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Drama as Ortom dumps APC, returns to PDP

Drama as Ortom dumps APC, returns to PDPAfter days of backand- forth movement, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, yesterday, dumped the All Progressives Congress (APC), the platform on which he was elected in 2015. Ortom has since returned to his former party, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). 

But APC said there was no cause for alarm over Ortom’s defection to PDP. The governor stated that “after due consultations with relevant stakeholders, I have resolved that the way forward is to re-join PDP.” He lamented that despite the efforts the national leadership of APC was making in order to broker peace between him and some members in the state, “aggression” against him continued.
The governor, however, did not say who was perpetrating the acts of aggression against him. Ortom is at loggerheads with a former governor of the state, Senator George Akume, over the control of APC structures. Consequently, all flags carrying colours of APC were yesterday removed in all public places in Benue State.
Ortom’s defection was, however, not without drama. A coalition of Benue youths comprising over 40 groups earlier barricaded the gate of the Government House, Makurdi, the state capital. The youth, who stormed the Government House as early as 6:30a.m., prevented Ortom from leaving the Government House to attend a scheduled meeting with the national leadership of APC in Abuja. The youth numbering over 2,000 threatened to vote out the governor in 2019 if he insists on attending the Abuja meeting with APC  leadership.
 To underscore their anger, the youth who carried different placards, angrily removed APC flag on the governor’s vehicle and asked him to go back to Government House. Ortom pleaded with the youth to allow him attend the meeting with APC national leadership, assuring that their interest would be protected.
The youth, however, stood their ground, insisting that the governor must not proceed with the journey. Ortom acceded to the request. Some of the placards read: “Ortom, don’t go back to APC;” “We don’t have land to donate for ranching;” “APC is Miyetti party;” “Our farms are not for cows;” “You must leave APC;” “Ortom is our party” and “2019: On Ortom we stand,” among others. Spokesmen for the groups, Mr. Terrence Kuanum and Pastor Dave Ogbole, advised the governor to look for an alternative platform. After the protest, Ortom announced his defection from APC to PDP during a meeting with the local government councillors at the New Banquet Hall of the Government House.
The governor displayed his letter of resignation from APC before thousands of supporters. The announcement was followed by a shout of PDP slogan for several times and chorused by the crowd. Ortom stated that he has already presented his letter of resignation to his ward chairman of APC in Nzorov, Guma Local Government Area of the state. He said the APC ward chairman had also indicated interest to join him in PDP.
 “I was in PDP and my interest was not protected, I left. Today in APC, I discover that my interest and that of my people has not been protected. The party has been hijacked. “Now that PDP is rebranded a lot of reforms have been undertaken in the party to ensure that true democratic tenets are observed. “I want to inform you all that I have formally resigned from APC and I have tendered my letter of resignation to the ward chairman of APC in my local government.
So, I am no longer a member of APC. “I am too young to retire from politics. Even this morning (yesterday), a coalition of youths blocked my way to Abuja where I was billed to have a meeting with the National Secretariat of APC over the crisis in the state. But the youth said I should not go and that I should find an alternative political platform to seek re-election.

That is where we are.” Ortom said he has also held consultations with members of the state House of Assembly where he briefed them on his latest action, saying 17 of the lawmakers have already resolved to join him in PDP while 10 others indicated readiness to join later after they might have concluded consultations with their constituents.
 The governor was accompanied during the defection by 276 councillors from 22 local government areas and 14 out of 23 local government chairmen in the state. He said the remaining chairmen were also making consultations with a view to joining him in the new party.
Answering questions from newsmen shortly after his declaration, he described PDP as a familiar terrain, which was a better platform that would protect his interest and that of the Benue people. In his reaction, APC chairman in the state, Mr. Abba Yaro, said he was yet to receive the governor’s resignation letter, but added “there is no cause to worry.”
The APC has described Ortom’s defection as a surprise. The party stated this in a statement issued in Abuja by the National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi. Abdullahi said: “The party recalls efforts made by the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to address some of the grievances raised by the Benue State Governor pertaining to the local politics in Benue State.
“The governor had left the meeting, saying he was satisfied with the assurances given by party leaders. We are still working on giv  ing effect to the resolutions from the meeting. Therefore, we are somewhat surprised by Governor Ortom’s decision".
The party reiterates its earlier position that it respects the rights of every citizen to choose their political affiliation, but expresses hope that those who have left the party will rescind their decisions. “Even with this development, we don’t think it is too late for reconciliation. We have to continue to talk. As long as people keep their minds open and have the courage to put the real issues on the table, reconciliation is still possible. “We, once again, call on members across the country to remain calm as the party leadership continues to work hard to position the party strongly for the next general elections.”
Also reacting to the news, the PDP state chairman, Mr. John Ngbede, said “it is a welcome development. He is welcome to our party.” Meanwhile, impeached Speaker of Benue State House of Assembly, Hon. Terkimbi Ikyange, has  called on the Police to move into the Assembly to restore law, order and integrity.
Besides, Ikyange insisted that he “remains the speaker of the Assembly, together with other members of his leadership,” pointing out that anybody parading him or herself as the speaker or member of the leadership was only impersonating and should not be taken seriously.
Ikyange was removed at a sitting of the House on Tuesday by 22 out of 30 legislators for alleged highhandedness. He told newsmen in Makurdi, the state capital, that “formal petition would be lodged with the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, as soon as possible to avert the looming crisis in the state over the unconstitutional change of leadership in the legislature.”
Ikyange said that the Tuesday sitting of the House was illegal, adding that “decisions in respect of the other offices said to have been taken by the 22 members present at the said sitting were null and void.”
According to him, “the last sitting of the State House of Assembly held on July 10, 2018 under my speakership during which the House unanimously adjourned plenary to August 15, 2018. The House was not reconvened on Tuesday, July 24, 2018.
The House rules are very clear as to which authority can reconvene the Assembly. The House can only be reconvened by me, as the speaker or the deputy speaker, acting on my instructions. “That was not the case as no authorised person reconvened the State House of Assembly on Tuesday, July 24 and, therefore, no business of my removal or any other business could have been legally conducted.”

The former speaker alleged that those who reconvened the House and conducted the illegal business did so with the sponsorship of the executive arm under Governor Ortom, who allegedly facilitated their entry into the Assembly through a backdoor that links the Government House to the Assembly. Ikyange also said the members who sat on Tuesday did not use the mace of the House, which he claimed was in his custody.
He alleged that the lawmakers imported a mace from Makurdi Local Government Legislative House and that the Clerk of the House of Assembly, Dr. Tereseer Agena, procured the mace, which, according to him, “was illegal and did not confer any authority on the State House of Assembly sitting of Tuesday, July 24.”
Ikyange pointed out that the use of illegal mace was “a blatant criminal misrepresentation of the authority of the House and my purported removal and the election of a new speaker amounted to impersonation.”



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