David Mark is likely to win Benue South rerun election

The Benue South senatorial district rerun
election scheduled for February 20th, 2016, is
perhaps one of the most highly anticipated
reruns in Nigeria's current election cycle.
The initial contest between Senator David Mark
(the PDP) and Daniel Onjeh (the APC), which
held on March 28th, 2015, was seen by many
as a contest between a political neophyte and
a colossus, with the perception in some
quarters that Onjeh stood a slim chance of
winning the election. The eventual results of
the election, though annulled by an appeal
court under controversial circumstances,
reflected earlier assumptions that David Mark
was the candidate to beat.
With the annulment of the election by the
court of appeal, the storyline by supporters of
Daniel Onjeh has replayed itself. The pro-Onjeh
narrative remains that Onjeh, a largely
unknown candidate with some youth
followers, will against impossible odds
emerge victorious against Mark, a four-time
senator regarded by many as a political
heavyweight.
But a critical look at the facts and figures of
the politics of the Benue South senatorial zone
do not support this narrative. A careful study
of electoral results and trends from this zone
show a strong, almost certain, likelihood of
Mark emerging victorious on Saturday. And
stating it in these terms is just being politically
correct. Let's take a look at the following
points.
1) Historically, the Benue South senatorial
district has always overwhelmingly voted the
PDP since the return of democracy to the
country in 1999. Until the 2015 general
elections, no other party won elections into
any electoral office in the zone. Now, this is a
pretty telling fact.
2) In the 2015 general elections, the PDP won
10 of the 11 House of Assembly seats that
were up for election. It is widely believed that
the PDP only lost the seat for the Otukpo-
Adoka constituency because residents of the
area voted for the APC candidate in protest of
the candidacy of Hon. Joshua Ogbole.
3) It is instructive to note that the PDP won all
four seats at the House of Representatives
that were up for the election in March 2015.
One of those seats is still the subject matter
of litigation over the qualification of the PDP
candidate.
4) Despite the strong showing of the ruling
APC in the presidential and gubernatorial
elections in the state, the PDP candidates in
both elections won the zone by pretty strong
margins.
5) Things are currently not too bright for
Onjeh. Onjeh faces disunity in his camp with
most of the political bigwigs from the zone
refusing to go all out to support his
candidature. Chief Audu Ogbeh, the minister of
agriculture under the Buhari administration, is
still smarting from the petition Onjeh wrote to
the Senate opposing his nomination as
minister. At the time of writing this, Ogbeh
was in Rome and it is believed he will not
return in time to participate in the electoral
process.
6) Other political bigwigs in the party like chief
Mike Onoja, Steven Lawani, Jerry Agada and
Sam Ode are refraining from backing Onjeh to
the hilt based on the belief that Mark will
probably leave the upper legislative chamber
in 2019. These APC bigwigs reckon that an
Onjeh victory will make it significantly more
difficult for any one of them to vie for the
senatorial seat upon Mark's exit.
7) To make matters worse, the two biggest
grassroots mobilizers in the Benue South
senatorial district are in the camp of Senator
David Mark. Comrade Abba Moro, Nigeria's
former minister of interior, serves as his
campaign director general, and in a rare
boost, Alhaji Usman Abubakar (aka Young
Alhaji), a pro-APC political influencer, has
endorsed Senator Mark, rolling out his
grassroots campaign machineries in support
of the former Senate president. What this
means is that significant inroads have been
made into Onjeh's primary support base –
young people aged between 20–40 years.
8) More emphatically, there are strong
indications that the people of Benue South
increasingly see the election as a battle
between Idoma liberation and Tiv domination.
Onjeh is backed by powerful outside interests
from the Tiv ethnicity of Benue state, chief
amongst whom is Senator George Akume, the
former governor of the state who is now a
serving senator. The popular notion in Benue
South is that more than any other son of
Benue South, Mark stands out as the greatest
beacon of hope for the liberation of Idoma/
Igede people. Despite the grievances some of
his constituents may have, the prevailing
sentiment is that Benue South will not replace
a "Lion" with a "Goat" in the Senate.
Taking all these into consideration, one is hard
pressed to see Onjeh bridging the gap
between the 50,115 votes he scored during
the March 2015 elections, and the 99,530
scored by Senator Mark. In fact, it can be
tentatively concluded that this story will not
have the giant killing ending that is the stuff of
fairy tales. How that makes you feel depends
on which side of the divide you stand on.

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Benue Blog Portal: David Mark is likely to win Benue South rerun election
David Mark is likely to win Benue South rerun election
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