Benue, Probe and The Truth We Must Tell Ourselves, By Terka Jam

Suswam with wife, Yemisi
By Terka Jam
True to the saying, no one can cut the hair of former Benue state governor, Gabriel Suswam in his absence so he is the only one who can truly explain how he ran the affairs of Benue state in the eight years he served his people. Suswam therefore requires no one to hold brief for him opening the public mind and eyes to what happened, a recent Facebook post of his expounded on that in some respect and it absolutely showed he has capacity to prove his mettle.

The effort here is thus not to launder anyone’s image, as I expect to come under attack for taking the bold step of identifying and amplifying what the issues are. The cardinal point is to note that even if a former public holder has to be asked to account for his stewardship, the intent and the composition of the panels to carry out the probe should not be such that would confirm a premeditated resoluteness at a keelhauling.

The concerned is about the scope and composition of the judicial commission of inquiry and administrative commission of inquiry set up by the present administration in the state. Apparently, the panels are focusing on only Suswam’s tenure with hints that nothing went wrong prior to that.
Suswam revealed this much when he said he was not opposed to accounting for his tenure in office, an administration that laboured under a heavy burden of inherited debts for its entire lifetime, but that while submitting himself to be probed but that the purveyors of the probe must reach over to the past 16 years, from1999 – 2015.

Should those clamouring for the probe agree to this, they would have to get their committees to revisit the debt profile figures they have released released as Suswam asserted that they failed to properly differentiate between figures inherited from the previous administrations and that accrued during his administration. In layman’s terms, the committees should give a breakdown of the debts and indicate the dates of the borrowing and possibly name the official that secured the loan.

Another poser, this time for the incumbent governor, Samuel Ortom, is how come the panels are peppered by persons who were part of the two successive governments between 1999 and 2015? Is it now fashionable to be the judge and the jury in one’s own case? If these individuals had not decamped to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and had remained in the PDP, or were not closet APC members, would they have made the list to be panel members? Should the probe extend into these long past years and today’s APC leaders become the indicted instead of the man for whom the trap was set, would the incumbent government seek prosecution of its godfathers and recover funds from them? It is important to query this links so that there can be the certainty that the right thing has been done.

A further poser is that at what point did Benue become an exclusive conclave subject to the wisdom of a select few? For a state as vast and diverse as Benue and with its vibrant minds, the Civil Society, traditional institutions, religious leaders, youth organisations and even unions should have been included on the panels for the sake of credibility. There is scarcely that individual who will happily tender himself to a posse that has made it clear by its composition that only one verdict is possible.

The fact that the sponsors of the probe remained recalcitrant even after Suswam stated his opposition to the scope and composition of the panels seems to confirm that a sinister intention is at play. His challenge a High court sitting in Makurdi presided over by Justice Iorhemen Hwande ordering a stay of proceedings on both the judicial commission of inquiry and administrative commission of inquiry pending the determination of the substantive motion in the suit filed by Suswam.
One must also wonder why the same people who set two commissions upon one man cannot be patient enough for the panels to complete their assignments before dragging the same man before the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC). After all, the findings of the commission, assuming Suswam would be found wanting, would have been the basis to present a watertight petition to the anti-graft agency while the commission would have been a saved a waste of resources should, the most likely outcome of, the probe exonerate him.

Unfortunately, those behind the lynch mob are frittering away valuable state time and resources to present a circus of the absurd before the members of the public upon their realization that governance is not as easy as they presumed in the days before they forced their way into power. Suswam indicated that his administration was burdened for its entire duration by harsh economic climate – in the first years by the 2008 global economic downturn and more recently by the resurgence of a global slowdown, Ortom’s administration had not even functioned for weeks when the realization set in and he went for a loan that was later supplemented with a federal bailout package.

Therefore, the truth we must tell ourselves is that for once as a people we must learn to approach issues the right way. When panels are set up it should be to get to the root cause of the perceived problem and not for window dressing. Today it is Suswam’s turn to be hounded using contrived panels that were rigged from inception to indict, whose turn will it be next?

Terka Jam, a staff of the Benue State Ministry Of Culture & Tourism, wrote in from Makurdi, Benue State.