In the next few days, that is to say on Tuesday, April 26, 2011, the people of Benue will be going to the polls to elect a new governor. This is the moment of truth, a time for the inevitable stock taking after almost four years of the PDP-led incumbency of Governor Gabriel Suswam.

But more importantly, it is a sober occasion for the inhabitants of the state to rationally evaluate what is at stake by settling for the best candidate amongst the various options that are available. And that best candidate, they seem to have found him in the person of Professor Steve Ugbah, the gubernatorial flag-bearer  of the ACN.

The framers of our country’s constitution must have been mindful of the fact that four years is a decent time line for  any serious-minded state executive to show his mettle by leaving a legacy of achievements that can be said to have an enduring impact on the lives of fellow citizens. And it is trite to state here that the choice of a democratic model of governance is a recognition of the fact that it is most suited to offer citizens the necessary tools for their individual as well as collective self-fulfillment.

Alas, at the tail-end of a largely visionless, under-achieving, profligate and alienating Suswam  administration whose democratic credentials are appallingly abject,  the harried people of Benue cannot in good conscience be said to have had a fair deal. Their lives are objectively worse off than when Suswam took office on May 29, 2007, considering, amongst other things, the sobering reality that his regime has received more funds from traditional sources than any other government in the history of the state.

A good yardstick for evaluating the success or otherwise of any government is its handling of the economy as well as the quality of administrative leadership it proffers and its ramifications on the  society and especially on the peace and stability of the latter. Of course,  the two factors, namely,  the economy and leadership, are intertwined. An able leadership  will invariably positively affect the way the economy of the state is managed.  At the same time, A poor leadership in any given jurisdiction will most certainly have a deleterious effect on the economy and the society in general.

As severally mentioned, under the globe-trotting Gabriel Suswam, there exists a chaotic and debilitating reign of sleaze and administrative tentativeness that basically caters to the parochial and hedonistic proclivities of the man, those of his entourage and sidekicks alike. Today in Makurdi, rank amateurism coupled with puerile chest-beating for non-existent infrastructural development have taken the place of governance.

The state is reeling from the truancy on the part of Suswam and his regime. 

The de facto power vacuum in Benue is wreaking havoc on the stability of the state, for the simple reason that for Suswam and his retinue of yes men, being in government has come to mean a single-minded obsession with power and its trappings to the exclusion of service to the people. This explains the desperation by Suswam and his camp to hang on to power.  It is indeed one good reason  why Suswam is not a viable candidate for the post of governor.
In their undemocratic posture, Suswam and his associates are exacerbating civil strife in not just the zones inhabited by the majority Tivs but also in the mainly Idoma-speaking areas.  Under Suswam, journalists and dissenting voices of the organized civil society have reportedly suffered unprecedented repression and even death. As governor, Suswam has proved that he is not capable of providing the type of leadership that inspires confidence while at the same time helping create an enabling environment for peaceful co-existence and development. For opting to play the card of cliquish  and clannish divisiveness in Benue and especially in Tiv land, Suswam has demonstrated that he is not worthy of being a state executive. 

It is unpardonable that Suswam has imposed a devastating scorched earth proxy war on the iconic Gboko town. Not only has he failed to do anything to halt the mindless desecration of the Tor Tiv institution, his actions ( and ) inactions have unabashedly encouraged that desecration. This is unbecoming. And it’s getting worse.

The futile attempt by Suswam and his allies to whip up religious and other primordial sentiments by shamelessly and falsely claiming that the ACN’s choice of a Muslim Idoma man, ‘Young Alhaji’,  as Professor Ugbah’s running mate is meant to islamize Benue State must be dismissed as a new low for Suswam and his camp. It is dangerous and unwise for a governor of a culturally diverse society as Benue to resort to the kind of crude gimmickry that Suswam and his foot-soldiers are embracing in a desperate and harebrained scheme to hang on to power for power’s sake. Like any other Nigerian community, Benue needs peace and tolerance and not the polarizing  antics of an antagonizing tin god and his equally antagonizing confederates. Suswam and his PDP enclave are demonstrating that they have  closed minds. That they are stuck in a time capsule of medieval  ribaldry and sectarian suggestion. It is bigotry at its most impish and pedestrian.

As if to further underline his absence of philosophical vision and sense of leadership, Suswam has opted for a flippant disregard of his party’s zoning principle by preferring to opportunistically align himself with the duplicitous position of Jonathan, also known as the Magician of Aso Rock on account of his recent rigging spree that had him declared “winner” of the April 16 presidential election. The short as well as long-term interests of Benue have thus been mortgaged at the altar of  Suswam’s selfish calculations of personal political survival in a context of undemocratic scheming and impunity that offers no tangible benefits to the people of the state. What one may call the Suswam track record is that grim; it is actually much more dismal than what this synopsis has been able to convey. 

In a nutshell therefore, Suswam has amply demonstrated in four-odd years that he is philosophically and administratively incapable of projecting both the overarching interests of the majority and the compelling concerns of our state’s minority groups. With a propensity for engaging in destructive byzantine quarrels, Suswam has reduced governance in Benue to a ruthless and narrow minded hustling for political power and its perks. It is no wonder that any decent person with a stake in the advancement of Benue is alarmed at the situation of stagnation and drift that is starkly evident in that place.

Let me also add here that I agree completely with those who have suggested rather wisely that Suswam should be relieved of a job which he has increasingly found burdensome so as to enable him face some of the ‘personal travails’ that have dogged him for some time now and which have served as a needless distraction.  One of those personal or moral encumbrances is the alleged certificate forgery scandal involving him.
In order to rid Benue of the Augean Stables which the Suswam regime has instituted in Makurdi, the ACN is proposing Professor Steve Ugbah , a former university don and development expert whose “My Vision For A Prosperous Benue State” is a blueprint for people-oriented progress in all critical sectors that have so far not received adequate attention.

Personable, urbane and imbued with an impressive résumé  that spans three decades and which includes, amongst other items, university teaching, consultancy, community work and administrative responsibilities,  Ugbah has the kind of profile that Benue badly needs at this point in time to help it meet the development challenges confronting our long-suffering people and the country at large. It is an understatement to say that Benue requires peace and stability to progress and prosper. Under Suswam, these two critical ingredients of peace and stability have regrettably eluded us. With his worldview that is predicated on tolerance, not to mention the respect of due process and the rule of law, Ugbah is set to re-position the state’s administration based on the ethos of good governance without which any talk of development becomes an exercise in futility.

More than ever before, Benue needs a God-fearing man of integrity, one that has both the pedigree and a sense of community to serve as a guiding light – the trigger that is the epitome of our legitimate aspirations.  Ugbah fits that bill. The surging waves of humanity – old and young people of every socio-economic status – on his campaign trail are a potent testimony to the favourable perception by the populace of Ugbah’s persona. But more than that, they speak to the abiding clarity and viability of his message as articulated through his people-based ‘’My Vision For A Prosperous Benue State’’. Asked about the significance of his political programme,  Ugbah aptly replies: ‘’ This is not my project, it is the people’s project, I am only an instrument for development...We are working with everybody, Tiv, Idoma, Igede, Etilo, Christians  and Muslims, it is one Benue, one state, one voice, because we have one destiny’’ . From the horse’s mouth, so to speak, this is an upfront rendition of  the mantra of progressive change in Benue.

Let me join the masses in endorsing Professor Steve Ugbah as the next governor of Benue State. On April 26, 2011, the people should go out and massively vote for the change they desire. As they say, God helps those who help themselves. The political support base of the ANPP’s Professor Saror has collapsed beyond recognition. If he has not already done so,  Saror should seize this opportunity to call on his followers to vote for Steve Ugbah of the ACN. Supporters of the PDP as well as those of other parties should discard their partisan reflexes and vote for the candidate that best symbolizes change of the progressive kind in Benue.

We are compelled partly because of the damnable rigging by Jonathan’s PDP that led to the sometimes violent reaction by some segments of the Nigerian society to issue the cautionary note that the PDP-led regime in Benue must let the inhabitants of the state freely and transparently elect their next governor. The good people of Benue will not sit idle and let unscrupulous politicians and their  agents in the police force, the SSS, the army and the INEC serve as obstacles to our individual and collective advancement by denying us our constitutional right to choose our representatives.

Professor Jega should call to order his Resident Electoral Commissioner for Benue State.
Aonduna Tondu (


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