By Amos Aar
HONOURABLE Aondona Dajoh, member, Gboko-West state constituency emerged on Monday as Speaker of the 10th Benue State House of Assembly following a drama that tended to portray a clash of interests between Governor Hyacinth Alia and his supposed godfather, Senator George Akume.
Hon. Dajoh defeated Hon Becky Orpin, member, Gboko-East state constituency, with 17 votes to 15.
The contest for the speakership commenced shortly after Governor Hyacinth Alia inaugurated the 10th Benue State House of Assembly composed of 32 members, who immediately went into a session to elect key officials.
Out of the 32 members, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has 21 members, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), 10 and Labour Party (LP) 1.
Member representing Tarka State Constituency, Hon. Mcclinton Manger, nominated member representing Gboko-East state constituency, Hon. (Mrs) Becky Orpin, and his nomination was seconded by Hon. Cephas Dyako of Konshisha State constituency, Labour Party (LP).
On the other hand, member representing Kyan state constituency from Vandeikya local government area, Hon. Emmanuel Terna, nominated Hon. Hyacinth Aondona Dajoh of Gboko-West state constituency for the speakership and his nomination was seconded by Hon. Lamin Danladi from Ado state constituency.
Members then went into an open secret voting after which both contestants polled sixteen (16) votes each.
At this juncture, member representing Konshisha state constituency, Hon Cephas Dyako, moved that Governor Alia and his entourage should excuse the House before the second election would commence.
According to Dyako, the governor’s presence was putting the House under pressure to do the bidding of the executive. The request caused a rowdy situation in the House with some members supporting Hon. Dyako while others objected to his demand.
While the commotion was going on, Clerk of the House, Mr Bernard Nule, gave Governor Alia permission to stay, arguing that if the members did not object to his stay earlier, why at a time when there was a tie in the election.
After a prolonged debate following the commotion, the clerk called for a 10-minute break to enable members to lobby and consult. At this point, Governor Alia left the House.
After the governor left, APC members went and interfaced with the Governor at Government House during which he, Alia, boldly endorsed Aõndona Dajoh for the speakership.
When the House reconvened after two hours, a second round of the election was conducted and Hon. Dajoh emerged victorious having scored 17 votes against opponent, Hon. (Mrs) Orpin, who scored 15 votes.
Member representing Ado state constituency, Hon. Mrs. Lamin Danladi Ogenyi, emerged Deputy Speaker of the House unopposed following her nomination by Matthew Dakor, member representing Tiev constituency from Vandeikya local government area whose nomination was seconded by Hon. Thomas Dugeri, representing Kwande-West state constituency.
Clerk of the House, Mr Nule, administered Oath of Allegiance and of Office on the Speaker and Deputy Speaker while the Speaker thereafter, administered Oath of Allegiance and of Office on other members.
Clash of godfather, godson
Dajoh is believed to be the choice of the state governor, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, while Orpin was the candidate of Senator George Akume, who was appointed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) last week.
Akume, a former governor of the state who served as Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs under the Buhari administration, is believed to be Fr. Alia’s godfather.
As leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue State, Akume is believed to have singled-handedly picked Fr. Alia and his deputy, Sam Ode, as candidates of the party in the last governorship election, despite stiff opposition from other party stalwarts.
It is not clear if this clash which is coming barely a week after the inauguration of Governor Alia would truncate what many believe would be a robust relationship between godfather and godson.
On Sunday, the Benue State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had agreed on the nomination of Mrs Orpin, as its sole candidate for the speakership ahead of Monday’s inauguration of the House.
APC State Publicity Secretary, Dan-Morgan Ihomun, who briefed journalists at about 12am on Sunday night after an APC stakeholders meeting held at the party’s secretariat, Makurdi, said the decision was unanimously reached by members of the Jemgbagh bloc who thought it wise that Buruku had produced a speaker in the past and Gboko should enjoy the position this time around. According to him, Gboko, which is made up of East and West constituencies also settled for Orpin.
He added that the speakership has been zoned to Jemgbagh which compromises Gboko, Tarka and Buruku local government areas.
Reliable sources within the APC confided in National Record that a tough tussle ensued between Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Sen. George Akume and Governor Hyacinth Alia to produce the speaker of the 10th assembly of the state.
The source alleged that while Akume was insisting that Orpin be made speaker, Governor Alia kicked against the choice vehemently and has a different candidate.
National Record observed that the stakeholders had to boycott the meeting to go to the governor’s residence for a serious discussion on the matter before they reconvened at about 11pm.
Some APC members alleged that Governor Alia was not even informed about the meeting. But Dan Morgan debunked the rumour, saying when the issue was raised at the meeting, state chairman of the APC, Comrade Austine Agada, clarified that the governor was properly informed.
Mrs Orpin is the former chairman, Gboko local government council and former broadcaster at Radio Benue, Makurdi.
On whether the people’s Democratic Party (PDP), which has become an opposition party in Benue State with only 10 members at the Assembly will be able to produce Deputy Speaker as they are demanding, Ihomun said they will not get it because APC has 21 members.
The closed-door stakeholders meeting had in attendance, members-elect of the National Assembly, APC State Working Committee, five former speakers of the Benue State House of Assembly and all former members of the House who are members of the APC.