Benue: My plans after Suswam – Lawani, Deputy governor of Benue state

In this interview, the Deputy Governor of
Benue State, Chief Steven Lawani, spoke on
his relationship with Governor Suswam, and
why he has decided to join the race to
succeed him in 2015 and other nagging
issues. Excerpt:
Is it true that you are contesting the 2015
governorship election?
Yes I’m running. In fact about three weeks
ago, before I travelled out of the state, I had
informed the state executive of the People’s
Democratic Party of my intention to put
myself forward to run for the office of
Governor of Benue State.
What is the Governor’s position on your
decision to run?
Well I must tell you that I’ve been to the
Governor, my boss to inform him. I didn’t go
to him for endorsement, I only asked for
permission to allow me consult and he
graciously permitted me. I know that some
people haven’t come out yet. Some of the
people who are going to aspire are still
bidding time. Don’t forget that everything is
still a year from now and in any case, some
people have come out to say that they have
been endorsed by the Governor.
Governor Suswam has not endorsed anyone
to succeed him. How can a man endorse
more than one aspirant at a time?
Permission to consult
But in any case if they say they have been
endorsed, it means they are lucky, but I did
not ask for endorsement, I asked for
permission to consult, which was granted
by my boss.
Would you sustain the legacies of the
Suswam administration or seek to trudge
your own path?
No, I’ve been a member of the Suswam’s
administration. I’ve been largely responsible
for what has gone on in the last six years,
but suffice it to state here that when the
need to continue and carry on with what
we already have, I will continue but when
there is need to make changes I’ll do so.
Other sections of the state aside the Idoma
section of the state are also laying claims
that it is their turn to produce the next
governor of the state. So, how far do you
think you can go?
I think I know where you are heading with
the question, and that has to do with the
issue of tribalism and politics. The issue of
whether I would enjoy the support of other
parts of the state if I pick my party’s
nomination. I think I would. Everything has
its time, seven years ago nobody thought
that a black man would emerge the
President of the USA, but that is the reality
today. We have to start somewhere in Benue
State as in other states where the majority
hold sway.
You were generally expected to run for the
Benue South senatorial seat. So, what
happened to change your mind?
The general opinion has been that this
administration has been largely successful,
and I’ve been part of the team and success
story; and I think that I can continue in the
same vein. Don’t forget that in the last six
years I’ve been playing the number two role
which was purely advisory. But if I have the
chance to be the pilot, I won’t say it would
be something too different; but my
experience in governance would to a large
extent place me on a better stead to
improve on what we have achieved so far.
Despite being older than the governor you
have in the last six years remained loyal to
the governor without any quarrel. What is
the magic?
The magic? I have said it before and I will
say it again. You know that I ran the same
PDP primaries with the governor. He was the
one who won. After which I went back to
my business. But he came calling and asked
that I should come and be his running mate.
I know what it meant to be a deputy
governor. I did not come here to be co-
governor because I was not even elected.
I am a deputy. That is the whole thing. It is
more or less to advise and give your
support. My duty means that I stand for him
when he is not around. He can also delegate
a responsibility to other top functionaries of
government, that is what obtains in other
states. But if he enjoys my trust, then he can
trust me to work with him even when he is
around and when he is not around because
I’m not after his job as obtained in other
states. I am here to deputize for him and
nothing more.

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