BY PETER DURU
THERE is no gainsaying that Governor Gabriel Suswam and his ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) secured an overwhelming victory at the last general elections in Benue State, dusting a pushy challenge from the Action Congress of Nigeria ACN to record victories at the National Assembly, Presidential and Gubernatorial/State Assembly elections in the state.
Suswam won with massive votes from Benue South Senatorial district courtesy of PDP heavy weights like the Deputy Governor, Chief Steven Lawani; Senate President, David Mark; former Minister of State for Niger Delta, Dr. Sam Ode; and the Director of Media at the Suswam/Lawani re-election campaign organization, Mr. James Oloko, who braced the challenge of the opposition to deliver all the nine local government areas of the zone to the PDP.
While in the Sankera axis where the Governor and his main contender on the platform of the ACN Prof. Steven Ugbah hail from, the likes of Dr. Terkura Suswam, who happens to be the governor’s elder brotherr, Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher, who is Nigeria’s Ambassador to Canada and a few others ensured PDP won.
It was also to the credit of these group of persons that the PDP’s senatorial candidate and former National Chairman of the party Dr. Barnabas Gemade warded off a stiff challenge from Senator Joseph Akaagerger for the senatorial seat of the area.
After his victory, Governor Suswam declared in a chat with newsmen that his administration in the next four years would rededicate efforts at infrastructure development, completion of all ongoing projects and empowerment of Benue citizenry.
He also pointed out that his development agenda christened ‘Our Benue Our Future’ would be redefined and strengthened to meet the challenges of the times.
Consequently, the inauguration of 47-year old Suswam for a second term in office as the fourth Executive Governor of Benue State, has thrown up a new vista in the political development and policy formulation and implementation in the state with major key players in the entire electoral process expected to play pivotal roles in defining the content and character of Suswam’s administration in the next four years.
Top on the list of these key players is Chief Steven Lawani, who is known for his calm disposition to issues. He has been Suswam’s close ally for three decades. It was gathered that his political acumen and wealth of experience in the nation’s political evolution, which dates back to the late 80s, contributed to his selection as Governor Suswam’s running mate in 2007 till date.
He is said to have contributed immensely to the success of party and administration in the state. It was further gathered that Governor Suswam has never ceased to tap from his immeasurable wealth of experience in policy formulation and implementation in the last four years and it was on this basis that the people of Benue South Senatorial District benefitted much from the administration especially in the area of infrastructure development and political patronage.
Architect Yemisi Suswam is the First Lady of Benue State, an intellect and woman of strong character, who is said to wield a lot of influence on her husband. Apart from being a good wife, she enjoys the benefit of gaining her husband’s listening ears especially on issues of welfare and political patronage of her fellow women.
Mrs. Suswam has redefined the functions of the office of first lady in the state and through her pet project, the SEV AV Foundation, she ensures that the fight against the dreaded HIV/AIDS, the plight of widows, destitute, farmers and orphans remain on the front burner of Suswam’s administration.
Her consistent fight against social ills is a complete departure from the past and her resolve in these areas has convinced donor agencies to rally round the government and her pet project to impact positively on the needy.
Senator David Mark
Regarded by many as Governor Suswam’s father figure, mark was also instrumental to the overwhelming success of the PDP in the Benue South senatorial district otherwise known as the Idoma nation. Mark has not hidden his love for Governor Suswam and he has not failed to highlight Suswam’s developmental accomplishments in his first four years in office, which according to him, was a complete departure from the past when the state yearned for a transparent, focused and committed leadership.
A renowned banker and presently Executive Chairman of the Benue State Board of Internal Revenue Services BIRS, Ayabam, sSince assuming that position over two years ago, has changed the fortunes of the state in the area of internal revenue generation. Today, he has become a key player in the success story of the Suswam’s administration.
He has revolutionised the revenue drive of the government and with his sense of commitment and responsibility to growing the state’s hitherto abysmal internally generated revenue profile. Ayabam’s one billion Naira IGR monthly target has placed the Suswam’s government on a good footing to confront the challenges of infrastructure development, which remains the main trust of the administration in the next four years.
In his first major assignment as Executive Chairman of the BIRS, Ayabam led a team of tax collectors and security operatives to shut down the Benue Cement Company for alleged tax evasion. This singular act and subsequent positive changes in the sector hoisted him as an important factor in the evolving second tenure of Suswam.