Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom , through his media aide, Mr Tahav
Agerzua has replied former Governor Gabriel Suswam’s press statement in
a war of words that dates back to last year December.
In the evening of Thursday, October 29th, 2015, the immediate past
governor of Benue State, Rt Hon Dr Gabriel Torwua Suswam published a
press statement which he personally signed.
He claimed that he was responding to incessant ” attacks ” by Samuel
Ortom’s APC-led government in Benue State. Dr. Suswam stressed that the
office of the Special Adviser on Media and ICT had “dished out malicious
and demeaning statements on his person in the media while Government
House has devised desperate means to smear his name before the
unsuspecting Benue people.”
Let us state that at no time did Government House or our office set out
to accomplish the objectives which Dr Suswam listed above.
We responded in the most courteous manner to issues which the former
Governor raised in an interview published in several dailies. If he
considered the reaction to the interview he granted as disrespect on his
person, this is unfortunate. We neither raised any private issue nor
demeaned his person even as the Ortom administration does not subscribe
to such conduct. In our opinion, those who make public utterances should
not consider responses as censure or insult.
Moreover, as public media managers our office demands responses to such
utterances with decorum and civility and that is what we did.
Let us remind the former Governor that as an experienced politician who
has been in the game for over thirty years, Governor Ortom knows why he
is in Government House and why the PDP under his, Dr Suswam’s,
leadership was booted out.
But we agree with the former Governor that it was not a crime for him to
have accused the state government for being responsible for the
petition against him at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,
EFCC, Abuja. We don’t think that it was also a crime for us to have
denied that claim because it was as unfounded as it was false.
We dare say it was even preemptive. Time will surely come when the Ortom
administration, armed with a compendium of the financial transactions
by the last administration which shortchanged the people, will approach
the commission and similar bodies such as the Independent Corrupt
Practices Commission, ICPC, and also initiate criminal proceedings to
recover any looted funds and property. The people of the state who voted
Ortom into office so demand and on that and their other aspirations he
This is nothing personal. It is not an insult on any person but rather
the discharge of a responsibility required by our mandate.
It is not exactly true that the former Governor has been silent since
leaving office. His shadow has always been cast on sponsored articles,
interviews and attacks on the Ortom administration through his dedicated
supporters. Moreover, in the write up to which we are responding, he
subscribed to condescending terms, ascribing to himself attributes of
deity and those who challenge his actions as irreverent supplicants. And
any attempt to question his supremacy is regarded as lack of respect
and insult. It might serve a useful purpose to be reminded that our acts
are rooted both in the electorate’s request to know the exact state of
affairs as well as our rights as Benue citizens who are stakeholders .On
this note, the reference to Mr. Mike Iordye, a former Head of Service
Committee’s work as a hatchet job is most uncouth and uncharitable.
With regard to former Governor Gabriel Suswam’s claim that since the
creation of Benue State, he was the first Chief Executive to have
formally passed on to a successor hand over notes containing hardcore
records and figures, this is my observation. Of the sixteen Chief
Executives of the state, only five have been democratically elected and
only two, Akume and Suswam, have had the privilege of handing over to
successors since former Governor’s Aper Aku and Rev Fr. Moses Adasu’s
tenures were truncated by military take overs.
Between the two former governors, Senator Akume and Dr Suswam, who can
we say handed over more properly? We remember one who chose, groomed and
installed a successor, attended his swearing-in ceremony, walked with
him from Satos roundabout to Government House and presented him with
handover notes. The other groped from pillar to post, failed to identify
his successor, let alone grooming and installing him. His achievements
however, included handing over a mountain heap of paper work on May 28,
2015 and soon after taking flight. The later was also conspicuously
absent at his successor’s swearing-in ceremony.
While we do not dispute that the transition committee worked jointly on
the inauguration ceremony, there was no collaboration on the compilation
of government financial records especially with regard to the income,
expenditure and debts, between the outgoing and the incoming
administration and that was the point we had stressed.
Your Excellency sir, when Governor Ortom paid a courtesy call on you, he
did not compel you and you did not run away. But no one saw you on the
day of his inauguration. Yes, you conducted him round the Government
House and gave him and his deputy Special Utility Vehicles which you
bought for them. But sir, you probably did not know that the people were
so angry with this gesture and Governor Ortom and his deputy’s
acceptance of the vehicles on account of the hardship you inflicted upon
them, so much that if they had the opportunity they could have stoned
all of you and the so called special utility vehicles. In fact, we had
the task of writing to pacify them by explaining that it was part of the
democratic culture for the outgoing to make provision for the incoming
and that precedence had been set by what your predecessor did to you as
well as what outgoing President Jonathan did to incoming President
Buhari by giving him accommodation at the Defence House as well as
providing vehicles and an air craft for him.
As to whether facilities at the Governor’s Lodges in Abuja and Makurdi
were vandalised or not, we may leave that to our conscience or the
assets verification committee.
Your Excellency sir, you contradicted yourself in your attempt to
distinguish between the reception you gave Governor Ortom and that
between you and your predecessor, Senator George Akume.
“I on my part did not receive any such warm and supporting welcome from my predecessor, George Akume,” you submitted.
But a flashback to your inaugural address on May 29, 2007 does not paint
the type of hostility you now want the world to know that former
Governor Akume gave you.
“Let me appreciate very sincerely our leader; the outgoing Governor of
Benue State, Senator Dr. George Igbegbe Akume Jugu Dajoh. He has been a
wonderful leader, father, brother and uncle to us all. He means very
well for Benue. Throughout the eight years of his tenure, he took very
giant strides and exhibited, love, care, humility and generosity, not
before known by the people of the state. He took very giant strides in
the development of Benue state as seen in such projects as the
construction of the faculty of Health Sciences, the BSU Teaching
Hospital, the various industries and many others too numerous to mention
here. I want to assure you sir, that I shall pursue the completion of
these laudable projects. Your cherished virtues will also not be
Similarly, if honor and integrity meant anything to you it would have
been for you to acknowledge that the last minute appointments you made
for thousands without due process and which you sometimes backdated were
done in bad faith. Your determination to install your brother as First
Chief in flagrant disregard of the law and due process was one of your
last minute manouvres that have ended in shame.
It is now clear that you negotiated the current minimum wage of the
state to score cheap political points with no clear idea of where to
source for its funding. The industrial crises that engulfed the state
during your time in office and which the Ortom administration has had to
face since inception affirms this position.
Now over 300 of your political appointees have benefitted from the
bailout funds currently being paid workers as arrears of salaries. This
we think is what you as a former governor should not wish for your
Sir, it is on record that Governor Ortom’s administration has not
recruited any fresh persons into the civil service since May 29. This is
because as a government which believes in diligence and prudent
management of resources of the state, this administration is taking
steps to improve the revenue fortunes of Benue before making new
recruitments where necessary.
You may wish to know that the people are aware of that despite your
administration’s inability to pay salaries, you embarked on wanton
recruitment of people into the state civil service without any plan of
where their wages would come.
We want to also believe that you did not take a second look at your
write-up before it was released to the public. If indeed you did and
allowed the following statement to go into print, we would also let
Benue people to read it again and draw their conclusions:
“The truth is that the law is supreme and those workers who were so
unlawfully sacked and who have gone to court will certainly get justice
and then this administration which is so bent on manipulating virtually
everything will have to deal with the attendant consequences which in
this case would surely include an over-bloated workforce.’’
Really? So the whole essence of the last minute recruitments carried out
by the outgoing Suswam administration was to make the Ortom
administration suffer the burden of an over-bloated workforce? I think
we are gradually getting to the truth. The former Governor has already
passed judgment on the court case, as seen in the quote above.
If we were Dr Gabriel Suswam, we would have written differently.
Your Excellency sir, you stated in this your most recent write up that
you left a debt profile of only N9.7 billion. May we remind you that you
did not state that in the address you read on the eve of your
“On the whole, a total of N6,834,053,397.51 is outstanding on the bond
issue, the balance of which will be exited by 16th May 2016 based on the
monthly repayments structure from the Federation Account Allocation
deductions. On the other hand, our exposure to commercial bank loans at
the moment stands at 2,510,836,875.21. This brings out total
indebtedness to 9,344,890,273.00.”
Sir which do we believe? N9.3 billion in the hand-over address on the
eve of your flight from the country or N9.7billion in the current write
We remember that you mentioned owing several months of salary arrears
and pensions in that speech but you did not attach any figures to them.
You did not mention the financial implications of any contractual or
other obligations. You will therefore agree with me that no joint
transition committee had worked on the debt profile of the state, hence
you arrived at the figures you gave and the need for the Ortom
administration to verify them. This has accounted for the bit by bit
disclosure as records were being uncovered.
You may have thought that you were being clever by listing only bonds
and commercial loans as the debt profile of the state. But when you
leave behind unpaid salaries, retirement benefits and other obligations,
the name you give to such, if not debts, is that between half a dozen
Sir, you asked of statutory allocations for May and June and LNG
receipts. Have you forgotten the revolving loan you took that swallowed a
larger percentage of all these? The Ortom administration managed what
was left frugally and was able set aside funds for critical projects and
services which are ongoing at the moment. These include the renovation
of the School of Nursing and Midwifery for re-accreditation, resumption
of work at Daudu Gbajimba road, completion of the Assembly Complex and
part payment of the contractor for resumption of water supply in Otukpo
and Katsina-Ala towns.
If we were in your position, we would not be talking so soon when
someone is trying to clean the mess we left behind. But we are not
surprised because you have no regards for the people of the state who
have been so magnanimous to you over time.
If were the ones under the searchlight we would have used the
opportunity to disclose to the people what happened to their shares in
BCC and Julius Berger as well as other firms, how we utilised SURE-P
funds and such things. We would have used the opportunity to also tell
the people what we did with excess crude oil resources that were sent to
the state in abundance.
On the issue of loans and salaries, the Ortom administration has refused
to be distracted by the ingratitude shown it by its predecessors for
rising to meet the challenge of cleaning the mess it met on May 29. This
is service to the people. Since its inception, this administration has
not withheld any information about its handling of resources of the
state. The N10 billion loan and its expenditure on two months salaries
(May and June) was explained, same as the NLNG funds which were added to
the federal allocation and used for subsequent salaries and overheads
to MDAs. The current wage bill of the state including overheads stands
at over N3.7 billion monthly.
Our former Governor sir, let us remind you that your profligacy brought
the state to its current situation and it cannot be a matter of pride
for you to forget so soon. With regard to the quote you fabricated and
in which you made an attribution to Governor Ortom as having referred to
the APC as the “Aggrieved Politicians Congress, APC,” only you and your
collaborator, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav who are the framers know your
source. You can provide neither context nor complete text from which
that quote was lifted.
Our former Governor sir, the people of Benue State know both you and
Ortom so well and no amount of fabrication you bring can stand the test
of proof just as your claim that you have at your fingertips all dirty
and underhand deals so far perpetrated by this administration, is at
best a threat to shield you from investigation. Please do not hesitate,
publish and broadcast as much as you can as no one is afraid of your
For the time being, you might do well to reflect on why you lost your
senatorial bid and the bid to install a successor and also lost
credibility having squandered the goodwill of the people.
If we were you, this would be a time for reflection, repentance, and restitution.