Charles OfojiTuesday, November 30, 2010
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Cologne, Germany



have read with disdain and disbelief the sickening disparagement of Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue by some hardy disgruntled and disconnected elements using the Saharareporters as a dais for retrogressive politics of derision and vilification. The tomfoolery of the mischief-makers is goaded by the fact that they did not even bother to do enough rudimentary work before engaging in their appalling campaign of slur.

For whatever personal and political reasons they may have for their brew of deleterious falsehood, they want right-thinking people to believe that Governor Suswam forged the West African School Certificate with which he gained admission into the renowned University of Lagos to study law.

Normally, I would not have dignified the fabricators of such lies by writing this riposte for Nigerians who are discerning enough to know what could be factual or sham. But as someone who was admitted and who graduated the same day with Suswam, I could not believe the span people could go at destroying someone - that is what they think, in their delusion, could be destruction.

For the avoidance of doubt, The University of Lagos of our generation neither admitted people to study law with O'level West African School Certificate nor via JAMB's UME. Rather admission was based solely on direct entry with A Level GCE or IJMB as the minimum requirements. And such a candidate must have at least 10 points in either of the examinations to be eligible for admission.

As a former classmate, who actually sat on the same pew with Suswam throughout our university and law school days, and as someone who shared times, hostel and knew him closely, let it be known to all who care to know the truth that he came into University of Lagos with IJMB Advanced Certificate and he had over the cut of points for the admission he got. Let it also be known to all that he graduated also in 1989 with me and left the Law School with me as well the following year.

I can not be qualified to access the work of Suswam as the Executive Governor of Benue State since I would not be objective enough. But on my honour, as an international lawyer and left-leaning journalist and critical Author (my works speaks for me), and as someone who has gone to Benue at various times before and during the governorship of Suswam, I make bold to say that he has built more infrastructure than all the other governors before him put together. And, according to ordinary Benue people, they have never had it so good. This is what I gathered from the people when I went there twice as a journalist in 2008 and again in 2009.

I had left a piece of my heart in Benue as a result of my jaunts there during my NYSC times in Jos in 1991. Since then, the last time I saw Benue was about two years before Suswam became governor. I was almost close to tears as a result of what I observed. It was as if the times have stood still in that part of the world. Apart from the fact that there was nothing new to cheer about, the existing infrastructure, built largely during the Aper Aku regime was collapsing. And there were either no roads or that they were agonizingly in awful shape.

But during my visits to Suswam's Benue, I was delighted to see that Benue in barely sixteen months of his administration had undergone a positive transformation. And according to the people, Suswam has given them something to be sanguine about as Benue State in its history witnessed a heartwarming developmental watershed.

Ben Ebe, a Makurdi based Journalist, put Benue's transformation under Suswam this way: "It is daybreak for Benue as we have not seen anything like this (Suswam's administration) before. It is now left for the indigenes to wake up and grab the challenge. By pursuing people-oriented projects, we now boast of improved rural roads that eases transportation of agricultural produce. And he has completed electricity projects started 20 years ago that was later abandoned. There is also the great water project to help provide Benue people water. And the generous scholarship to students who intend to study at home and abroad, just to mention a few of the good things he has done in a very short time."

Similarly, Godwin Idho, Manager of the popular eatery, Treaties Bukka, in Makurdi, described Suswam as "a good governor who identifies with the people and gave them a huge relief by providing for them the basic things they have yearned for over the years." He is an excellent governor, he concluded.

So far, it has been so good for the people of Benue as Governor Suswam has delivered what he promised them while he sought their mandate, said Jane, a then three hundred level student of law at the Benue State University

In a country where the citizenry see nothing good coming from government, it was astonishing to find out that there was a buoyant connect between Governor Suswam and his people. From market women, who sang praises for him, to blue collar workers, who owe the prompt payment of their salaries to him, to youths, the verdict on him was an overwhelming approval. Even members of the opposition parties, who may from time to time disagree with him on issues, still conceded that he is the best governor the state has seen. Dr Tsetim Ayargwer of ANPP, who is the Minority Leader at the Benue State House of Assembly, viewed Suswam as "a God sent ruler who came at a time Benue was at a crossroad."

However, I also gathered during those visits that Suswam has a problem with the so-called elite, because according to the people I spoke with, he stopped sharing Benue's money as his predecessor had done and greedy influential leaders, who saw Benue's money as booty for themselves, are financially choked and they are peeved. Similarly, I also got the scent that the Ex Governor, George Akume, who thinks that he made Suswam governor, was not happy that he was not playing ball.

In October, this year, I again went to Benue on a private note, to visit some friends (certainly, not Governor Suswam). And I could attest that the polity is unnecessary charged by dislocated politicians who have vowed to unseat Governor Suswam by all means possible. I am Ibo and our people say that "if you don't know what to say to a beautiful woman out of hate or envy, you could only say: this woman, you are too beautiful". Naturally, those who have sworn to bring Governor Suswam down, have implacably scoured for what they could blemish him with and found nothing because his good records are his sentinel. Little wonder, they now brazenly resort to cheap smear. It is very unworthy of men who want the Benue people to entrust them with the leadership of the state. Such simply stinks!

Charles Ofoji lives in Cologne and London as Lawyer, Author and Journalist. He is the author of bestseller, ILLEGAL IN BERLIN and A FAILURE'S DAUGHTER