Efforts by All Progressives Congress, APC, governors to reconcile Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and President Muhammadu Buhari have failed, preparing ground for the governor to defect to another political party.
The governor’s imminent exit got further traction at the weekend when he dissolved the state cabinet and sacked associates of his one-time political godfather, Senator George Akume.
After dissolution of the cabinet, the governor, however, retained four commissioners who were not linked to Akume, a former governor of the state who wields immense political influence in the state.
Ortom’s possible exit from the APC has been mostly fuelled by internal wrangling against the APC upon allegations that the federal administration also controlled by the same party had been indifferent in the face of herdsmen attacks on the people of the state.
In a move to squelch the apparent defection, the Progressives Governors Forum, PGF, had about two months ago, set up a committee to repair the relations between the governor and the President.
The committee headed by Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State has the governors of Kaduna and Adamawa states as members.
That move it seemed may have failed, following the governor’s shocking move at the weekend with the dissolution of the cabinet.
Sources told Vanguard that the governor could be headed to his former party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, having apparently reached a truce with his predecessor, Mr. Gabriel Suswam.
The truce was said to be facilitated by the Tor Tiv, the pre-eminent traditional ruler in the state.
Ortom’s continued presence in the APC, it was gathered, had become politically risky in the light of increasing misgivings by citizens of the state to the opposition by the federal administration to issues pertaining to the face-off between herdsmen and farmers in the state.
Governor Ortom’s spokesman, Tahav Agerzua, responding, said yesterday: “Governor Ortom has not announced his movement to another party. If he has to move, it will be made public.”
Federal officials, notably, Brig. Gen. Dan Ali (retd.), the Minister of Defence, had been ferociously opposed to the implementation of the state’s anti-open grazing law which they claimed had fanned the crisis rather than abate it.
Despite prospects of an imminent realignment, the PDP was yesterday claiming indifference to the move even as it affirmed that the governor was welcomed to the party.
Publicity Secretary of Benue State chapter of the PDP, Mr. Bemgba Iortyom, said the party was not in talks with Governor Ortom.
He also maintained that the party’s doors were open to welcome the governor if he wished to return back to his former family.
Speaking in a telephone interview yesterday in Makurdi, Iortyom said: “Governor Ortom is not at the moment in talks with us. Those talks about him coming to the PDP are rumours.
“PDP’s doors are open to everyone who wants to join as far as he or she meets the condition precedent. It is not an all comer’s affairs; there are conditions that make one eligible to be a member of a political party.
“There are rules that govern every political party. If you abide by or observe those rules, you cannot stop any Nigerian from joining the party.
“Every Nigerian is free to aspire to be a member of the PDP. We cannot conclude that a particular person will not be welcomed in the PDP, that will be against the principles that established the party.
“That will also be a violation of the person’s fundamental human rights as it relates to freedom of association and all that.”
Senator Akume, who collaborated with Ortom to stop Mr. Suswam’s plot to handpick his successor, did not respond to Vanguard’s calls at press time yesterday.