Benue South re-run: Can Onjeh be the David of Mark?
By; Jacob Onjewu Dickson
All things being equal, it would take up to a hundred of the likes of former National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) President, Daniel Onjeh to hold his own against a political gladiator of two-term Senate President, David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark in a free and fair electoral contest that is actually decided by the ballot and not by the powers that be either at Bourdilon or Aso Rock.
But thousands of years ago, a Biblical story that was recorded told of a warrior that was feared by warriors and laid to waste several, during battles, who was defeated by a boy who prior to the duel, had never been in the field of battle.
The boy was not given any chance by armies of both his own people of Israel, and their foes, the Philistines. But he went up against his opponent without any armour; no sword or shield, but just a sling and stones. Within seconds, David who was favoured by the Almighty brought down Goliath the dreaded and the rest is history.
But in this case, it is difficult to say who the David is and who is the Goliath. The variables keep changing, making the term ‘Goliath’ relative to both the supporters of Daniel Onjeh and his All Progressives Congress (APC) and David Mark and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
For the APC, David Mark is seen as the Goliath of Idomaland who has been at the Senate for the past 16 years, trouncing all his opponents in the five elections conducted since then, with nobody able to subdue him.
The PDP supporters however, see the APC as a party as the Goliath that must be cut to size and humbled in Benue South. They perceive the candidature of Onjeh as one that the APC in Benue State, who control the other two zones, with Senators George Akume and Barnabas Gemade as being a stooge that the Tivs want to impose on the Idomas, to weaken the influence the latter have at the federal level.
They are of the view that the Tivs are not happy with Mark because they accuse him of empowering the Idomas with federal employment opportunities and projects during his tenure as Senate President, an act they are not in a hurry to forgive.
However Idoma opinion leaders, despite party divide, are in support of Mark, for attracting several federal projects to the zone. They are unhappy with the APC for deliberately frustrating some of those projects. The recently cancelled upgrading of the College of Health Sciences to a university which was influenced by Mark is still fresh in their memories and they are bent on punishing the APC for that disservice to Idoma nation.
The Idoma elite are also grateful to Mark for influencing the Loko-Oweto bridge across the River Benue, a project if when completed, would cut the traveling time between the Federal Capital Territory and Idoma land and the South East of the country by half.
Unfortunately, for the same reason, the Tivs are not happy with Mark for the project, which would cut out Tiv land from the journey to Idoma land and the South East.
As such, the ‘Tiv Trinity’ Akume, Gemade and the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom is bent on ensuring that Mark does not remain in the Senate to protect the interest of the Idoma Nation.
But APC supporters are also arguing that for the 16 years that Mark has spent at the Senate, no meaningful development has come to Benue South. They say that the zone cannot boast of any industry that will employ the youth and good roads, optimistic that Onjeh must defeat Mark at the re-run, for Idoma land to be liberated.
In response, Mark supporters are of the view that the liberation the Idoma need now is to be free from the Tiv manipulation and oppression, something that only Mark can provide among the two candidates.
As it stands, it is difficult to say who the real Goliath is. Just as they say, different strokes for different folks. Political pundits are keeping their fingers crossed to see how the re-run will turn out.