ordered by the Court of Appeal for eight constituencies were only partially declared as the senatorial rerun election in two districts, Kogi East and Central, were declared inconclusive based on reasons yet to be fully disclosed.

The PDP, however, received some boost in the Ogirimagongo/Okene federal constituency where its candidate won unopposed as well as getting three additional new members in the state assembly rerun election.

In Benue South as well as in Taraba, the closeness of the vote tally showed how tense the repeat polls were . Already, the National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff, on behalf of the National Working Committee (NWC) has congratulated Mark on his victory which he said left no one in doubt of the popularity of the veteran senator and the PDP not only in Benue State, but also in the North Central geo-political zone.

The party, in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary,

Chief Olisa Metuh, yesterday described Mark as a valuable statesman and national leader intensely needed in the Senate, while thanking Nigerians for their renewed support for the PDP and its candidates as demonstrated in recent elections across the country.

'It is instructive to note that the PDP had won 70 percent of all the polls conducted since May 29, 2015, a development that underlines the fact of its deep roots and popularity as a brand, irrespective of the temporary setback of the 2015 general elections.

'We therefore call on all members of our great party to respond to the gesture by Nigerians by uniting behind the ideals of the PDP and visions of its founding fathers and reposition the party for the challenges ahead.'

Also, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and his Ondo State counterpart, Dr. Segun Mimiko, have welcomed Mark's victory, describing it as a sign of peoples' support and appreciation of his services.

On November 28, 2015 the Court of Appeal, Makurdi Division, nullified Mark's election and ordered a rerun. Mark played a stabilising role in the sixth and seventh National Assemblies.

The political supremacy between the Tivs and Idomas, was put into the basket of challenges before Mark in the rerun polls.

In 2019 analysts say the agitation of power shift to Benue South would be on the front burner. Consequently, prominent Tiv politicians like Senators Barnabas Gemade and Akume, are said not to be favourably disposed to Mark playing a role in the selection of the next governor of Benue from Idoma extraction.

Onjeh was therefore perceived as a possible surrogate for the Tivs to dictate the tempo of political action in Idomaland.

Not that alone, there were also many political actors in PDP with eyes on the future of the party, who did not feel comfortable with the continued presence of Mark in national reckoning. It is popularly held among PDP playmakers that Mark has his eyes on the presidency come 2019, as such the thinking is that with his presence in the eighth Senate, he could still be available to affect decisions in the party.

Based on the foregoing, the February 20 Benue South Senatorial rerun polls became more of a fight between David and Goliath than a Daniel coming to judgment. The support and projection which APC leaders in Benue and beyond, provided for young Onjeh was, apart from party solidarity, aimed at diminishing and shaming Mark.

But that was not to be. Most Idomas saw the rerun as an attempt to shame their icon and retain them under political domination.

According to an Idoma civil servant in Oturkpo who spoke to The Guardian: 'The rerun election in Benue South was not about Senator Mark, we saw it as a gang-up against our people.'

Taraba Resident Electoral Commissioner Habu Zarma who announced PDP's victory at a press briefing yesterday in Jalingo said the PDP candidate, Dan-Asabe Hosea, won the Sardauna/Kurmi/Gashaka Federal Constituency with 37,645 votes, while his closest rival, Ibrahim Elsudi of the APC got 37,609 votes.

The commissioner added that the former Speaker of the state's House of Assembly, Abel Diah of the PDP, also defeated Emmanuel Bongo of the APC for the Mbamnga state constituency with 7,825 votes as against 5,642 votes.

He said that Emmanuel Dame of the PDP got the victory for Ardo Kola state constituency with 12,138 votes over Sanusi Janbawaile of the APC who got 11,047 votes. The REC thanked stakeholders for ensuring peaceful elections across the affected areas in the state.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Yola had in December 2015 nullified the elections in the constituencies and ordered a rerun in some polling units across the three local government areas of the state.

In Kogi East senatorial rerun, the returning officer declared the exercise inconclusive following a controversy stoked by one Abdulwahab Yunusa who claimed to be the Labour Party (LP) candidate.

Ibrahim Itodo the original candidate whose name was submitted to INEC had withdrawn from the race but the party substituted him against the directive of INEC that they could not substitute their candidates for the rerun.

The PDP candidate, Attai Ali Aidoko was leading 46, 800 against LP's 11, 090.

INEC seemed not too sure of what to do on a petition by a candidate they did not recognise hence they had to confer with the headquarters.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner Halilu Pai was not available when The Guardian called to ascertain the true position of things .

However, the Head of Department , Voter Education in the INEC office, Daniel Kure said they were still consulting and were waiting for directives from their Abuja office.

In Kogi Central Senatorial rerun , Ahmed Salau Ogembe of the PDP scored 45, 468, Senator Nurudeen Abatemi of Progressive People Aliance (PPA) 31, 163, while Dr. Moses Wakili of Social Democratic Party (SDP) scored 9, 962.

INEC Returning Officer Mr. Salihu James, declared the result inconclusive following the cancelation of over 20,000 votes which affected the entire Otutu ward, two polling units at Upogoro in Okene Local Council and also in Karaworo , Eresuha and Inozomi wards in Adavi Council due to disruption of the process.

In Okene/Ogorimagogo Federal Constituency, Tijani Damisa of PDP was elected unopposed.

For Kogi East State Assembly rerun, Hassan Baiwa Abdullai of the APC won in Okura Constituency, with 8,515 t while in Dekina/Biraidu Idoko Moses Ododo also of the APC, won. The Guardian