Senator Emmanuel Bwacha (Taraba South) has been at the Red Chamber of the National Assembly since 2011. In this interview, the former deputy majority leader who is now the governorship candidate of the APC for next year’s elections speaks on a variety of issues, including his bid to wrest power from t he ruling PDP in Taraba. Excerpts:
As a professed born-again politician, what are you now doing differently in the political scene?
Like you rightly said, I am by the grace of God a born again and this experience came into being through a non-denominational ministry- the Holiness Revival Ministry otherwise known as Holiness Revival Worldwide. It has helped me with the full knowledge of what Christianity is.
What I do differently from what I used to do is that I put my trust in God holy because the Bible said blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. What moves man does not move me because I am held by a pillar. So, I have absolute trust in God. What I do differently is that I take everything to the Lord in prayer and I don’t listen to a third party. The voice of man doesn’t shake me. I remember someone asking me why I am not looking like somebody who is contesting an election; meaning I should be tensed up. But I said I enjoy the peace of God because nothing moves me.
You emerged as the APC governorship candidate in Taraba State but since 1999, the PDP has been governing the state. Now that you have moved to the APC, what will you do to wrest power from the PDP?
When you see a party consistently maintains its stronghold in a state, the meaning is that all those who matter are together and the leadership is all-embracing. The person on top is a team player, and it takes good leadership to maintain followership in that wise. But if you have a party maintaining polls in a state where critical players are scattered, then it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to maintain stability and that is the true position in Taraba State.
Anywhere you mention Taraba politics, what comes to mind is the name General TY Danjuma. The belief is that nobody emerges as governor without his support. Are you with him in your quest to become the governor of the state?
Of course, I am with TY Danjuma as well as other political stakeholders across the state. When you have two children looking for food, anyone of them that gets the food is your own. We are all his children so anyone that wins is okay.
There are issues trailing the primary election that produced you. Some are saying there was no primary while others are saying there was. What are you doing to bring back all the aggrieved members, especially the other aspirants?
Actually, that was not unexpected after every election, particularly in third-world countries like Nigeria. Primary elections were held in Taraba State and of course, a number of the aspirants disagreed with the results. Even where aspirants agree with the results, you owe it a duty to visit them and seek their cooperation. This exactly is what I am doing. So, it is the duty of every politician to visit whoever contested an election with him whether they accept the results or not because you need them at the end of the day.
You are planning to become the next governor of Taraba which is relatively underdeveloped. What are you going to bring to the table to turn around the situation of the state?
I agree with you that Taraba is relatively underdeveloped compared to the states created at the same time with it across the nation. This is not unconnected with the kind of leadership we had. I must commend the first leadership we had in the state in 1992 when Governor Nyame came on board. We were actually part of that cabinet that confronted the challenges of finding our foot as a new state or what we inherited from the military. Nyame started in 1992 after the state was created to build a foundation. He faced the challenges of building infrastructure and a couple of other issues and in his own wisdom, he tried remarkably to put some structures in place and the government that was to consolidate on this was short-lived.
In the first four years, we saw remarkable structures; we had the state university, and the airport was constructed. It was actually Nyame’s dream to have an airport. Danbaba Suntai later perfected it. During his first four years, any Taraban will tell you that it witnessed a new rebirth as Jalingo was moved from its glorified stage of a local government to a metropolitan status of a state capital. We were trusting God that in his second round, it would truly define the status of a true state. This is because the indices were there until the unfortunate air crash eventually took his life. Till now, we are grappling with one challenge or the other; poor leadership, a regime built on rumour, which has hampered development substantially.
Again, the level of corruption occasioned by poor leadership is a reccurring decimal since the demise of Governor Suntai and these are things that can always weigh down the development effort of a state.
How are you going to address the issue of insecurity?
The issue of insecurity has become a topical challenge in Taraba and across the nation. Let me first and foremost concede that there are some issues that are staring us in the face that bother on sentiments. These issues are mainly unconnected to religion and tribe to be precise.
The team that I put in place came together as a result of these challenges, we were worried about how to redefine the narrative and restore the glory of the state. At any slightest opportunity, one thing we talk about is religion or tribe and these issues are reflected in the larger Nigerian state. It is not peculiar to Taraba. We believe that as a state, we should be able to address our own challenges.
You used to be close to the current governor Dorius Ishaku; at what point did things fall apart?
Well, we were not really close with Darius. I know him but we were not close per se. I got to know him when our father asked that we support him because it is not in our tradition to disobey our parents. Also, the father of the nation said we should support him so we had to key into that. But along the line, I discovered he was not a team player and was not familiar with the terrain, and when you bring suggestions that will move us forward, he will not implement. To me, this is going to count against all of us. So, shortly after the first four years, I started noticing that something has to be done otherwise all of us will sink and I will not want to sink together with him. This is because he is a professional Architect and I am a politician.
So, I decided to go back and meet the people and that was the beginning of our separation. Shortly before the 2019 election, we were not actually together but I had to apply my heart with wisdom so that he wouldn’t lose the election because my zone was the last to have the shot at the governorship.
The Mambila Hydro Power Project had been in the works for over 40 years and has defied coming to fruition. Being at the National Assembly, what role have you played and if you also become the governor how will you make sure that the project comes to fruition?
We are all aware that the key encumbrance to the Mambila Power project has been the partnership that the federal government went into with the Chinese government to ensure that the project kicks off. Again, we had some hitches from the domestic level which have not seen sufficient commitment. I wouldn’t want to go into all that but what I want to give as assurance is that there would be a renewed zeal and commitment to the Mambila project.
You have been in the National Assembly for many years which makes you a high-ranking member. Can you briefly share with us your experiences over the years?
At some point, it feels like an exhilarating experience and challenging at another point, particularly in the legislature-executive relationship. I said challenging in the sense that people would hardly see or appreciate the internal dynamics as it involves legislation. It is also challenging when you see yourselves churning out laws that will mean well for the people and yet they fail to understand because they’re not there. It is just like a game of football where watchers from outside appear to know better. But as insiders, we had gone through the rigours of choosing what we think is good for the nation or what is good for vested interests.