Elder Sam Ikon is the member representing Etinan Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Abuja, and former Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. He was among the three federal lawmakers recently accused of sexual misconduct in United States of America by the United States Ambassador to Nigeria.
At the weekend, Sam Ikon paid an unscheduled thank you visit to management and staff of Radar Newspapers in Uyo for standing by him and his colleagues during the saga to generated negative media reports both online and on Print.
We bring you the excerpts of his interaction of the Radar editorial team:
Thank you Radar
I came here to thank the management and editorial team of the Radar Newspapers for standing by me and for publishing the true version of what happened during the US sexual allegation involving me and two of my colleagues in the Federal House of Representatives.
It is on record that only Radar Newspapers reached out to me and my colleagues to hear from us, while other newspapers in the state and online did not care to investigate or cross check before their publications. It is sad that some even go to the extent of publishing that my wife has divorced me, whereas it is not true.
The hatred got to the extent where they employed a lawyer to write to my church, seeking that I should be dropped as an Elder of the church because of mere allegations which were not true.
I will not make any further comment on the US allegation until when the final report of the National Assembly Committee that investigated the matter has been laid before the floor of the chambers, adopted and made public. But for today, I say ‘thank you Radar newspapers. You guys are doing a good job here.’
I am happy that these are the same faces I met here some years ago when I visited this office. I can see that the team is still intact. I sincerely appreciate the way you guys are carrying out your reportage. You do cross check your information before publication.
I remember when I was the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, your publisher would always call me to cross check any information or story he had against the House.
I want to say that despite the hard stance of the paper, you still carry the version of the other side. This is what Radar has been known for over the years.
I thank you for standing by me and for standing by the truth.
You were a ranking member in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and now you are a Federal lawmaker, I want to know, is there any difference between the legislative process in the State and the Federal?
There is no much difference. It is just that federal budget is much but, there is basically no difference.
I have said earlier and I will continue to say that the issue of budget padding is not an issue. What the media has to do is to analysis and see that the issue is not worthy of further mentioning. But again, we find ourselves in a media that is sensational and very interested in celebrating what does not make any sense.
The legislature has the power to look into the budget and do whatever they think is good to make it a workable document for the good of the people that we represent and the executive has the power of laying the budget as well as implementing it.
So for someone to say all those things in the media, is going out of the way. That is why I’m happy that, as we are speaking, there is a group of former legislators that would be going to the Supreme Court for interpretation of the extent of our legislative powers as regards budget, so that some of these issues can be properly understood.
Do you think that the legislature has the powers fundamentally to change the budget document as was represented to it by the executive?
No, this is where you have the Morbid after the responsibility of the legislature. You cannot completely overhaul what the executive did and that’s why the legislature does not work alone in this process.
You know, even within the legislature, you have the Research and Development department. And there is also the Budget department and all these relevant departments have experts that can also work with some committees. And some committees are allowed to have consultants who are experts in these areas. You can also avail yourself of that synergy of working with relevant ministries of government if you want to.
In fact, when I was the chairman of the House of Assembly Committee on Appropriation, I also insisted and ensured that the staffs of the Ministry of Economic Development and the Budget Office were always sited throughout our deliberations as a committee.
Because, they have the technicalities; we didn’t have the backbone like the National Assembly has in terms of budget issues. So, I insisted that a staffs of Economic development would be there. Our own Research and Development Directors, and their staffs would be there and then, Director of Budget, and their staffs would be there, so with all these people, you cannot fault the exercise because, they have the framework and once you move out of the border line, they would raise the issues, so whatever amendment and juggling you will do, you can still do it within the framework.
Like this year’s budget, you will see that, the amount was same, so whatever is done inside there, did not mitigate or alter the final figure, which was part of the larger economic plan of the government, so nothing changes, is the same amount but, the details will be looked at to strengthen the economic indices.
I give you a typical example, the people have said a lot about constituency projects and all that, you will be shocked that if you can get that budget and look at it, out of the 360 Federal Constituencies, you would be shocked that you may not have constituency projects because of lack of availability of funds. But when you now bring in constituency interventions, 360 constituencies now have something, which one is better?
People have talked about abuse, yes, the relevant procurement laws will now be implemented, the relevant provision is now put in place, not for you do cancel that aspect, because that is the only way the 360 constituencies can yearly feel government impact.
Leave it to executive alone, I can tell you not up to 20 constituencies in a year would feel anything. So when people want to throw away the bath water, they want to throw it with the baby, it’s wrong.
There is no system that you won’t have lapses. What you would do is to use the existing rules and regulations to strengthen it and make it more workable. I was saying that, this administration talked about poverty alleviation, the constituency projects could be used as poverty alleviation. All you need is to put more on vocational training and empowerment under constituency projects and then there is massive supervision to ensure that the people have it and the people are empowered to start something on their own and be creative and become managers of their own small businesses.
So that can drive the poverty alleviation policy of the Federal Government, not to cut it off. When you cut it off, for example, you say, you are not implementing it, what would you do for my constituents?
What are your constituency projects for your constituents and when are you having your constituency briefing?
I had a constituency briefing in June this year. Probably, I will have another one before the end of the year.
I want to appeal to the people to please be a little patient and allow room for interaction with their representatives.
You see in abroad, nobody gives anything during constituency briefing. You hold a constituency briefing and you are drilled by your constituents; ‘what did you do?’ and ‘what did you not do?’ You are able to show them the water project you are able to influence to the area. It’s a grilling process but here, I don’t think you can have that kind of discussion for up to thirty minutes and people would not start to ask what is available for them, in terms of cash. So we must begin to change the narrative and begin to put our public officers and elected officials in the position of accountability; where somebody knows, ‘oh, as I am going home. I’m going to the fired oh, what am I going to tell my people?’
But here people judge on how much money you will be able to throw around, which also add to the issue of corruption, because where do you want the legislator to bring this money from?
It’s so sad that, even if, you sacrifice to give somebody money to find something and do, only for them to come back and tell you stories after three months.
So we must face reality, that’s why you see so many legislators left office, and in three months time, they cannot pay her children’s school fees, we have to be real about it. Because they tried to over stretch themselves, in order, to meet expectations and in the process, they become wretch and the people don’t understand why.
Some of us who are representatives do it as a passion and not what you will make out of it. It’s just a passion to have a platform to be able to speak for the people to attract things for the people and all that.
If you come into political office with the mindset of what to grab, sorry, you gonna crash. That’s why some of us that came in didn’t feel it because; we had businesses until the thing finished our businesses and ran into our salaries and finished everything.
I love it when I see critic who shouted that somebody does not give, is given appointment into political office and, when you ask him after six months of how many people he has given empowerment to, him will say “nna, nawao oh, so this thing is like this”? Because, that’s when you’ll realise that, all that glitters are not gold, it’s just packaging.
Our people must begin to understand that, if a legislator struggles to make some amount of money available to you, he is not giving money made out of contracts; it is his legitimate earning, please make the best use of it so that one person is off the pressure from him.
If he is able to speak to somebody to give you some supplies somewhere, whatever money you make out of it, for goodness sake, invest it and take the pressure off his head; not to come back few weeks to add to his pressure again.
What is your assessment of Governor Udom Emmanuel and President Muhammadu Buhari’s performances over one year in their offices?
Well, speaking about Governor Udom Emmanuel, I have said it before and I will continue to say it that we must thank God for bringing him at this time. If you know what is happening to our economy, you will then know that we didn’t need any other person at this time than an economic expert, someone who understands the financial situation.
And, I must commend him for his strives, in fact, the last time I met the Governor, I asked him, ‘where he is getting money to do projects,’ because the load is on him.
So these are the realities and we as a people must be happy with him for what he is doing. We need to go to other states and see what is going on there. You will see that government has totally collapsed, because when a governor collects allocation that cannot even pay salaries to go and talk of projects, the money you collect even for two months cannot pay one month salaries of workers in the state; so you can now imagine what is going on in that kind of place. He has to stay for, at least, three to four months to be able to pay one month salaries, if the commitment in the state would even allow that money to be saved up to that.
So, some states have reduced salaries to 50 percent; some now are suggesting you come to work three days so that they can further reduce the salaries.
So, all sort of things are going on and we should not take what we see for granted, which is the problem I have seen in Akwa Ibom state is that; we take a lot of things for granted because, God has been merciful to allow us have peace and good governance that we have; we just assume that what more did we expect?
Some would say, ‘after all, we elected you there, what did we expect?’ Do you know the complexity of Nigeria and somebody is able to drag projects to your state and you say, ‘that’s why we voted you there’?
You don’t understand what it takes. We must be able to commend efforts, knowledge initiative, so that the person can be in a proper frame of mind to do more. So when I drove round the state and I saw roads being constructed; some completed, I turned round and gave thanks to God for the governor because, I know the financial situation, as far as this country is concerned and I know that he has tried for state. It is a miracle to arrange that kind of thing without the state being in heavy debt situation.
At the federal level, I would not be partisan; I’ve seen the sincerity in the part of the President trying to fight corruption and make life better for all Nigerians.
But, in the outcome, it is not flowing because his sincerity and efforts are somehow twisted along the line to partisanship and unnecessarily dragging of issues. For instance, the face-off with the National Assembly; is it necessary? It is not necessary, if you ask me.
And, at times, these things are not packaged properly. The Senate President is called to a matter that another person has been discharged and acquitted on the same matter, same procedure, so why are we dragging it? And you expect people to over look it to some other thing.
In as much as we want the best for the country, the packaging should also be properly done, so that we could have confident.
The financial crime agencies are doing a wonderful job, but, at times, if these issues enter-twist like that, and there is some elements of doubt, people will fell to properly appraise and appreciate those good efforts, that’s just the truth about it.
On the economic plans of the federal government; I must say that the APC should open up the plans and allow every Nigerian that can help to come and help. At this point, I don’t think we can say this party or that party anymore.
There’s a problem. There’s no point any person trying to blame the other person. Leave those stories right now; let’s find a way to salvage the economy, because we all buy from the same market irrespective of political party.
Like I travelled out for conferences, they don’t give you money, they said; ‘go till when you come back,’ and, I will go and buy a dollar at N4,60, and what is the official rate they are giving me when I come back from the conference? N2,10 per dollar.
So, I have a choice not to represent Nigeria in any foreign conferences, and allow our seat to be empty or to make that sacrifice which is what I’ve been doing since I was elected into the Federal House of Representatives.
We must forget this party issues, for me, my position is more of the interest of the common man and the unity of our country. People should stop playing politics that will not help us tomorrow, we must be careful. People can no more feed their families, pay their bills and what does this bring? Anguish!
And at some points, propaganda will not be able to manage it, and the first casualties in this situation are we the elected officials because, the expectation of the people is “beyond, doable capacity” and you don’t blame them because, the man is desperate; September is coming; school is starting; another period of desperation.
I’m appealing to the APC as a party, to play down on politics and let us try to work together as Nigerians and help our country move forward. It won’t help us, playing politics with the situation around.
On PDP aborted convention, what is your take?
For me, I think the party is on course, the action yesterday (referring to Wednesday, August 17, 2016) in Port Harcourt is aimed at finally addressing the situation at hand. And, it is my belief that twelve months is enough to address the situation.
I am very confident that we are finally on track, so within the next twelve months, all of these would have been taken care of, because the issues are straight forward, as far as there is the constitution, the issues cannot go beyond that.
What advice do you have for your supporters, constituents and Akwa Ibom people, at large?
For me, I keep harping on re-orientation of our mindset, that’s why I’m a support of the Dakkadda Initiative because, I believe that all it takes for you to make a difference is that decision by you to make that difference and not just taking that decision, you are working to accomplish that decision it is important that you don’t waste an opportunity. I know in this state that there are young men during the last government who were able to do inter-ministerial jobs and make profits for themselves but, it’s sad that today, they don’t even have a one bedroom house to stay in Uyo and you ask yourself, ‘how on earth did somebody miss this kind of opportunity?’
It is so sad that in Akwa Ibom, anything negative is celebrated and it will spread like wild fire. It’s amazing that we dwell in this terrible pattern; and it’s fast becoming a way of life. I call for a change of heart and the re-orientation of the mindset for every aspect of our lives. I think that is where we should start from.
It is so sad that, you get to an office and a fellow Akwa Ibom person is your stumbling block and you ask yourself what is going on!?