The Ortom/Abounu Governorship Campaign Organisation at the weekend in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, alleged plans by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its leaders in the state to rig the forthcoming governorship and state assembly elections.
A statement from the organisation reads in part: “The Ortom/Abounu Governorship Campaign Organization at the weekend received reliable information that the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had concluded plans to massively rig the April 11 governorship and state asssembly polls in Benue State.
“Impeccable sources disclosed to us that the leader of the party in the state held a meeting with a militia group called the Civilian Joint Task Force during which he gave them marching orders on how to rig the elections.
“According to the sources, the party leader in the state has vowed to do everything within his powers to avert another electoral defeat, hence his resort to the services of the militia which he had recruited, trained, and equipped with sophisticated weapons under the pretext of raising resistance to incessant herdsmen’s attacks in the state.
“The sources listed the kidnapping of APC stalwarts and supporters in order to prevent them from mobilizing further support for the party and voting, destruction of card readers, snatching of electoral materials before and after elections as well as burning of collation centres as part of the brief.
“The PDP is reported to be bitter in the state, particularly with card readers which they said were largely responsible for their defeat and directed the group to ensure that they were destroyed at all polling units in the next round of elections.
“They have deployed overwhelming violence to prevent another APC victory and assured that he would give them all the needed logistic support and funding.
“The Ortom / Abounu Governorship Campaign Organization, therefore, appeals to security agencies to forestall the plans and prevent a breakdown of law and order in the state.
“We also advise members of the militia group that the political ship has set sailing, leaving the PDP behind and it is foolhardy for anyone to put his life at risk in the service of someone or political party whose political sun has set no matter the inducement
“The electorate is also urged to be vigilant and prepared to resist intimidation and threats to undermine the electoral process by coming out in large numbers to overwhelm the attackers and exercise their civic responsibility”.
In a swift response, Governor Gabriel Suswam, in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Dr. Cletus Akwaya, dismissed the allegation, saying: “This allegation is most bizarre, unfounded and without any element of truth whatsoever as the PDP has no such plans”.
While denying the knowledge of the existence of any militia group, the statement also claimed that Mr. Suswam did not preside over a meeting to map out a rigging strategy for the PDP, adding that the governor was in Abuja for “a crucial meeting of the PDP Governors’ Forum” at the time of the alleged meeting.
The statement reads in part, “The APC alleged that Governor Gabriel Suswam presided over the imaginary meeting to map out the rigging strategy on Thursday at the Government House, Makurdi when in actual fact Governor Suswam was in Abuja for a crucial meeting of the PDP Governors’ Forum on the said day and only returned to Makurdi, the state capital, yesterday afternoon.
“It is clear that the APC is jittery over its imminent defeat in the elections because of the popularity of our candidate, Rt. Hon. Terhemen Tarzoor, hence the resort to this unfounded allegation.
“Similarly, the allegation of plans to kidnap APC stalwarts is imaginary, ordinary and cheap, as it’s a direct opposite of the recent political happenings in the state where a PDP supporter and sympathizer was victim of the kidnap network. Specifically, the provost of the College of Education, Katsina-Ala, Dr Hans Senwua, a close friend of Governor Suswam, was abducted in his Katsina-Ala residence, but released after a week in the hands of his abductors. In that incident, accusing fingers were pointed at the APC in the state”.