By Peter Duru,  Makurdi
Benue State Deputy Governor, Chief Steve Lawani in this chat with Saturday Vanguard spoke on the protracted political crisis between the PDP and the ACN, and the alleged certificate forgery leveled against Governor Gabriel Suswam by the opposition in the state and other burning issues. Excerpt:

On the claim by the ACN gubernatorial candidate, Prof Steve Ugbah that the PDP robbed him of victory at the last gubernatorial polls in the state

In recent times I have refrained myself from talking to the press because I believe that the tribunal should be allowed to do its work. So, we have refrained from talking carelessly like the ACN particularly has been doing. Please understand the following as far as Benue is concerned.

The PDP is the party in government and then, of course, the ACN is the party in opposition. And so when we open our mouth, be it the Governor or myself and then the candidates of the other parties, the issue of credibility comes to play. We cannot lie, we use verifiable facts as they are. Facts that can be correlated, can be verified empirically.

So, we cannot lie to our people. The party in opposition, particularly the ACN tell so much lies both before and after the election about what they can do so much so that even now that they have seen the truth and the fact, they are unable to interpret the correct thing to their people. So, the difference between us and them is whereas the facts are there for everyone to see, they are still day_dreaming and finding it difficult to tell their people the correct thing.

They are unable to refer them to figures that has been accepted by the electoral commission which is the umpire whose job is to conduct the election. There is no truth whatsoever in the claim by the ACN governorship candidate, Prof. Steve Ugbah and his party that they won the election.

The ACN governorship candidate also alleged that if not for manipulations, his party won landslide in Idoma land. As an Idoma man sir, we want you to air your view on that?

You were in this state during the entire elections so, if it’s true you would know. Was he dreaming? If it’s in the dream, may be but not in the real sense. The figures are there. In this case, you want me to buttress the fact by referring you to what is done in situations like this as a trend. And the trend is there. In the Senatorial election in Zone C which is Idoma land, Senator Mark won the election; in the House of Representatives, PDP won four, ACN nothing.

Out of the 11 seats in the House of Assembly, we got 10 and they (ACN) got one. In the presidential election, we won over 90% and they had less that 10%. And in the gubernatorial election, we (PDP) had over 95% while they (ACN) had less than 5%.

The facts are there. So, why are they now saying they won? The facts are there at INEC. Are they dreaming? I wish I can find another word. For the state now, we got two out of three senatorial elections and they got one. For House of Representatives, of the 11, we got eight and they got three. In the state House of assembly, PDP has 20, they (ACN) had 10. In the governorship election which Ugbah contested and has not learnt to accept defeat we won with about 100,000 votes.

In the Presidential election, to show how the difference in terms of popularity, we had about 600,000 votes whereas ACN had about just 200,000. The gap is so much and the figures are there. It’s like a trend and whatever way you want to present it either graphically or with figures, the difference is clear. So often, we hear him saying he won but like I told you earlier on, this is their game plan.

Even before the elections held, they had already said they won. I don’t have to tell you this because you all were here and knew how they were bragging about. As reputable journalists, you are all aware of what happens as far as national politics is concerned. They made a claim that they were going to take Benue. And so, when results started coming out and we were winning, they found it very difficult to convince their people in the villages that they had been lying to them. That is the whole thing. It’s a hang_over.

The ACN governorship candidate also claimed that the spate of violence in Benue has continued unabated because the people are disenchanted with the emergence of Suswam as governor instead of himself. What do you have to say about that sir?

The same fabrication of the fact. So long as he has not accepted defeat and congratulated Governor Gabriel Suswam, he must find justification before his people. And that justification is lies. If he tells people he won, it is not true. The violence which as deputy Governor, I must admit is ongoing in recent months and which I regard as very unfortunate is going on because Ugbah and the leadership of ACN have refused to tell their people the truth. If they had told their people the truth, then, these people would accept defeat and queue up and accept the appeal made to them by the executive Governor of the state for us to work together for the development of the state. But of course, they keep telling them that they will reclaim their mandate. To me it’s a mirage. So long as they refuse to tell their people the truth, this thing will continue and it’s rather unfortunate. I read the interview where Ugbah said that anybody who dies in Benue now is killed by the PDP. He made reference to his relation who died in 1983 who was also killed by PDP. Was there PDP in 1983? So, any bad thing in this state now is caused by PDP. ACN is just full of lies. The party thrives in lies. If he had said he is more handsome than me, even that one too can be argued.

Why has the opposition party in Benue state found it so easy to box the government in power to a corner, is it that your information machinery in weak?

You as journalists, which one makes news more; good or bad? Of course, bad news makes more news. That is it. They thrive on bad news which are founded on falsehood and deceit. They have relied on this to create disaffection amongst the people and by so doing heightening tension in the state.

I’ll like you to also look at the issue of certificate forgery being leveled against the Governor. As the deputy governor of the state, are you convinced that Governor Suswam has got the certificate? And why is it that this certificate issue has refused to die?

It has refused to die because of what I just told you. It’s bad news which the opposition is feasting on, because they know what the people want to hear. That is why they are hammering on it. There is no truth in it and Gabriel will be vindicated at the end of the day.

What is your message for the people of Benue State?

All along, we have told the people that we respect the judiciary and we will not deviate from doing so. That is why each time they ask us to go to court, we go to court because of the respect we have for the judiciary. As at today, the legitimate government of the state is the government led by Rt. Hon. Gabriel Suswam and by the grace of God, he will continue to be Governor of this state till 2015. In spite of all provocations in recent weeks, he had continued to appeal to the people of Benue to work with; him to turn the various challenges that we face to opportunities.

And there are so many opportunities that can make this state develop like other developed states in the country. We have the resources. All we need is to sit down and plan. He has appealed to the people of Benue even including the parties to work with him. The earlier they heed to this, the better for the development of the state.



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