Emmanuel Jime who represents Makurdi/Guma Federal Constituencies in the House of Representatives is the former Speaker of Benue State House of Assembly. He is aspiring to the office of Governor of the state on the platform of All Progressives Congress, APC. In this interview with Henry Iyorkase, he speaks on the performance of President Goodluck Jonathan in the area of security, and the inability of the ruling PDP to enhance the quality of life of Nigerians.
The situation in the state seems to be working to the advantage of the opposition APC; especially the teachers’ strike and workers’ pay cut. How is the APC taking advantage of this for the 2015 polls?
In human nature, the only thing that is permanent is change. I am one of those who truly believe that the idea of change coming to Benue State is indeed an idea whose time has come. My former party (PDP) has been in office for a period of 15 years and would be 16 years in office in 2015. Because of the philosophy of change, even where a party in government has performed very well, the mere fact that that party has been on stage for a very long time is antithetical techno concept of democracy and change. In other words, the concept of change presupposes that the famous saying that the devil that you know is better than the angel that you don’t know, is the reverse order; it is the angel that you don’t know that is better than the devil that you know. There is a reverse order in that theory of change.
When I say change in Benue has come because it is an idea whose time is here, what I am referring to is the fact that it is consistent with the rules of nature that the time has come for new kids to come on board even if for the sheer romance of having new people in office. But I dare say that in the case of Benue, precisely because in nearly 16 years of PDP in power, there is really nothing if we have to be honest to justify the continuation of PDP as a party in office.
Therefore, I believe like most discerning minds in this state that enabling environment is here now that history indeed can be made where for the first time, the opposition is in a very strong position to be able to take over from the ruling party.
As beautiful as that opportunity is for our party, it has now become very necessary that the APC recognises the moment and seizes it. In doing so I believe going forward, it will be important for APC to show very fundamental ways how really different it is as a political party.
It is said there is no difference between PDP and APC. As a former PDP member, what is the dividing line between the ideology of PDP and the APC?
There is every reason why our countrymen must be wary of politicians. There is what I always refer to as trust deficit as far as leadership is concerned. I hasten to say the connection to the reason for this trust deficit is the fact that character is indeed the key requirement for leadership. If one lacks one element, then it goes logically that the ability to earn the trust of the people is also limited to the extent of your lack of character.
When I was a member of the PDP, almost every single thing that I did ran counter to the instructions of the PDP as a party. I remember when I got into the House of Representatives in 2007 where we had instructions from the party leadership to support the emergence of Patricia Eteh as Speaker of the House of Representatives. When Eteh began to show the traits that in my judgement alluded to the fact of lacking in character, I was one of those people who stood on the side of the people against the wishes and instructions of the PDP to work assiduously towards her removal from office.
After that, we now also got another opportunity in 2011 and with all the might, the threats, the intimidation and every amount of pressure that the PDP could bring to bear, again I rose on the floor of the House of Representatives, nominated and got Rt. Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal elected against the wishes of the PDP.
Finally, let me make it clearer about what makes the APC different from the PDP. When we had the two political parties that were created by the military; the SDP and the NRC, I was voted into the state house of assembly on the platform of the SDP. Now the philosophies of the two political parties that were created by the military were that one of the parties was going to be a little to the left and the other, a little to the right. The SDP was a little to the left and the NRC was a little to the right.
There is internal party democracy in APC. The two parties are not the same.
Owing to wrangling in the state APC, there was a mass movement of its chieftains into the PDP; how do you hope your ambition will be actualised under this circumstance?
When I came into APC, first it wasn’t necessarily about actualising an ambition. As I said, I was motivated by the fact that we needed to have another voice as far as the political calculations in Benue State were concerned. Therefore, as far as I am concerned, part of the duty that we owe to the APC and indeed Benue State is to make sure that we galvanise our people and mobilise them sufficiently enough to understand that the power of the ballot actually lies with the people.
In 2011 when the ACN that was less than three months old in Benue State virtually swept the whole of the state, the question I am asking is who were the big names that propelled that kind of revolution that was occurring? Revolutions after all are not really about big names. A revolution is driven by a people who have woken up to the realisation that power belongs to the people and indeed they can take their destinies in their own hands. And that is the message that I think is resonating with our people and they are waking up to that realisation.
The security situation in the country has come under knocks from several quarters. The abduction of the Chibok school girls, killing of prominent Nigerians, among other security issues. What do you think the government of President Jonathan should do?
In all of my life as a young man growing up in this country, to the point where I am presently, I can say without any fear of contradiction that I have never seen the level of gross incompetence that has been on parade with this particular president. Again, I know a lot of people feel that when a nation is confronted with the tragedy of the kind of monumental proportion that we’ve been confronted with, the Boko Haram, that we should be a united people confronting one enemy. I truly understand that sentiment. The greatest responsibility of any government to the people is security and welfare of the people. Today, we all know that if one American; just one, is affected in whatever way, the response that you are going to get from the White House is the kind of response that assures all Americans that they have a government that has proper responsibility for them.
Again I know people who are apologist; if I may use that phrase, will tell you that Nigeria is not America and that there is greater sophistication in the US. I think sometimes I find it laughable when people create and give the impression and the excuse that we are not like the other parts of the world where things happen.