Benue guber: Nobody can take my candidacy away - Biem
The governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party, (SDP) in Benue state, Hon. Hingah Biem has debunked rumours making the rounds that his party has removed his name from the list of candidates to be sent to INEC ahead of 2019 elections. In this interview with Abuja Inquirer’s Scholastica Joseph, Mr. Biem insists he remains the candidate of the party. He also denied allegations that a cabal has hijacked the party in the state. EXCERPTS:
How true that you are not the governorship candidate of the SDP in the 2019 poll in Benue state?
I’m not sure INEC has released the names. I haven’t seen any. All I know is that there is this rumour that I have been replaced by someone else. I got to hear this on Monday and Tuesday, I went to the national headquarters of the party along with my party chairman and the zonal chairman for the North Central Zone and some of the leaders of the party in the state, to find out because even them were not aware that something like that has taken place.
So we had a meeting with the national leadership of the party last Tuesday, and they were trying to explain that they had to substitute some candidates in some of the states of the federation including Benue. We wanted to know from them the reason for doing that. They could not give any specific reason other than they carried out a survey after the primaries of the states and discovered that in some of the states, their governorship candidates were not likely to win the elections for them. They cited the example of Ekiti, Osun as one of those experiences that gave them the feeling that they needed to assess their candidates before they present them to INEC. So, we wanted to know what criteria they used. They couldn’t give us any specific answers on the criteria they used other than the vague explanation that they were looking at the people who had the capacity or the resource base and people who were women and men of integrity, very general, they were not specific on anything.
So, I wanted to know in my own case what may have formed that decision, because you can’t talk in very general terms. I have served as permanent secretary for my state for six years, I served my state for 32 years and I retired as a permanent secretary on a pension. So, on the question of integrity, if I didn’t pass the test of integrity, I would not have retired as a permanent secretary in the first place.
And you know that SDP was not any party to reckon with in Benue until I joined that party in April this year. I started mobilizing for the party and build the party across the state. If I didn’t have the capacity to lead people, the young men and women who became so excited about SDP in the state couldn’t have been so excited because at the time I was the only person going round, building the SDP.
Our distinguished Senator, Barnabas Gemade joined us two weeks to the primaries but before then, we had candidates, over a 100, for all the positions in the party that they were all vying for and it was because they saw me as a father figure and they became excited that I was there for them. So, people were referring to the SDP as my party. So, if I didn’t have the capacity, I couldn’t have gone this far with the party. So, I really don’t understand what their reasons are and I don’t want to input motives into what they have done because I’m a man of honour and integrity. So, I have asked them to ensure that my name is sent to INEC because I have fulfilled all conditions that any candidate needs to fulfil to run for an election.
With what transpired between the party leadership and your delegation in Abuja, can you say you are still the party’s governorship candidate in Benue?
Of course, I am. I contested the governorship with two other aspirants and the results were publicly announced and I was declared the winner. I am not aware that there was some other candidate or aspirant for the party in the state until this week.
There is the allegation that your substitution is because you have a case with the EFCC?
The EFCC has not levelled any allegations against me. It is one online newspaper called the ‘Concord’ that is fabricating stories and publishing every day.
He publishes more than two or three stories on me every day. If you go online now, he will say “Oh everyone is jubilating now in Benue that I have been replaced. Oh, everyone is jubilating because Hwande has been given the ticket.” But in the state, where are they jubilating? When everyone is wearing a long face and is saying the SDP that people thought will be an alternative is being destroyed.
Sir, it has also been alleged that the party has been hijacked by cabals in Benue?
Well, I don’t know who the cabals are. I’m just worried about my own specific case. When I joined the SDP and we ran the primaries, I heard the same stories that I had hijacked the party. So, I can’t be seen to be saying the same thing against other people.
I don’t know the cabals are but I know that even some of the leaders of the party have not been able to present up to 10 or 15 candidates for the party for any of the positions in their states. But Benue has filled all its positions with the exception of two; that is senatorial candidates for Zone B and Zone C but every other position has been filled by our candidates of the SDP. That shows the level of confidence people have in me, that is why they could join the SDP in the manner they did.
With this issue at hand and the elections drawing closer, do you have any fears for the 2019 elections?
For now, none, except that like it does happen in every election, there are usually tension, people are anxious, people are worrying about issues of security which have become very common place today but other than that, I can say that in the past several years, since we had the 2015 general election, we have had a steady improvement in the conduct of our general elections.
But Nigeria being what they are, when you work system and you think you are getting it to do better, they start thinking of other ways of subverting the regulations and the rules that are put in place to ensure that something is done better.
Should it be true that you have been substituted, what will you do?
For now, nothing has happened to my candidature. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a conjecture and whatever people are celebrating as the Concord online makes people to believe, they are celebrating me.
At the end of the day, I’m going to be victorious. I’m the candidate of the party. I didn’t run with any other person. The two other contestants have not challenge my election, to the best of my knowledge they have not. So, I don’t think I have any other person that is challenging my election.
What will you be telling the Benue people with these rumours and allegations?
They should remain calm and focused as I am also. I am also calm. I don’t think they have any cause to worry. They should not worry. We know what to do. If they do the wrong thing, we will get them to do the right thing. There are processes to ensure that the right is done.