In this interview, the Deputy Governor of Benue State, Chief Steven Lawani, spoke on his relationship with Governor Suswam, and why he has decided to join the race to succeed him in 2015 and other nagging issues. Excerpt:
By Peter Duru
Is it true that you are contesting the 2015 governorship election?
Yes I’m running. In fact about three weeks ago, before I travelled out of the state, I had informed the state executive of the People’s Democratic Party of my intention to put myself forward to run for the office of Governor of Benue State.
What is the Governor’s position on your decision to run?
Well I must tell you that I’ve been to the Governor, my boss to inform him. I didn’t go to him for endorsement, I only asked for permission to allow me consult and he graciously permitted me. I know that some people haven’t come out yet. Some of the people who are going to aspire are still bidding time. Don’t forget that everything is still a year from now and in any case, some people have come out to say that they have been endorsed by the Governor.
Governor Suswam has not endorsed anyone to succeed him. How can a man endorse more than one aspirant at a time?
Permission to consult
But in any case if they say they have been endorsed, it means they are lucky, but I did not ask for endorsement, I asked for permission to consult, which was granted by my boss.
Would you sustain the legacies of the Suswam administration or seek to trudge your own path?
No, I’ve been a member of the Suswam’s administration. I’ve been largely responsible for what has gone on in the last six years, but suffice it to state here that when the need to continue and carry on with what we already have, I will continue but when there is need to make changes I’ll do so.
Other sections of the state aside the Idoma section of the state are also laying claims that it is their turn to produce the next governor of the state. So, how far do you think you can go?
I think I know where you are heading with the question, and that has to do with the issue of tribalism and politics. The issue of whether I would enjoy the support of other parts of the state if I pick my party’s nomination. I think I would. Everything has its time, seven years ago nobody thought that a black man would emerge the President of the USA, but that is the reality today. We have to start somewhere in Benue State as in other states where the majority hold sway.
You were generally expected to run for the Benue South senatorial seat. So, what happened to change your mind?
The general opinion has been that this administration has been largely successful, and I’ve been part of the team and success story; and I think that I can continue in the same vein. Don’t forget that in the last six years I’ve been playing the number two role which was purely advisory. But if I have the chance to be the pilot, I won’t say it would be something too different; but my experience in governance would to a large extent place me on a better stead to improve on what we have achieved so far.
Despite being older than the governor you have in the last six years remained loyal to the governor without any quarrel. What is the magic?
The magic? I have said it before and I will say it again. You know that I ran the same PDP primaries with the governor. He was the one who won. After which I went back to my business. But he came calling and asked that I should come and be his running mate. I know what it meant to be a deputy governor. I did not come here to be co-governor because I was not even elected.
I am a deputy. That is the whole thing. It is more or less to advise and give your support. My duty means that I stand for him when he is not around. He can also delegate a responsibility to other top functionaries of government, that is what obtains in other states. But if he enjoys my trust, then he can trust me to work with him even when he is around and when he is not around because I’m not after his job as obtained in other states. I am here to deputize for him and nothing more.