The build-up to the 2019 general elections is certainly gaining momentum as the various political parties try to get their acts together. In Plateau, the chestnut is really in the fire and the political parties are not pretending about it. With the race in Plateau State apparently between the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the die looks cast. In this interview with Associate Editor, CHAMBERLAIN ODEY, a former Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, and former member of the House of Reps for Pankshin/Kanke/Kanam federal constituency, Hon Emmanuel Goar, sounds no less, as he believes his PDP is set to recapture power at all levels. Excerpts:
Will you say the Peoples Democratic Party has put its troubles behind it and is set to win the 2019 elections in Plateau state and at the national level?
We are more determined than ever before. 2019 is very dear to us. I want to tell you that we have learnt our lessons and as well put our house in order. The era of impunity is gone. What you are seeing now is a re-branded PDP both at the state and national levels. It is a very big lesson to us and that lesson is helping us to address all the shortcomings and grey areas. The hard times will definitely ginger us to perform better when given another opportunity to be in power. When we were in power, the opposition then, the APC, felt governance is a child’s play and promised heaven on earth; but I believe God wants to demystify them hence he gave them the power. You can see now they have the power but don’t know what to do with it. They are running the government like a party without manifestos: they promised so many things but three years down the line they are yet to fulfil just one.
The problem of corruption they claimed to be fighting is rather eating deep into the soul of the administration; which means they are just interested in power, and not to serve the people. So, what happened to the PDP in 2015 has its own good side. Left to me, I am happy that it happened. We have learnt our lesson; and as well exposed the characters behind the APC. But for the PDP, those mistakes will not repeat themselves again.
Coming to Plateau State, the slogan now is “change the change”. We are rebranding and angling to take over power in 2019. People have seen the difference between the PDP under former Governor Jonah Jang and the present administration under the leadership of Governor Simon Lalong. Though some people left the party, we are not bothered. I can tell you that in the past one year quite a lot of people have defected to the PDP especially at the grassroots.
With the performance of the prnt administration in Plateau State, do you still feel strongly that the PDP will win 2019 governorship election in the State?
When you talk of performance, what do you mean? Is it negative or positive performance? Everybody in the state can see what they have on ground. Presently; there is infighting among the APC members on the performance of the administration. The PDP is not complaining about the APC performance in Plateau State. It is the members that are even complaining – questioning some of the projects they brought Mr. President to commission during his visit to Plateau State recently.
Can you imagine that this administration removed the name of the person of a former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, who is an illustrious son of Plateau State, and renamed it after President Muhammadu Buhari just for cheap political score? Even during the President’s visit, people were being killed in Bokkos and Bassa local government areas and yet this government refused to tell the president the truth. Instead, they were busy deceiving the President that all was well. The President was here to have firsthand information on what is on ground but the government ended up deceiving him. Nothing can be more unfortunate! Look at what Benue and Taraba states did during the presidential visit: they used the opportunity of the president’s visit to outline the security challenges facing their respective states. But in our own case, the reverse was the case and our people are sad and disgusted with the Lalong administration.
What is your reaction to the inclusion of the names of the immediate past governor of Plateau state in the list of treasury looters released by Lai Mohammed?
It is a shameful act especially that it was done without considering the image of the country; and the Minister may think he is running down some people or the PDP as a political party. But I can tell you that he is destroying the image of the country. There are quite a lot of people in the APC who have been openly indicted by one committee or the other; some are in court facing one form of corrupt charges or the other. Typical examples are the former Secretary to the Government of
the Federation, Babachir Lawal, the Mainagate scandal and others. Above all, most of the former governors and others who left the PDP and are now in the APC have case files with the EFCC. So, is Lai Mohammed telling the country that the APC is a shelter or shield for corrupt government officials? I can tell you that most of the actions the APC is taking presently will lead the party to destruction because Nigerians are watching. It is quite disturbing that Mr Lai Mohammed can call people looters without any court judgment in the guise of playing politics, and the same person has the audacity to be talking of hate speech. I want to say that the Minister of Information has no moral right to campaign against ‘hate speech’ because he is promoting
same. I am not all that concerned about the internal politics as the image of the country.
You have indicated interest in the Plateau Central Senatorial seat, what advantage do you have over other contestants?
It is going to be a different ball game. I have spent more than eight years in this legislative business. Of the three tiers of government, I have worked in the executive and legislative arms. So, I am not going in as a novice. It is only in the judicial arm that I have not been tested. I know the functions within the context of separation of powers as enshrined in the constitution. I cannot assess myself; the people should be able to tell more about me, especially who they think I am, based on my relationship with them over the years and what I have done as a legislator for eight years. I moved from being a member of the State House of Assembly to become the Speaker and then to be in the House of Representatives for four years. So, if I am elected into the Senate, I will not be going there as a novice.
Your senatorial zone arguably has the highest number of senatorial aspirants. How is your party going to cope with this without controversies?
That is to tell you that PDP is still strong and a force to be reckoned with in the Plateau Central District and the State as a whole. If it were not a potent and veritable platform, you will not see people struggling to contest on its platform. It is a sign of good image. Assuming I am the only one contesting, I will not be comfortable; but now that we are many, it is left for the party to choose whoever they want. I feel strongly that as the primary approaches, the people will be able to separate the grains from the chaff.
Senator Joshua Dariye has been on the seat for the past eight years. Do you think it will easy to dislodge him considering his experience and political pedigree?
I will say something that might not be comfortable to the electorates. But to me, the longer you stay in the chamber, the more experienced you become as a legislator, and also the better for your people. That is how it should be under a very good atmosphere and in an ideal democracy and situation. But the question is on performance. Is that person performing? Or he is using other indices to get to power? Are people satisfied with his performance? Those are the fundamental questions. The former Senate President, Senator David Mark will be getting to twenty years in the senate, yet people are not tired of him simply because of his performance; because of his long stay in the red chamber he has become an experienced senator and people are happy.
That is why they keep on electing him and he has been consistent by using the same platform. But when you continue to jump ship, moving from one political party to another, scheming for survival without any performance, definitely people will be tired of you. I am not afraid of Senator Joshua Dariye, in fact if I emerge as the flag bearer of the PDP, I will be happy to square up with him at the poll. In fact, that is what other senatorial aspirants in the PDP are praying for. We are waiting for him.