2015 and Suswam's Return from Sabbatical
Come 2015 when another National Assembly is inaugurated one face that must not be missing at the event is the incumbent Benue state governor, Dr. Gabriel Suswam. He certainly should not be attending as a guest witnessing the event from the public gallery but right from inside the red chamber, the Senate.
The desire to see Gabriel Suswam become a Senator is not in furtherance of the concept of the Senate as a retirement home for governors who have served out their two terms, far from it. The expectation that the present Benue governor returns to the National Assembly is borne out of the fact that he is a product of the legislature having robustly represented Katsina-Ala/Ukum/Logo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
But for the fact that he was called upon to serve his people in the unique capacity of a governor, Suswam, who first won an election to the House of Representatives in 1999, would have been a career lawmaker. He would have been in the National Assembly till date owing to the quality of representation he gave his constituency.
His service in the House of Representatives was vibrant as he was appointed Chairman, House Services Committee from 1999- 2001 and later Chairman, House Committee on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) from 2001 to 2003. The unique performance he put up in his earlier assignment saw him being reelected in 2003 and he was appointed Chairman, Ad-hoc Committee on members' welfare; Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations and later became Chairman, House Committee on Power.
Suswam is thus on sabbatical for the duration of the two terms of eight years that he would have served as governor of Benue state. He has to again present himself for service to his people. This assertion is for several reasons.
One, he already has the experience as a federal legislator and thoroughly understands the dynamics and how best to leverage things for his constituency. There is a huge cry over the high turnover of members of the National Assembly, which often necessitate having to put new lawmakers through their paces. This process can take up to two years before a new lawmaker catches up with the intricacies of wheeling dealing in that institution. In this case however, this man would be coming in with a bank of experience. Benue state has a history of dynamic representation in Senate and this trend must be kept unbroken.
Also, with several other erstwhile governors and former House of Representatives in the Senate, Suswam would be among peers and friends. The National Assembly entails a lot of trust, confidence and clout so the incumbent governor would not be a stranger when he eventually joins the red chamber. He would not be overburdened with forging new alliances as he would only need to reactivate existing networks that would allow him play his hand in ways that benefit those he represents.
Thirdly, the district Suswam would represent has a lot to benefit by having a man who connects easily with the youths, being himself a contemporary with those that would be most affected by quality representation or lack of it. He has also shown consistency in ideology, from his loyalty and unwavering party affiliation to his focused ideology on issues, he is not known for the flip flop tendency that usually have people labeled “as food is ready” politicians. He takes positions and stand by them.
Equally, the kind of governance delivered to Benue state by Suswam must not be discarded. The capacity he has shown for being able to serve is not that easy to replicate. His impact has been felt in urban renewal of major towns and cities of the state. Agriculture and education have received their share of attention while healthcare delivery under his administration is now being replicated as a model by a few other states. His position on employment creation is worthy of note because for him creating employment for youth is a creative mix of using employment creation to curb crimes. He has continually put building the economic strength of the state through agriculture on the forefront. It would thus serve a greater good to ensure that he remains available to offer such quality of service.
The two time member of the House of Representatives has also shown his capacity to be nationalistic in his approach to issues, particularly when fence mending is required. He has often proven to be the stabilizing voice at the times when people have concluded that Nigeria would implode in matter of weeks. The Benue state governor seems to be able to achieve this by being pragmatic as he delivers truthful and factual positions on burning national matters without hurting the feelings of the parties involved. The level of animosity that is building up ahead of the 2015 elections imply that agents of stabilization with requisite experience like Suswam are needed in National Institutions like the National Assembly for the healing process that the country may require at such time.
There are endless upsides to why Suswam must return from his Sabbatical and take up his expected role in the federal parliament. Those opposed to this possibility would equally have tons of reasons on why such ideas should not be mooted. In Nigeria, a popular refrain would be to query if he is the only one from Benue state.
Such line of reasoning is rooted in the concept of zoning which at this moment also favours the incumbent Governor of Benue State who would be coming on board from another axis in their region that should ordinarily be sympathetic favoured. But by now, a sincere appraisal of trends and issues would lead to the conclusion that while zoning may be politically expedient, it has not proven to be practically expedient. A dogmatic adherence to zoning has served to burden people with some leaders that may not be able to meet expectations in the final analysis. It is a trend that is at variance with the national quest for greater integration as a people who yearn for improved quality of life. Even at sub-zonal level like a state, zoning has served to highlight sub-ethnic and religious difference in ways that are detrimental to the society. The zoning card should thus not be played in a matter as crucial as deciding to allow a known performer to represent a people.
There are also those who will suggest that the status quo should be maintained as it presently exists in the National Assembly as there is no need fixing something that is not broken. True. But there is also the concept of upgrading and updating. It may not be broken but nothing would be lost by getting something or in this case someone better than this at is presently available. If the people of Benue North-east can get something better then why not? Besides, the personality of Suswam in the Senate is beyond one senatorial district, it is also about someone who could add national value just like what the Idomas have achieved in the unbroken chain election and re-election of the Senate President.
This calls for a need to reward or punish political office holders on the basis of their performance or lack of it. With all that have been identified about Suswam, anyone who is not keen on seeing him resume at the National Assembly come 2015 has diverse option. One of such options is to present a candidate who has a stronger record of performance in public office. At the moment there is none and I don't think we can be twice lucky to ignore the Suswam phenomenon in the national scene to go for a joker.
The incumbent Governor in 2015 will attain the golden age of 50 which naturally is the peak of human strength to participate in vigorous activities like the one that our diverse political interest entails at every hour. This is very important to be considered bearing in mind the distance between Abuja and Katsina Ala which is the administrative headquarters of Benue north-east, delivering the dividends of democracy to his people and attending nocturnal meetings to cut deals with colleagues and rising up to plenary for good of his people and the nation as a whole.
We also have a little work to do as a people to always commit our best to national service which is to sustain the pressure on the incumbent Governor to see reasons with the popular clamour for him to resume work at the National Assembly come 2015. It is a political sacrifice that Suswam must make at the end of the year when politicking will take the centre stage.
Paschal-George Akenge is a social crusader based in Katsina-Ala, Benue State.