Mr. Ekerete Udoh is the Chief Press Secretary to the Akwa Ibom state Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel. In this interview with our correspondent ISAAC JOB in Uyo, he speaks on a range of political issues in the state, specifically the chances of his boss winning a second term in office since according to him, ‘there is no Tinubu in Akwa Ibom capable of driving All Progressive Congress (APC) to victory in 2019.
We have observed the unfolding political developments in the state especially the defection of former senate minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio to the APC and other gale of defections across board. What is the future of Governor Udom Emmanuel in all of these?
Well, the future of the Governor is assured. It is a done deal. He is going to win a resounding second term and the people of Akwa Ibom state are solidly behind him.
The people of Akwa Ibom state are impressed with what he has been able to do in the past three years and three months given the parlous and challenging economic times that invaded us when His Excellency was sworn in on May 29, 2015 and given the length and breadth of his achievements he has recorded under the prevailing challenging times. The people of Akwa Ibom state have seen what he has done.
His campaign was predicated on the five-point agenda which I am sure you are aware of. The major plank of his five-point agenda was industrialization which is to take the state from over dependence on one source of economic growth which is derivation from oil arising from the fact that this state is the highest producer of crude oil in the nation.
He wanted to put a new touch on industrialization and so far he has achieved that in spite of the challenging economic situation. There was a time certain plans were made at certain points that there would be thirty-one industries in 31 local government areas in the state and not even one of that was done.
But this is a man that has been able to bring in industries across the three senatorial districts of the state. He has brought a new civility into governance. This government is Christ-centric, people centric and a government that issues of concern to the people takes centre stage.
He has been able to improve on a lot of things that he met on ground. Education remains free and fair; the quality of education has improved tremendously.
Teachers who are dedicated and well vested in their areas of expertise have been brought in and access has improved not just in the liberal arts kind of education but on education that would ensure and guarantee the children of Africa a bright future to compete in the market place of ideas and that is predicated on the new types of industry which is technology-driven by this administration.
The emphasis and focus is being put on ensuring that our kids are prepared to compete with their counterparts down the road.
In terms of healthcare, our hospitals have been remodelled namely Ikono General Hospital, Etinan General Hospital, Ikot Okoro, Emmanuel Hospital, Eket, General Hospital in Oron; primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary healthcare facilities have been attended to and improved. The Governor is investing resources in ensuring that those critical elements of governance are given the attention they deserve.
Salaries, pensions and gratuities are being paid on time compared to other states where salaries and other entitlements are owed for months.
His Excellency upon been sworn in had to clear a backlog of 10 years gratuities and pension and he needed not to have done that because he was not the governor by the time those were recorded.
The labour movement in the state was absolutely excited and they sent him tones of letters of appreciation for doing that so he is a people-centric leader.
There used to be a lot of insecurity in the state; people were being kidnapped, shot at, killed, etc, but in the last three years and three months His Excellency has been in this state, apart from some skirmishes in parts of Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo local governments, which is largely gang-related, the state has been peaceful.
Due to the peaceful atmosphere in the state, people are pursuing their legitimate businesses because the atmosphere has been made peaceful for industries, talents and creativity to thrive. The people of Akwa Ibom are aware of all these and so when the time comes, the people would reward him with a second term.
There is a high level of apprehension in government circle resulting from the defection of the former governor, Senator Akpabio to the APC. During Akpabio’s defection rally at Ikot Ekpene stadium he threatened to capture and deliver Akwa Ibom to the APC. Do you see this happening?
The Akwa Ibom spirit is predicated on republican values and ethos. Akwa Ibom resent the notion that somebody is going to lead them by the nose. We don’t have political warlords here.
There is no Tinubu in Akwa Ibom state so anybody who thinks and claims that he is going to rewrite history and change the social order, goodluck to him.
Akwa Ibom state is decidedly PDP; the South-South is decidedly PDP so whosoever said he is going to turn over Akwa Ibom state to APC should watch his back first to ascertain if his backyard would vote overwhelmingly for APC before he comes to talk about the entire Akwa Ibom state.
Nobody plays God in Akwa Ibom state. The Akwa Ibom people are not wired to those sentiments. We have the capacity to sit down and analyze things, check out the philosophical character, integrity, transparency of the current governor.
If I may say this, the Akwa Ibom man of 2018 is very sure of himself. He is not going to go on bended knees to ask for favours.
He is going to stand ramrod straight because he sees himself as a major stakeholder in the Nigerian enterprise. So if somebody is telling you that he is going to turn over Akwa Ibom state on bended knees and return the people to the layers of servitude good luck to the person.
A lot of revelations concerning projects, debt profile, etc, are coming forth now after Senator Akpabio parted ways with Governor Udom Emmanuel. Was it an act of cowardice for the Governor not to have opened up before now?
That is such a convoluted analysis from you. In warfare you may not be the first to lob the grenade. Truth will always be constant; facts will always be facts, propaganda will always be propaganda, playing to the gallery will always be playing to the gallery. Facts are sacred and when the governor speaks, he speaks from the position of facts, unvarnished truth…
(Cuts in)…Why is he talking now?
I have answered your question.
There are concerns that former loyalists of Senator Akpabio are presently supporting the re-election of the Governor Emmanuel, though others think they could be moles who may not be sincerely working in the interest of the Governor. Despite this sentiment, why do you still think they are for the Governor?
Their loyalty is sacrosanct because they don’t look at things based on the prism of an individual; they look at things based on the collective goals of the state.
What is it that will make Akwa Ibom state move forward? Is what Governor Udom Emmanuel doing geared towards lifting the state to that desired position of economic prosperity and sustenance?
These people have done what is called in political science cost benefit analysis and have realised that under the leadership of Governor Emmanuel, the state is moving forward so there is no need going backwards.
You don’t sacrifice the collective good over the desires and needs of an individual, so these are very astute politicians. They understand that the future of Akwa Ibom is above and beyond the interest of one single individual.
They have made an enlightened self decision; enlightened in the sense that they have done all the analysis and have realized that the state is moving forward under the leadership of His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel and there is no need to change the goalpost in the middle of the game.
Are you not afraid of federal might in the 2019 election?
Was there no federal might when Jonathan was the president? Why didn’t Jonathan deploy it to truncate the wish of the people? President Muhammadu Buhari is a democrat; he is a Nigerian patriot.
He went to war and put his life on the line for this nation and he has been a patriot all along so he would not stand and watch his legacy destroyed because of naked desire for power.
So if the choice of the Nigerian people is that the PDP should return to power at the centre and other layers of governance, President Muhammadu Buhari being a patriot and a democrat will not stand on the way of the people.
We in Akwa Ibom state are not afraid of federal might because this state belongs to PDP; it is a decidedly PDP state, if anybody decides to truncate the will of the people there will be problem.
The Governor came to power on a five-point agenda; do you think he has fulfilled his agenda and what should Akwa Ibom expect from him if he wins a second term?
The industries that His Excellency has built would create more employment. There would be continuous economic growth; expansion of the layers of education, healthcare, job opportunities, etc.
Akwa Ibom will continue to move forward because if you look at most societies there are always a progression from one point to another, and that is what the governor is doing.
He has a vision, sense of purpose and has a schematic representation of where he is taking this state to. I bet you, by the time he leaves power in 2023, you will come back and tell me, CPS you were right.
You will see a state within a nation whose GDP and the economy will be larger than most countries in Africa combined.
“The Akwa Ibom spirit is predicated on republican values and ethos. Akwa Ibom resent the notion that somebody is going to lead them by the nose. We don’t have political warlords here. There is no Tinubu in Akwa Ibom state so anybody who thinks and claims that he is going to rewrite history and change the social order, goodluck to him”.