Gov Suswam's Certificate Scandal resurfaces

Listen to article

Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam is currently fighting the political battle of his life, as he struggles with baggage like the senior school certificate scandal, and a formidable opposition from Prof. Steve Ugbah, and Senator George Akume of the Action Congress of Nigeria.

There is also controversy trailing his Master's degree in law , LLM, he obtained from the University of Jos, and a Master's Degree in Public Administration (MPA) from the University of Abuja .Also he recently defended his dissertation for a Doctorate in Law at the same University. Critics and opposition wonder how a sitting Governor, with so much on his plate including the Goodluck Jonathan project, could obtain two graduate degrees and a doctorate under five years. The development brings to mind former top shot in the Economic and Financial Crime Commission(EFCC), Tunde Ogunshakin, who was indicted for using proxies to write examinations and continued assessments while a student at the University of Abuja law faculty .

His spokesman, Cletus Akwaya, told in a text message” Suswam graduated from UNILAG in 1989, went to law school and was called to the Bar a year later. In 2005 he was undergoing MPA at UNIABUJA which he has since completed. He later took an LLM at UNIJOS and only on Tuesday (January 25, 2011), successfully defended his PhD in Law at the same UNIJOS…”

advertisement learnt that one of his problems is his concentration on the Goodluck Jonathan's project at the detriment of some home grown problems in Benue. However, despite getting huge cash backing from the Jonathan's camp, and also spending from the lean purse of the state, but failed to deliver Benue as promised. Jonathan got 72, while Abubakar Atiku got a surprise 15 votes, unlike Edo, Akwa Ibom, and Cross River, where Atiku didn't get a single vote. Even Adamawa's result was more impressive than Benue.

Suswam's alleged forgery of his high school certificate has just refused to go away. The whistleblower, one Chigozie Ukpabi, added a new dimension recently when he alleged that he also forged some documents for Suswam's wife . A Governorship aspirant, Terver Kakih, who ran against Suswam in the Governorship primaries, went to a Federal high Court Makurdi to order the EFCC and ICPC to investigate Suswam. But curiously Karkih has withdrawn the suit. Few days ago an Abuja based anti –corruption crusader and Attorney, Osuagwu Ugochukwu, wrote to the Principal Assistant Registrar, C. A. O Uduh, at the office of the West African Examination Council (WAEC), in Lagos, to verify the authenticity of Suswam's school certificate result.

Ukpabi, who is being represented by Ahmed Yusuf of the Festus Keyamo chambers, alleged that he fell out with Suswam when a magazine published details of the deal he had with the Governor, brokered by his cousin, Orseer. He said Suswam and his men felt he made it public because he (Governor) did not live up to his promises of linking with top shots for contracts. He said when the story came out , Akwaya sent him a text saying his boss has approved some cash for his services. He said “Cletus Akwaya Suswan's media adviser sent a text to me saying his oga has approved some money for me . I have the text right here with me…I sent them my account details, on September 6, I went to the bank to withdraw some money but was told by the manager my account was frozen. They called the security and I was arrested…How they (Power Steering Magazine) got the details of the deal I don't know. But due to what we had, Suswam concluded that I was in cohorts with them. That was the whole genesis of the problem. The editor of the magazine is one of the accused persons in my case “ He alleged further “ I was fired because I removed from documents from the(WAEC) office to protect Suswan. I thought Orseer was a friend. They promised me so much. They even said my Toyota was old that I should send the cost of a new car that they would fit the bill. They even promised me contracts . I went to the Ministry of Water Resources with all sorts of quotations. Before the arrest at the bank I was first arrested at the airport when Suswan's cousin said we should meet. When I got there I was arrested and taken to ikoyi where the then Director, barrister Njoku who ordered my release after telling Gaizama I was innocent. “

Ukpabi who spoke with Abuja based National life, alleged further “they handcuffed me around 6am and took me from the bank to the airport…during my second arrest. They put me on a an IRS flight and flew me to Abuja. At the police headquarters they took me to the police commissioner, in charge of SIU, Ali Ahmodu. They told him I had no case to answer based on what they have heard, but said it was Onovo (then IGP) who insisted I should be brought to Abuja. Incidentally that was the day Onovo was removed as the IG At Onovo's desk, I saw Hon. Ndidi Elumelu of the power probe fame and Suswam who pointed at me and said 'this is the criminal' I replied that ' I wasn't a criminal' The police later took me to Area10.and for the next 24 days without a lawyer of friend'

On Suswan's wife he alleged “ In 2007 she said she lost her certificate . I don't want to bring her into the matter because this is a man to man thing. Relevant security agents should check with INEC for the result Suswam submitted there and the verify my claims “

Ukpabi who was fired from WAEC because of the Suswam deal, and was detained for 31 days on the orders of Suswam, has been facing strings of charges from the Suswam flank. They range from kidnapping, threat to life, to defamation of character

At home, Suswam is facing a formidable opposition led by former Adviser to California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Prof. Steve Ugbah. In his camp are gladiators like Ex Governor, George Akume, Lawrence Onoja, former Katsina State Military Administrator, Lawrence Akaagerger.

The AC N's three Senatorial candidates for the 2011 polls are Senator Joseph Akaagerger, who is the Benue North East candidate; Senator George Akume for Benue North West and Gen. Lawrence Onoja for Benue South. For the House of Representatives seats, incumbent member representing Logo/Katsina Ala/Ukum Federal Constituency, Mzenda Iho, would fly the flag of the party; Orker Jev, a current member representing Buruku Federal Constituency is the candidate of the ACN.

Other candidates for the remaining nine federal constituencies of the state are mainly defectors from the ruling PDP in Benue State. One prominent candidate is the immediate past Security Adviser to Governor Suswam, Col. Benjamin Abohol, who is the ACN candidate for Kwande/Ushongo Federal Constituency.

For the state Assembly constituencies, out of the 29 candidates, two are serving members of the Benue State House of Assembly who defected from the PDP after the primaries. learnt that due to the hold Suswam has on the Benue PDP, several frontline politicians left for the Action Congress leaving him with President of the the very inept and corrupt senate, David Mark, whose rating has dipped in recent times, and former Justice Minister, Mike Aondoakaa who has defended Suswam vehemently. The former Attorney General who is been trailed by strings of allegations of corruption and recently stripped of his Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) tag said recently “ if Suswam won election as a federal lawmaker in 199 and 2003, and then Governor in 2007, of what use will it be to forge 2005 WAEC certificate result when it is clear he passed out from government college in 1982”

But the opposition is not buying it . They argue that his 1982 result had neither mathematics nor English. He had P7 in English. They also contend that he had his result altered at the time he submitted his credential to INEC in the run up to the Governorship election, mindful of the fact that the opposition could point out his subject deficiencies.

In 2005 he claimed his result was missing , and the curiously a fresh one was issued , and this time with English and mathematics. How he got into the University of Lagos is still a mystery. As for his call to Bar, there is also some grey areas. The Nigeria Law Directory has two entries. One is for Suswam, Gabriel T with call to Bar date as December 5, 1990, and the other for Suswam, Torwua Gabriel as June 8, 1991.

It was learnt that Suswam's camp is having sleepless nights over the emergence of Ugbah. An aide of the Suswam who spoke with in Abuja but prefers to be anonymous said the rising profile of Ugbah is a worry. According to him, “ we want to know if he was really an adviser to the California Governor. If we can prove he was not then we will checkmate him. We will want you to help us find out if his claim is true” But checks reveal he was an adviser to Schwarzenegger.

Interestingly, analysts say the major factor likely to threaten the return of Suswam is his frosty relationship with his predecessor, Senator George Akume, who is believed to have labored to install him in 2007 against all odds, and who is still commanding good followership.

The duo were said to have parted ways after Suswam assumed office as governor and Akume moved to the senate. But they had managed the feud until recently when both personalities began to nurse ambitions for second term.

Though no one is certain about the cause of the rift, two schools of thought emerged. First, they say Suswam considers some of Akume's actions in the state as overbearing while Akume on the other hand, perceives some of Suswam's actions as destroying some of his political structures in the state.

Daniel Saror who was a minority leader in the senate and now the leader of the opposition in the state, gave Suswam a big fight in 2007. He claimed to be the rightful winner of the governorship election but was allegedly rigged out.

Hon Clement Uhondo, an ANPP chieftain corroborated Saror, insisting that his party was ready to take over the state next year, adding that the party was solidly on ground in the state.

Claiming that his party was more on ground than the PDPD, he said in 2003 his party's flag bearer, Paul Unongo defeated Akume in the governorship election while in 2007, his party candidate, Daniel Saror beat Suswam but was rigged out.He said Suswam has not done well to deserve re-election, adding that for Benue to move forward, the PDP government in the state must give way.

On his part, Dr Sam Abah, another governorship aspirant said that his posters were printed without party logo because the PDP has endorsed Suswam as its candidate for 2011' hence some of them with ambition have to look for other platforms.

Abah who ran in 2007 on the PDP platform told Sunday Trust that he has begun consultations on which party to run since PDP has shut its doors against other aspirants.

He said the greatest cry of the people of Benue was for positive change. “We want to reduce poverty, we want to reduce unemployment. Suswam should take a leave to enable us take the state to the next level.”

Abah admitted that Suswam started very well but lost focus along the line, adding that he was among the people who endorsed him for second term during the early stage of his administration but sooner than later he 'slept off'. According to him, the problem of the state was demonic; hence it needed God for change to occur, adding that he has the backing of the people and the support of God to prosecute his ambition.

On his LLM, MPA and Phd a source said “ Going by what we have on the senior school certificate, we are not sure he obtained these certificates legitimately. They claim he got an MPA, LLM and PhD in five years. Even the most serious candidate would sweat to achieve that. The Governor had been all over the place between 2006 and today. We doubt if he attends classes , take exams, and does his continuous assessments “ But Akwaya has dismissed the opposition describing Ugbah as Akume's stooge who has no idea “ how the game is played “ He said “” Rt. Hon. Suswam is a bona fide lawyer having been called to bar in 1991. He has since then discharged several professional duties and therefore, his professional standing as a lawyer is not in doubt. We want the public to totally disregard the report being published as it is a work of blackmail and mischief aimed at smearing the Governor's hard_earned reputation”

On Ukpabi's allegation of 'settlement' promised by Suswam Akwaya said “ The guy claims Suswam refused to settle him. The matter is that as a member of the House and Governor, Suswam could afford to 'settle' but he cannot do such a thing with a criminal who is out to blackmail a public official for monetary benefit. Don't forget he has publicly admitted he is a forger of WAEC results for many people, this means he is a pure criminal. As for Suswam's performance, you are not in touch because of many years staying abroad. He is one of Nigeria's best performing Governors. The challenge of the people you mentioned will be proven at the polls in April, after the polls I will call you by the grace of God to confirm to you that Suswam has defeated them all.”