Senator Emmanuel Bwacha is a Senator representing Southern Taraba Senatorial District. During the Yuletide, some journalists approached him to speak his mind on some lingering issues at state and national levels and the Senator agreed to do so. He spoke on security, economy, corruption and some issues bothering on the politics of his state. The interaction took place at his Marraraba country home. Williams Ayooso was there.
In spite of the bad security situation in the state, and while other leaders are running away from their communities, you always create time to come around to stay with your people. What is motivating you to do this?
I want to appreciate the security operatives for the stability of the security situation in Taraba State. The insecurity had reached a frightening point that people got scared to even come home. From the herdsmen attacks, although I disagree that they are herdsmen, there has being an appreciable stability. But from the perspective of criminality, there is no reasonable improvement. There are still criminal elements that are terrorizing people, kidnapping. As I speak with you, the younger brother of a colleague of mine was kidnapped along Jalingo highway; one or two were killed in the process. As I speak with you, he is still in the bush even as the ransom was paid. The person who took the ransom was also held. Criminal elements are still on the rampage. We are trusting God that the state government will intensify efforts, in collaboration with security officials to see how this situation can be addressed.
On the personal note, I cherish staying around my people because they are the source of my power, staying away from them or from him of from he that put up his best to ensure that you are where you are now is not the best calculation of a true politician. I derive pleasure in interacting with my people, from what I hear from the people, in their numbers when they come. It is through them you hear that poverty has reached a crescendo. It is through them that you will understand that there is failure in governance, from the grass roots to the top. This is how I get to know the pulse of the nation. So, this is my staying power.
Mr President has proposed a borrowing plan of 25.6 billion Dollars, and we have had a lot of debts in the past, do you look at it as inimical to the economic prosperity of the country?
You are asking an obvious question. If I say that it is mortgaging the future of our children, I’m only saying the obvious. We know that nations borrow; it is a statement of fact. Even the biggest democracy, they borrow. My biggest worry, when we do not have any option than to borrow is that, this money, is it going to be channeled to the appropriate sector that will touch the lives of Nigerians? There is nothing as suicidal as when a nation borrows and the money ends up in private pockets. You and I are aware that the anti-corruption song that is being sung in the country is only on the lips of Buhari, everyone around him is singing a different song. Corruption has never being felt so bad in the history of our nation than now. So my fear is, when they borrow this money, will it not end up in private pockets? Once you don’t have, we can’t strangulate government. We borrow against hope that things will improve, that is when there is nothing. Indeed we are sliding into precipice because there is nothing on the table and if there is nothing on the table, you borrow to forestall some dangers ahead, but if you are borrowing, how will you utilize the money in such a way that it will revive the moribund economy?
Recently, you bulldozed Southern Taraba with exotic cars for traditional rulers and the interpretation is that you are scaling up your potentials to achieve your ambition of becoming the Governor of Taraba State come 2013. Yesterday you were at the wedding Fatiah of the daughters of the Minister of Power. Looking at the Minister’s political background as an APC chieftain, the interpretation is that you are creating a window of opportunity to decamp to APC. Now, what is your interpretation in the two scenarios?
I want you to understand that any leader that comes to power through the votes of the people owes a duty to return those things that he has gotten to the people. I look at myself as a messenger of the people of Southern Taraba. That is why whatever comes my way; I channel it to the appropriate quarters. If I bought vehicles for traditional rulers, this is not the first time that I’m buying vehicles for traditional rulers. This is not the first that I’m touching the lives of people in my constituency. This sudden interpretation about trying to do something is given me concern. In the first place, if I may ask, am I qualified to be a governor or not? I’m eminently qualified. In developed democracies, I should be thinking of leading Nigeria as a nation and not being the governor of a state. If God decides to make me a governor of Taraba State, I don’t think it is a spectacular promotion. Governors finish their terms and are itching to come to the senate and I’m coming from the Senate to become a governor. How will you describe the scenario? So there is no big deal if I want to become the Governor. After all, I demoted myself. I’m a principal officer of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, if my people want me to be the governor, I will first of all seek the face of God. I will say God, have you allowed me to go? And if God says go. I will do just that. But let me tell you that the goodwill I extend to my people, there is no strings attached. I worked with the pulse of my people and as I told you, I’m somebody who likes sharing what I have with my people.
I don’t know why they concentrated on the vehicles. We shared many other things, and we are sharing scholarships next tomorrow to over 260 students across the zones, students in tertiary institutions. We do this every year since 2011. I started the foundation in 2003. It subsisted until 2007 when I was running litigation on the election I contested. That is why the scheme was suspended. When I came back in 2011, we have been running the scheme every year. For this year, it’s going to cover about 268 students. So if it pleases God that I should be the Governor, I have no problem with that.
As it regards my presence in the wedding of the Minister of Power’s children, I wish to say that in my kind of politics, I try as much as possible to eschew bitterness. By the way, is there truly party difference in the Nigeria scenario? Take a look at the members of the political parties, those in APC and PDP. In the entire APC, it is only President Buhari, all of them were PDP members. I said this while I was sitting with the minister. He is not quite a visible politician, but I understand that he has some connections with President Buhari. He is actually not a migrant to the APC. But APC is populated largely by PDP mebers. It was a project to defeat President Jonathan. That was what brought them together, strange bed fellows. Most of them are all political tourists in both sides of the party. So it does not stop us from establishing friendship and building bridges across board, because the political parties are not premised on ideology.
What is your take on the crisis in the Taraba State House of Assembly, where the Deputy Speaker, who served for about four years, was impeached for incompetence and in a quick succession, the Speaker resigned to pave way for a new House leadership, is it a good omen for Taraba politics?
I’m not seriously involved in local politics in Jalingo, but our dream for every parliament is a parliament that is independent, a parliament that is not a branch of the executive. That is the basis for which a parliament exists. Democracy is built on the tripod of Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary. Both of them exist independently of the other. That is why in the USA, the Attorney General cannot be cowed by the President. All these things are for us to learn from the democratic system of governance that we borrow from. So when you see a parliament being pocketed by the federal or state government, it is actually not a good development. This has the tendency to thwart development not only in Taraba State but all over the world. As an opposition member in the National Assembly, I always insist that the parliament should be independent. I don’t know what transpired there in Taraba State House of Assembly. I haven’t listened to both sides of the divide. As a lawyer, I know the significance of fair hearing. Of course I spoke with one or two of the members, but I haven’t gotten the chance to discuss with the Governor. May be when I speak with him, I will understand the truth about what transpired in the House.
The former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo was quoted recently to have said that Nigeria is sinking in the way and manner the country is being ruled, especially in the area of corruption, what can you say about this?
The former president has his own facts and views, but as far as war against corruption is concern, I have my own view. On whether Nigeria is sinking or not, I believe that God loves Nigeria with an everlasting love. Let me not take you to another spiritual excursion. But I want you to know that no one can destroy Nigeria. And anyone who tries to do that, the judgment of God will descend against him. I know that Nigeria is facing a trying moment. Never before in the history of Nigeria, had we have it as worrisome as is the situation now, exposing our religious, tribal and sectional boundaries. It is not a good development for people who lived together and worked together. Ironically, when it comes to stealing the common wealth, these boundaries disappear; you see Muslims and Christians working together to steal, after that, they come out to divide the people, just for their personal interest. This is truly sad. But hope is not lost yet. I know that it will be history one day. When the war against corruption started, I look at it as a perfect idea. But some people said why am I supporting this administration, when I know that it is only PDP members that are being held. But I said well, this government is not going to be there forever. When you start a thing and you are truly locking up people, one day you will leave, another people will come and be locking up your people too. If it continues like that, one day you will be in a public office and you will resist the temptation to deep your hands into the public till. That was my take. But I think the waywardness of the battle against corruption has heighten to an embarrassing level, so much that you begin to imagine why it is happening like that. I think the government needs to do more so as to convince people that it is truly in the fight against corruption.
You were a protagonist of power shift to Southern Taraba, Now, are you satisfied with the performance of the Governor Ishaku led administration who is a beneficiary of this arrangement?
I don’t want to share in God’s glory. The God that I serve is a consuming fire. It is the God that made it possible for us to have power shift to the Southern part of Taraba State. Indeed, he used some of us, but it was all his will. And I can bet you that the zeal to begin the rotation from the South has increased geometrically. The reason I don’t know. The people themselves seem to be thinking we need to print our feats on the sand of destiny. Virtually all zones in the state have served up a term. So our people are saying let us begin this zoning from this zone now and go up to the North. What is their reason, I’m still asking. At the fullness of time, they will tell me.
- The military that is on peace keeping in some parts of the state is about withdrawing back to its base on grounds that peace has returned in the state, are you satisfied with the level of peace, especially in the Southern part of the state?
I told you that the peace we are enjoying is the instability associated with the attacks of the herdsmen. That one has ceded remarkably. What we are facing now is largely criminal elements. We need to encourage the police to step up the instrument of community policing, which in itself requires an encouragement of government, because the police is itself a creation of government. If this is done, we may ourselves point out the criminal elements in our mist. Criminality is thriving because of government’s failure to protect lives and property of the citizenry. In this kind of situation, the presence of security is very important. But again, the question of the military in managing internal crisis appears not to be the best practice. In other climes, the presence of soldiers everywhere creates fears in the minds of the people. If you are in the US for example and you see soldiers like this, you will be wondering whether it is a war situation. A lot needs to done so as to tame the tidal wave of criminality in the state.