“You may have beautiful plans but if you’re not prepared for the responsibility and don’t have the courage of your convictions, you can’t get them implemented.”
Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue State, Emmanuel Jime, speaks on his plans for the people of the state if elected as governor in 2019. He also bares his mind on other issues.
READ ALSO: No rift between Akume and I, says Jime
We hear there is a sour relationship between you and the leader of your party in the state, what is the true position?
There’s nothing about the story that’s true. You have to keep in mind that we are in a political environment where stirring up controversy in the minds of our leaders is a favourable past time of some people around here. If there isn’t controversy, quite a number of people are going to go back to their bedrooms hungry. So, when you stir controversy, there are people who benefit from it. Now, I believe that for there to be proper governance in the state, it is important that whoever will serve as leaders need to carry others along, working together and drawing from each other’s experiences and getting advice where it is necessary to be advised. People forget so soon that Senator Akume was governor of this state for eight years and there must be something about someone who has been governor for eight years in terms of the advice that you can get from them, sometimes maybe in the area of the mistakes that they may have made in the past. They are better equipped to give sufficient information about certain errors that may have been committed in the past in order to assist you so that you can avoid those errors and of course, become better governor yourself.
So, the relationship that I enjoy with Senator Akume is one that is rooted in the fact that having been governor himself for eight years, it was important for me and indeed important for anybody who aspires for leadership that you accord those who have passed through the system before you the respect that they deserve and seek their advice and opinion where and when you deem it necessary. So far, I have had no cause to believe that Senator Akume does not mean well for the state. So, I have a very good relationship with Akume and those who wish that there should be friction peddling such rumour should look for other things to do. There is certainly nothing about that story that is true and from my perspective; I have a good relationship not only with Senator Akume but also with all the past governors of the state. And I can tell you quite frankly that when I get to the office next year, I probably will be having a very good relationship with Samuel Ortom as well because I think that my style is to be able to learn from the mistakes of the past and to be able to do that, there’s need to have a good relationship with those who have occupied that position which I aspire to occupy.
What difference will you make if elected as governor?
Let me just say that what I bring to this particular project to govern Benue State first and foremost is the experience that I have had in public service. Let me remind us that I have served at different levels in public service of our country and our state in particular. I was member of the state House of Assembly, became Speaker and I represented a portion of this state at the federal level for eight years at the legislative arm of that government. Now, I am currently managing one of the most important parastatals of the Federal Government, the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA).That, from my own perspective has given me preparation for this office. I can say with all due modesty that I don’t see any of my predecessors that has the same level of preparation that I have both mentally and physically. For me, that is the starting point. I come into this project with sufficient preparation for the office in a way that I believe most of my predecessors did not have the advantage or the privileged that I have. Secondly, there are a couple of things that I personally find a bit challenging as far as leadership and indeed leadership recruitment in our state is concerned. One; not many of our leaders have had the courage of their convictions. And I think that unless and until you have the courage of your convictions, there is going to be a difficulty in how you meet up with governance.
If you don’t have the courage of your conviction, it means that you can easily get distracted. Now, I am going to bring that as a quality in abundance because I believe that I possess the courage of my convictions and I am one who can be very focused in fighting for what I believe in. Thirdly, you have to also understand that being sincere in leadership is also a very important ingredient. I have served in a number of places like I said and in all of the places that I served; I have kept faith with the people. During my stewardship, I have always done the best to be a true public servant of the people. It’s not going to be any different because I believe that you have to earn the trust of the people that you are providing leadership over. I am not saying that other leaders have not been able to earn the trust of the people but I think it’s fair to say that part of the problems that a number of our leaders seemed to have had in the past is that a lot of people do not just trust them enough. So, that is one of the qualities that we are going to be bringing to bear on our processes. In the current administration for example, there is this particular element that is totally lacking. I am one who doesn’t usually like to criticise people who occupy offices that I am aspiring. But in this case, I think I can make exception to say that with the current leadership, it doesn’t appear to be one leadership that is prepared for the responsibility of governance. And I think the evidence is there for everybody to see. So, we come into this project once again, without meaning to sound like a broken record, with the necessary preparation and qualification for the responsibility of office of governor of the state.
The fact that I owe the people a responsibility to perform because I run a Federal government parastatals, whose responsibility is to assist the Federal Government in managing Nigeria’s economy, makes me to realise that we have to grow the Benue economy in order for us to be able to deliver all the other important indices of governance. For instance, if you don’t grow Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), much of all the beautiful plans that you may have will fail. Yes, I have an interest in making sure that our infrastructure is developed to the level that can carry our economic aspirations. Today, I think it’s fair to say that we can hardly find five kilometres of any motorable roads in our state. That is a sorry state to be in. For instance, in Makurdi, we live on the banks of River Benue, Isn’t it true that our people are still fetching drinking water from streams? That shouldn’t be the case. The last time I checked, the previous administration brought the greater Makurdi Water Works to a point where today, all that is left is reticulation to circulate the water around. The question for me will be why has that not been done? So, this has a lot of impact on our people and I don’t think that much attention has been paid to it.
In summary, I believe you can have all the beautiful plans that are out there from the days of Governor Akume with the Benue Advance Plan and then of course, Suswam had the Our Benue Our Future. Beautiful plans that are out there that all you need do is to dust them up. But you may have had all beautiful plans but if you are not prepared for the responsibility and you don’t have the courage of your convictions, you cannot get them implemented.
Since your candidature enjoys support from Miyetti Allah, will you repeal the anti-open grazing law when you become governor?
Well, first, let me tell you what I think. In this environment where we practice our type of democracy, it is often said that your opponent who is panicky about your victory may decide to distract people from his non performance and fears to focus on petty smearing by making of your name to give the impression that you are simply not who people know you to be. We all know that when a lie is told severally, sometimes, if you are not careful, people tend to begin to believe the lie. So, it’s a terrible lie for anybody to speak of me in those terms that I am being sponsored by Miyetti Allah. But I have heard worse things before. I actually had been told that my mother is Fulani. Again, that is also a lie from the pit of hell. The truth of the matter is that I’m a true born Tiv man and my mother is Tiv as well. And I think Benue knows me very well.
In 2011, when I was a member of the House of Representatives, I was one of the first National Assembly members from Benue who actually put forward the motion on the floor that discussed this issue of Fulani and herdsmen invasion of Tiv land. The records are there and they are verifiable. Thank God we are in the 21st century. Now, if I was discussing Fulani invasion as far back as 2011, shouldn’t that make me one of the strongest advocates for any law that would be put in place to make sure that the Fulani are no longer killing our people? Why would I advocate for a solution and then turn around to work against it seven years later. It’s just simply illogical. It doesn’t even make sense. And tell me, how do you even amend a law? There is a process by which a law is put in place. Thank God we are now in an era where the state Houses of Assembly have been given autonomy; therefore, they are no longer tied to the apron strings of any governor. So, to amend a law, it means that you have to carry the assembly along and it’s a process that we also still have to go back to the people themselves. What is the version of the law that the current administration sent to the Benue State House of Assembly? Do we remember that? Let’s not also forget that when the anti-open grazing bill was sent to the House of Assembly the time, it was an APC controlled state House of Assembly. So, if you brand Jime or his party as a Miyetti Allah party or person against the anti-open grazing law, what were we doing with an APC controlled state assembly passing a law against Fulani invasion?