The hitherto simmering crisis in Benue APC, which started after Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia emerged as the party’s gubernatorial flag-bearer for the 2023 elections, worsened during the week when the two contending camps, led by Senator George Akume, Minister for Special Duties and Senator Barnabas Gemade, a governorship aspirant, renewed their media war in separate publications accusing each other of political intolerance and sundry offences. Observers of the politics of the state warn that if not addressed, the crisis within the party can rob it of its chances to win the 2023 elections in the state.[irp]
The Gemade group, in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, published in a national daily, accused Akume of imposing weak candidates on the party across the state and called on the President to take advantage of the ‘substitution window’ to correct the anomaly in the interest of the party.
“Senator Akume hurriedly packaged a suspended healing Mass Catholic Priest……as candidate even when the candidate was yet to register formally at his ward level,” the group claimed and called on President Buhari to urgently consider an emergency intervention through the national leadership of the APC to “exercise party powers to choose a consensus flag-bearer in order to avert political losses and replace other weak candidates across the state.”
The publication, signed by Hon. Boniface Oche Idoko and Hon. Peter Achigili, among others, also urged the President to constitute a reconciliation committee for the party ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Explaining the need for reconciliation, the group alleged that “Senator George Akume’s leadership has moulded a political culture of brigandage with a dubious character of extortion, mortgage, imposition and immorality.” But in a swift response to the allegations leveled against the Minister, the leadership of the APC in the state, in another publication, accused the Gemade group of being bad losers who have no interest of the party at heart and alleged that the group is being sponsored by the ruling PDP in the state.[irp]
The APC leadership insisted that Fr. Alia and all other candidates of the party were elected in accordance with the laid down procedures.
“It is very clear from the writers of the petition that their sponsors are members of the PDP or failed APC aspirants who are hand in glove with them with the sole objective to decimate the candidature of Rev Fr. Alia, and ensure the continued existence of the discredited PDP in Benue State. They will fail. And they must fail. For Benue yearns for change. APC in Benue state cannot be deterred by people like Gemade who has lost everything in the party.
Making Gemade a consensus candidate as he desperately crave in Abuja which is outside the ambits of the law is recipe for the Zamfara episode while upholding the election of Fr. Alia is a sure path to victory in Benue state,” the publication read in part while also urging President Buhari to ignore the requests of Gemade and his group.
In a related development, during the week, some chieftains of the party stormed the national secretariat of the APC in Abuja to protest the alleged substitution of the names of some candidates from Benue State.[irp]
The protesters vowed to drag the party to court to seek redress, “if the anomaly is not corrected.” The protesters brandished placards with inscriptions such as “Upload our names on the INEC portal”, “We are the authentic candidates”, “It’s injustice and impunity to substitute names after we won primaries” and “All we are saying, give us our rights” to register their anger over the development.
Though the party has insisted that there is no cause for alarm over the manes it submitted to the electoral commission, some party chieftains are still expressing dissatisfaction as at the time of filing this report