By Michael Tivlumun Zendesha
the lifespan of the present Suswam administration gradually inches closer to its end, chroniclers of history will be anxious to start the interrogation (or is it inquisition?) of the administration in terms of whether it has impacted positively or otherwise on both the fortunes of state and those of the citizenry
It is on this note that I have decided to remove the arrow from their quiver in this piece, in a manner of speaking, by way of unveiling the epochal achievements of the Benue Governor, Rt. Hon. Gabriel Torwua Suswam, lest some analysts fail to do a thorough justice to the issue. Paucity of funds notwithstanding, Suswam achieved a lot within the permissible limits of resources available to him. In chronicling these achievements, I intend to be as dispassionate as possible to avoid critics misconstruing my intention as a backhanded attempt to curry favour from the Governor.
To those conversant with the antecedents of Suswam, his journey to the top was not totally rosy. But through deft combination of sagacity and moral discipline, he rose through a combustible mix of obstacles, navigating his way through the labyrinth of life to attain his present position.
In May 2007, when Suswam took over the reins of the Benue state as the Governor, he met a state that was virtually at crossroads, with the staff disillusioned by the devastating effect of maladministration, almost losing faith in the ability of any Governor in making any positive change in the situation. Staff morale was at dangerously low ebb. It was under these cloudy circumstances that Suswam courageously took over the driver’s seat, fastened his seat belt to withstand the bumps and shocks ahead.
Gabriel Suswam, Benue Governor Analysts agree that Suswam indeed stepped into office armed with a ‘’correcting fluid” with a high preponderance of revolutionary zeal, adorning the garb of a reformer. With a strong passion for turning around the then ailing fortunes of the state, unchained it and with frenzy launched it on the path of workability.
With honesty and transparency as handmaidens, Suswam has been able to impact positively on the morale of staff and the overall fortunes of the state, so much so that even his worst critics readily admit that he has become the most legitimizing factor of the Jonathan administration. Not a man given to frivolities, Suswam on assumption of office immediately fashioned out multi-dimensional strategies to confront the hydra-headed problems confronting the state and the result has been awe-inspiring. So, due to space and time constraints, I shall highlight in brief some of the outstanding achievements of this humble man from Logo LGA, trying in the process, to capture as many of those achievements as possible. When Governor Gabriel Suswam took over the mantle of leadership in Benue State in 2007, not many pundits gave him and his team a chance to succeed. The skepticism was not so much because of his antecedents but because of the monumental nature of the problems, which his administration inherited.
Some of the inherited problems were dilapidated infrastructure, scores of abandoned projects, mistrust and suspicion among the ethnic groups and apathy towards government and its programs. Given the experiences of the previous years, many people believed that the new government would wear the toga of business as usual. But when Suswam set out to actualize his dreams as enunciated in the blueprint, Our Benue, Our Future, his first port of call was the infrastructural development of the State. Most of the public infrastructures, especially urban roads in such towns as Makurdi, Otukpo, Katsina Ala and Gboko, had fallen into total disrepair. The immediate past government attempted to rehabilitate some of the roads but most of the jobs were abandoned by the contractors. The Suswam administration tackled the problem headlong, and within just a few months changed the face of urban and rural roads in the State. By 2007, Government House, Makurdi was the old structure that was bequeathed to the State by Aku. Some of the toilets had not functioned for many years, just as most of the furniture in the offices were old and creaking. Today, Government House, Makurdi is an architectural delight, furnished with state-of-the-art furniture.
The government of Benue State has also modernized virtually every government building in the State. Until five years ago, most of the streets in Lobi Quarters and Ankpa Quarters in Makurdi were full of potholes. Today, they are indeed some of the cleanest housing estates in the State, made so by the quality of work done on the roads. Indeed, when history would give its verdict, it is the quality of his works that will stand Suswam out in Benue State. It was perhaps because of these lofty efforts aimed at regenerating public infrastructure in the State that he has consistently received awards from some media organizations as Best Governor of the Year on Infrastructure. It is no exaggeration to say that Benue State is on its feet again. People have taken a cue from the infrastructural development of the government and are building houses that compete favorably with those in developed countries. New businesses, especially in the hospitality industry, are lighting up the State capital and some of the major cities in the State. By 2007, there were only four standard hotels in Makurdi. Today, there are more than 30 of such hotels in the State capital. Many of such hotels have also been established in the other major towns in the State. There have been remarkable attainments in water works, rural electrification, education, health and agriculture. What is most gratifying about the government of Benue State is its relationship with the private sector.
For the first time in many years, private businesses have begun to express themselves, a process that would certainly change the economic fortunes of the State. Apart from creating jobs for the teeming youths of the State, new businesses that are springing up would lead to monumental increase in the State’s internally generated revenue. It is erroneous to hold that government alone should provide jobs for the people, build industries, schools, hospitals, etc. What is required of government is the enabling environment for private businesses to thrive. Despite the financial difficulties it is facing due primarily to the economic melt-down that is affecting many countries, the government of Benue State has provided that enabling environment for private businesses to thrive. The development of any society is a process. It is admissible that the process started since its creation in 1976 and would continue for as long as Benue State exists. The decay of public infrastructure in the State lasted for long; it will also take a long time to fix. After so many years of trying, Benue State appears to be taking sure and irrevocable steps into the super league of developed States. My prayer is that the in-coming government should build on the successes of the Suswam administration and expand the frontiers of growth; only then can the process of developing Benue State continue its journey and its assured leap into the super league of developed States uninterrupted. Whatever anybody might say, Suswam has paid his dues. With the single-mindedness of purpose that he executed his assignment in Benue State, he has earned a place in the hearts of Benuelites. This conclusion may go against the grain of expectations of some few individuals, but then, it requires a dispassionate heart and deep understanding of administration to appreciate all the transformation witnessed in Benue state under Suswam’s superintendence.
What really distinguishes this icon from his contemporaries is his great concern for public good and admirable husbandry of scarce resources. So, as the logo born son quits office as Governor of Benue state, he is leaving behind an enduring legacy of honour and hard work. I join millions of other Nigerians in wishing him a prosperous future endeavour.