In this interview with select journalists, Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, decries lack of Federal Government’s presence in the state in spite of being an oil producing state. He also speaks about the preparation of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the forthcoming Ekiti State governorship election as well as the general elections holding next year. MUYIWA OYINLOLA was there
How would you assess your administration in the past three years that you have been in office as the governor of Akwa Ibom State?
So far, I can say that we have done well. I will give myself an ‘A’ if I am to rate myself as we have done very, very well as an opposition political party leading a state that has no Federal Government’s presence; not even a kilometre of road. As the largest oil producing state, there is not even a depot owned by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Akwa Ibom State. The corporation doesn’t even have a kiosk as an office in the state and you can’t point to anything to show that the Federal Government has interest in Akwa Ibom, which is an oil producing state.
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, there are series of coalition talks aimed at unseating the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government. What is your position on that and how feasible is that?
Most of the things going on now are human tactical approaches to what people think can give them result, but at the end of the day, what matters most is result. Everyone is hoping to carry the day in 2019, so any tactical approach, which you think will give you the result, is what you are going to employ. And let me say something; no two elections have ever been the same and will never be. So, the 2019 elections will be completely different from that of 2015. So, if somebody thinks that there is a formula to it, it might not necessarily be. Above all, no matter what anyone does, it is God who determines who gets power as all power on planet earth belongs to Him and He gives it to whoever He wishes. There are situations where people have ruled without anyone casting the ballot for them; what coalition would you call that? So, I believe that these things are just human approaches to actually see what result they can get.
You said that there is not even a kilometre of road constructed by the Federal Government in Akwa Ibom State. Could that be as a result of party differences?
It did not start today and it is not because of party differences.
What could have been the reason?
I cannot explain and I stand to be corrected if there is any. Even the so called federal roads that we have spent money on to reconstruct, we are still waiting for reimbursement of the funds that we spent. Even at that, the Federal Inland Revenue Service is telling us to pay tax on money that I am still being owed.
How would you respond to the Water Resources Bill, which seeks to establish a regulatory framework for the water resources sector in Nigeria?
I am completely against it because it is counter development. It also violates the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Take for example, my area, the whole life of our people is on water and the constitution does not separate the land from water. How can you now say water on the surface and water beneath? What happens to us because we live on water, we survive on water, and we do everything on water. Does it mean that those that have land, live on land and do everything on land, their governors have control, while governors of riverrine areas where the peoples’ entire life is on water should not control anything. Is that not a violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
Hence, it is a total rejection not just by me, but by the entire people of the South-South and South-East of this country and we just want to believe that at this time that our democracy is still fragile, we should put in things that will build the country stronger and not those that can call so many things to question. Let’s do things that can move us forward and not backward. Such a bill can take us several thousand miles backwards. Believe me, we reject it in its entirety because it is against the constitution and it is an indirect way of saying that we are not Nigerians because everything about our life in the Niger Delta is on water.
Is there anything that the governors of the South-South are doing to ensure that this bill is not passed by the National Assembly?
We have a chairman of the governors of the South-South and to be fair to him, he has been speaking on the issue, so I don’t want to make any comment that would be contrary to the statement he has made.
What is your relationship with your predecessor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who is alleged to have claimed that some key officials of your government loyal to him were sacked due to the perceived rift between you and him?
Let me ask the question: Which key official have you ever heard was sacked? If I run the government and there was no key official that has been sacked, then the alleged claim is a big surprise to me. No official has been sacked from government. I am not aware of any because the highest official through appointment is commissioner and no commissioner has been sacked. At times people misinterpret certain things. You know that it takes two to be in love and it also takes two to fight, so in this case, I will give you a straight answer; there is no rift because the second party is not available. You don’t play a football match when you don’t have an opponent.
You have a big task in Ekiti State as the head of the PDP governorship campaign committee, what are you doing to ensure that your party retains the state because there is likely to be a clash of powerful forces?
The role of my committee is simple and straight forward; our voting units are not in Ekiti, so we are not to vote in the state. But, because two good heads are better one, what we are doing is see how we can mobilize the people at the grassroots as election is about numbers and allowing the people to make their choice. That is why we are appealing to the media to help us drum it on the authority to allow for a free, fair and credible election. At the end of the day, once the election is free, fair and credible, whoever wins, everybody goes home rejoicing. It is only when the poll is not seen to be free and fair that there will be issues.
Our appeal is that every election in this country, not only in Ekiti, let’s try and ensure that it is free, fair and credible. It is not only in Nigeria; even in the so called democracies, there are certain states you call blue states and red states, while there are those referred to as battle ground. Take our area for example; it is a blue area, because the only development the people know had been done by the PDP. So, what new ideas are you going to bring that have not been implemented and people have seen the result? On the other hand, there are areas that are pure red states and areas that are battle ground.
So, a state like Ekiti that has always been a blue state, you should just expect PDP’s victory in a free and fair election. Members of my committee are not going to vote in Ekiti as we will not even be on ground on election day, but what we are doing is to see what the PDP in the state has as its penetration strategy and contribute ideas to strengthen it. That is why we are about 40 in the committee and all PDP governors are members. We want to bring to bear the different experiences we had in our respective elections, so that the best come out.
You mentioned that Akwa Ibom is a blue state, but given what transpired during the recent congresses of the APC, it seems that leaders of the party in your state have shelved their differences probably to give the PDP a run for its money in the 2019 elections. Are you not threatened by this development?
There is a difference between the APC in Lagos State and the APC in Abuja, and also the APC in Akwa Ibom State. Personally, I don’t mention names of political parties, but because you mentioned a name, that is why I am doing so, though I don’t know whether the name you mentioned is a political party or whether it is Armoured Personnel Carrier if I may borrow your words. Look at what happened on May 29 in Akwa Ibom State. Does it a show a state where you have another political party? I want to say it clearly that PDP in my state is like a religion. I told people three years ago that if someone is coming to coming to conduct praise and worship in a church in Akwa Ibom State and happens to make the mistake to say PDP, people will answer.
Akwa Ibom is purely 100 per cent a PDP state, and it is a state that the people have seen development done by the party. So, what colour of another political party are you bringing to the people of the state and what will the party do new for them? On May 29, the people came out in their numbers to say this is where we belong to.
Where have you seen such a thing before? Mind you, Akwa Ibom is 99.99 per cent Christians and if these people from all the 31 local government areas of the state led by the former National President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Prelate Emeritus of the Methodist Church worldwide, have come out to say that there is no vacancy in the governorship office until 2023 and that it is Udom Emmanuel they want, which other political party are you mentioning?
What did you do to deserve this kind of endorsement?
I will answer you the other way round. What would you have expected from me as a governor, which I have not done? What that means is that whatever my people have expected from me as a governor, I have done and that was why they have endorsed me for a second term.
There are so many aspirants eyeing the PDP presidential ticket for the 2019 elections and it seems the governors have theirs, while the founding fathers of the party also have theirs. How does the party intend to harmonise these interests?
Is there anything new with that? The answer is no. If there are no aspirants at the national level, where else will you have people indicating interest? The constitution is clear that as far as you are eligible to contest, you can indicate interest. Different people aspire for different positions, but at the end of the day it is the will of the people that will prevail. And no matter the number of people aspiring for the ticket, what matters is that we must have a candidate as a political party. If people don’t aspire, it means that the party is not alive. So, the number of people aspiring on the platform of the PDP shows the strength of the party and I welcome more to join. In fact, let’s have more than 100 aspirants, but like I said, at the end of the day, the will of the people will prevail when we go for the convention.
What is your take on the issue of campaign fund for the 2015 elections, which some chieftains of the PDP are being prosecuted for although some people are asking about that of the ruling party, which is not being questioned?
We thank you for providing an answer. What else do you want me to answer? But, let me tell you something which you don’t know. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, so if you hold power, you can do whatever you want to do, this thing we call power, I don’t want it to sound like a tautology, but as the name implies, anything called power can shock, it can bring light, it can burn, it can do something else. So, depending on who holds power, and how he wants to play with it. What do you define as money laundering? If I contest election right now and I try to buy face-caps and I buy them from you; what offence have you committed? I think it’s something that we might not be able to answer totally right now, but the future should be able to provide answers to some of these questions.
How prepared is your party ahead of 2019 general election to ensure that you win the presidential polls?
We can only do one thing; we will make sure that we have a credible candidate. You see, anywhere in any developed nation of the world, election at that level is won and lost based on the economic policy you put on the table because any nation that is strong economically would be strong democratically too. That is why democracy is wobbling in Africa because the economy is not strong. So, whoever can come with a strong economic policy that we know can drive the economy of this country, certainly that is the person the PDP should actually put forward to be its candidate. I know politics is also about popularity, but believe me, at the national level, it is not just on the point of popularity alone because popularity at times could be out of sentiment. If you think Udom Emmanuel is popular or I can stand somewhere in Gombe and people would clap for me, how many people in Gombe had actually had personal interaction with me and how many of them actually know me? I think Nigerians can decipher and put it straight who would govern this country, and who among those aspiring has deep knowledge of the economy. Again, the person must trend. I think you know what I mean by trend. You know those who are in that category.
The person must trend, the person must have adequate understanding of the economic issue that can make an impact. I am from the private sector, I know how I feel for somebody who was holding hundreds of millions of Naira investment and of no offence of his nor has he done anything wrong, even with that investment in his hand, he has lost more than 50 per cent value of his investment. These are things we need to look at because the country is bigger than an individual.
So whoever wants to contest, I am not contesting, South- South is not contesting for president, almost all the major political parties say the presidency goes to the North, it is a total agreement because if ‘brother chop and another brother chop, e no good’ but the PDP will win because if you check Nigeria today, every single thing you can call development was done by the party. Mention GSM, it is PDP. So, technological revolution was brought to Nigeria by PDP.
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