<<< By Hope Abah, Makurdi >>>
Chief Abu King Shuluwa is a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain in Benue State and deputy chairman of the state’s PDP Elders’ Forum. In this interview, he talks about the ministers recently selected by President Muhammadu Buhari as well as issues on the political front burner in the state. Excerpts:
What is your impression about the people selected as ministers by President Muhammadu Buhari?
Initially, I felt he was recycling old people too much. When I looked at the list, I only saw one or two persons who are below 60 years of age. In my opinion, I felt that he should have picked more youths and mix them with the older generation so that they can learn from the experienced ones. But on a second thought, I saw that the younger generation has brought about too much misery in this country that we would want the older generation to correct. Therefore, on that note, I support what Buhari has done. He has picked those he felt can help him salvage Nigeria the way he wants.
How do you react to some people alleging that the travails of former governor Gabriel Suswam at the EFCC over alleged misappropriation of funds during his tenure is a witch-hunt by his Tiv kinsmen?
I don’t think so. How can anyone come to Benue and embezzle so much money, including even what they don’t have? You embezzle it and you want us to keep quiet? Then someone sits somewhere and talks about the Tiv man, every Tiv man is a poor person. As far as I am concerned, nobody is witch hunting Suswam. The people of Benue, particularly the Tiv people want to know what happened to the state’s share of the Benue Cement shares. We learnt it had been sold. Where is the money? We want to know what happened to the state’s share in Julius Berger. We heard it has been sold. Where is the money? We want to know what happened to the N500 million flood money that the federal government gave to Benue. Where is the SURE-P money? It might not necessarily be Suswam. Why are people so sentimental and heaping everything on Suswam?
But do you support that this ongoing probe be extended to Akume?
Did Governor Samuel Ortom take over from Akume? Why should it be extended to Akume? Why didn’t Suswam, who received handover note from Akume probe him? Is it because he wanted to do what he did? Besides, how can you investigate somebody who puts you in office? Akume made Suswam governor and he never probed him (Akume). The same Akume made Ortom governor, how then can he probe Akume? He never took over from Akume, Ortom took over from the government of Suswam.
Do you think Ortom would have done what he is doing now if he had won this election on the platform of the PDP?
Yes, because in the history of this state, we have never met a deficit treasury. Never! And if you, as a governor meets a deficit treasury, you would want to know why it is so. I don’t know why people are so sentimental about these things. Let’s investigate and know why so much money came to Benue and we cannot see it. We want to know what really happened. That’s my position. We should know exactly where these monies are.
Would you subscribe to legal action against the former governor if eventually the two probe committees indict him?
Let legal actions be taken against anybody who illegally acquired wealth by embezzling our money; anybody at all and not just Suswam. Even if that person is my father, so long as it is established that he has fraudulently embezzled our money, let him be taken to court and let justice take its course.
What is your stand on your recent outing at a stakeholders meeting organized by the APC-led government in the state
where you supposedly spoke on behalf of the PDP and it did not seem to go down well with the state PDP?
I have the right to speak for the PDP. I didn’t speak as chairman or anything. But I spoke as an elder and a founding member of the PDP. What was convened at the government house was a stakeholders meeting during which parties were asked to speak. Labour Party came up and spoke and when it was the turn of the PDP, nobody got up to speak even though many PDP members were in attendance. I was not the only PDP man. So, as deputy chairman of the Elders Forum of the PDP, I decided to speak. Yes, I spoke on behalf of the PDP at that meeting because I am the oldest person in the PDP in the state as at today. I am also the oldest financial member of the PDP in the state as at now. All of those sitting at the state secretariat today as executive members were not in the PDP. I am not to be appointed to speak at that forum. The PDP should rather be happy that I spoke on its behalf at that meeting supporting Ortom’s government. Ortom is the state governor and he is the governor of all the people of Benue State irrespective of party affiliation, religious inclination or tribe. Who says the PDP is not in support of Buhari’s government? At that meeting, I advised the PDP to be calm but watch Ortom’s administration carefully and challenge it objectively. But I said on the side of the party, we will oppose the APC whether they have done good or bad because we are trying to and we will wrestle power from the APC come 2019. I also said as a government, we in the PDP will support Ortom where he has done well because we want to move Benue forward. That was what I said at the meeting.
But do you think with the way PDP is going in the state, it would be able to wrestle power from the APC in 2019?
We will wrestle power in the state in 2019. Yes, the shock that we have lost election is still with us. And we have refused to come together and reorganize ourselves properly. But with time we will. We have organizers in this party who are still thinking of what to do. I am one of those organizers. I want to let you know that what I said at that stakeholders meeting was the thinking of two-third of the PDP in Benue.
There is this insinuation that as at now, the PDP in Benue does not have leadership. Do you agree?
That is true.
Then, how do you want to wrestle power from the APC when you are not together?
2019 is not tomorrow. If I get up by next week, I can reorganize the PDP. I am one of those who brought PDP to Benue and I still have the capacity of doing that by mobilizing the people. Time is coming when we shall do away with those new entrants who are not original PDP, who have only come to spoil the PDP.