The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Benue State has vehemently denounced a foreign award conferred on the governor of Benue State, Mr. Gabriel Toruwa Suswam by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center in the United States.
In a statement, the party advised the management of the Center, which is located in Atlanta, Georgia, to withdraw the award immediately. The governor was presented with the award on January 18.
“While ACN has no issues with Governor Suswam receiving a personal award for private endeavors, we feel ashamed, betrayed, and embarrassed by the said award given to him for “meritorious” service to his nation,” the statement said, stressing that Suswam's well-known profligacy ought not to be rewarded by the revered Center.
The party said it was even more appalled that the Center went ahead with the award despite having been promptly alerted about the risk it was taking. It described the conferment of the noble award on an undeserving individual as a betrayal of Dr. King's legacy.
“The organizers of the 2013 MLK Award have robbed the people of Benue State, Nigeria of their right to commemorate the noble memory of Dr. King at this year's remembrance, by not only honoring the plunderer of their commonwealth, but also cheapening the image of Dr. King in an apparently monetized award.”
ACN called on the Center to understand that the good people of Benue State have been shortchanged for the past five years by Suswam’s poor governance and activities that are at total variance with the ideals that Dr. King stood for.
“Governor Gabriel Suswam has totally embraced unbridled violence to achieve his political ambitions, contrary to the non-violence principle that Dr. King promoted and died for,” the statement said.
It pointed out that while the governor celebrated his award with pomp and pageantry at the Hyatt Plaza in Atlanta, for instance, hospitals in Benue State are starved of medication, and teachers’ salaries remain unpaid.
It also said: “Despite the purported commissioning of the water works in Makurdi, Otobi and Katsina-Ala by President Goodluck Jonathan, water is very far from being available to the people because reticulation has not been done. It is therefore, not possible for Governor Suswam to have saved over two million children through the provision of clean water. Most families still depend on other sources of water supply in Benue State for domestic use.”
ACN urged the MLK Center to withdraw the award so as to avoid the impression being created in the minds of Benue people and Nigerians that the legacy of the legendary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has been auctioned to the governor at the cost of their commonwealth.