BENUE, Nigeria – As pressures keep mounting from the Idoma people of Benue State (Zone C) to take up the position of governorship in 2023, the immediate past governor of the state, Dr. Gabriel Suswam has advised the people on how to go about with the agitation.
Suswam who currently represents Benue North West (Zone A) senatorial district at the National Assembly, was addressing a group of Idoma editors in Abuja on Thursday.
According to him, it was possible for Zone C to produce the next governor if the Idoma leaders continued to reach out to their counterparts in Tiv land.
Since Benue state was created out of Plateau in 1976, no single Idoma person has occupied the coveted seat of ‘Peoples’ House’, Makurdi.
Many attempts by prominent men and women from Benue South in the past yielded no result.
But Suswam, a two-time governor, believed it would only take the consensus of both the Tiv and the Idoma people for an Idoma governorship to materialize in 2023.
“Governorship is a consensus thing and I believe that the Idoma elders are reaching out. It’s not a decision that one person can sit down and take. I expect the Idoma elders to continue to reach out. Let them reach out to people like us, reach out to the Governor, reach out to leaders like Senator Akume, Senator Gemade and a host of other Tiv interest groups.
“Hence there is a consensus, there won’t be problem. When I was contesting for Governor, in spite of the fact that our Leader Senator Mark said he wanted Idoma, I would go and sit down with him and said Oga, this thing you must give me oo, we would joke about it and he said, if I get nomination he would support me but for nomination, he would support an Idoma person.
“Why was he saying that? Because, that was the zone he was representing, even though he was the Senate President and if he had said anything otherwise, you people would stone him”, he said.
Suswam advised Idoma youths and elders to go about the agitation with diplomacy and avoid unnecessary social media war.
“You don’t necessarily need to be antagonistic, you go about it diplomatically, because I have seen some social media write-ups that will not augur well for the agitation. When I was contesting, the Idoma people said NO; they want their own, yet, I would go and stay in Idoma land for one week. So this is not something you tackle with force, it entails diplomacy”, he added.
On his recent objection to the nomination of non-career Ambassador from Idoma land, the lawmaker said his position was misconstrued, adding that Idoma people were his closest friends and he could not have done anything to undermine the relationship.
His words, “My position is a very difficult one because people look at me as if I’m still the Governor of Benue State. Representation is a very difficult thing. When I was Governor, I was representing the entire Benue, but now I represent a zone and when you represent a zone, you must be seen to be speaking for and on behalf of that particular zone. There are difficult things that come with that.
“When they brought the first Ambassadorial nominees which was a Career Ambassador, you know we have so many Tiv people too who are also high in the civil service, they protested but I said no.
“You would recall that when I was the Governor, there were 3 Career Ambassadors, some of them I bought cars for and they are all Idomas except only one career Ambassador that was Tiv. As a Governor, I had much powers then to kick against it but I didn’t. Most of those people are very close to me, the Idoma Ambassadors – one was in Japan, when I went to Japan, he was with me, Adole was there and then this other one that retired lately. I worked closely with the 3 of them as a Governor.
“This time, I’m representing zone A, if I don’t talk, they won’t elect me again, so, I have to talk and do politics of representation. When I was a Governor, I took Idoma people as part of me. I was kind to them in areas of appointments, infrastructures and others. I cannot come to the National Assembly and hold a different view of them. It is just that I represent zone A now and if you critically look at it, no single federal appointment has gone to Zone A in this dispensation”, Suswam explained.
He added that, though none of the 3 Senators from Benue knew the nominee, yet, his form was brought to him by Senator Abba Moro (Benue South) and he signed it for him.
“Ordinarily, he should have brought him to me, but he said sign and I signed. Meanwhile, zone C already had an Ambassador, so when they brought the list and I saw 2 names and there was none from Zone A, I felt my zone was not fairly treated. That was the basis of the argument. It is not like I don’t love Idoma people.
“I was just talking so that, even if this isn’t going to happen, when next the opportunity comes, they would know that Zone A is vacant.
“Since Tarzoor left for APC he has not visited me or called me for once, but when he was nominated, he came straight here to inform me of his nomination, he went to Abba Moro and Orker Jev too. But this man you people are talking about, I don’t even know him, he has not even called Abba Moro on phone or look for him. Abba Moro doesn’t know him. He didn’t see anyone of us. Even Abba Moro was not happy, how can they nominate someone from his constituency, and he can’t even look for him.
“But aside that, my point is that, if Zone C has 3 Ambassadors, then they should step that one down and take it to my zone that has none. It is not because I don’t like Idoma people. My closest friends are from Idoma. If you watch clearly, anything that Abba Moro brings to the floor, I’m always there to support him. Sometimes I would be the one to encourage him and urge him to do more, because, if he doesn’t talk, his people would say he is not doing anything”, Suswam submitted.
The lawmaker also explained his position on the newly established Federal University of Health Sciences and Federal College of Education (all in Idoma land).
He said, “When they gave 6 Colleges of Education in Nigeria, there was an understanding that they were taking it to where there was no federal institution. But something happened, the Permanent Secretary who is from zone C somehow got to move that College of Education to his village.
“The Federal University of Health Sciences, it was Senator David Mark who fought for it and eventually it was approved and I learnt they had even allocated some funds to it.
“So, as a representative of a zone that has no federal institution, I wrote to the Minister but before then, I told Senator Abba I was going to write because my zone doesn’t have anything and that if I didn’t write, something would come tomorrow, and we would not get. So, I told the Honourable Minister that some of these institutions are in zone B and that the two that are given now are all taken to zone C and zone A doesn’t have a single federal institution. That was the content of the letter.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t like the Idoma people, but I was fighting for my zone to also have something for my people. That is the essence of representation in the first place”.