Image: Gabriel Suswam [right] and Samuel Ortom
Press Statement by the Immediate Past Governor of Benue State, Rt. Hon. Gabriel Suswam in Response to Incessant Attacks on Him by Samuel Ortom’s APC led Government in Benue State.
Since coming into power, my successor and incumbent Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, seems to be overwhelmed or probably has forgotten the supposed mission that took him to Makurdi Government House and is on a daily basis devising desperate means to smear my name before the unsuspecting Benue people.
Recently, the Governor through his media adviser, Tahav Agerzua, took a good part of his time dishing out malicious and demeaning statements on my person in the media.
My only crime, as stated in their statement, was that I accused the state government of been responsible for the petition against me at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
But how was I wrong? What I saw is what I said. It is the same issues raised against me by the former Head of Service, Mr. Mike Iordye’s committee that was set up to do a hatchet job that are raised in the petition in issue by the hired petitioner. So, why is Ortom afraid to claim responsibility?
Those who are followers of political developments in our dear state would have observed, and correctly too, that I have, since leaving Government House, refrained from replying the maliciously fabricated lies and other unwarranted attacks on my person that have become the defining paradigm of the Ortom administration. That my name and supposed misdeeds are recited like strings of rosary at functions as insignificant as naming ceremonies is no longer news.
In order to keep the records straight for posterity, it behooves me to make certain clarifications, especially as regards the diatribes against me by Ortom’s image maker.
It is on record that since the creation of Benue State, I am the first, as the 4th Executive Governor of the state, to have formally passed onto a successor handover notes containing hardcore records with facts and figures. So, it is unfortunate that, in characteristic malevolence towards me, Gov. Ortom, barely six months into his administration, has forgotten that the handover notes I gave to him on the 28th May 2015 were the outcome of the joint transition committee that was set up. As a mater of fact, the joint committee organised the handover ceremony which was elaborately done with wide press coverage.
The meaning of hostility may be different in a dictionary used by the Governor. Otherwise, when he came for a courtesy call on me, did I run away or did he compel me to receive him? I had the option to decline his courtesy call on me, but never did so and he and his team were accorded dignifying reception and attention on all issues. I extended to him sufficient goodwill and support to aid and smoothen the logistical and sundry needs he had preparatory to his formal inauguration and this much was evident in the Special Utility Vehicles I bought for him and his Deputy, without any prompting from any quarters whatsoever. I conducted him around the Government House on an extensive and comprehensive tour to see for himself the up-to-date facilities I was going to handover to him; the same facilities he later turned around to allege were vandalised by me and as such claims a need for hundreds of millions to refurbish. But these are facilities I myself put in place at great cost and which are adjudged to be amongst the best in this country.
Where then is there any indication of hostility, non-supportiveness and discourtesy from me towards Gov. Ortom, as he now wants the world to believe? It is however, on record that I on my part did not received any such warm and supporting welcome from my predecessor, George Akume. Painting a dishonest picture that I frustrated the committee and displayed “hostility” towards him is rather absurd and laughable.
On the debt profile of the state, I still maintain that it is either Ortom’s handlers are lacking the basic knowledge of accounting principles or as is more likely, it is same vengefulness and ill-will which informs their making such an open and deceitful mockery of the Benue economic situation.
Records are there to speak for itself. I left but only a debt profile of N9.7bn. This was basically the balance from the N17bn I borrowed as commercial Bank Loans and bonds. But in computing what the Ortom administration funnily terms the debt profile of my administration, some contractual obligations we entered into without any commitment with contractors amounting to over N50bn were added as debts. Salaries of workers which were only delayed but not denied for obvious reasons this government too is currently grappling with, were equally added to make it bogus by all means.
The entire world heard how Ortom’s government kept dishing out figures, from N90bn, N130bn, and again N190bn as the debt profile left by my administration. What a pitiable inconsistency? And how else would one explain such a travesty?
It is rather unfortunate that the Ortom administration is using every means, including manipulating the innocence and gullibility of the unsuspecting Benue public, to engage in political machinations and intrigues. When I recruited people, as a matter of fact, indigenes of the state, into the civil service to replace those who had retired, died, or were incapacitated due to one reason or the other, Gov. Ortom came in raising false alarm that I had recruited people when there were no resources to pay the employed workers. Those I recruited were hastily and summarily sacked without due process followed. But barely two months into office, is the same government not recruiting massively? And are they not owing workers now? The exercise that was done through due process was cancelled and it is now being done all over again through the back-door, not following due process. The truth is that the law is supreme and those workers who were so unlawfully sacked and who have gone to court will certainly get justice and then this administration which is so bent on manipulating virtually everything will have to deal with the attendant consequences which in this case would surely include an over-bloated workforce.
Let it be known too that when I left government, workers of the state were being owed four months including teachers, while those at the Local Government were being owed two months. This, most painfully was necessitated by the economic downturn that badly affected the country. Many lies were told about this by the people in government today. But what are they telling the people now?
The Ortom administration came, borrowed N10bn bank loan, took N2.7bn and 2.10bn as share from LNG for Local Governments and states respectively, collected an improved monthly statutory allocations for May and June 2015 amongst other very many other consistent revenue accruals. Let us not forget that same govertnment made it public that the entire amount needed to upset the four months arrears was N12.7bn.
Regrettably, in just five months in office, Council staff are already owed three and half months. What a change!
I have said it before and do proudly maintain that I came and worked hard to improve the infrastructural base of this state. The landmark achievements of my stewardship in that regard stand visibly tall for anyone to see. I challenge anyone, including Gov. Ortom and his team, to take a bearing in any village in this state and go fifty kilometres North, East, South and West and if the impact of my stewardship as Governor of Benue State is not felt there, then such a person is surely not within the state.
I have done my bit and I am out of the system. When I came, I saw that the system was far from credible including the civil service, structures of MDAs etc, yet I kept quiet and did my best. This, perhaps was because I was not desperate to be Governor. I had prepared myself and was well armed with a blueprint for the state. As a result, I had hit the ground running soon as I came in and that was why in my first hundred days in office, I had a lot to showcase by way of solid developmental milestones to the Benue people.
This was not because I had such a comfortable bed of roses for my administration to take-off on. No. This was possible because I came into office as Governor prepared, as such, though there were the same kinds of distractions from both high and low quarters, I was able to stay focused and deliver on the core objectives of my blueprint right from the inception of my administration. I deeply appreciate Benue people for the wonderful time I had leading them. I have won elections four times through the ballot and this by any means is no mean feat, and only someone with an undemocratic mindset would undermine that. ‘Popularity’ as connotes democratic process is indeed a relative term. Let us see to the end of the electoral struggle to conclude on popularity.
The only problem our country faces now is to allow some persons who have more than tripple personalities and can speak from both sides of their mouth to lead. Elsewhere where leaders’ statements are carefully weighed and scrutinised, we would have been better placed.
At the verge of the expiration of my tenure around October 2014, Governor Samuel Ortom said, “… I must thank the Executive Governor of Benue State, Mr Infrastructure, Rt Hon. Gabriel Torwua Suswam who has done so well for this great state of Benue. He has worked so hard that we sometimes wonder what the next governor will do because he has done practically everything. Don’t mind the opposition, the Aggrieved Politicians Congress (APC).They are bent on tarnishing the good image of our governor but Benue people know better.”
Today, the same Governor is saying, “…government machinery and institutions were totally grounded in the state while salaries, pensions and gratuities, both at the state and local levels remained unpaid for several months”. So, which should we take?
Let me emphasize here that the issues I raised in my interview are there and if Ortom and his team know their role in Makurdi Government House, let him address them and stop the needless attacks on my person. I had said it earlier that lies could only be temporal; soon, the chicken shall come home to roost.
I have at the tip of my fingers all dirty and underhand deals so far perpetrated by this administration and would keep quiet no more. Ortom and his handlers should understand that since I have discovered that my silence for the sake of peace and progress of the state has been mistaken for foolishness and timidity, this response is just but part one of the others to follow.
Rt. Hon. Gabriel T. Suswam, PhD
Former Executive Governor of Benue State
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