From Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo
Senator Emmanuel Bwacha representing Taraba Southern senatorial zone is the Senate Deputy Minority Leader. In this interview, he spoke on zoning, the prevailing security challenges in Nigeria and other topical national and state issues.
What do you make of the present security situation the country?
Well as you all know, the primary responsibility of any government is the protection of lives and properties of the people. It is only when this is in place that we can move freely, enjoy the provisions of nature and interact freely. But as it stands today in Nigeria, it is very difficult to say that people have a sense of safety. It is fast approaching the zero point irrespective of where you are. We know there are flash points but as it stands today, there is nowhere in Nigeria that you will move freely. In fact, including Abuja which is the nation’s seat of power. We are wondering how we got here. To say that we need to declare state of emergency given the prevailing circumstances as they affect security of lives and property, no Nigerian will object to it because like I said, nobody is safe and that is the greatest right of a man. It is only when you are safe and there is a sense of security that you will live peacefully and begin to talk about rights and all. We have received advisory letters from strategic security apparatus encouraging us to watch our backs. So, the country is in the state of fear if I may choose these words. Our country is gradually sliding to anarchy. In the North West region, it is a near lawless society. The North East is already boiled to a melting point and is gradually taking its tow on other parts of the nation. So, I don’t know where it is safe again. But all hope is not lost because the God that we serve, if I may refer to the scripture in Isaiah chapter 59 that the God that we serve, His hands are not too short to reach out and save us and his ears are not too heavy that he will not listen to us. I want to encourage Nigerians to examine themselves. Some of these things may have some spiritual interpretation or undertones; it depends on how we live. If we live a life of sinfulness, God can decide to judge us. I pray that Nigerians should be sober at this time and begin to look inward for solution. Nothing is impossible with God, for with God, all things are possible.
What is your take on the call for the resignation of the President following deteriorating security situation under his watch?
You see, I don’t belong to the category of politicians who are so interested in making sensational headlines. I am not an alarmist. I have told you that Nigeria needs prayers. God can decide to give you a leader to whip you. If you read your bible very well, when the elders advised Jehoshaphat to listen to the word of wisdom, the Youth came to him and said tell them when they come to you, Juda and Israel that if my father whipped you or chastised you with a whip, I am going to chastise you with scorpion. So sometimes, it is how you are that God will give you a leader to chastise you with weapons, whip or scorpions. So what is good for the goose is good for the gander. It is a two way traffic. It takes two to play Ludo. If you blame a rat for eating the locust beans, then you have to equally blame the locust beans for smelling and sending out its aroma.
Our hands are filled with blood and so how will God be happy with us? From the leader to the lowest, corruption smells in our midst and everybody sees it and knows it but nobody cares to address it. Everybody is guilty.
I woke up this morning and prayed hard for the people in this state. Everything seems to be falling apart. This is not how we used to be, this is not how we started it. This is not the state where we drink together, we eat together, we interact freely previously. This is my day three in the state. I see poverty in the faces of people everywhere. It is something that really calls for prayers. It is an emotional thing. I weep for the state, I weep for the nation. Everything seems to be falling apart and I pray we will heal soon.
The nation is sinking. Naturally, you have to blame leaders including myself because we are the ones in charge. I am also included because Nigeria is sitting on a democratic tripod of the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Executive; so nobody is free. As much as I know that the Executive Arm needs to take the proactive measures, the Legislature too has to make some proactive laws to come up with legislative intervention but unfortunately in the legislature, you will find people who are grandstanding. They stand up to speak but just to please some people who are watching them on Television, no sincerity in their presentations. So, everybody is involved in the mess we have found ourselves in this country and I think we need to examine ourselves.
Where do you stand on the agitation for zoning of 2023 governorship in Taraba?
I am an advocate of zoning in all ramifications. That is why even at the national level, I keep saying that the Southeast have a good case in agitating for the Presidency come 2023. I concede that there is no written document supporting zoning arrangement but that has been the unwritten principle since the return to democracy in 1999. It has been like that and this is how each of the zones in the state has now enjoyed the two term. This is the same arrangement which is subsistent from my zone being the third senatorial district that will serve two terms. Now as it stands like you said, any senatorial district can produce the governor. However, there is this popular doctrine in local communities, what we call adashe, when you take and Mr. B takes and Mr. C takes last, it follows that let that begin with Mr. C because he waited for you patiently; it’s still within the doctrine of zoning, so let nobody deceives you that when it leaves South, it will come back to the North; those are fables, there is no truth in it. The person may be a new comer, let him go and ask those who started this process in the state, some are joining in the afternoon, and they were not there when breakfast was served, so we are telling them that this is how we have been operating. Those of us that thing started with, we are still there; no house that has no landlord, if you are a tenant, please serve out your tenancy and pay your rent or leave the house. This is our position as it concerns leadership in the state.
By the grace of God I have followed the politics of this state from inception. I was involved in the emergence of the first democratic government in 1992. I have followed through the 1999 elections and I was actively involved. I maintain that there is no written document affirming zoning but it is in the heart of every person who is in his senses that we need it to stabilize the polity.
Secondly, we are worried about competence, we don’t want to leave the future of this state in the hands of entrepreneurs. We are working hard to restore the glory of the state, and like I said, it can come from any zone. Whichever zone that pleases God because the whole matter lies in the hands of God. Where it pleases God, it’s fine but for us in the South, we are wishing to begin, since we waited for so long and it ended with us but if it pleases God to do otherwise, who are we to refuse? But never again will we leave the state in the hands of an entrepreneur, a new comer, this is what we are dreading, we are afraid of it like a plague.
As one of the major proponents of power shift to the Southern zone of the state, how will you assess the level of performance, now that one of you has been in the saddle for nearly Six years?
First of all, I will prefer to judge myself so that I won’t be judged. As to those who are in the corridor, the judgment is left for the people, as all of you seated here know us by our record. It will not be in my interest to begin to judge public officers while I am one of them. I want Tarabans to judge by themselves. Our records are there, our activities, antecedents, our exploits in all sectors are there for people to see, all I can say is that I know there are cries all over the state. When I came out in the morning to go out, what I saw in the faces of people, I nearly wept. I have traversed metropolitan Jalingo since I came, I move around, I have heard and seen people, I know that there is a problem in the land. How it came I am yet to decipher, but I know there’s problem and the state needs intervention. So, I pray the lord will give us wisdom, understanding, and knowledge to understand the times like the children of Issac so that we will know what to do.
Are you planning on gunning for the number one seat in the state come 2023?
As a politician who is active, I am very available to serve at any level that I can put smiles on the faces of my people, be it at the state or at the federal level. In developed clans, the United States whose model we’ve copied, mostly get presidential candidates in the Senate. Well I don’t mind, I can take the least to even be the governor. It’s a service to the people and I know that we are looking for it but in all of these, we need to be there in good health and we need the grace of God to be alive that time so that you are not counting your chickens before they are hatched and we don’t build castles in the air. We work with the understanding of the grace of God which has been available to us through the common salvation revealed to us by Jesus of Nazareth.
What is the relationship between Senator Bwacha and the PDP in Taraba State?
First and foremost, I am a foundation member of the Peoples Democratic Party. As events stand today, I am saying this without recourse to self praise, I have not seen anybody at the level of the state which have been in the PDP before me, at least at the level of the state. I am a member of the NEC and like you rightly said, I am by the grace of God a ranking senator in the Nigerian Senate and I sit in the leadership of the Senate. I see my party not in the position to hold the people together in the state, this is a known fact, everybody in the state knows that the party needs to work hard to bring people together. I am not a pretender, I am not a hypocrite, I speak as a believer, I know that the party has problems that need to be solved urgently because as I speak, I told you I have traversed the metropolitan Jalingo and I have heard people speak across the LG complaining bitterly and I intend to convey same to the national secretariat and tell them this party needs to be rescued otherwise; you may not find it the same again because I have heard the people speak and I intend to convey same to the appropriate authorities.
For quite some time, your senatorial district has been under siege of a tribal crises, what do you feel should be done to bring lasting solution to the perennial Tiv/Jukun crisis?
I know that dialogue will be the best option and we are working to see how we can collaborate with our brethren across the border to ensure that this cross border banditry is reduced to minimal. I was with my colleague the senator representing Benue west; Sen. Gabriel Suswam incidentally who was a governor in Benue State and we went to see the various security apparatus to discuss this challenge. As you are aware, this is the worst we have had because since creating this state, it has never been this bad. The inter communal crisis has assumed a very terrible dimension, unprecedented in the annals of history. We are praying and trusting God that the two governors are also encouraged to work together so that they can bring the situation to a halt otherwise, life is becoming so difficult for the people. We know that activities of banditry particularly across the borders of Benue have been transported into Taraba and that is what informed the collaboration between me and my colleague from the other side of Benue, but like I said, it requires active cooperation of the two governors because they are the chief security officers of the various states whether we like it or not as the situation stands now. He that plays his role well will bring peace to his people, he that doesn’t his people will continue to groan in difficulty.