By James Ibechi
Unless there is any unforeseen hiccup in the move by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to grill the ex-Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State, he must by now be standing before the anti-graft agents, answering questions over allegations that range from abuse of office, fraud, diversion of public funds to embezzlement.
The allegations are similar to the ones on which basis certain indigenous organization had earlier petitioned the EFCC against the former governor while he was still enjoying the soapbox.
Unfortunately, the petition did not see the light of day, perhaps because the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership of Nigeria of the time was not interested in any of such probes, especially as it had to do with any public officer who was in the PDP family.
However, as it were, the author of that petition must have sensed clearly and acted on the belief that the present regime of change, which is out to do it differently would act on the petition.
It, therefore, dusted it — and according to a recent report on benue.com.ng — the group re-filed the petition to the EFCC on the same allegations bordering financial malfeasances, which it brought against the former governor.
It is on related grounds that Governor Samuel Ortom constituted probe panels for the ongoing probe of Suswam-led administration.
From the get-go, Suswam was not indifferent to the government’s move to probe him as he had once boasted that he was not afraid of probe, which could go to mean that he was not corrupt. Or so it seemed. His only caveat, however, was that, any such probe by Governor Ortom must not be limited to his stewardship.
Suswam wanted Governor Ortom’s dragnet to be extended to George Akume in the spirit of balanced probe and in fairness to him. But if he had earlier denied having his hands steeped in deep sleaze and nearly strangled the poor food basket state, for which he is standing probe today both in the state and at the EFCC, this is where he has put his head in the parapet.
For, in a tone that is suggestive of guilt and self-pity, the ex-governor was reported to have said that the ongoing probe of his administration was a bad precedent being set by Governor Ortom because, when he, Suswam, came in he met similar issues by Akume but swept them under the carpet and instead of probing Akume he decided to tread the path of amicable resolution.
According to him, he did not probe Akume and as such Ortom should, in like manner, not probe him. Such is the argument by a supposed PhD holder, ex-federal lawmaker, and a two-time governor of a state well respected for the educational status of its indigenes.
But the issue is this, a former governor who is not afraid of probe, how has he suddenly become averse to it, to the effect that he is making vehement moves to stop the Ortom-constituted panels that are set up to expose the enormity of his sleaze by which he and his party the PDP put the state on fire?
In his move to either frustrate or downrightly stop the probe, a number of activities pointing toward this end has been ongoing in the wake of the probe.
First, Suswam has gone to court seeking an injunction to stop the probe of his administration. Number two, sponsored-like groups have been orchestrating protests against the probe. Besides all these, Suswam has himself berated Ortom severally over the probe.
But one wonders at all this dance of shame. The thing is, if you have accepted that you’ve stolen Benue money, allegation for which you have come under probe, why not quietly return the loot, show contrition or remorse openly; beg Benue people and God for forgiveness. I am sure Benue people have forgiving hearts. Bygone may be bygone.
At least, nobody may insist on you atoning for the blood of the innocent suffering teachers that died, starved, due to non-payment of their salaries during your administration.
Conversely, if you think you have nothing beneath your sleeves, why don’t you allow the probe panel to take its course and whenever you are summoned to go and defend your self, appear and prove your innocence. It is as simple as that.
Yet, this seems not to be the case, in one breath you are not afraid of probe, and at another turn you must not allow the probe to be.
Are all these not the characteristics of the former administration which was mired in doublespeak, deceit, inconsistency, lies, deliberate creation of poverty for the people, wickedness and what have you, which must have a limit in the new day?
For proper understanding of the situation, Benue people and not Ortom as governor, want the probe. Anything short of it would prone the governor to impeachment.
Benue people have suffered retrogression in the hands of their leaders for long that they must get it right this time or never.