By Bemgba Iortyom
A philosopher once said “There is nothing new, except the history you don’t know.”
Those words are quite apt in the present circumstance of Benue State, as the incumbent administration of Gov. Samuel Ortom sets out on a much hyped probe of the Gabriel Suswam administration which it only recently succeeded.
While there may be nothing wrong with an administration probing the activities and stewardship of its predecessor, it is a fact that a probe is quite a serious exercise which ought to be approached in a manner which clearly establishes that the ultimate objective for it is the promotion of the continued good health of the public leadership institution.
The alter-ego of a probe, on the other hand, is a witch-hunt, and while the line distinguishing between the two might be quite thin and hidden to the public on the surface, deeper down, a witch-hunt represents the worst possible form of fraud any administration could perpetrate against society. A witch-hunt provides a smoke-screen for atrocities against perceived opponents and enemies of those in power, even as it creates room for those in authority to dodge the burden of public scrutiny and accountability.
When the Buhari-led coupists usurped the constitutional mandate of Nigerians at the tail-end of 1983 by taking over the reins of political power, they set about in a manner which professed and aspired to some form of public institutional reformism, yet such was ultimately overshadowed by an agenda which qualified more as a witch-hunt than a quest for probity and accountability.
In the particular case of Benue State during that period, the then military administrator, Brigadier Atom Kpera, a Tiv, went about the ‘probe’ of the Aper Aku administration in a manner that has since left indelible marks of infamy and bitterness such as can best be described as nihilist. Atom Kpera’s supposed probe of Aku turned into such an ugly charade that avowed opponents of the deposed governor, such as SJI Akure were put at the head of probe panels and they made no pretence of their mission to rubbish and humiliate the sick Aku as much as they possibly could, in the process of which the regime even took deliberate steps to dismantle his developmental legacy, such as proscribing local government areas created by the administration and closing down industries it had established.
It remains a sad commentary in the annals of our history as a people that a high-powered delegation of the regime, led by Brig. Atom Kpera himself went to the country home of Aku in Ikyobo, in Ushongo to recover public property purportedly looted by the former governor, and the items recovered on that mission included milling stones for grinding pepper, pounding mortars and pestles, as well as steel bunk-beds.
To date, the Atom Kpera era stands as a distinct reference point in the negative culture of our people to work for the downfall of our own who are on the path of progress. This is the culture that has come to be infamously tagged (PHD) ‘Pull Him Syndrome’. I have somewhere heard it referred to as ‘Tiv Nihilism’.
Today, the Ortom administration has launched a publicly professed probe of the Suswam administration, but right from the onset the exercise is replete with palpable signs of a witch-hunt, as the incumbent administration has already seriously undermined its credibility and claim to any upright motives for the probe exercise. Judging by the utterances, both in private and publicly, and conduct of top leaders of the new power order in the state, there appears to be in circulation an over-mastering desire to exact a pound of flesh from the former governor of the state, Gabriel Suswam.
On the day of his formal swearing-in Gov. Ortom had publicly acknowledged inheriting a debt profile of N9.2 billion, which he later curiously adjusted to over N90 billion. Today, the Mike Iordye-led Transition Committee which many view as having a credibility crisis, has racked up yet another debt profile figure of N130 billion. But with two probe panels inaugurated just a few days back, the end may not yet be in sight as to what the state’s debt profile is. Then there are allegation being of the immediate past governor having looted and vandalised government property, even including house-hold items like curtains and kitchen utensil at the Governor’s Lodge. This is in spite of the fact that Suswam built this same lodge from foundation to total completion, of a taste and standard as ranks it among the very best of governor’s lodges in this country.
In the face of these and much more taking place, the ageless truism that “He who comes to equity must come with clean hands” is not lost on the people of this state, as they are already questioning the credentials of many of the probe actors being used by the administration, while to some, the conduct of the administration, especially as regards its expenditure so far of scarce state funds, does not afford it much of a claim to credibility worth being taken seriously about it probe activities.
It is becoming obvious by the day that the Ortom administration which has in the span of just over two months appropriated over N6 billion on purchase of cars and miscellaneous of running government might just be using the probe charade as smoke-screen behind which the actual facts of the state of governance as obtains presently might be too sordid for the governor and his masters to want the people to know.
As Benue people brace up to witness more of the unfolding macabre of a witch-hunt in the name of a probe, it is just history repeating itself all over again in the case of Gabriel Suswam, as it was in the days of Aper Aku. And as the Aku era emerged as an eternally looming epoch in the history of this state, so shall time deal unto the Suswam era its due measure of acclaim and glory on the podium of history. Indeed, there is nothing new except the history you don’t know.
*Iortyom is public affairs analyst