Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom is the deputy chairman of the zoning committee of the PDP in the forthcoming national convention. In this encounter, he spoke on the party’s chances of reclaiming power in 2023 and other sundry issues in the country.
Sir, how did former president of the senate, Dr Iyorchia Ayu emerge as consensus candidate for the position of national chairman of the PDP?
Well, the Bible says a man shall receive nothing except it is giving to him from the above. So, senator Ayu has allowed God to pilot affairs of his life since leaving office. We thanked God and appreciated my colleague’s governors, the leadership of the PDP who unanimously adopted our Benue candidate, Dr Iyorchia Ayu as the national chairman of our great party, the PDP at a north central meeting and by extension, the north. I can assure you here that Nigeria’s hope in the emergence of Dr Ayu as the PDP national chairman is for the good of the country. This is because internal democracy must be entrenched such that discipline, party rules and regulations will be observed under Ayu’s leadership. I therefore, congratulate the leadership of the party in Benue state, the people and the entire PDP family in the country. Recall that for a very long time, Benue state did not have the opportunity of having one of their own elevated to the level of national chairman of a political party.
So, how set is the PDP for the forthcoming national convention billed for the end of this October?
I can say with all sense of modesty that all is set because the national chairmanship tussle is the most contentious and difficult aspect of getting someone to emerge that will be accepted by all interest groups and the party leadership was able to decide on a person ahead of the convention. We also encouraged other geopolitical zones to do the same through consensus such that the grand finale will be a mere formality. However, where there will be no consensus arrangement, the new branded PDP believes in democracy as our name implies, there will be voting to produce a winner. The aim is to build confidence in Nigerians that the mistake PDP made in 2015 general election will not repeat itself. It is therefore our hope that the convention will be very smooth, free and fair, devoid of rancour among others.
The contention now is the mode the party will adopt either direct or indirect primaries to produce a presidential candidate. Where do the PDP stand?
Well, I have not read the amendment Act of the national assembly. However, in my forty years experience as a practicing politician, I was able to get involved in the direct and indirect primaries. So, I can tell you that direct primaries are a big challenge to the aspirants and the party as well. This is because getting an honest person to make things work by conducting the exercise when they are sent out is really a task. The tendency of buying such people over by aspirants is always high and it is more difficult to monitor from the center what is happening in the 276 council wards in the case of governorship and house of assembly and national assembly in Benue state.
Therefore, I would want a situation where political parties should be allowed an option of evolving a direct or indirect primary system such that results won’t be tempered with. Note, that those who are pushing for direct primaries will later regret it because it will be difficult to get a candidate that is acceptable by most people within the party. It is a matter of an aspirant with more money, strength, struggle and thugs who can walk in and disrupt the system or the electoral officers induced to record any figure in favour of a particular aspirant without going to the council wards. The advantage of indirect primaries is that the statutory delegates by virtue of their position as enshrined in the party constitution are already there. There is also an electoral college where aspirants have the opportunity of addressing the congress and the three man delegates from each of the wards will be elected by the people from there. You will recall that when I left APC to the PDP, It was indirect primaries that were held and we had 2600 votes which were openly casted by delegates and I got 2100 votes to emerge as a governorship candidate. Due to the transparent exercise, those that lost out in the contest congratulated me. So, the NWC of the party should decide the mode to adopt for the convention to produce a presidential flag bearer.
There is this ethnic crisis in Ado local government area in Benue state in which nine youths were alleged to be missing. Are you aware of the development?
It is a very unfortunate challenge that we are facing in that area for some time now. A situation where you have people that speak the same language with their kinsmen in Ado in Benue state and same in Ebonyi who are originally indigenes of Ebonyi but reside in Ado in Benue state becomes a big problem. With a minor misunderstanding, instead of settling it, it will be multiplied and goes to both Benue and Ebonyi states. What is happening is beyond boundary issue but we are discussing with the National Boundary Commission (NBC), to see how best to resolve the conflict. I therefore, called on the two warring sides to lay down their arms and live as brothers and continue to run their businesses for a living. All the years of fighting, killings and destruction from both sides have brought about no profit; rather, children there are out of school with no farming activities in the affected communities. People must understand that if you are a person in Ado in Benue state but residing in Ebonyi states, you must pay allegiance and loyalty there just like Ohuakwu from Ebonyi state but residing in Benue state must do the same. Boundaries are meant for administrative conveniences and not to divide the people.