Most Ex-Governors Are Not Good Senators In The Making -Gemade

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GemadeFormer minister of works, former PDP national chairman and currently a senator, Barnabas Gemade, needs no introduction. The Senator, who clocks 66 today in an exclusive interview with Daily Trust, speaks on the lingering face off between him and Governor Gabriel Suswam over his bid to return to the Senate. Excerpts:

At 66, how would you say life has treated you?
I think life has been very gratifying. Rising through life, I became an engineer and rose to become a leader of industry and later became a minister. All these great achievements make me feel satisfied, that I have had a rewarding experience.

What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of your life?
Personally, I feel that every stage of life has its own ups and down and to say really which is more difficult depends entirely on which one is relative to the state of affairs at a time.
And when you talk of the complexity, definitely politics is more complex than other spheres of life. Science and engineering are finite. You are dealing with things that do not move. But human beings are different. The Bible says the heart of man is desperately wicket. Dealings in politics are very complex, very deceitful. May be I should not use too many negatives to describe it, because people say it is a dirty game but it is the actions of some politicians that make it a dirty business.

You are having issues with Governor Suswam because people say there was an agreement by you to do only one term in the Senate .What actually is the issue between you and the governor regarding your bid to return to the Senate?
I don’t want to go into unnecessary issues of what the people said or did not say. I am a bona fide founding father of the Peoples Democratic Party and I was member of the constitution drafting committee; I was member of the manifesto committee and I was a member of the national steering committee. I was also a member of the presidential advisory committee and member of the national presidential campaign committee. This is to show you that I have been involved in all aspects of the party and zoning was enshrined into our policies, we have encouraged it in every chapter of our party to ensure that every person gets minimum of two terms in every position and as many as people that wish to serve in the legislature, or in the National Assembly, which has no limit in the Constitution. So, this talk about somebody saying that he is going to serve one term is a language which people use when they want to achieve a particular interest. I can assure you that these are things I really don’t discuss.  As candidates were putting themselves forward, nobody discussed the issue of how long I am going to serve. I assumed that after my first four years, I would go for another four, after that, it now becomes the duty of my constituency to now decide whether I should go back or decide for another place.
Serving one term is restricted to bad performance, when you do not perform well in any office, whether legislative or executive, then the desire of your constituents is that you should leave. So in discussing this subject matter, nobody should think that there is a written agreement somewhere, where somebody has written and signed and gave it to somebody.
Regarding my relationship with the governor in respect of the senatorial seat, it is a straight forward desire of the governor who is leaving office, who now wants to find another office to occupy. And he feels that the Senate is the place to go. There is nothing wrong with that. People have ambitions and they exploit it. The difficulty in it is that they want to express it with the show of power, like nobody else has the right. If that is the case then it is a very big mistake, because it is wrong for anybody to think that something will be reserved for him because he is more powerful or richer than everybody else. Power and riches will not carry anybody anywhere.  I am not worried about this issue whatsoever as long as my opponents play the game according to the rules. But if they don’t play the game according to the rules, then there is a problem. I am going to play according to the rules. The rules are that I seek my second term, we go to primaries and we go to general elections. And whoever is more popular with his constituents will get elected, not whoever has the power to manipulate the people.

So  is it the approach of the governor that you quarrel with or what?
No. First of all, there is nothing on the table to deal with in this issue. When he took the decision to run against me, he took his own personal decision. It had nothing to do with me. I don’t even have to react to the way he is going about it. If that is his own style, then it is different from my own style.

With your experience, many wonder why you don’t want to run as governor but insisting on returning to the senate….
Governorship has never been on the card for me. If I was going for the governor, I would have gone in 1999, because the last civilian governor in the state was from my local government. He only spent one year or one and a half year. So if I had wanted to go in and continue where he left, it would have been appropriate. But it never crossed my mind that I should be the governor. That is why we went and gave it to George Akume from another zone of the state and when the governorship came to back to our zone the current governor was elected. So even if I had all the money and the power that people think drives politics to grab the governor, it would be unfair to do that because I play not only according to the rule, but I play according to decency. It would have been indecent to use those things to my advantage, to the detriment of every other person.

You said the need for second tenure depends on  performance. Do you think you have done well to return?
I am not very good at self assessment. You know I am one who is on the quite side. I want other people to talk about my achievements. Right at this moment, I have been able to do more than 100 projects in my senatorial district. No senator before me has put down a list of projects that I have seen. I have at one stage or the other sponsored nearly 300 people by way of scholarship in colleges and universities. I can’t see anyone in my own senatorial district who has done anything near this. So the people both the young and aged assured me they have never witnessed anything near this before, even though there have been six or seven other people before me. That is the only kind of assessment that I can make. But on the 4th of September, which is my birthday, I am going to do empowerment and mass empowerment projects to serve the public. That is classrooms, boreholes and motorised boreholes, transformers, electricity, making sure that road enters through the rural areas and also attracting several projects and high ways in my senatorial district, where over 100 of these have been done. More than 1000 people will get various gifts from me, ranging from buses, motorcycles, Keke Napep, generators, machines and is going to be a public event. And I am being modest when I say over 1000.

Some Kwande elders recently said they have loaned the senate seat to Suswam. What do you make of this?
I have no comment on that because it is not my business. It is the business of the person concerned to see how he can actualise it.  You want me to think how he is going to actualise it? I will not do that. But the whole thing I have seen in the media looks like a big confusion and a grand deceit because I have seen a lot of publications by different groups of people publishing in national papers saying that such action is not acceptable to them. It is left for those who are concerned to reply them. I don’t want to be distracted and start pursuing such actions.

It is not only in Benue, but governors on the verge of completing their second terms are bent on going to the Senate. Talking generally now, what is you view?
As a senator and former national chairman of the ruling party, my experience is that governors find it very difficult to be good senators. Attendance is a big problem for them. I am speaking from experience, because I am sitting in the senate chambers with many of them, at least five former governors are in the senate today and apart from the very dedicated ones, it is not easy for others to serve as senators.
So it shows me very clearly that if the belief of governors is that senate is a retirement place, they are grossly mistaken. It is a place for hard work, for research, and it is a place for study, debates in all forms of motions and bills. It is a place of a lot of legislative oversight, which means serious time given for scrutiny.
These are things which when they were governors are being done for them, here you have to do it yourself. There is no way that it can be a good retirement place, if governors are looking for a retirement place, they should find another place. Senate is not good for them.

Finally, 2015 is by the corner. Could Jonathan contest?
Jonathan contested election as a president in 2011 and was elected. When he contests in 2015, he will be contesting for second term. I feel it is everybody’s right to contest for second term. It is not a privilege and therefore Jonathan is welcome and he is fully qualified to contest his second tenure in 2015. This is not an issue to think about, it is an issue straight forward and clear. I say so because I know the rules of my party, I know the rules of Nigeria, because I am a lawmaker now. Even without going to senate, I already knew it. If people have any problem with that, it is because they have not read this document very well. When you read it well, you find out that this is a clear position.