by: Philip Agbese
In Benue North East, the ruling People Democratic Party (PDP) is clearly the party to watch given the political record and history of this district. Save for a last minute miracle that could produce a dark horse, the dominant aspirants in this area are the state governor, Dr Gabriel Suswam, who is under pressure not to retire from serving his people and Senator Barnabas Gemade, who has a track record of demonstrated commitment to serve the people. Should both men run in the same primary, delegates to such event would be in a quandary as they would be compelled to make choice between two men with intimidating credential.
Chief Barnabas Gemade’s sojourn in politics is age long. He was once the chairman of the PDP and one must admit that the foundation he laid for that party is instrumental to the resilience it has enjoyed in the face of challenges associated with any organisation that has its sight on being around for an extended time. For the people of Benue state and the North East district particularly, the contributions of Gemade to improving everyday life is on the record. He continually played the statesman and is important to the political stability the state enjoys. He has made tremendous impact on his constituents in the time he has been senator.
Of no less political intimidation is Dr Gabriel Suswam, who has taken Benue state to a level never before thought as possible – infrastructure were not only built but they are optimally distributed across the state to positively impact places once considered too rural to care about. He creatively mixed agriculture with other incentives to address the problem of youth unemployment while his capacity as a bridge builder was authenticated by the approaches he adopted in dealing with communal crises that were once intractable. Suswam has his experience from the days he was in the House of Representatives under his belt and considering that he headed a powerful committee during this time is an indication that his people will be getting value for votes if he was to return to the National Assembly in a higher capacity.
With credentials like this, the Benue North East district could be irredeemably fractured should both men similarly heed the calls on them from several quarters to contest the senate seat. Absolutely one has no such rights, especially since the constitution guarantees us all the right to vote and be voted for, but it is prudent to at this stage to appeal to the elder statesman that Gemade is to allow Suswam fly the party’s flag – a similar appeal could be made thereafter for the people to ditch party affiliations and unite behind the soon to be outgoing governor.
For one, there is no point for both men to enter into the race since there support bases are similar. Pressing ahead with this quest could even see family relationships being strained as even siblings could see themselves fighting to ensure that either of the men clinches the ticket. A possible fallout from this as we have seen in the past is the potentials that supporters who would feel short changed if their aspirant loses out would likely make that catastrophic exit to other political parties.
Then there is the issue of age. Gemade is by no means ancient but a younger Suswam apparently looks better poised to forge that bridge between the younger and older generation. Plus, aside representing constituents, lawmakers increasingly have to interface with foreign colleagues who presently fall within a particular age bracket and represent the new generation that is setting the trend setting globally. At the national level, the dynamic of the parliament is becoming increasingly fast paced such that a younger man may be in a better position to grapple with the challenges posed by such pace.
Still on the issue of generational dynamics, Gemade has had a long run in service to the public and the people of the Senatorial District and has age on his side in the course of doing this. Returning to the Senate would imply forcing Suswam into retirement. Should such happen, it would be a disservice to the Benue state as whole as the people are counting on Suswam not to retire prematurely in view of what he has been able to achieve within the period he has served. Even if this were to happen it does not mean that the governor cannot emerge from retirement to again serve the people but it is best at this stage not to create such vacuum. Meanwhile, on the other hand is the fact that Gemade would be depriving the people of the state the personality of a much needed elder statesman, whom the younger politicians can approach for suggestions on how to move the state forward. We are all witnesses to what the absence of such elderly counsel has plunged some states of the country into and this is a path we best not tread.
Thus, Gemade, the incumbent Senator for Zone A, would have rendered a greater service to the people of Benue Zone A by allowing his son, Suswam to answer the people’s clarion call. Acceding to this appeal by no way implies political weakness but would go a long way to confirm Gemade as an elder statesman with the maturity in strength and in character. It takes such courage to allow one’s son, politically speaking, ascend to higher office while one takes the elder statesman role.
Comrade Philip Agbese is an Abuja based anti-corruption crusader and contributed this piece from Gwagwalada, Abuja.