interviewBy Louis Achi
In this interview with LOUIS ACHI, Taraba State Commissioner of Information, Hon. Emmanuel Bello, clarifies that contrary to insinuations in some quarters, the state is not in the grip of any cabal. He also sheds more light on the events following the plane crash involving the state governor.
There are speculations that a cabal is now in charge of governance in Taraba State and that the acting governor has no real powers. Pleases clarify this.
That is an unfortunate fabrication by some people with fertile imagination. There are no such things as cabals in Taraba. If you know how the governor, Danbaba Suntai, runs the state, you would agree that he didn't give anyone person undue powers like we used to have in Taraba. In the history of our state, there was a time one commissioner became very powerful.
Well, with Danbaba, no one has that kind of power. His commissioners and special advisers are exactly that - appointees. He treats every one of us equally and keeps reminding us that none of us is more important than the other.
In various meetings, he would clearly tell us that and say, "Look, no one should try and give the impression that he or she is a favourite. You are all equal". So, in that kind of atmosphere, how do you even develop a cabal mentality? No one has that type of access. But you know, many people admire Governor Danbaba.
They like his detribalised nature and the fact that he is not a religious bigot. So, if you see him getting any support now, it is because of the genuine love some people have for him. Of course, there are people who don't like his direct, straight-talk disposition. They hate his guts because he says it like it is. Yet, he is loved by many. And the thing is that in everyone's mind, Danbaba is the sort of person people respect. He is a true leader.
But a few names have been mentioned as members of a kitchen cabinet in charge of the state now. What gives?
That is a mistake. The impression that a group of people meet constantly to strategise on the governor is a silly one really. There are no such meetings. Everyone is performing his constitutional role. I'm the commissioner of information for instance. All that I'm doing is within the purview of my oath of office; not because I'm a favourite of the governor.
No. In fact, knowing my boss, he may not have approved of my current media outreaches. He prefers that we don't say anything in terms of response to certain accusations. I always just do my thing not minding how he would take it because I know it is right. In fact, at a point, he told me that he has since given up on me (laughter). He dislikes the limelight.
So I'm just doing my job. Others are also doing theirs. And that is how we have been rolling.
But you guys don't take orders from the acting governor - making him appear weak. How come?
That is another funny error. Whoever is alleging that should please specify who and at what event anyone hasn't shown that he is not subordinate to the acting governor? We need hard evidence and not just mere talk or speculations. Our acting governor, His Excellency, the amiable Alhaji Garba Umar, is one of the most powerful acting governors in the history of the country. He is practically in charge of the state because by law, he performs all the functions of the governor. He has just presented and signed the 2013 budget of the state into law.
He recently fired some erring aides. He has installed a first class traditional ruler. He has been authorising memos. He has been in charge. He is in charge. He presides over the weekly cabinet meetings. He disburses funds. He recently swore-in the Chief Judge of the state. He has appointed the MD of the Tourism Board. He can fire and hire. Which other functions under the office of the governor that this acting governor hasn't carried out? So anyone deceiving himself is just being mischievious.
Everyone knows that Governor Danbaba has no problem empowering his deputy to be in charge. In the past when the governor was travelling, he practically hands over his office to his deputy. He has no issues with that. He just gives it up. So this is not a strange situation at all.
And our acting governor is a very astute leader. Although he might be new, he has done this job as if he has been here since 2007. In fact, he understands the mind of the governor in a way that many of us don't and everything he does is the sort of policy the governor would have done himself. A very loyal person, Alhaji Umar has brought to bear, his years of experience in managing men and resources in the state. A very humble man, he shares the same traits with Governor Danbaba- humility, self effacing, honest, loyal, and God-fearing and a keeper of people's trust.
Let's come back to you. Some people are suggesting that you are rather too aggressive in defending your boss. Some allege that you are seeking relevance because you have actually lost it?
I'm not seeking relevance. I already have that. I'm just doing what I should be doing at this point in time. If a reporter calls me and says "Mr. Commissioner, we learnt your governor is brain-damaged. What is your reaction"? Am I supposed to just keep silent? No. I'm a loyal member of the Danbaba cabinet and thus have no apologies for my roles which I swore on oath to do. I'm not insulting. I wasn't brought up that way.
Besides, I'm a professional in terms of media so it would be horrible for me to be rude. Those who know me know that I'm like this: always hyperactive when it comes to my duties.
When I was editor, it was the same thing. I'm easily fired up when I believe in a cause. So that could explain why I rose rapidly to become commissioner from Special Adviser. I just love doing my job.
Very soon it would be 90 days since your boss was away. What do you make of the calls to swear in the acting governor as the substantive governor?
Those who are making that call do not know the constitution. My advice is that they go read the relevant sections of the constitutions that relate to us (section 189,190,191). There are no 90 -day provisions anywhere where you have an acting governor. The acting governor can remain in that position till anytime that the governor transmits a written declaration to the Speaker of the House of Assembly to the effect that he is now available to resume the functions of governor. The constitution did not say the acting governor can only be there for 90 days (section 190, subsection (2) of the 1999 constitution).
The constitution envisaged this present situation where the governor is not available to discharge his functions. That is the reason why the constitution clothed the acting governor with all the powers to perform the functions of the governor under section 190, subsection (2). The position would have been different if this section was not there. So, ignorance is at play here when people say things like that. The acting governor remains in his position until the governor returns.
And Danbaba is returning soon. Which is why we laugh when we hear people say we want to smuggle in the governor to beat a deadline. There is no deadline. Governor Suntai is recuperating. He would soon be back. But the constitution does not say he must hurry to come back here because his seat is in trouble. His seat is not in any trouble. Governor Danbaba can return anytime his doctors think he should return.
The decision for his return is that of his doctors. When you are recuperating, doctors make all the decisions because you become their ward. But to suggest that the governor must rush and run back to safe guard his seat is a parade of ignorance. People should read the constitution and not depend on beer parlour logics.
Have you spoken to the governor yet?
Several times even. And not just me - but many other people.
What about talks that there are looting going on in the state right now?
Let me be very direct: that is not possible at all. If there is such a thing, let's have real evidence and not some market place talk. Making such allegations is a very serious exercise and shouldn't be left in the domain of hearsay. We need to know who is looting and what was looted.
This would help in the investigation. We have an acting governor and working with all the machineries of government. So if anyone has any serious case of looting backed by evidence, he can bring such forward and I'm assuring them it would be thoroughly investigated.