As part of efforts to resolve the misunderstanding between Governor Samuel Ortom and the national chairman of Peoples Democratic party (PDP), Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, their Tiv kinsmen have invited both men to a round table discussion.
The move to broker peace between the two PDP political leaders follows the unrelenting war of words between the governor and supporters of the national chairman, which Tiv leaders have viewed with dismay.
As such, worried by the cold war between the two illustrious sons of the state, PDP stakeholders under the aegis of the ‘Jemgbagh PDP Elders’ Forum’ yesterday, invited the governor to a meeting in Gboko.
Dr Ayu is from the Jemgbagh geo-political axis of Benue State, which comprises Buruku, Gboko and Tarka Local Government Areas. The PDP national chairman is precisely from Gboko Local Government Council.
In a statement shortly after the meeting, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ortom, Mr. Nathaniel Ikyur, said the meeting was at the instance of the Jemgbagh PDP Elders Forum, which sought to get clarifications on the cold war between the two politicians.
He disclosed that the step was undertaken following Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike’s insistence that the national chairman must step down. Ikyur stated: “Giving details of what snowballed into the current crises, Governor Ortom dispelled insinuations that he is pulling down a Jemgbagh son.
“Rather, he explained how he rallied support for the election of Senator Ayu against all odds. The governor pointed out that he would never succumb to blackmail and keep silent in the face of injustice perpetrated by the PDP under Senator Ayu’s leadership.”
The Chief Press Secretary further disclosed how Ortom told the Jemgbagh PDP Elders that Senator Ayu had mounted a smear campaign and blackmail against his person and office, after he met members of the PDP Board of Trustees (BOT).
It could be recalled that the invitation of the governor by the Jemgbagh PDP Elders Forum came two days after Ortom had called on the PDP national chairman to resign or beg for forgiveness.
After an emergency executive council meeting at the Government House, Makurdi, last Friday, Ortom, who is one of the G5 PDP governors angry with the party, declared that Ayu had pledged to resign if a northerner emerged as the party’s Presidential candidate. Ortom therefore urged his kinsman to honor his words and relinquish the chairmanship “if he was a man of integrity or alternatively to apologise and beg for forgiveness.”
Ikyur stressed that at the meeting, Governor Ortom reiterated his earlier stance. He said the governor noted that following the post-PDP Presidential convention wrangling, he advised Senator Ayu to reach out to aggrieved leaders of the party and plead for their understanding over calls for his resignation.
“Ortom lamented that rather than take his counsel, Senator Ayu chose the ignoble path of disuniting the party by his actions and utterances,” Ikyur disclosed.
It was gathered that Governor Ortom, who is contesting for Senate also pointed accusing fingers at some of Ayu’s kinsmen, whom he blamed for threatening to scuttle his Senatorial ambition as revenge for his stance on Dr Ayu.
Ortom, who has however remained adamant was said to have told Ayu’s kinsmen that already, some pseudo-groups claiming to be speaking on behalf of the Jemgbagh political block have been stoking public blackmail against him, claiming that he was working against the interest of Ayu.
A source at the meeting revealed that Ortom maintained that since power is given by God, “no one should blackmail me, because of my Senatorial ambition. Nobody should think he will intimidate me, because of the senate election.”
“If God ordains me to be elected Senator for the Benue North-West Senatorial zone, no amount of blackmail or intimidation could prevent me from winning. Since I started contesting for the Benue North-West Senatorial election, I have become a subject of intimidation and blackmail by some Jemgbagh stakeholders, as a result of the internal crisis rocking the party with Ayu as the helmsman.
“The national chairman did not maintain neutrality in handling the affairs leading to the PDP national convention, which produced Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of the party. Ayu himself committed to resigning should a northern presidential candidate emerge at the northern caucus meeting at the Bauchi State lodge.
“I wonder why Senator Ayu is now reneging on his promise, which he voluntarily made before all the northern leaders of the party,” Ortom was quoted as saying.
Having narrated his side to the crisis, Governor Ortom was said to have urged the Jemgbagh stakeholders to invite both himself and Senator Ayu to a meeting instead of attending to them separately, so that they could both present their positions on the matter.
There is growing anxiety within the party in Benue State, especially following the negative imputations to discord between Ortom and Ayu. Stakeholders believe that the disagreement portends great danger to PDP’s cohesion as elections draw nearer.
The leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator George Akume, who is also a former governor of the state, is also from the Jemgbagh geo-political bloc. Akume, who is the current Minister of Special Duties, still enjoys tremendous goodwill from Benue people.
The fear within the ruling PDP in the state is that the differences between Ortom and Ayu could pave the way for APC to gain the upper hand once again during the elections, especially the governorship.
The Benue North West Senatorial District, which Governor Ortom wants to represent, comprises the Jemgbagh geo-political bloc where Dr Ayu comes from and the MINDA geo-political bloc where Governor Ortom comes from. Makurdi, the state capital, and Gboko the second most populated Local Government after Makurdi, all fall within the Senatorial zone.
A source at the Jemgbagh reconciliation meeting confided in The Guardian that Governor Ortom “is building on what our son was alleged to have said, which is to call for his resignation. But, what Ayu said is still on YouTube. Ortom can go and listen to it again. If he has comprehension issues, he can look for an interpreter.
“His is the case of the rabble, rousing the rabble, but only the rabble will buy into his ‘illiterate’ exertions. Our son stays, and Ortom should get used to it. Jemgbagh says ‘no’ to his demolition of our sons.”
However, in their determination to unite Ortom and the PDP national chairman and have them share the same corner, Ayu’s kinsmen have promised to call the PDP national chairman and the governor to a round table discussion.
“Chairman of the Jemgbagh PDP Elders’ Forum, Barrister Sam Tsumba, said the forum will invite Senator Ayu and Governor Ortom to further find a way to resolve the conflict,” Ikyur’s statement read.