By Tor Shiekuma Felix
I recall to mind that Dr. Gabriel Suswam, who is the incumbent and at the same time lame-duck Governor of Benue State, took oath of allegiance on 29th May, 2007. He is a successor of Benue political icon, Senator George Akume. One among the cutting edges of his administration was the launching of a stunning development blueprint labeled: “Our Benue, Our future”. This catch-phrase plainly connotes that there’s guaranteed future in our state. The road map document consisted of engrossing policies and initiatives on every
sector of the economy which could be used to revitalize our deteriorated economy. This innovation was to level broad economic holes that his predecessors turned blind eye on.
Immediately Governor Suswam assumed office, he steadily started implementing his reference document. This was exemplified when he called upon contractors who had abandoned state owned projects on the ground of manifold causes, to polish off such projects. He aggressively embarked on repair of potholed roads; dilapidated schools; battered hospitals, streets electrification and the great water project in the three senatorial zones of Benue state. He employed good security strategies to safeguard Benue indigenes. He was therefore nicknamed Mr. Infrastructure. The implication being that his government is preoccupied with the provision of infrastructural development in all critical sectors-education, health, agriculture etc. Momentum seemed to be on the side on the young administration. In fact, people who didn’t support his initial leadership ambition began to have pangs of conscience because of his spectacular take off.
Subsequently, the development blueprint became a mere fallacy. Alas, the bubble of false hopes was short-lived, punctured as it came into collusion with the cruel reality of a mendacious official rhetoric and comportment. Today, “our Benue, our future” does elicit only derision and mistrust. The self-acclaimed Mr. Infrastructures’ administration started promenading against the glamouring documented layout. Benue aborigines’ therefore, began to interrogate the authenticity of their long preached future, because they spotted pessimism, fatality and doom. The document which was consolidated by motley of experts entered inactive stage and afterward, disposition stage. This reference document is therefore a documented lie. The reasons are not hard to fathom.
During his inauguration on May 29, 2007, Governor Suswam had this to tell the people of Benue state among other things in his inaugural speech: “in accepting your mandate here today, I pledge before you all, before my creator, the only living God I serve, that I desire to give my people no cause whatsoever to regret. I desire and pray the almighty God to make me surpass the achievements of my forbears who have brought us this so far…” Today, pondering on his inaugural speech, Benue people have every cause to regret their uninformed and blind decision, for voting him as the governor of Benue State. He has distanced himself from his inaugural speech and engulfed himself in deep corruption, boastfulness, intransparency and above all, disservice to the people. His solemn pledge to God almighty and the people of Benue lacks the desired follow-up, in fact, it is a big whopper. He seems more deadly than a devouring lion, because of his tyrannical form of governance.
Education guarantees the future of any living society. Similarly, educated populace is better prepared to contribute to the development of the society. However, during his blistering administration, education becomes a dumped project. All state owned institutions are unpleasantly paralyzed because of non-payment of workers’ salaries and allowances. Primary schools are now hunting fields; accredited centers for sporting activities and grazing land for animals. As a result, Benue children are now professional scavengers, hawkers and in fact, bread winners for poverty-stricken families. NUC duration of study has been revised in Benue state, a 4-year course is approximately 6 years now because of unnecessary political-driven strikes. Moreover, Benue state scholarship board is still on print medium, if there is any.
Notwithstanding, I was perplexed to have it from history that; at the gender age of five, the young Gabriel Suswam enrolled at N.K.S.T Primary School, Zaki-Biam, where he obtained his first school living certificate in 1977. It is surprising to state that a beneficiary of primary education has succeeded in burying it. The claim by the governor that the inability to pay teachers in the state is due to dwindling allocation from Abuja is a mere fallacy. Are others not affected by the same scenario, how do they manage to pay their teachers? If people are denied of good education, can you boldly boast that such people have a promising future?
On 26th December, 2010, Thisday newspaper reported on Gov. Suswam stewardship in Benue and he uttered an ironical statement that misplaced my reasoning faculty. He said “….our administration has constructed most of the township roads in Makurdi, Gboko, Katsina-ala and Otukpo, the major cities in the state…” The evidence on ground tells entirely different story. I have not peregrinated through all the other major streets of the cities aforementioned but Gboko, which is my home town, had never being a beneficiary of his paper administration. Our major streets are potholed, dusty and are animals’ ground for passing out excreta. Makurdi had all this while been the only state capital lacking in any meaningful governmental presence, after nearly four decades of Nigeria’s independence. Our rural roads are actually not motorable, soggy; swampy and muddy, thereby thwarting smooth movement of agricultural produce to cities. Some rural people visit town during dry season only. Moreover, throughout dry sessions, rural dwellers would look like Benue Europeans because of dust emanating from sandy roads. Still at that, torrents of sponsored articles in local and national media are showcasing aggressive roads rehabilitation in Benue state under Suswam’s administration. I am not flabbergasted because sycophants can go at extra length to grease their palm, through irksome means. Is this the future?
A typical Benue man up till now does not realize the difference between lantern and electric bulbs. If there is anything an administration could ever boast of is electricity. Notwithstanding, our communities are quite darkened. In our bucolic areas, electric bulbs are seen only where families of Suswam led administration subsist, leaving behind larger percentage of the masses. This single nauseating scenario has incapacitated our commercial activities, which normally give birth to economic breakthrough of every state. Yet, hungry writers and journalists who are scavenging on his crumbs are busy projecting a failed dream to the public. Every lucrative business greatly relies on power to flourish and in the absence of power; recessive economy awaits us in the near future.
If you are bold enough to enquire from a peasant farmer who hails from Benue State, what fertilizer is? Don’t be surprised to hear, cow dung and chicken droppings, as their response. This is just because they don’t know what fertilizer is all about. Fertilizers are only distributed to farmers sitting under air conditioner in splendorous offices and the little persons with long legs. Stripping agricultural policies and programmes are penciled on decorated papers but their implementation is absolutely absent, in an agrarian state like Benue state. Under Suswam, average Benue man or woman has become much poorer and hungrier despite the sobering fact that the revenues accruing to the state from traditional sources have witnessed an unprecedented increase since May 29, 2007. In the absence of agriculture, is there any future for a Benue man?
Benue Television project is still in an embryo state. We are living in an information age, where every human endeavor largely depends on information to be effective. This is more so because information is light to the masses and a catalyst that boast all sectors of the economy. Still at this, Benue people do not have even and smooth access to such facility at a state. I don’t brain him, information is a terror to those who suppress the masses and he does not want to be terrorized.
The life of ordinary Benue inhabitant is no longer secured. Our immunity has been jeopardized, lacerated and wrecked. Down-and-out Fulani are gruesomely massacring Benue people on one hand and Jukuns are on the other hand blood bathing us. No meaningful consensus decision has ever reached to bring a lasting solution to this apocalypse. The misplaced victims of this invasion are abandoned by Gov. Suswam led administration. Millions of naira disbursed by federal government and other philanthropists to alleviate the sticky wicket of these casualties was silently siphoned into private pockets. This menace has therefore discouraged investments and other commercial engagements in our rich land. Is this not a drawback? Could you predict a bright future from this?
Unemployed youths are parading around with tore files. No single industry has been built to accommodate this group of people. He is always gallivanting the world; in search of foreign investors especially Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. No single investor has come to Benue State since 2007. What an irony! All state owned projects that were supposed to be awarded to other people, were given to his wife, Arc. Yemisi Suswam. The construction of Makurdi International Market; completion of work at Benue State University Teaching Hospital; and the Law faculty Building of BSUM, were carried out by Metropole Nigeria Limited, Yemisi’s Company. What a selfish life!
However, giving a promising future to a people is not a paper work; it involves dedication and sacrifice. Accordingly, Governor Suswam, who refuses to sacrifice his time, effort and state owned money for the benefit of Benue people, he is not the right person to give us the desired future, thereby pronouncing his development blueprint a documented lie.
Tor Shiekuma Felix is a columnist on Benue.com.ng and writes via email@example.com