Governor, Gabriel Suswam
The Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam, is worried. And what is this all about? The choice of a successor in 2015 and this has continued to constitute a huge concern for him, writes George Okoh
As the 2015 elections draw nearer, observers of events in Benue State are carefully following the body language of Governor Gabriel Suswam. Everyone seems keen about who the governor will throw his weight behind in the intense battle for succession. This is because since the beginning of the year, no fewer than 20 of the governor’s friends have indicated interest in vying for the office of the governor in 2015.
This, an inside source told THISDAY, has begun to give the governor sleepless nights. Suswam is not eligible to seek re-election as he would be serving out his constitutional eight years of two terms, thus paving the way for a successor in 2015.
And since outgoing governors, in most cases, have always played a key role in the choice of their successor, even though Benue State has only experienced this once in 2007 when a former governor of the state, Senator George Akume, made a volt face after initially preferring his deputy, the late Dr Ogiri Ajene, to support Suswam, a youthful former House of Representatives member, to clinch the position.
Indeed, most of the aspirants jostling for the position are not oblivious of the enormous powers of the incumbent to make their dream come true and so are doing everything humanly possible to capitalise on their existing relationship with the governor. But in all of this, Suswam has kept sealed lips neither has he given indications to suggest where he might likely pander.
At a parley with Journalists recently at the state house, Suswam gave an indication that he was not in haste in deciding a successor when he said he would wait till the end of the year before engineering a selection process for his successor.
"The zoning of governorship is something that I as an individual cannot sit down here and tell you that governorship of Benue State is going here or there. But what we normally do is that people will contest. When I contested people contested from all the zones, but when we sat down as a party; that is within the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party), it was decided that this governorship will go to this place. At this point, it is premature for me to say.
“So, any person that wants to contest from any zone should go ahead and contest, we have people from Zone C, from Zone B and from zone A- all contesting. I believe that when Senator Akume contested, it was the same thing; when I contested it was the same thing and it cannot be different now. But when we will sit down at the end of the day, we will decide where it is going to go.
“There should be no controversies about that. I know there are anxieties in some certain quarters. But I think within the PDP, I don’t know about other smaller parties joining up to have some strength. But within the stronger political party called PDP, we have a system that we use in arriving at that,” he said.
Analysts believed that the governor would maintain this position until the wee hour as any attempt to handpick or anoint anyone would cause a gang-up which may lead to exodus from the PDP to other political parties.
Besides, observers reckon it might be correct to assume that the governor could not go alone in deciding the choice of successor as he would involve other stakeholders in the state to help him find a suitable successor that appeals to all tendencies. This thinking was given credence recently when the governor inaugurated an elders committee of the PDP whom sources said might be handed the responsibility to design a succession process.
Headed by Dr Iyorchia Ayu, a former Minister of Interior, there are indications that with the committee, the process of selecting who succeeds Suswam may have begun, albeit quietly.
Although Suswam is believed not to have ordained any of his friends, there is an ongoing propaganda by some of the aspirants that the governor has anointed them as successor, a position that a source close to Suswam has denied.
The source said the governor has not ordained any aspirant and may not likely do so but at the same time will not stop anyone who wants to contest. Another source told THISDAY that the governor is in a dilemma of choice of successor as some of the aspirants are particularly close to his government.
He said even if the governor has not anointed any choice aspirant, one thing the governor knows for sure is those he will not support their ambition.
The governor, observers believed, is very careful not to hand over to a successor that may turn against him and rubbish the successes of his administration, a situation that is reminiscent of the usual bad blood between a bitter predecessor and his successor.
However, beyond the facade of the dilemma of choice, there are beliefs that the governor might be considering the likes of former Minister of State for Niger Delta, Dr. Sam Ode; Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Dr Samuel Ortom; Permanent Secretary, Government House Administration, Dr Tivlumum Nyitsea; Permanent Secretary, Internal Affairs, Dr Hinga Biam; former speaker of the state House of Assembly, Prince Terhemem Tarzoor; Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on FCT, Barrister Emmanuel Jime; Commisioner for Lands Mr. John Tondo; Proffesor David Ker and his deputy, Chief Steven Lawani, if the latter shows interest as he is yet to do so.
Interestingly, these are some of the aspirants who are believed to share very strong ties with the governor, with some of them having his trust in addition.
But in deciding who will succeed him, the governor, according to a PDP member, Patrick Ocheme, will consider other factors beyond mere friendship.
“We expect the governor to look into age factor, experience, exposure, education, character and humility. Many of them lack some of these qualities and some of these qualities have become a tradition. For instance, in the state, successors have always been younger than their predecessors while all the past civilian governors of the state possess very high educational qualification,” he noted.
But the question on the lips of many observers is: will Suswam jettison the tradition and go for anybody of his choice?
Again, it is believed that the dilemma the governor has found himself might be lighten up if some of the agitators compromise their stand for other elective and appointive positions.
Importantly, the zoning of the governorship, observers believe may also aid in resolving the somewhat difficult equation. Of course, the PDP is yet to decide where to zone the governorship position but a quick decision, observers contend, will help in putting paid to the simmering and tense situation in Benue State.