Happenings towards the February 20 rerun of Benue South senatorial poll as ordered by the appellate court which sacked Senator David Mark from the red chamber of the National Assembly indicate trouble for the former Senate president.
The fragile relationship among members of Mark’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the district may have substantially broken down, with the defection of many stalwarts to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The defectors include the immediate past deputy governor of Benue State, Chief Stephen Lawani, a former minister of state for the Niger Delta, Dr. Sam Ode, a former minister of state for education, Dr. Jerry Agada and former federal permanent secretary, Chief Mike Okibe Onoja, all of Mark’s Idoma ethnic stock.
Director of publicity of the APC, John Ikwulono told our correspondent that Lawani, Ode and Onoja, as well as hundreds of their supporters have fulfilled all necessary requirements for them to become members of the party.
“They are just waiting for a date to be scheduled for their formal decamping. The date fixed for that earlier was cancelled because of the burial of late Tor Tiv which falls within the same period. But I can tell you that they have fulfilled the party’s condition at various levels,” he said.
Our correspondent reports that the Senate seat of the zone became a major issue after the nullification of the March 28 election and has ever since marred the spirit of unity which had sustained power brokers in the area in the past.
Mark who is a non-lily livered politician would by the new development have to fight vigorously in the coming battle to sustain his hold on the seat as apparently, the perceived super force that was at work to settle political scores with the Agbegede-Otukpo born ex-military administrator would stop at nothing to oust him.
No doubt, the defectors are politicians with structures in the district, and their movement to another camp means Mark will have to do the extra campaign to convince the electorate to vote for his return to the Senate.
It is recalled that Onoja had stepped down at the last minute for Mark during the PDP’s senatorial primary election, a development that paved the way for the former Senate president to return to the red chamber for the fifth time. On the other hand, Ode and Lawani contested the PDP governorship primary which produced Prince Terhemen Tarzoor.
While Onoja hinged his reason for defection on need to remain in the mainstream of national politics, it was learnt that his decision was actually borne out of bitterness towards Mark, who had refused to honour a gentleman’s agreement between them to hand over the baton in the 2015 election.
Daily Trust gathered that the two bosom friends had on a lunch date over a dish of ‘amala and okoho soup’ during the build-up to the 2011 polls sealed an unwritten agreement for the former military governor Plateau and Katsina states to replace Mark at the Senate in 2015.
But, that was never to be, as the later allegedly convinced the Idoma power bloc that his party would win the election to maintain the status quo, and by political calculation, he would emerge as the country’s president in 2019.
It was learnt that based on that ‘brilliant idea,’ Onoja stepped down. “And you will recall that he said his decision was in the interest of the Idoma nation. So he stepped down for the Idoma collective agenda and not for Mark,” a source who craved anonymity said.
The source added that it was for that singular reason that Onoja turned down the APC’s offer to become its party’s senatorial flag bearer when they met with him in Abuja, having already pledged allegiance to the superiority of Idoma nation over his ambition.
A press statement issued and signed by Comrade Alegwu Adadu and Hon. Alex Onah Aboh and dated January 11, 2016, confirmed the defection of Onoja, a former federal permanent secretary in the defence ministry.
“The elder statesman who had dropped his Benue south senatorial am