In the evening of Thursday, October 29th, 2015, the immediate past governor of Benue State, Rt Hon Dr Gabriel Torwua Suswam published a press statement which he personally signed.
He claimed that he was responding to incessant ” attacks ” by Samuel Ortom’s APC-led government in Benue State. Dr. Suswam stressed that the office of the Special Adviser on Media and ICT had “dished out malicious and demeaning statements on his person in the media while Government House has devised desperate means to smear his name before the unsuspecting Benue people.”
Let us state that at no time did Government House or our office set out to accomplish the objectives which Dr Suswam listed above.
We responded in the most courteous manner to issues which the former Governor raised in an interview published in several dailies. If he considered the reaction to the interview he granted as disrespect on his person, this is unfortunate. We neither raised any private issue nor demeaned his person even as the Ortom administration does not subscribe to such conduct. In our opinion, those who make public utterances should not consider responses as censure or insult.
Moreover, as public media managers our office demands responses to such utterances with decorum and civility and that is what we did.
Let us remind the former Governor that as an experienced politician who has been in the game for over thirty years, Governor Ortom knows why he is in Government House and why the PDP under his, Dr Suswam’s, leadership was booted out.
But we agree with the former Governor that it was not a crime for him to have accused the state government for being responsible for the petition against him at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Abuja. We don’t think that it was also a crime for us to have denied that claim because it was as unfounded as it was false.
We dare say it was even preemptive. Time will surely come when the Ortom administration, armed with a compendium of the financial transactions by the last administration which shortchanged the people, will approach the commission and similar bodies such as the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, and also initiate criminal proceedings to recover any looted funds and property. The people of the state who voted Ortom into office so demand and on that and their other aspirations he shall deliver.
This is nothing personal. It is not an insult on any person but rather the discharge of a responsibility required by our mandate.
It is not exactly true that the former Governor has been silent since leaving office. His shadow has always been cast on sponsored articles, interviews and attacks on the Ortom administration through his dedicated supporters. Moreover, in the write up to which we are responding, he subscribed to condescending terms, ascribing to himself attributes of deity and those who challenge his actions as irreverent supplicants. And any attempt to question his supremacy is regarded as lack of respect and insult. It might serve a useful purpose to be reminded that our acts are rooted both in the electorate’s request to know the exact state of affairs as well as our rights as Benue citizens who are stakeholders .On this note, the reference to Mr. Mike Iordye, a former Head of Service Committee’s work as a hatchet job is most uncouth and uncharitable.
With regard to former Governor Gabriel Suswam’s claim that since the creation of Benue State, he was the first Chief Executive to have formally passed on to a successor hand over notes containing hardcore records and figures, this is my observation. Of the sixteen Chief Executives of the state, only five have been democratically elected and only two, Akume and Suswam, have had the privilege of handing over to successors since former Governor’s Aper Aku and Rev Fr. Moses Adasu’s tenures were truncated by military take overs.
Between the two former governors, Senator Akume and Dr Suswam, who can we say handed over more properly? We remember one who chose, groomed and installed a successor, attended his swearing-in ceremony, walked with him from Satos roundabout to Government House and presented him with handover notes. The other groped from pillar to post, failed to identify his successor, let alone grooming and installing him. His achievements however, included handing over a mountain heap of paper work on May 28, 2015 and soon after taking flight. The later was also conspicuously absent at his successor’s swearing-in ceremony.
While we do not dispute that the transition committee worked jointly on the inauguration ceremony, there was no collaboration on the compilation of government financial records especially with regard to the income, expenditure and debts, between the outgoing and the incoming administration and that was the point we had stressed.
Your Excellency sir, when Governor Ortom paid a courtesy call on you, he did not compel you and you did not run away. But no one saw you on the day of his inauguration. Yes, you conducted him round the Government House and gave him and his deputy Special Utility Vehicles which you bought for them. But sir, you probably did not know that the people were so angry with this gesture and Governor Ortom and his deputy’s acceptance of the vehicles on account of the hardship you inflicted upon them, so much that if they had the opportunity they could have stoned all of you and the so called special utility vehicles. In fact, we had the task of writing to pacify them by explaining that it was part of the democratic culture for the outgoing to make provision for the incoming and that precedence had been set by what your predecessor did to you as well as what outgoing President Jonathan did to incoming President Buhari by giving him accommodation at the Defence House as well as providing vehicles and an air craft for him.
As to whether facilities at the Governor’s Lodges in Abuja and Makurdi were vandalised or not, we may leave that to our conscience or the assets verification committee.
Your Excellency sir, you contradicted yourself in your attempt to distinguish between the reception you gave Governor Ortom and that between you and your predecessor, Senator George Akume.
“I on my part did not receive any such warm and supporting welcome from my predecessor, George Akume,” you submitted.
But a flashback to your inaugural address on May 29, 2007 does not paint the type of hostility you now want the world to know that former Governor Akume gave you.
“Let me appreciate very sincerely our leader; the outgoing Governor of Benue State, Senator Dr. George Igbegbe Akume Jugu Dajoh. He has been a wonderful leader, father, brother and uncle to us all. He means very well for Benue. Throughout the eight years of his tenure, he took very giant strides and exhibited, love, care, humility and generosity, not before known by the people of the state. He took very giant strides in the development of Benue state as seen in such projects as the construction of the faculty of Health Sciences, the BSU Teaching Hospital, the various industries and many others too numerous to mention here. I want to assure you sir, that I shall pursue the completion of these laudable projects. Your cherished virtues will also not be abandoned.’’
Similarly, if honor and integrity meant anything to you it would have been for you to acknowledge that the last minute appointments you made for thousands without due process and which you sometimes backdated were done in bad faith. Your determination to install your brother as First Chief in flagrant disregard of the law and due process was one of your last minute manouvres that have ended in shame.
It is now clear that you negotiated the current minimum wage of the state to score cheap political points with no clear idea of where to source for its funding. The industrial crises that engulfed the state during your time in office and which the Ortom administration has had to face since inception affirms this position.
Now over 300 of your political appointees have benefitted from the bailout funds currently being paid workers as arrears of salaries. This we think is what you as a former governor should not wish for your state.
Sir, it is on record that Governor Ortom’s administration has not recruited any fresh persons into the civil service since May 29. This is because as a government which believes in diligence and prudent management of resources of the state, this administration is taking steps to improve the revenue fortunes of Benue before making new recruitments where necessary.
You may wish to know that the people are aware of that despite your administration’s inability to pay salaries, you embarked on wanton recruitment of people into the state civil service without any plan of where their wages would come.
We want to also believe that you did not take a second look at your write-up before it was released to the public. If indeed you did and allowed the following statement to go into print, we would also let Benue people to read it again and draw their conclusions:
“The truth is that the law is supreme and those workers who were so unlawfully sacked and who have gone to court will certainly get justice and then this administration which is so bent on manipulating virtually everything will have to deal with the attendant consequences which in this case would surely include an over-bloated workforce.’’
Really? So the whole essence of the last minute recruitments carried out by the outgoing Suswam administration was to make the Ortom administration suffer the burden of an over-bloated workforce? I think we are gradually getting to the truth. The former Governor has already passed judgment on the court case, as seen in the quote above.
If we were Dr Gabriel Suswam, we would have written differently.
Your Excellency sir, you stated in this your most recent write up that you left a debt profile of only N9.7 billion. May we remind you that you did not state that in the address you read on the eve of your departure.
“On the whole, a total of N6,834,053,397.51 is outstanding on the bond issue, the balance of which will be exited by 16th May 2016 based on the monthly repayments structure from the Federation Account Allocation deductions. On the other hand, our exposure to commercial bank loans at the moment stands at 2,510,836,875.21. This brings out total indebtedness to 9,344,890,273.00.”
Sir which do we believe? N9.3 billion in the hand-over address on the eve of your flight from the country or N9.7billion in the current write up?
We remember that you mentioned owing several months of salary arrears and pensions in that speech but you did not attach any figures to them. You did not mention the financial implications of any contractual or other obligations. You will therefore agree with me that no joint transition committee had worked on the debt profile of the state, hence you arrived at the figures you gave and the need for the Ortom administration to verify them. This has accounted for the bit by bit disclosure as records were being uncovered.
You may have thought that you were being clever by listing only bonds and commercial loans as the debt profile of the state. But when you leave behind unpaid salaries, retirement benefits and other obligations, the name you give to such, if not debts, is that between half a dozen and six.
Sir, you asked of statutory allocations for May and June and LNG receipts. Have you forgotten the revolving loan you took that swallowed a larger percentage of all these? The Ortom administration managed what was left frugally and was able set aside funds for critical projects and services which are ongoing at the moment. These include the renovation of the School of Nursing and Midwifery for re-accreditation, resumption of work at Daudu Gbajimba road, completion of the Assembly Complex and part payment of the contractor for resumption of water supply in Otukpo and Katsina-Ala towns.
If we were in your position, we would not be talking so soon when someone is trying to clean the mess we left behind. But we are not surprised because you have no regards for the people of the state who have been so magnanimous to you over time.
If were the ones under the searchlight we would have used the opportunity to disclose to the people what happened to their shares in BCC and Julius Berger as well as other firms, how we utilised SURE-P funds and such things. We would have used the opportunity to also tell the people what we did with excess crude oil resources that were sent to the state in abundance.
On the issue of loans and salaries, the Ortom administration has refused to be distracted by the ingratitude shown it by its predecessors for rising to meet the challenge of cleaning the mess it met on May 29. This is service to the people. Since its inception, this administration has not withheld any information about its handling of resources of the state. The N10 billion loan and its expenditure on two months salaries (May and June) was explained, same as the NLNG funds which were added to the federal allocation and used for subsequent salaries and overheads to MDAs. The current wage bill of the state including overheads stands at over N3.7 billion monthly.
Our former Governor sir, let us remind you that your profligacy brought the state to its current situation and it cannot be a matter of pride for you to forget so soon. With regard to the quote you fabricated and in which you made an attribution to Governor Ortom as having referred to the APC as the “Aggrieved Politicians Congress, APC,” only you and your collaborator, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav who are the framers know your source. You can provide neither context nor complete text from which that quote was lifted.
Our former Governor sir, the people of Benue State know both you and Ortom so well and no amount of fabrication you bring can stand the test of proof just as your claim that you have at your fingertips all dirty and underhand deals so far perpetrated by this administration, is at best a threat to shield you from investigation. Please do not hesitate, publish and broadcast as much as you can as no one is afraid of your exposure.
For the time being, you might do well to reflect on why you lost your senatorial bid and the bid to install a successor and also lost credibility having squandered the goodwill of the people.
If we were you, this would be a time for reflection, repentance, and restitution.
Special Adviser, Media and ICT.