In this interview with LEADERSHIP, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former minister of Lands and Housing, Chief Nduese Essien, says PDP has repositioned itself for better governance.
There are fears that with the defection of Akpabio from PDP to the APC, the party may wrestle power from PDP in the state come 2019.What can you say about this?
Whoever is thinking that APC can take over Akwa Ibom state is day dreaming because Akwa Ibom state has been a PDP state from the beginning and the people have benefitted from the PDP government.
First, during the period of Obong Victor Attah as governor, it was used to lay the foundation for the state and Obong Attah being an architect is very familiar with laying of foundation. So he took up the struggle to ensure that the state derived adequate revenue from its production of oil.
It was from that revenue that Dr Godswill Akpabio used to do what is now called ‘uncommon transformation’ of his administration. So Akwa Ibom state came into limelight during his tenure and before he left he tried to ensure that he brought a successor that would keep the pace and he succeeded in doing that which most governors don’t and of course he based his success on the will of God that it was God’s will that was done and that will continue to be done.
People are misconstruing the strength of APC based on Akpabio’s defection from the PDP to the APC. Let me say categorically that the defection of Dr Godswill Akpabio from the PDP to the APC turned out to be a blessing to the state.
Firstly, with his defection, the bond that existed between him and his successor was broken and his successor since then has become freer to take decisions without looking back or being hindered by his benefactor. His entry into APC has equally created problems within the party in the state. The APC in the state was operating on a fragile platform because of the dissensions within its ranks; so his going into the APC has even made it worse for the party.
That is why I am categorical in saying the PDP in Akwa Ibom has even become stronger since the defection of Dr Godswill Akpabio to the APC.
Some people believe that the governor has not lived up to expectations in terms of development. What is your take?
Well that is a result of the propaganda which the APC has embarked upon. They said the governor has not lived up to expectations but you need to look at the background of his emergence.
When he came into office he had the initial difficulty of sorting himself out with his opponents during the election, there was a long protracted court tussle that delayed him from taking off smoothly.
Again, the debt from the previous administration; those days of uncommon transformation resulted in incurring of debts and he had to see how he can handle these debts.
There was also the recession and the fall of the naira to the dollar at the beginning of 2015 and then there was the dwindling oil revenue at the beginning of the administration. So he had to contend the rising expectations of the people spearheaded in the days of uncommon transformation with bloated oil revenue.
Finally, he had to manage all the above situations without exposing, ridiculing or hurting his benefactor. This was not an easy task but despite all these he was able to get through.
The man who is challenging Governor Emmanuel happens to be from his own constituency, the same senatorial district; how are your people taking this kind of challenge, is it not going to split your people, especially when the man has also used NDDC to do some things in the state?
The challenger of the governor comes from the same senatorial district with the incumbent governor. It was not easy for us to get our turn to produce the governor in 2015 because even Dr Akpabio himself wasn’t thinking of giving it to Eket senatorial district even though it was theit due. So it was a number of us that set up Eket senatorial district assembly and advocated stringently before Akpabio accepted and that was how we got our turn to produce the governor.
Having done so, the people of the senatorial district realised that governors usually perform better in their second tenure, in fact not only governors, any office holder does better during his second tenure.
So since the people have realised this, they do not want to miss the advantage of having the same person to do a second tenure and bring relevant benefits to them and that is why people of the senatorial district are not looking at any alternative to the present governor in 2019 because the other senatorial districts produced the same person for governor for 8years, so how can it be that during our turn it will change.
Are you saying the PDP will not lose to the APC at 2019 election?
Akwa Ibom is one state that PDP can never lose. Infact, from the situation on ground and with the confusion that has set into the APC, my advice to the APC would be that they should forget about Akwa Ibom and prepare for subsequent elections after 2019.
Were you people, the elders of PDP in Akwa Ibom surprised at Akpabio’s exit from the party?
Yes, it came as a surprise to many of us, we never expected that Akpabio would think of defecting to the APC. We were very proud of him, we were encouraging him but when he defected we were surprised because it is very rare to find a party leader defecting from his party to another party. He was the party leader as the senate minority leader but you know they call it uncommon defection because his things are always uncommon.
How would you assess the performance of the federal government in Akwa Ibom state since Buhari came in?
I would concede that Buhari’s government has appointed more Akwa Ibom indigenes into federal positions which we never had before. But in terms of infrastructural development, Akwa Ibom is completely forgotten.
What would you say about the present government’s fight against corruption; they have been accused of going after only members of the opposition party?
The fight against corruption I would say started from the Obasanjo administration when he created the ICPC and the EFCC. Obasanjo’s effort in fighting corruption was very prominent particularly with Nuhu Ribadu as chairman of the EFCC, although it was a selective fight but at least the people selected were from the same administration, he was not looking much at the past.
But the present administration’s fight against corruption is to pick people from the previous administration and penalize unless when you turn over to the other party you become a saint and you are free.
So the anti-corruption fight now is not a serious one, they are creating more problems in corrupt practices which we expect would be addressed by the new administration.
You seem to be quite confident of Atiku’s victory in the forthcoming presidential poll.
As for winning the presidency, it has gone out of the hands of the APC completely; the same situation that led to the exit of Dr Goodluck Jonathan has reoccurred now even at a worse dimension to the extent that most Nigerians do not want the current administration to continue. They want to have a change and the Atiku we all know has a lot of influence, resources and connections. He has the goodwill that people would prefer to forget whatever past is attributed to him and give him a chance.
What will PDP offer differently this time around if it take back power?
PDP having being in government for 16years and having seen the mistakes that they made have now taken almost 4years to re-assess itself, to do a rethink, it has become a more sober party than it was at the end of its 16years and that is why you would have noted that Atiku has taken time out with his campaign planners to re-assess the entire situation. We have also learnt from the grievous mistakes that have been made by the APC government.
So I believe PDP would be in a better position to offer good governance for the development of this country more than it did in the previous tenure.
You have remained in the PDP, is it out of your love for the party or you feel that moving from one party to another is not the right thing to do or because there is no viable alternative?
I would not expect any responsible Nigerian who has been in politics for a long time to defect from one party to another because the different parties contain the same bad elements.
In 2014, we thought that the APC was going to be a different party from the PDP – that corrupt people are not many there but before APC even came into being, the corrupt people from the PDP all moved and they are operating there, leaving few corrupt people on the other side but more on the APC side.
So I as a person have never thought of going along because to cross over and meet the same bad people, who would run the same bad administration as has happened now doesn’t make sense. So instead I stayed where I have been.
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