SUSWAM, NATIONAL HONOUR AND TRANSFORMATION AGENDA

Posted: September 24, 2012 in BENUE, political, Uncategorized
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By: Philip Agbese

The National Honours for this year rolled in with some measures of criticisms of some recipients but this did not in any way detracted from the importance of the event , which since its inception in 1963 remains a veritable platform for acknowledging contributions by Nigerians to nation building in diverse forms.

For us in Benue state, the National Honours Awards for this year is a confirm`ation of what we have known for several years now as the event formalized the high esteem in which we hold our own dear governor, Dr. Gabriel Suswam, who was awarded the Commander of the Order of Niger (CON).

It is instructive that those who are critical of these awards realize that it is still possible to have citizens of substance who are deserving of this national honour.  Nigerians should be able to immediately identify with Muhammadd Zakari, a senior information officer on GL 10 in the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation who was awarded the Members of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) medal for his honesty. Zakari as a civil servant is married with nine children, lives in a two bedroom rented apartment in the outskirt of Abuja but he refunded over six million naira to government coffers in the course of doing his job.
If the critics of these awards would be sincere for once, then they must admit that President Goodluck Jonathan got it right in this regard like he also got it right in on a higher scale with the honour conferred on Benue state governor. It is also heartwarming that the president vowed to strip those who are not deserving of the honours as it is certain that those who got the awards this year must have been properly screened since Mr. President has this mind set towards people who are not deserving of the recognition.
A proof of President Jonathan getting it right is evident in the fact that Suswam as the governor of Benue state has been able to demonstrate a stewardship that is worthy of emulation at all levels. Let us take the area of infrastructure as an example: Governor Gabriel Suswam has been able to build on whatever he met on ground as a governor. However, an additional dimension to his approach to infrastructural development is that he looked beyond the urban cities – Makurdi, Gboko and Oturkpo – and extended the provision of infrastructure to communities that were hitherto considered as backwaters.
Agriculture also got a boost under the administration of Suswam who committed to confirming the slot of Benue state as the agricultural hub of Nigeria. Beyond the rhetoric that one would expect to characterize such declaration of commitment, there are proofs that the governor made genuine efforts to move the state from subsistence farming to mechanized farming. This is evident in the provision of seedlings, fertilizers, agro-allied chemicals and farming implement to farmers at subsidized rates as well as the distribution of 140 tractors to farmers. His administration also got N1 billion from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and openly distributed same to local farmers. The administration of these farming inputs was given a sound footing with the establishment of the Benue Commodity Trading Company to train farmers especially in processing and marketing of their products, thereby maximizing the inherent benefits of these investments for the gains of farmers.
Suswam’s choice of re-deploying Dr.Eugene Alegba to the Agriculture Ministry has indeed paid off for the people of Benue State as the young educationist continued to work day and night to ensure that the missing food basket of the nation is returned to Benue with yams, cassava, tomatoes and all the heavenly fruits as were seen in the old Benue of Aper Aku.

In the area of providing quality healthcare, Dr. Suswam gave his best. His style adopted a multi-pronged approach towards dealing with one of the most challenging aspect of life in Benue state prior to his coming on board as governor.  As a result of this, maternal and infant mortality rate has greatly reduced through timely intervention in health care services. Malaria, one of the leading causes of deaths in the state, was brought under control by the purchase and distribution of more than one million mosquito nets to the people, coupled with the availability of free and highly subsidized malaria drugs in government hospitals. Health facilities were renovated and provided with needed medical equipment and supplies. Like infrastructures, healthcare improvement was not limited to the urban area such that the rural populace has limited needs to travel far for minor ailments.  Presently, each Local Government Area in the state has at least one standard secondary health centre.
Dr. Suswam has a special way of separating politics from friendship and this perhaps settles the appointment of Prince Solomon Wombo as the supervisory Adviser of the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. The bereau which is under the close supervision of Dr. Suswam helps to ensure that every local government authority in the state records equal and parallel achievements in terms of primary education, primary health care and basic training for the staffs.
In real sense, there is no room for interference with the third tier of government as far as there is no looting of the treasury and unnecessary spending on masquerades by the council Chairmen.

Perhaps one single issue that was enough to earn Dr. Suswam multiple awards is the area of peace building and security of lives and property.  On one hand, the combination of his projects aimed at improving the quality of lives of citizens has paid off with the reduction of crime rate in the state. On the other hand is his peace building effort that has led to a drastic reduction in communal clashes. This trait of his spills into the national level where he has made meaningful contributions to burning national issues, often he lend his voice to ongoing debates in ways that amount to providing a voice for the national conscience. His recent contributions to the ill fainted minting of N5000 note by the Central Bank of Nigeria would always prove to you that he is a member of the upper strata by class and a Nigerian by thinking and ideology.

It is of interest to note that Dr. Suswam was able to record these laudable achievements despite contending with distractions to his administration. It is instructive the way he dealt with these distractions since this on its own constitutes another quality for which a leader should be honoured. The governor, rather than join his detractors in the fray, is a man who takes his time to explain issues in an objective manner to all and sundry with the implication  that he has been able to win the support of those who were initially bent on distracting his administration.

This is why the award of the Commander of the Order of Niger (CON) to Dr. Gabriel Suswam did not come as a surprise to us. It is something befitting for a man who has rendered selfless service not just as the governor of the state but even during his days as a member of the House of Representatives and beyond.  The step taken by President Jonathan in recognizing the contributions of Dr. Suswam, and other notable Nigerians, with this award would pay off for the country as public office holders are jolted into reality to recognize the place of genuine service to fatherland. The impact of the award would also be felt as people throw themselves into development efforts that would change their communities and the nation at large.
While congratulating our amiable Governor, and a true representative of the common people of Africa, I want to applaud Suswam’s passionate desire for a united and invisible great Nigeria and belief in the greatness of our nation and her people irrespective of its diverse socio-cultural and political differences. Dr. Suswam is a true nationalistic character whose attributes are not less than the highest national honour now or in the future.
On a final note, like some will say, perfection is a journey and not a destination. Dr. Gabriel Suswam must thus not allow himself to be carried away with the honour bestowed on him in recognition of his lofty contribution to the nation, particularly to Benue state. He would do well to see this as a challenge and a call to greater service to mankind.
BY: COMRADE PHILIP AGBESE, PUBLIC AFFAIRS ANALYST, ABUJA

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