Young, smart, cerebral and confident, the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, has turned out a terrific improvement of himself two years after assuming office. From the boardroom of the banking sector to the expansive and complex office of the governor, albeit with a stint at the office of the secretary to the state government, Emmanuel is just another proof that there is nothing cryptic about governance. A clear example of generational power shift, his capacity to tame the challenges that attend the office of the governor was first put to test by the economic recession that ushered in the present dispensation in 2015. As a banker, his experience and exposure came handy and today, Akwa Ibom is generally believed to have fared better than the days of the ‘uncommon transformation’ with a relatively conservative but generously effective approach to governance. In this interview with Olawale Olaleye, Emmanuel relives his experience in office in the last two years and how he has been able to meander through the difficulties and demands of his office to delivering on his promises to the people of the state. He also speaks on several other issues. Excerpts:

Q: Two years in office, what has the experience been like and was there anything that prepared you for this job?

God has prepared me for this job. I keep saying so. Nobody just wakes up and finds himself in the position of being a leader. You build up yourself to become a leader through your experience. If you remember, last time I said there are two types of politicians: professionals in politics and professional politicians. For us who are professionals in politics, it means we’ve been prepared for leadership over time.

You know your vision is limited to your exposure. So, I believe with the exposure that we’ve had over time, our training both in and out of the classroom and hands-on experience, our interaction with the outside world across the globe and even the field of the masses – the grassroots, by the time you put all of them together, they contribute in different areas.

Take for example, the heart you have towards the common man, what can trigger that is your experience relating with that common man. For example, despite compulsory education at present, at school hours, you get into some wards, some units, you still a lot of children who could not make it to school. And even if you say let’s go and arrest the parents for not sending them to school, the child will walk up to you and if you ask, why didn’t you go to school? He would say sorry, sir, I couldn’t go because I didn’t eat. At that point in time, goose pimples will be all over you.
How can you spend so much providing free and compulsory education and even when the child goes to school, he cannot still do well, because the basic things have not actually been tackled? So, it’s all these things put together that actually get you prepared for the job. You are willing to make sacrifices; you are willing to push. In fact, we are afraid to celebrate. You can’t even celebrate anything you do, because you still believe you have a lot of grounds to cover because of what you see. I think those are the things that prepare people like us for this job.

Q: Looking back, are you fulfilled with the level of work done so far?

I just gave you an example of what will enable one to be fulfilled. I can’t feel really fulfilled. That’s why I said a job well done needs much more jobs to be done. I can only be fulfilled any day I look at our per capita and it is comparable to what others actually achieved outside this place, because nobody has a monopoly of what it takes to run governance. Those per capital are in tens and hundreds of thousands of US Dollars; they don’t have a monopoly either. Those who have these things in excess, who have totally overcome the basic needs of life don’t have the monopoly. I can only be fulfilled when I see Nigerians at that level.

No matter what I do from inside and outside, I can only be fulfilled if I provide free and compulsory education and every child will be jumping to go to school because the child must have had a balanced diet, must have eaten well, must have had enough protein that can actually enable that child to develop, so that when the child is in the class and is being taught, he will be able to feel happy going to school. However, not when the child is afraid that ‘as I’m coming back from school, won’t they even send me first to farm before I have my lunch.

So, even when we are moving towards providing school feeding system, it’s still not enough because there is a whole lot to be desired outside that. When the school is not in session, won’t the child still eat? When they are on long vacation, what happens? What happens on weekends when the child does not go to school? So, there is a whole lot to be done. It’s too early to start drumming up to say I’m fulfilled from inside of me. And that fulfillment will not necessarily be from the state that you come from. It will cut across the whole country. If you train your state indigenes and you don’t train your neighbours, know that even your children won’t be at peace because it must cut across. You don’t just train your child and leave your neighbour’s child and think your child will be at peace?

Q: You once spoke about the politics of inclusion. How much has that achieved in moving the state forward especially, that you seem to be issuing handouts to the opposition for them to comply?

We don’t issue handouts. I don’t even know what you mean by handouts. I only know of handouts when we were in school and that was for us to read and pass exams. Then in what way have we ensured politics of inclusion? In all ramifications! Everything we do, we don’t deal with political party affiliations. We are not partisan on anything; what we do, we just look at our people, our state.

At the same time, if you look at the way we give appointments, a lot of people who did not even support me and what drives this is that the day election is over, it is governance. It has nothing to do with election again. This is time for governance. It’s no more time for partisan politics. These things are just the state of mind and once you can overcome it from your own mind, you can also conquer it. So, you embrace everybody and try to break those barriers of partisan politics. That’s the way we do it.

Q: Recently, the Minister of Science and Technology said by 2019, the nation would start producing pencils and your state seems to be deeply into this. Is it just for your people alone as a test case?

Well, I didn’t hear the minister say so. But let me also say something here clearly. I’m not the one who brought out the statistics, but let me tell you what I heard about the statistics that Nigeria spent about N350 billion importing pencil. So, the question is, is producing pencil a wrong exercise? The answer is no. If you pay a visit to Akwa Ibom State, I have everything that it takes in terms of raw materials. I have all that you use in that pencil. Is it the bamboo, the wood, or is it the pieces of paper?
And you know, with the new attention on environment, you can actually get used papers to produce pencils that will be more environment friendly too. There are so many things that they are now using to produce pencil. It’s not as difficult as you made it sound. If you don’t also want to make use of wood to produce this pencil, you make use of paper. Can you get the technology from somewhere else, the answer is yes. You can actually share knowledge. But where you cannot, you can also borrow knowledge.

What matters most is do you have the people; do you have the material? The answer is yes. I’m one of those who believe that we can start this under small and medium enterprises scheme. These are entrepreneurial schemes that we are running for small and medium scale enterprises. Why? It is because I don’t see this as a major exercise. It doesn’t actually pay us as a country to import a whole pencil when we have so much unemployment and so much of those things we can also use in making our own. So, we have our blueprint and we are looking at not just pencil, even the basic plastic materials that we use on daily basis. Those are things that we believe that small and medium scale enterprises can produce on a daily basis, because those are the things that people use on a daily basis.

Coming to toothpick, any kind of bamboo, even from the raffia palm, will do it. Some people even use it for firewood. So, why should I import toothpick, when I can easily produce it. It’s the same bamboo that I’m going to import from another place when I can actually create value for the same local woman, who is cutting that bamboo for firewood. A man can also cut the same bamboo and use it to process toothpick, rather than importing it. That’s basic knowledge, nothing so special. It’s just for you to just look out and say what do I have and what I have is what I need.

So, why can’t the main bamboo tree now become a source of raw material? And even the raffia palm that we have all over the place in the swampy areas. That’s a major source of rubber materials. So, I don’t see a big deal in this. The only aspect I think we need to also look at as a people is those machines that process this. I think that’s where the main issue comes in. I think with time, Nigeria should be able to break into that also because I look at those machines, they can easily be fabricated by the people. It’s not that difficult. That’s why I say some of those technologies we can also transfer. That’s how I look at those areas.

Q: How do you go about that?

First off, we identify that needs there. How many schools do I have? If I run a free and compulsory education and the people need something to write, why do I have to go and buy those things? Why do I have to import them? Let me first of all meet that need. It’s the same thing. The money I could have used to import them, let me use that money to manufacture them and in the course of doing that, I will employ a lot of people and create an economy.

By the time you look at the complete value chain, I’ve done something within the economy and the effect will be there. So, instead of just throwing away raw cash outside, I keep telling people that any country which imports everything, that country is a rich country. So, can actually look back and plough that money that we want to use for importation into some other small industrial businesses and it is in line with our blueprint.

Q: How have you been able to balance your goals amid financial constraints?

As much as you prepare for leadership, you know God also prepares you for serving the people at a point in time. I try to let people know that in time of recession, two things must be defined clearly in your head and you must be able to define and separate them to know what matters at what point in time. There is a difference between cash and money. So, in period of recession, you must define what money can get for you and what cash can get. In the time of recession, you won’t be able to get cash, but you can create money depending on what you are pursuing.

I know a lot of people still get highest revenue but at what revenue line? I only get when it comes to sharing from oil. For months, there was a time when we did not even lift a barrel of crude oil. Akwa Ibom produces almost 46 per cent of the entire oil this country produces. So, there was a time when we did not lift even a barrel of crude oil. You can imagine the impact of that on our revenue. So, in time of recession, we must differentiate what you can do with cash and what you can do with money.

I think for those that count payment of salaries as major achievement, it is because in a period of recession, what cash can do is an achievement. My workers work in a particular day and they get alert, not just salaries but pensions. So, we take those things for granted. Once you differentiate between what cash and money can do, you will know where you are going. I think that’s the edge we have over certain people who can’t create money. I think we can create money even in a period of recession, but we may not have cash. If you are looking at what cash can do, it will affect everybody. But if you look at what money can do, it may not affect everybody because it’s not everybody that has the capability and the capacity to create money during a recession. But I think we do.

Q: Specifically, how did you manage during this recession?

This thing has a lot to do with attitude. In every situation, there is always an opportunity. If you look at the opportunity in that situation and tackle that opportunity, you would have coped with that situation at that point in time. Even in the period of recession, there are lots of opportunities. So, why not address those opportunities and leave the setbacks. You must deliberately look at what are the game changers and then pursue those ones. I was just talking to one of your colleagues and we were sharing ideas.

If a human being can die and there is an opportunity, how much more a recession? If somebody dies now, while the bereaved are crying over their dead, the man selling casket is happy that there is going to be sales. It’s an opportunity for the man. So, in every situation, there is an opportunity. Even the recession you are saying, that is the time you can change the mental attitude of your people, because they are facing the reality of the time. Don’t wait. Don’t look at the global economy. Look at what you have. We use different teachings. Look at also where they are familiar with.

The easiest thing to talk to an African is religion, because in Africa, anything goes. The same man who is going to work in the morning is going to church in the evening. So, you can do leadership training. You let the people know that with five loaves and two fishes, you can actually make a difference to enhance your potential. This is the time to launch a mental rebirth and a philosophy that could guide the people. So, by the time there is a period of abundance, that philosophy you can’t easily change it. They will now use that in the management of the resources at that point in time, because they are coming from a different mindset. So, in every situation, you always create an opportunity. That’s how we are managing.

Q: In what ways are you improving the IGR of your state, because that is central to achieving these goals?

I know a lot of people say different things about rates, but there is a limit to what you can do because no matter how lovely your tax laws are, no matter how aggressive you are in driving collections, the ability to pay must be there. How many people would you lock up because they couldn’t pay taxes? The ability must be there. Mind you, some of these taxes are not collected in advance. They are collected in arrears.

Q: So, the people may have spent both your tax and his own earnings because a whole lot of state government IGR comes from pay as you earn. Some of them would have spent what they are earning this month because they live in advance. As time comes, the money doesn’t even get to them. It must have vanished from the banks. So, how do you collect that kind of IGR?

It’s so nice with words how to improve IGR, but does it work in real time? The answer is no. The reality is: these are your people. The ability to pay must be there. We can’t just lock somebody because the person didn’t have the ability to pay. There is a limit to what you can do and that’s why we are trying to do that shift in paradigm that there are other things that can earn revenue for you, not just the same PAYE concept.

So, what do you now do with that? You now look at the economy. If the economy is buoyant, there will be many sources of IGR. You need to build the economy and then IGR will be added. You must build on something to get something. You cannot just build without foundation. The building will collapse. So, you first of all look at the foundation and then tackle that foundation. Once the foundation is strong, it will be easier to build and it will be sustainable.

Q: Have you pondered the sustainability of your projects?

The answer is yes, because of the sense of ownership. For example, the coconut plantation we are doing, the communities own certain percentage of what we are doing there. So, there is that sense of ownership. Once we start earning revenue, some of the local government areas will participate actively in this thing, because a lot of people will be interested in being local government chairman, because of the sources of revenue. Ownership will be there. People protect what they own. Even when they don’t have the money, you give them certain percentage of shares from there. That is sustainable.

Second, we made these projects as pure business. Let me give you an example. What we did with cocoa, instead of us to start planting cocoa afresh, we started with the maintenance of the 26,000 hectares of cocoa that we have. All of them are individual ventures. And as support from government, we first of all brought consultants, who will show them the maintenance of that cocoa.

Immediately, we started that maintenance within a short period. We told them, leave the farm to us for three to four weeks, then, come back. When most of them came back after six weeks, the way the thing had sprout all over, even a tree that they wanted probably to cut off, by the time they came back, the flowers were all over from the top to the base of the tree. They couldn’t just believe it. They started calling it magic. It’s not magic. It is about knowing what to do at every point in time. So, what we did was, the government pays the consultants, the people who have knowledge. Knowledge is power.

Your government is believed to be doing a lot in the area of agriculture. How far have you gone here?
Now, we are launching into improved seedlings for them to plant. In doing that, you could see that it flows from the hands of the people into government. So, government is just creating an enabling environment, depending on the kind of produce you are looking at. Like that cocoa, we do that. But things like palm fruits and so on, we leave those in the hands of individuals. We just provide the enabling environment. There are some that we need to bring the seeds like the maize farming that we are doing.

The problem that we had was that over the years, what we used to think were pests for corn plantation and they were not really pests. Research now shows that the seed that were planted are the great, great grandfather seed. How do you preserve seed in Africa? Once you harvest corn this year, those domestic consumptions you’ve finished, the remaining ones, people now put it in this clay pot and then dry it in front of fire to preserve it. Those things are losing value.

After certain generation, when you plant it, it comes out as if they are being attacked by pest. It’s because those things have actually lost value. So, what do we do? As a government, we said no, we started running at out-grower scheme. We bought improved seeds in order to suck off those old seeds and then we give the seeds free. Anywhere in the world, government must subsidize the basic life of people.

So, we bought the seeds for them. We also introduced two planting seasons in a year. We believe if they plant twice in a year, in 24 months, we will have a cycle of four. So, within three to four years, we would have actually eliminated the old seeds from the system and there will be new ones. These new seeds have improved starch, improved vitamins and it’s also sweeter. It’s a sweet corn.

In terms of rice production, I know without even improved seedlings or anything, our yield is one of the best. So, we started with what I call a demonstration system of 10,000 of hectares that is solely into the private bodies that are coming to grow in. Once they start growing, we will set up a mill and they will process that. To also add to cocoa, we are also trying to bring a processing plant for the cocoa, because why our people are not getting value for cocoa is because the flavor does not stay in the international market. What makes one particular type of cocoa different from the other is the flavor in the international market and that’s due to the drying system.

Once you go and spread it under the sun, that drying process loses the flavor in the international market. So, we are now coming up with the latest technology in processing. These are the enabling environment that you create for people and that’s why I think it’s sustainable. So, when you are asking whether it is sustainable, the answer is yes, they are sustainable, because you are actually teaching people the right approach, the right things to do that will make them sustainable. Once people start getting value out of this, they won’t let it go and they will try to maintain it.

There have been speculations that you were planning to join the APC, because you already have issues with your predecessor. Is it true?
The answer is no. I’ve never considered that. It is unthinkable that a pillar of PDP like me will think of jumping the ship. In my entire lifestyle, I don’t jump ship. I’m a very loyal person. The church I was born into by my grandfather is the church I’m still maintaining till today. I’ve not changed. I keep saying that nobody has a monopoly of God.

That same man who can read that same bible and understand it, the same ministry is available for me too. I can also read to understand it. So, I also know what to do to find fragrance in my own worship service too that will make my church sustainable and attract people, not to talk of political parties. I can’t go anywhere. PDP is my blood. So, I can’t go anywhere outside PDP. PDP can never die. PDP is the largest party in Africa.

Forget the propaganda, PDP is the only party that if you go to any ward in all the 774 local governments in this country, and you mention PDP, nobody will ask you what you are referring to. In fact, PDP in my state is like a religion. PDP is the only place that you can see quality leaders. Anything you hear of and you still believe in Akwa Ibom is PDP. So, how do you expect my people to leave PDP?
In my state today, if you ask anybody in the local community, who is the party chairman, they will mention the PDP chairman. Even from the airport, ask them that you want to go to the party chairman’s house and see where they will take you to. It’s PDP chairman that they will take you to straight. Is there any other political party? The answer is no. It’s one party that I know and that is PDP. I don’t know of any other party. Anywhere you see me, know that you’ve seen PDP.

Q: So, is it true you have issues with your predecessor?

I’m not aware of that, depending on what you call issues. You know there are two types of issues – issues of development or negative issues. If you listened to my speech on democracy day, I said our politicking is pro-development. If you mean we are having issues of developing in the state, of course, that’s how we do our politics. But if you say issues, I don’t know of any other issue. The day I was voted into power, I was not voted to have negative issues.

I was voted to have positive issues and those positive issues have been part of development of the people and resources of our state. So, we don’t have any issues in the direction that you are looking at. Somebody told me one day that this is a banana peel and I said we won’t match that banana peel. So, when you read those things, just ignore. There have never been any issue and there will never be.

It has also to do with how you play these things. If the whole idea is about service to the people, your self-aggrandizement must come down for people’s interest to override that and once that overrides your self-aggrandizement, we don’t have issues at all. Our state is too precious for us to be thinking of any other thing. We have a very cordial relationship as expected. It’s left for you now to define as expected.

Q: You were the chairman of the PDP committee that zoned the national chairmanship of the party to the North East and eventually to Borno State. Do you regret the emergence of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as PDP national chairman, given the crisis at hand?

I’m one person that if I take decisions, I don’t regret my decisions. I took that decision at that point in time based on what was available for me at that time. So, it was the best of judgment at that minute. Situations change. It is only God that does not change. So, if situations have changed that could change the character of people, it doesn’t actually matter. So, you don’t sit back and regret that.

The question now is: when will your ingenuity in the management of crisis come in? How do you manage yourself out of that situation and remain unscathed? That’s where we are going towards and at the same time, we will go with the rule of law. So, it doesn’t call for me castigating somebody’s character. At the time we took that decision that was the best at that point in time.

Q: You said earlier that the PDP is known for throwing up quality leaders. Does it include Senator Sheriff?

Before Sheriff was nominated chairman, the forum talked to so many other people. There was actually an interview process and everybody at that committee accepted that. At that point in time, was that the best decision to take? The answer is yes. Can that decision change in the next minute? The answer is yes. That’s why we are immortal. We are not God.

So, we can take decisions today that might not look good to anybody in the next minute. But we must learn to stand by that decision and manage ourselves out of it. That’s what differentiates a man and who is not a man. So, when you hear people just sitting and criticising, they are recruits in this field. They are not yet Generals, because if you are a General, you should manage yourself out of that situation, not criticising that situation.
So, when I said PDP produces best leaders, I mean elected leaders under the PDP platform. I mean people elected under the PDP platform. It’s like if you have a house, there is a difference between your biological son and an adopted son, even though you might try to share your rights, biology and law are two different things. They don’t even belong in the same faculty.

Q: Your state often boasts of having one of the best hospitals in the country and yet, prominent Nigerians, most of them politicians have never deemed it fit to patronize the hospital. Is there a problem?

In life, we must respect our bosses. I have absolute respect for anybody who is on top of me. So, I don’t discuss anybody on top of me. The only person I’m allowed to discuss is only if the person is my biological father. But anything outside that, I respect the system. But coming to Ibom Specialist Hospital, it is one thing to have facilities; it’s another thing for the facilities to get to where they produce optimum results. So, where we are today, we’ve gone somewhere.

But I can say that we have not fully equipped it to that level of vision that we have. That’s why we called on the minister that we need to partner the federal government. You remember within that period we made that statement, dollars dropped from N186 to over N500. So, it dropped by almost N75 per cent. You can see the paradox there. Cost increased to almost infinity. It didn’t balance.

So, it affected the planning. No matter how efficient, no matter your level of ingenuity, you cannot create something out of nothing.

So, that’s what affected the speed of getting to where we wanted that Specialist Hospital to be. So, you could see that most of the equipment that could have actually helped us reach that level of such other hospitals that you can find in Germany or anywhere, with the forex was not even available. Even when you have N500 to buy 1 dollar, where will even find the genuine transaction that you wanted to buy? Mind you, this transaction is in the international market and you can only go through international best practices. That’s what actually made us not to reach that peak that we were hoping for.

Q: Talking about the issue of the Bakassi returnees, in what ways are you proposing to help?

Bakassi returnees have been there over the years and it is not how do we intend but how have we been helping them. I think as at today, most of them have actually been re-integrated into the system. So, it’s not new. It might interest you to know that Bakassi is so close – about two hours from Akwa Ibom market. If you go towards Ibaka area right now, most of the settlers there are the Bakassi returnees. Some of them have picked up new trade.

Some of them are going back into fishing. What matters most is how much do we want to accept these people? Once we accept them, then there are no barriers. There won’t be any issue. Some of them are very good fishermen. So, they’ve fully re-integrated themselves like the other fishermen, who are settling around the riverine area. That also helps the state, because it makes the fish and aquatic materials available. In fact, there are so many people now bringing them to the shore line for people to buy.

Q: Are you considering holding the local government elections anytime soon?

When people refer to conducting local government elections, I said it’s quite clear. The hierarchy of needs, some are fundamental and urgent and important. Some are important but might not be so urgent, might not be so fundamental. I consider that meeting other basic needs of people is much fundamental, urgent and material, because of the style. When we are talking about policy inclusiveness, I don’t sit in my office and write names of those who are the local government transition committee. That’s what makes the difference.

Those I put in the local government transition committee, even if I were to do elections, it’s the same people that will go hundred per cent because I leave this thing back to the people to decide. So, we called headquarters meeting. We want to do transition Committee. We don’t have money to do election. And no matter how we do an election, we must do the election in almost 3,000 units. Look at the materials that we need. And here, when you are doing anything, it’s with your own infrastructure. Look at the generators that we will buy.

Look at the security that we need there. Look at the manpower resources, mobility and vehicle, because you must convey materials. So, by the time you put these things together, you now wonder, what am I set to achieve? What is the purpose? At times you run out of answers. Just for me to have somebody to govern a local government. We can use that money and even pay the local government employees, who have not been paid for some time; pay the pensioners, who could die even before the election. Who will the voters be if everybody is hungry? The money we could have used to give them what is required so that they can actually have the strength to go and vote we now use for election.

Q: Who are we trying to impress?

Who are we working for? Some of these things are not cast in stone or iron. You can actually look at what the law allows you to do within the context of available resources and what you want to achieve for your people. I think my people are very happy. If you hear anybody going to court, you know it’s an exception. But the question is: are we going to do the local government election? The answer is yes. We are meeting with the State Independent Electoral Commission so that we chat on how we are going to do the local government election, because that is the law. But we have to cushion the effect and the drastic nature of last year’s recession. That’s why I’m the manager of resources.

Q: What efforts are you making to creating jobs given the teeming unemployed youths in the state?

I’m not actually taking count of this. But I can tell you that in a period of recession, approvals given to capital projects will create a lot of jobs. I was talking one of the construction companies and he told me that he had 400 employees. You can imagine the likes of CECC, Julius Berger, how much they have in my place. In the period of recession, you need to defend the economy by pumping a lot of money. That’s why I talked of creation of money. Once I create money, those people will look for cash and pay the workers.

So, I am not taking stock of this but I know we are going somewhere very significant. If you add the empowerment scheme, you will see that we have created a whole lot. It’s only in my state that you will see a journalist who used to write a lot when we contested, and today, he can stand tall and give you a testimony that he has dropped his biro and he is in a tomato farm and from that tomato farm, he can even publish two or three newspapers.
It’s only in my state that you will see a young man who has never gone to school. He was weaving baskets for people to go for the fishing of shrimps in the swampy land. He will tell you that he has weaved 1000 of those baskets for a tomato farmer and he has realised N40 million, that he has never realised in his life time.

Today, there is something we are about doing for palm wine tappers. You know in those days, when somebody taps palm wine, they will think you are the poorest person, but it shouldn’t be. We just discovered now that the ethanol from palm wine is one of the best on planet earth for both cosmetic, gin and alcohol manufacturers. So, what do we do? Anybody who taps that palm wine, in that case, it won’t have any expiry date. We just create a silo. You put the palm wine once you tap. From there, you get ethanol. It’s not rocket science. It’s simple knowledge. All I need is electricity to process them.

Q: Which of the PDP camps do you belong?

I belong to PDP, not any side. But at the same time, I belong to everybody. Once you are in PDP with all sincerity of purpose, you are my party member. As human beings, there is no way that we will expect to live in this life without minor hiccups; it’s not practicable. Anywhere you have two or three people, there are bound to be one or two issues. In PDP today, for somebody to say if you go this way, he’s going that way, when you hear somebody talking that way, you know that he’s not a PDP person. Any PDP person will stay to build PDP.

Q: You mean even if it was under Sheriff?

It doesn’t matter. After Supreme Court judgment, the name will not disappear. The party will remain. The day I was voted into office, I wasn’t voted as Udom Emmanuel. I was voted as PDP. So, people go to the polls to vote the party, not individuals. So, how come somebody will be talking about individuals and not the party? Once you see people talking like that, you know that they are not true party people. How come it’s only in Nigeria that people just jump ship, probably because your party has lost election at the centre? If you are a Republican, you are a Republican for life.

Somebody can even tie you to your grandfather – oh that’s the family of Republican, that’s the family of Democrats. It’s only here that you can’t even determine where people belong. But not me, I’m in PDP. Anywhere the judgment goes, I remain PDP. I want somebody to look tomorrow at my children tomorrow and tell them that you are from a family of PDP, not where you can’t pronounce certain names. I hear all kinds of name, but forget it. Nobody is going anywhere. Politics is about negotiations. All those people who are creating those things are just looking for negotiations – all of them.

We will negotiate. But don’t ask me any faction I belong to. I belong to PDP and I will not leave PDP. When you hear people just jumping, today they are here, the next day they are there, they are being greedy. When you see them, look into their eyes and tell them you are greedy men. You are jumping from one place to another, you are greedy men. Tomorrow, the same people who jumped two years ago, you find that they are jumping to another place.

You will lose your legs in the cause of jumping. Judgment will not change the umbrella of our party. Judgment is just to decide who heads and all those things are just personal issues. It’s just the individuals. Why must you follow individuals? The party should stand on its own; it should stand on the principles on which that party was founded and the mission of that party, not individuals. So, the party remains. Don’t let anybody deceive you.

Q: Lastly, let’s talk about tackling poverty, isn’t it sad that in spite of the uncommon transformation of the eight years of your predecessor, you still have to deal with poverty at such a level?

Poverty is relative. I’m sure tomorrow now, you can just touch your pocket and tell my commissioner, I’m very poor. It is relative, and we might look at your assets and you can actually buy up the whole place. It’s relative depending on how you define poverty at that level. But what I mean here is that poverty is a generic term because I’m measuring this on per capita and we’ve not reached there yet. Let me also say that uncommon transformation was to lay a foundation. Few things attract investment anywhere but I want to concentrate on three: security, reliable infrastructure and transparent legislation.

Uncommon transformation tackled the infrastructure. But you need others to actually get people out of the poverty line. So, security is not only in terms of physical security. Food security is there. So, the foundation laid by uncommon transformation would have been the foundation for a sky scraper.

But you don’t a skilled person to come and build a bungalow on top of that foundation that is supposed to be for a sky scraper. What we are looking for is a square peg in a square hole to actually fit in there. So, having laid the foundation, we must build a super structure on that foundation. Until you finish it, it’s not yet done. So, uncommon transformation laid that foundation. We are building on that foundation.

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