Why Suswam Deserved To Be PDP National Chairman 


By James Uloko 

IN the face of the current biting economic hardship, suffocating investment climate, alarming insecurity and mind-boggling corruption in government, Nigeria needs, more than ever before, a viable and vibrant opposition to make the government sit up and give hope for the future. The governance performance parameters in Nigeria in 2015 when Nigerians, under the propaganda blitzkrieg of the then-opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), voted out the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are not half as damning as they are now.

It is still debatable whether Nigerians were better off in the first nine years of APC’s leadership of Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari than in the 16 years of PDP rule under three different Presidents. What is not arguable, however, is that, since the beginning of the current political dispensation in 1999, Nigerians and businesses have not experienced a worse life than in the first 10 months of the current APC administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Many are pondering the state of the country and their lives in the years ahead. Without a strong opposition at the moment to lead the charge for a change of policies or leadership, the prospects look bleak indeed.

The cheering news, however, is that the PDP has commenced the process of repositioning itself to play the role of an effective opposition party. In the next few months, the party plans to hold its congresses to rebuild its structures from Council Ward to State and Zonal levels, culminating in a National Convention to elect its national leadership. For over a decade now, PDP, once regarded as the biggest party in Africa, has been enmeshed in leadership crises at different levels and loss of national elections occasioned by indiscipline, lack of internal democracy and massive propaganda bombardment by APC. The crises came to a head during the 2023 general elections when five serving governors, elected on its platform, openly campaigned against the party’s presidential candidate. Of course, PDP lost not only the presidential election but also many more seats in the National Assembly as well as the governorship of many states.

In the wake of that dismal electoral performance, its National Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu was removed from office, leaving the party without a substantive head since then and, therefore, too weak to play the role of an effective opposition party. That is the situation the forthcoming congresses and National Convention are meant to redress. 

So far, only two contestants have emerged for the position of National Chairman. They are Hon. Conrad Utaan and Senator Gabriel Suswam, both from Benue State.

Utaan Terhide Conrad who hails from Guma, the home local government area of Samuel Ortom, the immediate past governor of the state, has been in and out of PDP and APC in tandem with Ortom. His best-known public office experience was when he served as the Benue State Coordinator of the Federal Government’s Social Investments Office.

On his part, Senator Gabriel Suswam has remained a core, committed, consistent and loyal PDP member since his election into the House of Representatives in 1999. After serving two terms (eight years) in the House, he was elected as Benue State governor for another two terms of eight years before returning to the National Assembly as a Senator for four years. His 23-year sojourn in the corridors of PDP and government has made him both a party and government establishment person who understands the inner workings of political and government structures at all levels in Nigeria like the palm of his hand. This makes him a clear choice to lead the PDP as the opposition party to the next general election in 2027. 

With such an impressive political resume, Suswam brings a wealth of experience in governance and leadership to the table. But what sets him apart is his proven ability to build bridges across political divides and bring people together towards achieving common goals. Suswam’s political trajectory has earned him accolades far and wide, and for good reason. As the governor of Benue State, Suswam had an impressive outing which earned him the soubriquet, ‘Mr Infrastructure’. He unambiguously improved on all the developmental indices of the state far beyond what he met on the ground.  What was unique about the infrastructure projects he implemented – roads, electricity, hospitals, water, among others –  and his appointments, was their even spread among senatorial districts, federal constituencies, local governments and council wards in the state. This was a reflection of his leadership philosophy of inclusive governance and fair-mindedness, a philosophy that will be of immense value to the party’s national leadership.

Suswam is a highly detribalized politician and leader. A Tiv man married to a Yoruba woman, Deaconess Yemisi Suswam, the former governor makes friends across ethnic and religious lines across the country, an attribute that a national chairman of a big political party like PDP needs to wield different tendencies and groups in the party together. He used his time at the National Assembly and as state governor to build an extensive network of friends among his colleagues from all over the country.

He believes in the power of democracy and the importance of internalizing democratic values within political parties. This will be an asset for PDP, a party that has been struggling with internal division and disorientation in recent times. 

As a media aide to Suswam when he was the governor of Benue State, I can tell for free that his approach to leadership is guided by the principles of fairness, equity and justice. He does not bear grudges against political foes. He keeps his friends and forgives his adversaries sometimes to the chagrin of his arch loyalists. This kind of mindset puts Suswam in good stead to resolve the lingering political crises that have rocked the PDP for over a decade. He is committed to promoting and consolidating internal democracy within the party, ensuring that political contests are anchored on free and fair elections within the confines of the party’s rules and regulations. 

Suswam is a firm believer in a methodical and systematic approach to governance. He thinks that political parties should provide the developmental blueprint for governance based on ideologies and values. This way, the ruling party can align its policies with its manifesto and work towards the actualization of its vision for the country. Nigeria’s history is replete with instances where political parties have come into power without concrete developmental plans beyond their campaign promises. This gap in policy design has resulted in a fire brigade approach to governance. One good example was the casual and abrupt removal of oil subsidies by the current President, Bola Tinubu, long before he formed his cabinet. This initiative did not receive the attention it deserved, leading to a backlash that the government and the people are battling to cope with.

As the only viable opposition party capable of providing credible leadership and a real alternative to Nigerians who are groaning under the disastrous leadership of the current APC administration led by Tinubu, the PDP needs a strong and unifying leader like Suswam to rebuild its past glory and ensure that the wounds of its past are healed through careful and deliberate political re-engineering. It is only then that the PDP can be in a better position to capture power that is now lying hopelessly in the Nigerian political space.


  • Uloko is a former media aide to Suswam public affairs commentator based in Makurdi.


Eighteen-Eleven Media 

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