By Solomon Semaka –
One morning in May 2015, after the rampaging hurricane of change has paid off in Benue state; a man in a multicolored cap drew his full height and declared that he has come on a rescue mission to make Benue one of the leading economies in Nigeria. Dr Samuel Ortom added that he would put to rest the lingering problem of non-payment of workers’ salaries and other aspects of mis-governance perpetrated by the past government under Dr, Gabriel Suswam. Dr. Samuel Ortom said the Suswam-led government mismanaged state treasury, leaving an empty coffers with a whooping N90 billion naira debt profile.
His statements brought cheers from hundreds of people in the large IBB Square in Makurdi.
No one expected that so much will change for the worse in just two years. Although, the current economic situations in the country coupled with lack of funds may have been a challenge, but With the total crash of the Benue economy, the inability to pay workers/pensioners for between seven and thirteen months despite excessive borrowings as well as funding from the Federal Government to bail Ortom out, plus series of Paris Club refunds, Governor Ortom has still proven to be the most inactive executive to occupy the Benue state Government House.
His much touted amnesty program has crashed and terror is been unleashed on Benue people as there are recorded cases of assassination left, right and center. Ironically, most of those being killed are the Governor’s very close associates and those fingered in these devilish acts have also turned out to be his close allies.
Within the last two years, Ortom has been variously described as petty, prejudiced, charlatan, fake, irritable and clueless. To the greatest concern of the majority of Benue people, the only thing that has moved ahead with surprising speed is the characteristic vilification of the past government and persecution of Gabriel Suswam. On the contrary, Dr Gabriel Suswam, who like the late Apollos Aper Aku, has been greatly denigrated has lost himself in hard work for causes that are close to his heart, reaching out to those in need and supporting worthy causes.
These noble acts in the face of persecution have reunited Suswam with his people who have now realize the foolishness of throwing out the baby with the bath water. For Suswam, life is always a struggle, full of conflict and surprises, and one need to confront it with courage and joy. He believes that while keeping their individual differences, Benue people must fuse into an economic and political unity to create a state that everyone will be proud of.
Today, with the abysmal performance of the APC government in Benue state and the unjust persecution of Suswam, many people are beginning to count Suswam’s most valuable services as Governor of Benue State. Many have realized that Suswam was a more creative and enterprising Governor who pushed the boundaries to make life better for the people despite his continuous battle with an estrangedgodfather who felt he was not given the respect he deserved. In his first tenure in the office as Governor, Suswam created a standard that the people of Benue had not seen since the time of Aper Aku in terms of road construction, urban beautification, rural electrificationand so forth.
Gabriel Suswam was born on 15 November 1964 in Anyiin, Logo Local Government Area of Benue State. In 1986 he was admitted into the Law Faculty of the University of Lagos. He obtained an LL.B degree in 1989, and the BL Certificate from the Nigerian Law School, Lagos in 1990. He was called to the Bar that year. He worked for other law firms from 1990–1994, while continuing his studies. In 1994 he launched his own law firm.
He ran for office in the House of Representatives in 1999 for the Katsina-Ala/Ukum/Logo Federal Constituency, and was elected on thePeople’s Democratic Party (PDP) platform. He was appointed Chairman of the House Services Committee, and later Chairman, House Committee on FCT.
He ran again, and was reelected in 2003. On 3 July 2003, he was appointed Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, then in August, 2005 he was appointed Chairman, House Committee on Power. In April 2007 he was elected Governor ofBenue State. Suswam ran again in the 26 April 2011 elections on the PDP platform. He scored 590,776 votes, beating runner-up Professor Torkuma Ugba of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), who got 499,319 votes.
Suswam has continued to spark excitement wherever he goes, despite his losing in his last bid to represent his people as a senator, which many people believe was as a result of his inability to pay Benue workers their four months’ salary at the expiration of his tenure. Strange enough, Benue workers are being owed between seven and fourteen months’ salaries with a government that had come on a rescue mission. So, who is fooling who?
People have been reacting strongly both for and against Gabriel Suswam, but with his decision to raise his political sights; the odds are good that more people are for him than against him now. We therefore challenge the people of Zone – A to rally round Gabriel Suswam and make optimum use of their shrewd and hardworking son. In an era in which others have discovered the importance of sending vibrant and inspiring representatives to the red chamber, we cannot continue on the retrogressive path of sending bench warmers and sleeping senators to represent us.
Semaka, a public affairs analyst writes from Abuja