Mike Okibe Onoja: At the Verge of Victory as David Mark’s Replacement By Ogbaniko Onunugoga




For twenty years, Distinguished Senator David Aleichenu Bonaventure Mark bestrides the Benue South Senatorial seat like a colossus. But the sun has set for David Mark’s political life at the senate. He is no longer contesting or desiring the position which had made him rise to the pinnacle of his political career. He was Senate President for eight years, a record unbeaten in Nigeria so far.
Today, a total of sixteen persons are vying for the position David Mark is abandoning. According to the final list of contestants released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, three of them are women; Juliet Angulu, 35, of the ADC, Mary Okewu, 30, of the PPN and Alache Ode, 59, of the PT. Incidentally, Alache Ode is the senior sister of Dr. Sam Ode, former Minister of State for Niger Delta and current Deputy Governorship candidate of the APC in Benue State.
The others are Ogbole Okolo,41, ACD; Ad’Oko Immanuel,39,ADP;Chief Steven Lawani,70, APC; Abubakar Usman,53, ADPA; Uloko Stephen,35,CAP; Magaji Adam Adamu,25, DA; Ochocho Paul,56,JMPP; Inyampe D. Douglas,42,LP; Emmanuel Okegbo,56,NCP; Ola Odeh Paul,36,NRM; Moro Patrick Abba,60, PDP; Ujah Oyiwona Richard, 40, PPC and Onoja Okibe Mike,70, SDP.
Of all the contestants, only four are considered as serious contenders to the stool at the national assembly. They are Alhaji Abubakar Usman also known as Young Alhaji; Chief Steven Lawani; Chief Mike Okibe Onoja and Comrade Patrick Abba Moro. Of the sixteen, these four have been on the political scene and are well tested and could be said to be men of timber and caliber but there are men even among men. Each has his strength and weaknesses and therefore could not be rolled over as easily as the twelve others. But even then, Mike Okibe Onoja stands out more unique than the rest. To acknowledge this position, it is better to analyze how the rest stand against Mike Onoja.
Out of the four contestants, three of them each is a recipient of Idoma Traditional tittle. Onoja is Akanaba or Pillar, Lawani is Ochagwu or Giant and Moro, Ogigo or Mirror.
Alhaji Abubakar Usman, also known as Young Alhaji , is the weakest among the four gladiators. He has contested for the same position three times against David Mark and failed. In 2007, he came second and was declared winner at the election tribunal. David Mark had to win an appeal at the Court of Appeal then sitting in Jos to deny him the seat. Then, Young Alhaji had the resources and was backed by the main opposition party, ACN. He used his Foundation to win the peoples love and support. The Young Alhaji Foundation is no longer there for him to reach out to the people.
He is regarded as not only broke but someone who has lost his relevance in the political scene of Benue South. His House is no longer the Mecca for politicians. In fact his image was heavily dented when he came out to support David Mark in the re-run between Mark and Daniel Onjeh in February 2016. Everybody saw him as someone groveling for crumbs at the table of David Mark and today he is paying for his double games. Another reason no one is taking him serious is that he belongs to an unknown political party within the zone. Ask any person on the street, what APDA means and they will also ask you is it an NGO?
Chief Steven Lawani who comes a distance third in the people’s choice of who should replace David Mark is not new in the race. He won a seat to represent the zone but never got to the red chambers because the election was botched by the death of the then Head of state. In the present dispensation, Lawani defeated Daniel Onjeh and Dr. Isaac Egbojah in the APC primaries through what was regarded as a dubious manipulation of the party leadership to favour him. The grievances from the primaries are haunting him as many are ready to pay him back in his own coins. Moreover, he is not a well-liked person within the zone. Lawani is regarded as a tight fisted person who is not generous even to himself.
In his eight years tenure ship as Deputy Governor of Benue State (2007 – 2015), Steven Lawani did not impact on the people of Benue South Senatorial zone. Many see his election as replacing David with a greater devil. If people accuse David of being stand-offish, Lawani is worst. If people accuse David of only having regards for his family members only, Lawani is worst, he doesn’t even bother about his immediate siblings. A relation of his went on social media in a video that went viral accusing him of not even doing anything for his Otukpa brothers and sisters. The relation in the video asserted that even the Ede market directly in front of his mansion in Otukpa did not get a facelift in the eight years Lawani served as deputy governor. He then asked “what is he going to the senate for?”
Up till the last days of January, his campaign has not really taken off mainly because of what most political observers claim was his fear of Abba Moro and Mike Onoja both of who he believes are well ahead of him. Lawani also do not want to throw his money away considering his weak position. Lawani had originally come into the race believing that the APC would be the ruling party in Benue and he would ride on the back of the party and the incumbent governor to cruise home. This dream fell like a card of games after Samuel Ortom ran away from the APC and turned the party into opposition. His chances also fell along.
The third person and main rival is Comrade Patrick Abba Moro. A former Minister of Interior and three times chairman of Okpokwu Local Government, Abba Moro is coming in as the heir apparent to David Mark. He is also in the party that has the widest reach in the senatorial zone, the PDP. Everybody believed that Abba Moro was the man to beat until Joe Ojobo also of the same party came on scene. He was set to trash Moro who had to run back to his mentor, David to do the trick for him. They took the wind off Ojobo when the primaries had to be held twice and the results collated differently with additions and subtractions the order of the day.
Abba Moro has believed that the efforts he made while he was Minister of Interior especially the offer of employment to a select area (his Edumoga people) would give him the grace. Instead it bought him hatred from areas that did not benefit particularly the Igede speaking area, Ado and Agatu. Even the Edumoga are unhappy that the skill acquisition centre he forcefully took from Okpoga to Okungaga had failed to see the light of the day.
Apart from the trials hanging on his neck over the recruitment of immigration personnel while he was Minister, Abba is seen as a harbinger of death. Recalled that over 23 young Nigerian unemployed graduates died during this exercise, it was alleged that he had used the lives of those young Nigerians to renew his occultist powers to strengthen his political strength and that of his godfather, Senator David Mark. Quite a number of applicants died during the immigration recruitment exercise. Today, he has the moral burden of going through another spiral of deaths when he was to flag-off his senatorial campaign at Agatu. During the incident, 8 prominent Igede politicians within the PDP died and the issue was badly managed. One of the Igede elders was reported as saying the Igede people felt Abba Moro sacrificed their prominent sons for his success at the polls. He called Abba “Oblanunu”!! No one wanted to explain what that meant but they all agreed that he is already a pariah in Igede land.
An average Igede man believes that Abba Moro used the lives and the blood of the (8) eight Oju politicians for occultist sacrifices to further his political relevance. A curse has been placed by the Conscious Igede Elders to the effect that anyone who votes for Abba Moro in the 2019 general elections will be cursed through all generation forever.
As a stooge to David Mark who alleged publicly demonstrated his hatred for the Igede people, Abba Moro is likely to pay for David’s sins. It will be recalled that in 2003 while campaigning for his re-election, Sen. Mark of all things had allegedly promised to build for the Igede nation modern mortuary (Morgue). For David Mark, that is what the Igede people deserve. And till date he did not do any constituency project in Igede land – Oju/Obi LGAs.
Abba Moro’s political party, the PDP, is also carrying the burden of being the party of the failed governor of Benue, Samuel Ortom. There is general distrust and complete apathy against the PDP for adopting Ortom almost everyone in Benue regard as bad market. How Abba will dispense with the Ortom burden is his biggest headache and the blockade against his victory.
This leaves the line open for the only candidate without a major blemish in the person of Chief Mike Okibe Onoja. After a meritorious service to his fatherland as a super permanent secretary in the Ministry of Defence during the Sani Abacha era, Onoja had swung into politics to find a means to continue his selfless service to humanity. Just as Abba Moro’s claim of empowering people, Onoja during his tenure as permanent secretary made it possible for hundreds of sons and daughters of Zone C and other parts of Benue to be recruited into the military. A silent achiever, Onoja also facilitated the educational fortunes of hundreds of youths from the zone both within and outside Nigeria.
In 2007, Onoja vied for the position of governor and came second in the PDP primaries. He would have won the primaries but for the mischief the then Governor, George Akume concocted with his deputy, late Chief Ogiri Ajene and the then Deputy Speaker, Ralph Igbago who both were contestants along with Onoja. Late Ajene and Igbago collected money from Akume to sell their votes at the primaries to Gabriel Suswam who then was only dreaming of becoming a deputy to any of the candidates that would have emerged victorious.
In 2015, Mike Onoja came out in full force to seek for the senatorial seat for Benue South senatorial district. He was considered the appropriate candidate that could terminate the iron grip David Mark had on the seat. He was as a result of the bride of most parties. But at the twilight of the PDP primaries, he gave up and succumbed to the brigandage of David Mark who came into the arena where the primaries were held with his twin killers’ squad armed to the teeth. As a man who believed in politics without bitterness, Onoja honourably stepped down from the race when he saw the guns the hoodlums hired by David Mark came with. For fear of encouraging bloodshed, the Agila War Lord made a u-turn in broad day light to the dismay of everyone.
This time around, Chief Onoja is all out to make his dream come true and has been garnering support from even within the parties fielding candidates for the election. It is common knowledge that within the APC, there is growing disquiet that some top echelon of the party from zone C have asked their followers to vote for Buhari for Presidency, Onoja for senate and they want for the House of Representatives. This was collaborated by the fact that one of the aides and close associate of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe is now the Media Director for Onoja’s campaign organisation, This aide, Noah McDickson who Audu wanted to make the APC chairman for Benue State still has a case in court over the chairmanship issue. A retired Army General who had contested for the same seat in the past and is a member of the APC national caucus has also asked his followers in Obi and Oju to canvass for Mike Onoja. He has told his people that in this election, they should vote for personalities and not parties.
Another plus for Mike Onoja is the belief that he would be a one term senator which would pave way for other zones particularly Agatu/Apa and Oju/Obi to strive for the position come 2023. This has made him the favorite in these zones.it is believed that by his age, he may not be able to sustain the rigor of the campaigns in future.
Moreover, his emergence as senator would have concluded the sharing of the seat in the Okpokwu/Ogbadibo/Ado axis. Stephen Lawani who is from Ogbadibo had once won the seat while Ogbadibo has had two deputy governors as well as held the House of Representatives seat since 1999. Similarly, Okpokwu has held the position twice with Senators Ame Ebute and Godwin Okpe as the occupants. Okpokwu’s David Idoko also held the House of Representative position for two terms. Ado, on its part, has not benefitted from any of such positions in the current dispensation. It is therefore proper that the opportunity be given to Ado and the appropriate son of Ado in the race is Chief Mike Okibe Onoja.
In politics, Onoja is an emancipator and his promise of a new political order t attract sustainable economic development is receiving audience.
“I have come to end the cabal in politics in the Benue South,” he declared to a cheering crowd at a recent flag off in Otukpo. Onoja interrogates infrastructural deficit in Benue South Senatorial Zone, arguing that where the nation’s longest serving senate president comes from deserves more than it got in 20years.
“Show me one project in the zone in 20years of the cabal,” he said, promising to apply legislative solutions to lingering underdevelopment if elected senator.
Baring all unforeseen situation, however, Onoja is the candidate to beat in the 2019 senatorial contest in Benue South. But many think he must assembly a formidable campaign team to match the experience of his opponents. This is Onoja’s first real election and it believed he started late, yet, pundits believe that he can leverage on his popularity and goodwill to coast to victory if he puts his acts together. His campaign slogan, “the people’s choice” is a political reality underscoring his acceptability while his radio jungle ascribing redeemer to his political profiles is described in apt and definitive narratives.
His plot to eclipse the sun of dominant political forces in the zone thickens as his party prepares for the polls.
The former Federal Perm. Sec., Onoja, combines the boldness of a lion with the finesse of a monk and reains the principality Moro and Lawani in opposition fear.
Given the chances aligned, the chances of Mike Okibe Onoja cruising in as the next senator for Benue South senatorial district are greater than any of his opponents. He stands tall as the people are ready to reward him for the good deeds he had done in the past and appreciate the hope he is bringing into the senatorial district after the twenty years of waste David Mark is leaving behind.
The former federal permanent secretary, Onoja, combines the boldness of a lion with the finesse of a monk and remains the principality the opposition fears. Onoja threw his hat in the ring despite orchestrated mischief and mounting political gang up but vintage is his independence and the lack of a political godfather.
Unlike him, the PDP candidate, Moro, is a loyalist of David Mark and the fear of him submitting to his godfather if he wins election remains an albatross contending with his victory. Twenty years of Mark in senate did not impress people of Benue South and they have abandoned him.
Aside from this, Moro is at war with godfathers of politics in his domain and this constitutes his impediment. His frosty relationship with former senate president, Ameh Ebute cannot be taken for granted too.
Moro used every opportunity at his disposal while in government to deny Ebute government’s patronage and this is a good chance for Ebute to retaliate. And don’t forget the role he played when Senator Okpe saught to be a traditional ruler of his. But he can leverage on his wide grassroots reach to coast to victory if he manages swelling odds against him well.
But it was more trouble for Moro when twelve members of PDP died in a fatal auto crash while headed to his senatorial flagoff in Agatu recently. Eight of the deceased were Igede, a principal political force in the zone Moro and his godfather, Mark never reckoned with but marginalized politically while in government. The Igede people know their friends and will vote for them.
Unlike Onoja who courts the friendship of Igede and promises to support their senatorial ambition in the future, Moro values Igede only during elections and will miss their votes in this election. But if Moro manages his reputation as a’ job provider’ for his kits and kin when he was minister, he can make an impression at the poll.
But the APC senatorial contender, Chief Steven Lawani has a more arduous task due to his closeness to the Benue APC leader, Senator George Akume. Lawani is believed to be Akume’s stooge and this perception is a bad dream he must quickly discountenance to impress the Benue South public.
In 2007, Akume made Lawani deputy governor even though Idoma had resolved to boycott what appears to be their fate. The endorsement of Lawani by Akume as APC senatorial candidate in the forthcoming election drove Onoja and others out of the party in 2018.As deputy governor under Governor Gabriel Suswam, Lawani kept his loyalty to Tiv born Akume even when the latter had defected from PDP to APC. The strong tie between Akume and Lawani is undeniable and people of Benue South are concerned that the relationship could transport Tiv’s influence into their political space.
Furthermore, as deputy governor (2007 to 2015) Lawani was accused of not doing enough for his people. But, the former deputy national chairman of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) knows how to navigate his way in difficult situations and this may likely play out.
However, former national chairman of PDP now senatorial candidate of SDP and senator representing Benue North East in the National Assembly, Chief Barnabas Gemade read the political barometer and announced that the pendulum will swing in the direction of SDP as Benue South prepare for election.
“I have come to Benue South to campaign many times and those I campaigned for won elections each time. I am here again for SDP because it is the winning party,” Gemade announced in Otukpo at Mike Onoja’s declaration.
The pattern of vote in Oju/Obi Federal Constituency will not seem to be any different. Many have already predicted Samson Okwu’s loss on account of his lackluster performance on the floor of the House. Besides, he is viewed to grossly fall short of the exposure, eloquence and competence attributes the Igede people require of their representatives. He is also a stooge of Moro and Mark who have lost trust of the Igede people and are awaited disgrace in February 16 National Assembly polls.
On his part, the APGA candidate Ogewu David who joined the race with a bang following his repair of the long abandoned Ugbogo bridge in Ikachi Ukpa community has had his high aspiration nosedived and has been perceived not to be the choice of Igede people. A man with no political pedigree who just emerged from nowhere and riding on the crest of merely bringing Gen. Yakubu Gowon to Igede land and the reconstruction of the broken down community bridge does not deserve such a reward. The queue is long and he must learn to wait more patiently.
The man known for fabricating unimaginable lies, known to have tongue-lashed the Igede nation and said to have made public pronouncement that he regretted being an Igede person has no business in our politics. A man alleged to have lied about so many obviously known facts about Nigeria and Nigerians has come back home, not to beg for forgiveness but to show ill-gotten affluence that a typically Igede man does not envy and cannot be swayed from the truth.
The Igede nation must rise and reject semblance of illusion, fake and deceitful coloration, the candidature of an allegedly evil apostle called David Ogewu.
However, Nick Eworo’s popularity seems to appeal to the minds of many Igede people than all the rest. He has been tried, tested and could be easily trusted than the others. Honourable Nick’s boldness, exposure, his oratory power and exceptional clout and generosity are seen to be wining the hearts of the Igede people over and above the rest. A teaming population of voters is rooting for him as election inches closer by the day. Honourable Nick Eworo of the APC is therefore likely to be the candidate to beat, barring any last minutes shift in voters’ preference.




Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*