By Gabriel Suswam
Having observed with much concern and sympathy the ongoing plight of the workers and people of Benue State under the reign of the Ortom administration, I consider it pertinent to make my views known on a number of salient issues.
While growing up as a teenager, I witnessed the reign of the first Executive Governor of our dear state, late Apollos Aper Aku, a man who gave his all to the development of the state in the four years of his governorship, during which time he put in place landmark achievements which are still standing the test of time to date. But I also witnessed how he was rewarded with mischief by the political elite and rejection by the people who were manipulated and misled into scorning such an innocent man as a petty criminal.
Aku died prematurely, an abandoned, sick and sad man. Today, time alone has been merciful enough to give to him his due, and so we are left with no option but to recognise his true worth and the quality of his legacy which in his lifetime was dismissed as the worthless work of ‘an-or sugar’- a diabetic.
Rev. Fr. Orshio Adasu came along years after Aku as the second Executive Governor of the state and with uncommon forthrightness and courage, against daunting obstacles, he erected landmark achievements in the state within a period of less than two years, among which is the first state-owned University in the northern part of Nigeria, the Benue State University, Makurdi which sufficiently redressed our disadvantaged status in tertiary academic enrolment in the country.
But Fr. Adasu too found no appreciation from the people he gave so much to and he died a sad and abandoned man who could not even afford the standard of medical care needed to keep him alive.
When I assumed office as the fourth Executive Governor of the state, I had a deep passion burning in me which largely derived from the quality of exposure and orientation I had acquired from eight years of robust political leadership participation at the National Assembly as a frontline member of the House of Representatives. There I came face to face with the realities of leadership as being a matter of uncompromising determination fuelled by deeply-insighted vision. I had also acquired a rich store of social collateral attended by a sufficient degree of gravitas such as armed me to the hilt for the office of governor.
So I was able to hit the ground running and surmounting the many obstacles which were replete in the socio-political terrain. My guiding belief was that I had come to build and not at all to destroy, to make progress going forward from where the efforts of my predecessor, George Akume, stopped. I still believe that it is the cumulative efforts of one administration after the other which have brought this state this far, without their having been a need for an inquest into an era from a succeeding one, until this present situation preceding my tenure of office which has seen a determination on the part of my successor, Gov. Ortom, to denigrate my person and distort the verdict of the legacy of my stewardship.
The reasons advanced by Ortom for his actions against me keep changing and increasing with the latest being that the people of Benue State have demanded of him to probe me, and I think there could be nothing more absurd than that. Ortom is certainly at liberty to make any claims as to what the Benue people demand of him, but on an empirical basis it is clear what the people require of this administration as a matter of priority; and that is that the administration clear the mess which it created by its legion of malicious lies and fabrications during the campaigns leading up to the last elections, which it now attempts to label as the ‘Suswam Mess’.
Did I, Gabriel, in my capacity as the 4th Executive Governor of Benue State, create and leave behind any mess in terms of administering the affairs of this state? The anti-graft agencies which Ortom has instigated and sponsored my being taken to will determine that. Then time also which keeps unfailing will deliver its verdict on my tenure of office same as it did on Aku’s and Adasu’s tenures, regardless of what their traducers sought to do against them after they had left office.
Today the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state and the Ortom administration seek to run-away from the mess they created for themselves during the campaigns to the last elections by labelling it in my name. How are the major problems in Benue State today created by Suswam?
About salary arrears, during the campaigns, I told the people that on assumption of office, I had, without prompting from any quarters whatsoever, increased the wages of workers in the state when I discovered those wages were pathetically low. I had consistently paid the workers their wages for almost eight years without fail, until the slump in national earnings from crude sells forced on my administration an inability to pay salaries as consistently as I had done, and this was not a situation exclusive to Benue State alone, but it was same for 28 other states.
Unfortunately, the APC and Ortom, in their desperation for votes, chose instead to manipulate the people by telling them lies that I didn’t pay salaries just because I had cornered the monies for my own use, and that I was the only governor owing workers salaries in the country. Today, the reality has dawned on everyone. I did not owe workers salaries out of choice, but because I just couldn’t do otherwise with the dwindling accruals from the federal allocations and this was a nationwide problem.
Today, the APC and Ortom are faced with the naked and ugly reality of going before the people and telling them the truth that they lied to them, that they were dishonest and cheated their way to power. Instead of doing this, they have chosen again to be manipulative by seeking to mislead the people to accept that the situation on ground can be given the name associated to me. And I ask, will there be no end to the manipulations and deceit of the APC and Ortom in this state? Can they not for once be honest to the people?
On the issue of loan and bailout, the Ortom administration, in its usual gimmickry and targeting to further manipulate the people, continues to rack up ridiculous figures which it ascribes as the debt profile of my administration. Yet, it has deliberately refrained from divulging the details of how those figures run and tally up to the sole liability of my administration and not that of the cumulative era of past administrations in the state.
But at the same time the Ortom administration has in the span of less than half a year accumulated a debt profile more than twice the amount that I left behind, after a full eight years tenure in office, during which I delivered on core developmental imperatives and did leave behind a legacy which I daily go to sleep satisfied will in the course of time vindicate rather than vilify me as the ruling administration in the state currently seeks to.
Currently, Benue workers have had to go on the streets to force Ortom’s administration to pay them their basic entitlements even when the administration has borrowed more than enough monies for that purpose. It is becoming a matter of increasing concern what the motives and focus of the administration are, even if within the short span that might be permitted it if the course of justice is allowed to prevail in the matter of the legitimacy or otherwise of the electoral mandate it is presently holding. And this is a concern that is increasingly underlining the psyche of the Benue people who are daily confronted with the obvious lack of direction of the ruling administration and its penchant and appetite for deceit and manipulation.
I like to emphasise at this point that I am satisfied that I left Benue State better than I met it, and I have implicit faith that time will surely bear out the truth regarding my tenure of stewardship as governor of this state, and only then will the people judge between deceit and fact, same as has happened for Aku and Adasu before me.
I want to use this medium to thank all my friends who have stood by me, encouraging me by word of advice and prayers. It is also important to mention here that, i appreciate all the messages sent to my Facebook account and page, it may take long but I’ll read them all and respond. I urge all my friends to as a matter of urgency remove themselves from all other fraudulent Facebook accounts and pages in my name. This will leave the fraudsters with no other choice than to close down such accounts.