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Is that Suswam speaking?

By: Maurice Tsav
 Published February, 28th, 2010

It is shocking and amazing how the minders of Governor Gabriel Suswam are shopping for trouble. The latest of such is he interview granted by his Special Adviser on Public Policy, Conrad Wergba and published in several National Dailies.

The Benue society knows Conrad Wergba rather well, having come to political limelight from the stable of opposition politics. He decamped into the PDP from the ANPP. Indeed he was the State secretary of the ANPP here in Benue. And all it took then was that George Akume, then the governor of Benue state gave him a car and he was beside himself with orgasmic excitement and it was all over the Radio Benue and The Voice newspaper.

It is funny that most of the major political actors in the PDP now are decampees from the ANPP and they were swayed over into the PDP by George Akume. It is likely that the bashing Akume is getting from his party is a consequence of his enticing over to the party, strange bed fellows. Everybody has a price so he bought them - tons and tons of them and his enemies have converged in his party and that partly explains the kind of diatribe that he is experiencing from people who should, at least show some form of gratitude or at least respect the cold facts of history.

You would think reading Conrad Wergba’s interview and other similar ones from Akume’s bashers that the Senator is standing an election against Governor Gabriel Suswam in 2011. You will not believe that they are talking about somebody who donated the governorship to Gabriel Suswam against all odds. You may even be tempted to think he is from another party.

Preparatory to the 2007 elections, George Akume swooned over Wantaregh Paul Unongo, the self-acclaimed leader of the opposition into PDP. And to make the party strong for the 2007 elections, he even reconciled other party members. It was then that we heard about the old and new PDP but they were all fighting for one purpose under the control of Governor George Akume then to produce a new leadership at the state level. Everybody was on the leash including Conrad Wergba himself. It is a fact that the state government controls the party just like it was then, so it is now – that Gabriel Suswam is in control of the PDP here, he is also in control of the funds and we expect that some people, because their lines of survival have changed they can afford to wag their tails to please their new master and in the process, stand history and facts on their heads.

It is an established fact that votes were donated by Raphael Igbago and Prince Ogiri Ajene to shore up the counts of Suswam at the gubernatorial primaries. That fact was blown across the state and country by even the government’s mouthpieces - Radio Benue and The Voice and other media. In spite of all their shortcomings, the Nigerian media do not change the course of events that are in the public glare. Whether the practice of vote donation is constitutional or not, it is not the business here and ‘Barrister’ Conrad Wergba did not raise any objections to it either. Afterall, the PDP breaches the Nigerian constitution and theirs at will and we are used to their illegal ways and we accept the outcome of whatever that they purport to do, after all, it’s always a family affair. It could even be a do or die affair, who cares?

If Conrad Wergba is worried that Suswam emerged from an illegal selection process then issues have gone beyond that. It is an incontrovertible fact that these arrangements were made possible by George Akume and the least, he can show is a little dose of gratitude because Suswam is governor of the state now. After all, President Umaru Yar’Adua had the courage to admit to have benefited and emerged as President of Nigeria from a flawed election. But he is President and he is not looking back over his shoulder.

It is possible that views coming from Conrad Wergba are fundamentally peripheral; he may not have been present at the gubernatorial congress. Even now, more than two years on as Special Adviser on public policy, his peripheral conduct is still his basic character. So such views must have been cooked from a nocturnal spree of carousing and they can be ignored. But we are getting close to a very serious election year and good or bad, the views of a close associate of governor Suswam must be considered for what it portends for the polity whether the views represent the thinking of the man himself or merely the ejaculations, yawns and belches of an unproductive Adviser, whose contribution to state policy is not visible in any ramification. We consider such views unsavory and gratuitous. It becomes even more fearful if you are perceived as a stumbling block to someone’s ambition. You are not safe, divinely or devilishly.

Today, the death of Steven Akiga has been declared by Conrad Wergba as a blessing to Suswam’s governorship and it does not matter how he died! The late Stephen Akiga died mysteriously after vomiting bowls of blood. His doctors suspected food poisoning and advised that an autopsy could help. His Uncle, Solomon Akiga objected saying that whatever the outcome of the autopsy, Stephen would not come back to life. From his utterances, it is possible that Wergba and his principal who consider the death of Stephen a blessing to their political ambition may know what we do not know about his suspicious death.

Undoubtedly, what goes around comes around and in our political history, Gabriel Suswam is the first beneficiary of such political largesse of an incumbent preparing a soft landing ground for him to emerge as governor. The apparatus of state was used to favour his elections. Indeed other elections that led to his were manipulated by George Akume to favour his chances and the overwhelming victory of his party’s candidates in all elections. Even at the local government levels, his party men were in control of the local governments just to make sure that nothing was left to chance. And for his aide to say “so it is more of Suswam that was instrumental in Akume becoming senator than Akume making him governor” is preposterous.

Of course, Conrad Wergba throughout the interview is full of divination as cure all for Suswam’s emergence as governor and such upside down thinking or hallucination may be a consequence of a stupor. Because any right-thinking analyst, who is not woolly and fuzzy in his thinking will know and remember that right from 1999 when Suswam became a green horn at the National Assembly, to when he lost the 2003 elections to late Mahmud Akiga of the ANPP, it was George Akume’s leverage that ensured that the 2003 was announced by INEC in favour of Suswam. And Mahmud went to the tribunal with facts and figures that forced for an out of tribunal settlement for Suswam to remain in the National Assembly in 2003. This ensured Suswam’s continuation in the National Assembly to prepare for the race for governor and which was made easy in 2007 by Akume.

If we must remember, the National Assembly election was won resoundingly by Senator Saror and the bandwagon effect of that victory carried in it’s momentum, Mahmud Akiga. One is aware of the order Akume gave to his foot soldiers and the role they played especially in Ukum that saved the election for Gabriel Suswam.

In any case, Gabriel Suswam and George Akume are still in the PDP and it is idiotic for an aide to fan embers of an estranged relationship between principal actors of the party just for the sake of it. Of what positive political consequence can such views be to the fortunes of the party in the senatorial zone which has a bigger population than other zones in a re-election bid? Would it not be better to mend fences? Because Akume cannot be political adversary to the political interest of Gabriel Suswam in Benue state. The man cannot be governor again and cannot be senator in Zone ‘A’. Why won’t the hawks not allow a synergy of political interests that will put more food on their table as it has been for the last ten years? Because as it is, some of them have survived all these while by placing themselves at the dinner table and engaging in subterraneous conduct just to feather their nests in spite of their political inconsequence. They have personally tried elections and lost in all such attempts!

It is worrisome that the governor has not found it proper to reign in his lapdogs. You may think they are barking at his enemies and protecting his estate, but he must know that politics is defined by various strategic levels of leverage. The interest of Sankera can only be protected by them, so it is with Jemgbagh, Jechira, Kwande, MINDA, Idoma, Igede etc. He must guide against using poisoned darts from other political leverages to hit at other people. It is his duty as a statesman to weigh his options well for his political future. Because even as governor, he needs the help and political savvy of stakeholders from other cleavages to have a complete hold on power.

Finally, if you want to be king, you don’t kill a king.

Mr Maurice Tsav is a journalist based in Makurdi, Benue State.

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