Chief Ezekiel Irmiya is the governorship candidate of the Congress For Progressive Change (CPC) in Taraba State ahead of the general polls in April. He recently spoke to Stanley Nkwocha on his aspirations and what he terms the mess Taraba is in. He asserts that President Jonathan, Ibrahim Shekarau and Nuhu Ribadu are no match for CPC's presidential flag bearer, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari rtd.
Is CPC in Taraba State strong enough to displace the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the forthcoming elections?
You see, the wind of change blowing across does not only stop in Bauchi, Zamfara, Katsina and the other states, it also cuts across Taraba State where we have a non-performing governor. PDP government in the state has failed the people and they are therefore looking for change. The CPC is the change everyone is looking forward to so it is not a matter of party, it's a matter of ideology and principle of the concept of positive change.
PDP in Taraba State, like other states is fractionalized. Would you say this is playing to the advantage of other political parties in the states?
Of course. As we talk, I know more than 3000 people waiting to be received into the CPC; they want to work with me. I can assure you that CPC will defeat PDP at the polls. Added to this is the fact that PDP has found it difficult to manage its successes in the state. More than never before, we have diverse political camps from a party that was given all at a time. And this can be attributed to the deceit and greed of those who call themselves all sorts of names, from godfathers to, stakeholders. The people must have the power returned to them and that is what we are bent on achieving.
If you become governor, what will be your priority?
The youth will come first. We are going to undertake ventures that would create jobs for the youths to keep them busy. That done, all the restlessness they engineer will become a thing of the past. The average psyche of the Taraba youth has been terribly abused and over the years, they have been made to feel like strangers in their own state without a voice. This is wrong. I am of the opinion that except we invest in the future of the Nigerian youth, we will lose it.
But it is you the politicians that use these youths as political thugs and even assassins.
You see, I am a seasoned civil servant. I voluntarily left the civil service to come rescue Taraba State and see to the needs of our jobless and restless youths because if we let this continue, these young people will turn around to become our albatross . You can't expect any less when you have a horde of idle youths being employed as thugs. As soon as I take the mantle of leadership, these are the issues I hope to address and squarely too.
Would you say, you are happy with the conduct of party primaries?
I can't speak for the PDP or other parties; I can only speak for my party. We had our problems. See, when you talk about governance or election, you know that lots of interests come into play but in the end, true leaders emerge. Leadership is from God and if he has decided to choose you, no man can stop it. Consider our case; we had primaries ravaged by misunderstandings but the board set up by the party settled everything amicably and the right people got the tickets. I am proud of that. I got my mandate back.
But the party was criticized in states like Kano and Katsina where it is said that people who did not win the primaries were paraded as party candidates. Is this not an indictment?
The issue is that, there are lots of interests in any new political party. You can' t run away from this no matter what you do, people will never be satisfied. These people at the national level are not machines, they are humans. One person must emerge, somehow. CPC's leadership has done its best to bring its disputes to logical conclusion in my opinion.
Don't you think accusations of imposition of candidates became a recurring decimal in almost all the parties, making PDP a saint?
These are the encumbrances associated with politics and it can be attributed to godfatherism. When there is godfatherism, you find out that every block is interested in imposing its own candidate. People want to protect interests and these are the things that show that we still have a long way to go, but we will overcome this with time.
Series of opinions trailed your party's candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari's choice of Pastor Tunde Bakare as running mate. As a party chieftain would you applaud his choice?
Buhari is a man of integrity who knows what he is doing. We were at cross-roads and sought to take a decision through alliance but at a point, we discovered that some interests were popping up to destroy the alliance so he had to make his own decision. Bakare, on the other hand, is a man of his words, a fearless man of God. He is the kind of person people would want Buhari to carry along. With that kind of person by his side, no one can push Buhari around. Looking at his brazen actions with the Save Nigeria Group, everyone knows he's no push-over.
But some say he picked Bakare to pull away from the toga of religious bigotry that over the years was used to undermine his political aspirations?
Well, those are opinions. Lots of people have said a lot of things but the truth is that Bakare has been vocal since '99 and because of the truth he stood for in 1999, he was jailed. This same truth is what Buhari represents.
Despite what people say about Buhari's alleged fanatisim, the truth is that if you work with Buhari you will believe in what you stand for. He is not affected by issues like tribalism, favoritism or corruption. They know, that's why they spread all kinds of stories. If your dreams are in alignment with what he believes in, he will be by your side.
Are you not concerned that the presence of Ribadu, Shekarau and others from the North may pose a challenge to Buhari's presidency bid?
I keep telling those who are interested that, Buhari is head and shoulders above the rest of them. None of them is a match for him. He stands out because history speaks for him. He has done it before, he will do it again. Nigeria is in a serious mess therefore, we do not need a leader who will surround himself with redundant advisers. We need someone who can take decisions not one who consults unnecessarily. The only one who can clear this mess is Buhari.
Paint the picture of the Taraba State you would like to see within the first four years of your tenure.
I see a good health care plan and system, one that is economically vibrant, provides sound education for its people in an industrially lively Taraba. I want to see a sure-footed Taraba placed on the map of the world, not just Nigeria. We have lots of things that can put us on the map. I have been to many parts of the world, like I just came back from Italy where I met diplomats and businessmen who are ready to come invest in Taraba. They are ready to come invest in the state and by the special grace of God, if I become the governor of the state, Taraba will be a self-sufficient state, not one that depends on subventions.