Reasons Why Politicians Cross Carpet — Gemade
A former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and two-term Senator, Barnabas Gemade, could not secure a third term on the ticket of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
In this interview, he bares his mind on why at different points he left the PDP, APC and recently SDP to rejoin the APC on whose ticket he won his second term seat in 2015. Excerpts:
Do you support the calls for the replacement of the current service chiefs considering the state of insecurity in the country?
I have witnessed in the past when military commanders’ tenures elapsed, they are removed and new ones are appointed. From what I hear from people, they said that the tenure of this group is over and if their tenures are over, they should leave. It is not based on whether they are qualified or not or suitable or not.
Why did you move back to the APC?
Politics is a dynamic game as you know. And in Nigeria, because of the numerous military interventions, no politician can ever say that he was a loyalist of one political party throughout his political life because if you did not move from one to the other, the military might abrogate the one you have and so, you would join another one or you form another one. And that is what makes politics in Nigeria very dynamic much against established democracies like the United States, Britain, India and so on where people belong to one political party, generation after generation. Apart from that, in Nigeria, the dynamics of politics are such that there are no issues that keep you permanently with one political idea because situations keep changing. All my life, I’m a factual man, so I work on facts. The fact is that you move in politics based on the interests that present themselves. When I left the PDP in 2015, precisely 2014, it was because the party had put a framework on the ground to stop me from getting my second term as a senator representing my senatorial zone. And I said well, if you have arsenals flying to shoot you down and you foolishly decide to stay there to be shot, then you are not a clever person. That was why I left for the APC. And I left in good time to win my election. And as you know, the incumbent governor of the state at that time contested against me and lost the election. In 2019, similar arsenals were put in place to stop me from seeking re-election and I, in a similar manner, decided to change camp. You know that the practise here in Benue since 1999 is such that the other two zones are being represented almost permanently by the same candidates. In Zone C, David Mark had been there five times. In Zone B, Senator George Akume was seeking his fourth term because he had been there three terms. And so, for me seeking my third term in Zone A was a very mundane issue that was not supposed to attract any form of opposition. But people chose to say it was their turn. And then, when I saw that the climate in the APC was not conducive to guarantee that there would be a fair contest, I decided to leave. Unfortunately, I left too late into SDP that was not a properly organized political party and we could not prosecute the election properly. So, I decided to go back to the party that I joined in 2015.
Why didn’t you rejoin the PDP, of which you are a founding father?
The situation of political organizations is what determines whether you desire its membership or not. The situation regarding the party I formed in 1998 is not attractive enough for me to rejoin because the way the party is structured and managed will not agree with my own style and practice of politics. Even though I rose to be its National Chairman, I don’t think I can function properly in that political party at this time.
In 1998, as one of the G34 that founded PDP, you are believed to have anointed George Akume as governorship candidate in Benue and he won. He is still regarded as your godson but is now the leader of the APC in the state. How do you think this is going to play out?
All I can tell you is that as far as I know, Senator George Akume is a leader of the APC in Benue State and I don’t think my joining the party has any issue with any person who is a leader of that party. Because I’m not joining the party as leader of the party but as a member of the party so I do not see my presence in that party in conflict with anybody.
Rumours have it you want to contest for governor of Benue State in 2023, don’t you think your age might be an obstacle?
But I’m not given to take rumours very seriously or worry about such issues whether I’m going to contest elections or not as it depends entirely on the way I think and the way I feel. Age is a relative matter to start with. At 70, I do not think that a man my age is too old to do anything. There are many people who are far younger in politics in Nigeria and in Benue and there are many who are far older. So there are no issues about age versus any desire that I have or might eventually have if I do have to stand an election. These issues are not the factors that are important in politics, what is important in politics is the capability and capacity of the individuals; what you are known for and what you can do.
But the National Assembly is trying to peg the age of contestants for various political offices in the country at under 60. How would you react to such a development?
I don’t know about what you have said because if they peg the age of contestants at under 60, then about two-thirds of them would have to leave the senate because more than two-thirds of them are over 60 so I can’t see how some people will make a law that catches all of them.
What is the future of APC in Benue State and in Nigeria as a whole?
I can only say it is very bright. You know since 1999 I have always functioned in parties that win elections. I know when a party is likely to win an election and I know that APC will win the elections in 2023. For sure, I know but don’t ask me how do I know? Look at the history to know; from 1999 to 2011, I was in the PDP and we won those elections all along. In 2015, I was in APC and we won those elections even in the state here. In 2019, I was neither in PDP nor APC. I told you before that I joined the SDP, which was a small kind of unorganized party, and it was just a few weeks to the elections so I can literally say that, apart from my election as a senatorial candidate, I did not fully participate in the elections in the state to say which party would win because even the SDP, as small as it was, it didn’t even have a governorship candidate until the eve of the election. We did not also have a presidential candidate as it was also going back and forth. In the end, the party itself dismissed both candidates and when I heard that we should go vote for the incumbent president, that was what we did. As far as I was concerned, the over 30,000 votes I got in my local government was also what the president got in my local government. I had told them I had no presidential candidate, so they should vote for me and the incumbent president and that was what others did in their respective areas. At the end of it, President Buhari won the elections but the governorship went to the PDP, most of the House of Reps and Assembly went to the PDP in the state. (By Daily Trust)