Leadership (Abuja)

25 January 2013

Nigeria: When Unicef Honoured Suswam

opinion

Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam was recently honoured at the Atlanta city hall, Buckhead Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America with an award from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in recognition of his administration's efforts to the provision of clean water and enhancing healthcare delivery in the state in an event that was put together by the Marthin Luther King Foundation to celebrate world leaders not necessarily in politics but those that have contributed in no small measure towards making the universe a safe destination for life.

The UNICEF award is unique and it is a kind of validation or quality assurance for the other awards that the Benue state governor has won in recent time. I said different because we live in a country where the values of awards have been eroded because of the circumstances that surround some awards.

People are aware that some awards or recognitions are money-making ventures cobbled together by those who are interested in extorting money from people who ordinarily are undeserving of recognition. But only someone who does not know the antecedent and history of UNICEF will dismiss this latest recognition of Suswam as just another sham.

This is the major reason why when I saw the argument of the Benue State Chapter of the Action Congress of Nigeria I was tempted to react not because of their penchant for unguided criticism of the Suswam's administration as an occupation but their insincerity and desperate attempt to reject every good thing that comes to Benue State.

The statements credited to Mr. Abba Yaro on this award shows clearly that either the captain of the ship is on a suicide mission or something must be definitely wrong with the entire cabin and it's crew on board. I dare to say that there should be a limit to their guerrilla campaign of calumny against the good people of Benue State especially before the international community and those not at home with their desperate tactics.

For the avoidance of doubt and the benefit of those like my compatriots who do not know the difference between awards given by paid students' union excos and okada riders association. I wish to chronicle it properly as follows; The award was presented to Suswam by no less a personality than the chairman of the TeachUNICEF Board in Atlanta, Dr. Sam Cheibiri, a professor of Economic Development in Africa at the Emory University, Atlanta and was witnessed by a leading member of the Black congressional caucus from Atlanta, Senator Denzallo James.

This thus lends credibility to the quality of the award and what it is meant to achieve. The award is even more gratifying as the event saw several commitments made to a relationship that would benefit Benue State in the long run. The Emory University has already expressed the willingness to partner with Benue State in other areas to improve the wellbeing of the people of that state.

Having been awarded to five other governors previously, Governor Suswam joining the list has further confirmed a relationship that is geared towards strengthening ties between the United States and Nigeria and Africa by extension.

The ceremony in Atlanta took place on a global level away from the grassroots where the governor's administration impacted lives and it is therefore important to know for a certainty how Suswam's administration has affected the people of the state in real terms. The facts on ground in Benue State attest to the desirability of the award for Suswam who has made the provision of quality healthcare a goal he pursued until there are visible result.

His approach in delivering healthcare to the people of Benue State is multi-pronged with the result that there was a noticeable reduction in maternal and infant mortality because health facilities are able to provide timely intervention. The provision of insecticide treated nets saw to it that malaria, a leading cause of deaths in this part of the world, was brought under control in Benue State.

True to the multi-pronged approach the insecticide treated mosquito net is backed up with the availability of free and highly subsidized malaria drugs in government hospitals. His administration ensured that health and medical facilities were renovated and subsequently equipped and stocked with needed medical supplies and consumables. This intervention in the health sector was spread across the state - urban and rural places alike - there is thus no unnecessary pressure on the revamped health facilities. Presently, each local government area in the state has at least one standard secondary health center.

His administration also completed the ultra-modern Benue State University Teaching Hospital which has the mandate for tertiary health care delivery.

Since coming to the helms of affairs of Benue State as governor, Suswam has instituted projects to provide potable water through projects like the Greater Makurdi Water Works, Otobi Water Project and the Katsina-Ala Water Supply Project. There are also the mini water supply projects in Anyiin, Otukpa in addition to the several boreholes; some estimates put the number of boreholes at more than 500 distributed in the several rural communities of Benue State.

Suswam is no stranger to awards and recognition to his hard work. Just last year, he similarly bagged the National Honours Awards as he was awarded the Commander of the Order of Niger (CON) in realization of his contributions to the nation.

Suswam's many other honour and awards include Thisday Best Governor of the Year in Infrastructure and Fiscal Management 2009; Sardauna Award as Best Governor of the Year 2008 on Infrastructure. In 2009, he again won the Sardauna Best Governor of the Year for Rural Development in addition to the Socrates International Award for Good Leadership by the Euro Assembly, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2009.

He was also conferred with the University of Lagos Alumni Award for Excellence 2009; Merit Award of the Nigeria Foundation, Houston, Texas, USA 2009; President's Merit, Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE),Grand Patron of the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) 2009.

As with any good thing, there are bound to be critics and Suswam's most recent award, the Martin Luther King Award 2013 is no exception. People will talk and fortunately freedom of expression is guaranteed for all Nigerians. Those kicking against this latest award can do themselves the favour of seeing the good things that could come with the motivation that such honour would further give a man who is already working hard to improve the lot of his people.

-Agbese is a public affairs analyst

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