Governor Gabriel Suswam
Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State has deplored series of disparaging criticisms that have trailed his recent security alarm, which he raised during a church service in Makurdi.
Suswam, who said he was actually misquoted by the media, expressed dismay that despite making a rebuttal, a section of the media and commentators, apparently bent on discrediting him, have continued to latch on to the false reports.
In a statement issued by the governor’s Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Dr. Cletus Akwaya, said Suswam’s mention of Boko Haram sect’s threat to his life was used as another example of the risks which Nigerian leaders face.
Akwaya said the governor actually attended a church service at NKST Church, High Level, Makurdi, the day after the death of then Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State, and five others in a helicopter crash where he spoke in Tiv on the various risks that Nigerian leaders are constantly exposed to.
“As the chief security officer of Benue State, the governor is constantly availed intelligence briefs from the security agencies in the state. His statement on the threat to his life was based on intelligence reports at his disposal and was made in the context of the need for the people of God to remember him in prayers, and not to whip up any religious sentiments and public sympathy as is being insinuated in the media,” he said.
He said the governor’s reference to the unfortunate demise of Governor Yakowa and the fate of Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State, who has been hospitalised following a plane crash, was to drive home the point that anything can happen to anybody at any time, no matter how highly placed, hence the need for prayers.
“It is only natural that the unexpected death of a colleague in a plane crash would bring to mind the reality of the dangers to life which he too faces and which, as a Christian, he believes prayers can ward off,” he said.
The governor’s aide further said any unbiased follower of events in our country in the past few years would know that the Boko Haram militancy has targeted government security agencies like the military, the police, the United Nations Office, as well as media establishments, Muslim and Christian leaders and worship centres.
Akwaya said the security situation in the state had remained relatively stable on account of unbiased leadership exhibited by Suswam.
“Let it be known that Governor Suswam is highly accommodating of other faiths even though he is a devout Christian. It is on record that Governor Suswam, spends millions of naira every year of government funds to sponsor Muslims to the holy pilgrimage in Mecca.
“He stands out as the Governor who has built mosques in the state to enable Muslim adherents practise their faith. The most recent of such was the Makurdi Central Mosque which was commissioned by the Sultan of Sokoto about five months ago. He could, therefore, not have made any statement with any intention to incite Muslim and Christian faithful against each other,” he said.
He said the governor’s worry stemmed from the unfounded accusations, which tended to portray him as an insensitive leader who makes unguarded statements and a religious bigot who is out to seek cheap publicity by making sensational statements.
According to him, the misrepresentation of the governor may have arisen either from the intention of the reporters to cause mischief or from wrong translation or both.
On the religious connotation given to the governor’s remark, Akwaya said Suswam was committed to the continued corporate existence of Nigeria and favours any opportunity for dialogue with Boko Haram group.
“As Vice-Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum for over three years, Suswam has been working tirelessly behind the scene with other stakeholders to address the nation’s security and other challenges and will continue to do so in the interest of the people of this great country
“Even though he is ready to pay whatever price in the service of his country, Governor Suswam will never be intimidated or cowed should there be any form of threat to his life in the course of his service to his fatherland,” he said.