There is an old English saying that “a cat has nine lives”. This myth is related to cats’ ability to survive in situations that surely would have severely injured other animals.
Simply put, that phrase typically describes the story of Former Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam, who earned for himself, the nickname of “the black cat” or in Tiv language “Kpatuma u ii” for his ability to be invisible amidst adversity, to navigate turbulent and challenging circumstances without a scratch.
Recent events however have put this viewpoint in doubt. Just yesterday, Benue people woke up to the rude shock that Suswam had filed a suit seeking a restraining order against the probe of his administration. Whilst this is well within his constitutional rights, it is quite uncharacteristic of the ex-governor’s bullish antecedents. Is the black cat running out of lives?
The former governor has been a master of the game of politics and a major player in Benue, if not Nigerian politics for the past 16 years. As a rookie in 1999, he contested and won the Katsina-Ala/Ukum/Logo house of Representatives seat under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. After eight years at the green chamber, he coveted and won the gubernatorial elections to become the forth civilian Governor of Benue State.
Suswam made decent strides in his first tenure, but his last four years as governor saw what many have described as the worst period in the history of the state when there was massive looting of the state treasury, blatant diversion of funds allocated for workers salaries, sky-high inflation of contracts awarded to fictitious companies, sale of government companies and shares, just to mention but a few. All these contributed immensely to the outcome of the 2015 general elections, which cast the first doubt over his invisibility status.
Like the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”, Suswam lost his bid to ascend to the upper chamber of the National Assembly and to compound his problems, his anointed gubernatorial candidate, Prince Terhemen Tarzoor also lost to All Progressives Congress, APC candidate, Samuel Ortom whom he openly despised.
Ever since this “change” there have been no love lost between the former Governor and his successor. Governor Ortom amongst other decisions to limit the damage caused by his predecessor has set up various probe panels that are taking their time to unearth the rot that characterised Suswam’s eight years as governor.
Even before the probe panels got to work, the transition committee had discovered that during Suswam’s regime, “rules, regulations and procedures governing the conduct of government business were brazenly set aside. This facilitated the subsequent massive corruption, fraud and naked theft of government funds which took place in the state.” The committee’s investigations showed that the former administration left a debt burden of over N130 billion.
At first, Suswam maintained in his usual bullish manner, that he was not afraid of the multiple probe panels. He said through his media aide, Chief Anawah Joseph that, “Dr. Suswam has no problem with probes. The multiple probe panels limited to his administration is however beyond politics, it is vendetta and witch-hunting.”
But as more facts about his perfidious administration and the financial recklessness that was his hallmark surfaced, Suswam’s bullish stance have gradually, progressively taken a softer, milder, more appealing tone.
His next media statement was one in which he was more or less pleaded for a reprieve from the probe. He said, “On the probe going on in Benue State, it is not that one is afraid but once a precedent is set, it is a double-edge sword. You don’t know whose turn it will be tomorrow, you don’t know tomorrow.
“When I became the governor of Benue State, I met some issues on ground but I resolved it amicably. When there are issues, let us talk about it amicably instead of grandstanding. This remains my approach to life but to go and do grandstanding. I encourage us in Benue to toe the path of peace.”
With more damming facts, came more subtle strategies of averting the probe. Suswam’s next move was to visit Governor Ortom at the dead of the night with a Reverend Father whose presence the ex-governor had requested. Though details of the meeting were not disclosed, it was visible to even the blind that Suswam was unto one of his black cat tricks, but that too failed woefully as the probe panel rather expanded their scope of inquiry.
Now that the odds are stacked against Suswam, his latest move to hijack the probe process through a court order is definitely the “kicking of a dying horse”, Like a cat that has ran out of lives, the ex-governor is clinging to his last glimmer of hope to avoid disgrace which as it stands, seems quite inevitable.
Tersoo Kyaagba contributed this piece from Makurdi, Benue State.