Thursday, 4 December 2014

Honesty, Teamwork Major Strategies of Suswam’s Political Stability In Benue – Akwaya

Dr. Cletus Terhemba Akwaya is the immediate past special adviser on media and public affairs to Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswam. In this interview with SOLOMON AYADO, this journalist-turned politician, who is angling to represent the people of Vandeikya and Konshisha federal constituency in the House of Representatives gives an insight into why Benue is relatively stable politically and how rapid infrastructural development can be better achieved.

Why did you resign your appointment to run for elective office?      

It may be surprising to people in certain quarters why I could, without any regret and having worked closely with Governor Suswam, resign my appointment to run for election into the Vandeikya and Jerchira federal constituency. It is not for any pecuniary gains but to positively respond to the clarion call from my people to represent them and bring back development to the area.

You served the administration of Governor George Akume before you the present administration in the state. How would you assess the two?

I must say that I am very grateful for this opportunity for me to serve and am grateful to God for the rare privilege given me to serve with my boss, Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State. He is an incredible leader and one with the interest of the people at heart and one that has led Benue State in a very effective manner that has never been done before. Therefore, I can say that serving this administration for eight years, I am most satisfied and proud with the achievements recorded. I say so because I have tried to place the achievements of Governor Suswam viz-a-viz his manifesto as contained in his development blueprint, Our Benue Our Future, which he enunciated in the beginning of his administration. And if you place these achievements alongside the blueprint you will discover that he has surpassed even the target he set for himself, in other areas he has achieved the targets and in few areas he is lagging behind, but on the whole, we can score the administration A which to me is excellent.

Benue under Governor Suswam appears to have achieved a stable political system. As an insider, what are the strategies of the governor that led to this?

To govern a people you do not require much. There are very basic principles of leadership that are needed or required for a leader to perform excellently, one of which is team work; the other is honesty and another is transparency. Governor Suswam works with a team, he believes in the collective aspiration of the people of the state, therefore he works with the elders, with the youths, women, students, religious organizations, faith-based groups and other socio cultural organizations as well. He works with the academia, with labour and even with the media and so he carries everybody along. And in doing so, he does so with honesty, with integrity and with responsibility. So he is not deceptive in his strategies and he does what he says and therefore he governs with integrity.

And this is why the cynicism that greeted this administration which was a carry-on of many years arising from the history of military rule where the ruled learnt not to trust government any longer has now been replaced because anything he promises to do, he does and where he fails and he could not do, it is explained and well understood by the people why those things could not be done. And so the people have come to believe that the governor is someone that does what he says. And then of course, the issue of accountability, not just in the management of financial resources, but also in the dealings with people. Everything he does, he does things methodologically, he does things procedurally and he does things according to the laid down rules and regulations. He is a leader who does not act out of impulse, who does not act out of convenience but who takes a difficult path that cannot be fanciful and may be painful but which may be more enduring and which would at the end of the day produce results that will be good for the wellbeing of everybody. These are the things that have helped him to record some of the tremendous achievements that he has recorded. And this is why some of us who have observed him closely execute his programmes and activities have come to believe in him because we have seen in him a leader that is humble, a leader that is responsible, a leader that has integrity, a leader that is honest and a leader that is transparent in all that he does. I believe this are the principles that have helped him record the numerous achievements that he has recorded.

Of course, conversely, if he was corrupt, if he was a lone ranger as some people would say, if he was not carrying people along, he would have faced a lot of resistance from some people who could have felt left out and he would have been denied the quality support and advice that he gets from the various segments of the society that he carries along and that would have automatically translated to monumental failure on his part. And I believe that the people of Benue State would have rejected him but we thank God that he is a very popular leader, he is loved by the people and this explains why despite the fact that he is going to complete his tenure, the maximum of two terms, the people are still calling on him to serve, to come forward to be entrusted with yet another responsibility, this time to go to the senate to represent the people of the Benue North East senatorial district.

As the people are clamouring for the governor to go to the senate, your people of Jechira are also asking that you represent them at the House of Representatives. Is this a game plan or what?

This is not my personal ambition and I can tell you that the good people of Vandeikya and Konshisha (Jechira) federal constituency have reached out to me asking me to seek election into the seat. And as you know, I have served as special adviser to the governor and a member of the Benue State executive council and so I am fully occupied with the duties and responsibilities bestowed in that office and as you know, as chief spokesman to the governor, I was an extremely busy person and ordinarily would not have gone to seek or stand elections as a way of having an activity or as a way of having employment and or as a way of finding a source of livelihood, far from it, because I have a job that is very responsible and a job that required that I am totally occupied working for the governor as his chief spokesman. Therefore my joining the race for the Vandeikya and Konshisha federal constituency seat is in response to the clarion call from my constituents to represent them in the National Assembly. I think they have seen certain qualities in me which will convince them that I will be a good legislator and a worthy representative of theirs. And that is why the youths, the stakeholders, the women have all repeatedly called on me to run this election and that is why I have accepted the clarion call and I am indeed in the race.

I can say that I had undertaken political and administrative apprenticeship having served as councillor, and having served as commissioner for information in Benue State and having served as special adviser to the governor, media and public affairs, on two consecutive terms and a member of the Benue State executive council. In these positions, I have been able to study the operations of government at close range, I have served across two administrations which exposed me to the inner workings of government and in the process, I have had the privilege of interfacing with government officials at the center and all these experiences have combined to give me the confidence that I will be able to represent my people and that is why I have accepted the call from my people to seek election. If I had no conviction in my capabilities, in my experience, in my training and background I would not have accepted this call. Indeed, there are highly attractive offices that if I am called upon I may decline. For instance, I know I am not cut out to be a military officer so if I am asked to join the military I will tell you am sorry, I cannot be a member of the military and I don’t have the heart to be in the military. If you invite me to assume the throne as a traditional ruler, I will be disappointing you because I do not think I have the orientation to be a traditional ruler. So there are many assignments as important as they may be, there are a lot of leadership positions that I may be called upon and may be begged to serve but I will decline. But this particular assignment and responsibility of representing the people of Vandeikya and Konshisha federal constituency I believe is the one that is within my reach, it is one that is within my area of competence and is one that I believe I can discharge creditably as well.

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