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Suswam: Surmounting the daunting task of national integration

By Agbese Philip
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Suswam: Surmounting the daunting task of national integration When Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State first appeared on the political scenery of Nigeria, he was elected like every other House of Representatives member, to represent the Sankera Federal Constituency of Benue State. Like every political green horn little was known of this lawyer who had veered into the murky dysfunctional waters of Nigerian politics.

But like every focused young man with a vision, Suswam was quick to carve for himself a niche as he was influential to the emergence of a speaker for this assembly. As a representative Suswam was in the league of extraordinary legislators as he towered above his peers in the house during debates and issues of national discourse unlike other political neophytes.

As a result of his proactivity, he led key committees at the National Assembly, from the Chairman Privileges, finance and appropriation to power committee where he performed above board even amidst criticism and media mudslinging.

It was obvious that this export from Benue was set for great achievements judging from his premiere.

Since his appearance Suswam has always been a national figure a symbol of nationalism of some sort as he has been doing national assignments while keeping his home responsibility under close watch.

When Suswam was set to vacate the House of Representatives, like most of his colleagues he aimed for greater heights; gunning to lead his home state-Benue. It was not a surprise to many that he was a favourite for the exalted seat of governor in Benue State when the race was saturated with experienced political heavy weights. His success was attributed to his endearment to his people through numerous projects he had embarked on as well his national strides. As state governor, Gabriel Suswam has not at all disappointed those who voted him into office as he has not relented in his efforts at bettering the face of the state and even ensuring national integration.

In a nation where states are impoverished and infrastructure, lacking Suswam, has proven that leadership borne out of service is what is needed to turn the ill fortunes of our nation around. Suswam's success story is no longer news as he has virtually given the state a total overhaul.

In his first tenure in office, the visionary governor was able to construct major highways in the state to link the state capital after constructing perfect tarred streets with accompanying drainages and streets lights in his first two years in the saddle. Suswam it is, who started and completed the herculean task of building of the greater Markurdi Water Works which was built and commissioned under his first tenure.

A close look at the new Governor's Lodge, one will wonder how many years it took to position such edifice. This was accomplished by the exceptional achiever in his first four years in office. Benue which has been known for its political awareness was erstwhile also volatile to violence arising mostly from political activity. It can be recalled that during the regime of the previous government a certain local government – Kwande was a matter of national worry due to crisis arising from election as the incumbent hoisted candidates on the local government whose inhabitants, in turn took to violence as a show of disagreement to this oppression. Under Suswam the true meaning of democratic tolerance is has been seen in the state as it has been devoid of politically motivated violence for six years he has held sway. It is even on record that his tolerance allowed the opposition win seats in the state and national assemblies in the state a situation unthinkable in earlier times. Even with the recent national wide scare and endemic presence of violence from terrorist incursions ravaging the northern states, Suswam has been able to weather the effect in Benue state earning the state an enviable position as the most peaceful state in northern Nigeria. This is even as there are the periodic cases of Fulani attacks which he has also taken giant diplomatic but decisive steps which have already achieved desired results.

Being the nationalist he is, Suswam has not stopped at improving living conditions in his state alone but also extended his tentacles to national politics where he has played very pivotal roles in ensuring the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan is on course.

Suswam has been an integral member of the Independent Power Project Committee headed by Vice President Namadi Sambo which has delivered on its mandate. Today power supply has increased in massive leap; a success story incomplete if told without Suswam's huge input mentioned.

Most recently the Minister of Power, Hajiya Zainab Ibrahim Kuchi announced the ministry's decision to involve this problem solver's expertise in the quest to ensure the achievement of the hydro electric power projects by appointing him Chairman of the Hydro Electric Power Area Development Commission (HYPADEC). According to the minister the coming on-board of Governor Suswam will assist Federal Government in the realization of both Zungeru and Mambilla Hydro-electric projects thus improving the nation's energy security and mix.

Suswam has been drafted to head the Chairman of Universities' NEEDS Assessment Committee owing to his previous show of maturity and competence at national assignments. So far this vibrant leader, knowing fully well the problem of funding in the Nigerian Universities which is core to Academic Staff of Universities Union's (ASUU) demands, has taken a novel step of involving stakeholders and the private sector to raise funds to water this crisis; to which end, he has successfully raised the whooping sum of 100 Billion Naira already, to inject into the nation's education sector.

Yes, his latest assignment has drawn criticism from many quarters and this cannot be overlooked but it will be wise to detach the medicine man from the ailment to better seek a cure. ASUU as a union has been known to be striking on these issues since before the administration of Goodluck Jonathan with only lip service and deception, it is only right to give Suswam the benefit of doubt by allowing him finish his assignment which has been adjudged by sane minds as the first ever real step to solving the issue of ASUU and university education in Nigeria.

ASUU had in a letter dated August 20, 2013, accused Suswam of pinching and pilfering the funds raised for this assignment. This issue has become the toast of dailies and public discourse, after proper investigation into the matter I have discovered that ASUU's cry is like a woman who cooks food, dishes same but refuses to serve it to those she prepared it only to complain later that the food she had prepared was tampered with during the dishing process.

It common knowledge that ASUU was an integral member of the University NEEDS committee and even an active participant in the technical committee that worked out the formular for the disbursement of the raised funds but only pulled out after it had submitted this formular to the main committee. It was ASUU's sharing formular that was used- her recommendation. The question here is did she intentionally leave room for pilfering and pinching?

Also pertinent is the fact that apart from been head of the NEEDs committee, by the workings of the committee Suswam had not direct contact with the funds whether during fund raising or even at disbursement as it is on record that the monies were handed directly to the Vice- Chancellors and Chairmen of the various 59 university governing councils. At least this is an alibi that should be pursued to find the truth.

At this juncture it will be apt to appeal to these well meaning stake holders in the nation's future to return to the lecture rooms and even committee, since the Suswam - led committee has promised and is delivering even as there is evidence to the fact that infrastructural development has started on these campuses and further work will be embarked upon shortly as the funds are billed to increase with the mechanism put in place for sourcing which is sure. To ensure the future of Nigeria is not let to hang in limbo.

Comrade Philip Agbese is a Director, Centre for Good Governance, Peace and Media Advocay and contributed the article from Abuja.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Agbese Philip and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."