Shock and anxiety pervaded Benue State last Tuesday as the Governor, Dr Gabriel Suswam, escaped death when his convoy was attacked by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
He was on his way to Gbajimba in Guma local council of the state when the incident occurred. The governor was reportedly on a fact-finding mission following the incessant invasion of many communities on the Daudu-Gbajimba road by herdsmen.
His convoy was entangled in a ‘real war’ situation for about an hour during an exchange of gunfire between the bandits and the governor’s security aides.
Governor, Dr Gabriel Suswam, who confirmed the incident, told the victims of the attack in Gbajimba, that the situation was disturbing.
The embattled governor said that people must defend themselves if security operatives failed to do their job.
After the attack in which security men managed to rescue him, Governor, Dr Gabriel Suswam cried out, “I salute each and every one of you for your courage and steadfastness throughout this period. This is beyond the herdsmen; this is a real war.
“On my way to this place, they exchanged gunfire with us for over one hour before we were able to get here.
“My people are being butchered and their homes destroyed. So, if the security agents, especially the military, cannot provide security for us, we would have to defend ourselves.
“I cannot abandon you at this point in time to die. You voted me to provide security for you and that I must do that for you.
“These Fulani are not like the real Fulani’s we used to know. Please return to your homes and defend your land. Do not allow anyone to make you slaves in your homeland. ’’ Suswam’s Director of Press, Dr. Cletus Akwaya, said the attackers killed some people in the sacked villages.
“His Excellency went to the crisis area to look at the level of destruction when he was attacked. Schools in this area have been closed down since the crisis started in 2011.
“The marauders sacked the villages and some of the schools are now being occupied by their cows. They sacked villages in Gwer, Guma-West. Some bodies were recovered from some of these areas without bullet wounds.”
Akwaya added that government officials suspected that the invaders were insurgents who moved into Nigeria from Mali.
His words: “There are suspicions that the marauders may have used chemical weapons. They may be people who moved from Libya to Mali and they are here now. “
What they are doing in the North-East is what they are trying to bring to the North-Central states of Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa. It is not what the state government alone can handle.”
He, however, disclosed that there was no casualty among members of the governor’s convoy.
The attack on Benue governor is coming on the heels of an alleged daring attempt by machete-wielding hoodlums to overrun the Government House, Enugu recently. The invaders said to number about 50, according to Chief Press Secretary to Governor Sullivan Chime, Mr. Chukwudi Achife, struck at about 4.30 a.m.
They were armed with machetes and cutlasses and pushed to force their way into the Lion Building, the abode of successive heads of government of the old Eastern Region, later East Central State, old Anambra State and now Enugu State. Security operatives guarding the complex repelled the hoodlums, Achife said.
One of the invaders was shot dead and three others arrested. A security man was also injured.
Gabriel Torwua Suswam became governor of Benue in May 2007. He ran again successfully in the April 26, 2011 election on PDP platform and won. He was consequently sworn in for a second term on May 29, 2011.
He was born on November 15, 1964 in Anyiin, Logo Local Government Area of Benue State. In 1986, he was admitted into the Law Faculty of the University of Lagos. He obtained an LL.B degree in 1989, and the BL Certificate from the Nigerian Law School, Lagos in 1990. He was called to the Bar that year. He worked for other law firms from 1990 to 1994, while continuing his studies. In 1994, he launched his own law firm.
He ran for office in the House of Representatives in 1999 for the Katsina-Ala/Ukum/Logo Federal Constituency, and was elected on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) platform.
He was appointed chairman of the House Services Committee, and later chairman, House Committee on FCT. He ran again, and was reelected in 2003. On July 3, 2003, he was appointed chairman, House Committee on Appropriation; then in August 2005, he was appointed chairman, House Committee on Power. In April 2007 he was elected Governor of Benue State.
In November 2009, he spoke in favour of automatic reelection of all political office holders who exemplified themselves in the discharge of their responsibilities.
In a separate interview, he said politicking was the major factor militating against the development of the state since its creation. Suswam ran again in the April 26, 2011 election on PDP platform. He scored 590,776 votes to beat runner-up Professor Torkuma Ugba of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, who secured 499,319 votes.