Senator Emmanuel Bwacha
Senator Emmanuel Bwacha is the Senate Committee Chairman on Agriculture and Natural Resources, representing Taraba South district. In this interview with Chuks Okocha, Bwacha gives a graphic account of his visit to Hannover, Germany, where he went to visit the ailing Taraba State Governor, Danbaba Suntai, as well as the recent Ibi crisis in the state. Excerpts:
You just returned from your to visit Governor Suntai and his aides in Germany. Did you get to see them?
Yes I did. Everyone who went to see the governor saw him and his aides.
So, how is the governor doing?
He is doing very well. And I can assure you that he would soon be back to continue the good work he has been doing. And contrary to the rumours, the governor is doing very well. He didn’t sustain any life threatening injury. He doesn’t have any brain damage or spinal cord issue and he is recuperating by the day. In fact, for a plane crash, this is nothing short of a miracle. I know people are apprehensive, worried about him because he is a true leader, a good man.
But they will have to be patient. He would return to continue to do what God has asked him to come and do. So, people should just keep on praying. His aides too are doing great. There was a day we went to see Dasat, the ADC, and he recognised all of us, calling us by name. He was even humorous about it and laughed when we expressed surprise.
As a doctor, can you tell for certain that Suntai would be able to function effectively when he returns?
Of course, he is coming back and very soon too. German doctors don’t lie and when they tell you a thing, better believe it and don’t argue. Like I said, the governor did not suffer any debilitating injury that could render him incapable of discharging his duties. If this were the case, the doctors would have just spilled it out.
What was your encounter with him like?
It was fantastic. I saw God at work. You know, there was a day I sat by his bed and was just silently singing a certain gospel song I like. He was silent all the while, and then he suddenly looked up and smiled at me. Then he said “Amen”. I just started shedding tears of joy. I’ve seen many things in my life but nothing compares to this.
In his absence, the House of Assembly has mandated his Deputy to act… cuts in
That was the right thing to do; it is a constitutional thing. The house exhibited great patriotism and political sagacity in doing what they did. I commend them really. That is the sort of thing Governor Suntai would have encouraged anyway. If you know him, he has always supported his deputy to act whenever he is not around.
So, it is not like this is something strange we are seeing in our state. It is the right thing and from what I have seen, the acting governor is making the most of the situation, given the circumstances and continuing with the good works. In all his broadcast, he has been consisted with the fact that he would continue all the legacies on ground.
Although, he is still hospitalised, how would you rate your governor?
Governor Danbaba Suntai is an astute worker and a silent achiever. If you say he’s taciturn, it is because he believes that his work ought to speak for itself. He detests every form of sycophancy, praise singing and showmanship. I think Nigerians are tired of loud mouthed leaders who talk the talk but don’t ever do the walk. Danbaba is a different breed politician- serious-minded, direct, and kingdom-conscious. Take the last five years for instance, he has transformed Taraba State in a tremendous way. If you take his road expansion effort, you will score him more than a hundred percent. But it is not even his effort in roads, schools, agriculture, solid mineral, tourism and others that endear him to Tarabans. It is his style.
The governor has restored faith in leadership. This is the biggest tribute that we can pay him. He took a state that was adrift and has practically restored decency, accountability and people-centred programs. His emphasis on kingdom politics has also helped us to live better lives. Many of us have really found our way back to God because we listened to him as he weaves the role of the Almighty in everything he does. That is why for some of us, politicians from Taraba, we are more heavenly minded and strive to play this game by conscience.
While you were away, Ibi erupted in crisis. It was Christians fighting Muslims and vice versa. Why this?
I disagree. The Ibi crisis is regrettable and I’m sure we will soon unravel the causes of the skirmish. But I reject the theory that suggests it is wholly a religious crisis. It is impossible to have a religious crisis in that part of the state. Of course, I can relate with the sentiments that because Christians were attacked in churches, so, it would be seen as religious. The truth, though, is that it is a few hoodlums who took advantage of religion to cause the mayhem. All the religions do not teach that we should attack another faith. May be you don’t know but true Muslims would not burn down a church. True Christians would not burn down a mosque.
So, the crisis is only religious to that extent but beyond that, it is some rascals hiding behind religion who unleash mayhem on helpless people. And Taraba has peculiar traits that make a religious crisis impossible. Almost every home in Taraba has both faith. And I know Ibi quite well. They overwhelmingly supported me in my elections. They are peace-loving folks who do a lot of fishing. It is also the centre of a river based tourism drive because of the Nwonyo which is the biggest fishing festival in Africa. So, the peace of the place is vital. In Taraba, we have come a long way for that sort of crisis. No one can even divide the people along religious lines as everyone is wiser than that. The state is for everyone- Christians, Muslims, and traditionalists. And it is home to many ethnic groups. We all live together and have learnt to accept one another.
Let’s talk about you. It must feel great to be awarded the Commander of the Order of the Niger title. How has it changed things for you?
Yes, it is a great feeling especially when you know what this represents. It is not just the title that counts but its significance. It confers on you some higher measure of respectability and responsibilities. For me, I don’t feel any different though, it is however humbling. I feel seriously humbled because I look at my background. I look at the early days growing up in the lowly plains of Mararaba in my state. Back in the day, one would not have imagined these dizzying heights.
I like to tell the story of how all I wanted out of life at a time was a scooter. Funny thing, but true! Then, to own a scooter was a big deal. So, I said to myself, if I can get a scooter, I would have “arrived”. But as life would have it, I got a scooter and all the other things I dreamt of. And I learnt a valuable lesson in human existence: we are never satisfied as humans. That is why I shun materialism or primitive acquisitions. I honestly don’t like the idea of amassing property and worldly things. That is why I’m contented and view life a bit differently from others. You may say I’m just philosophising or being preachy but this is my outlook. So, when I got the award, I easily aligned myself with my principles, my worldview and this mindset. I became even more humbled by it.
Do you agree with the president that those who are found wanting would be stripped of the awards?
I totally agree with him. In fact, they can start with me if I’m ever found unworthy of this national honour they should publicly take it away. I stress “publicly” because we got this award publicly. So, if anyone does not justify this trust, he should be a candidate for public disgrace. Personally, I’m sick and tired of people who have hurt their people, smiling away with laurels whether it is in forms of traditional titles or such national awards. We are in a country were some funny people loot their people blind and still go and buy traditional titles.
What are we teaching the younger generation by doing that? When we reward fraudsters in our midst, we are reinforcing the view that dishonesty pays. So, I challenge award givers to critically examine the people they chose for awards. And when they are found wanting, they should be stripped of the title whether in sports, politics, religious or social circles. You know, people would be more careful. They would not want to be embarrassed on the national stage. So, if you know you are not qualified for instance, you would quietly turn down the offer rather than collect and you are scrutinised and found wanting. National award should be given only to men and women of integrity.