Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio is the immediate past Governor of Akwa Ibom state and the Senator representing Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District in the National Assembly. The Senate Minority Leader is an interviewer’s delight anytime.
In this no-holds-barred interview with the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Radar Newspaper, Otuekong Franklyn Isong, at his private residence in Uyo, recently, Senator Akpabio fielded questions on nagging state and national issues.
Good morning Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio and Happy New Year Sir!
Good morning Franklyn how is the Radar Newspaper?
Fine, thank you! Since you left office of Governor of Akwa Ibom state, there has been a widely held opinion that Senator Godswill Akpabio did not do well in the state; that you were empowering a particular ethnic group more than the others; and that your inter-ministerial jobs and key appointments into your government only favoured that particular ethnic group in the state, what is your take?
First of all, people have accused me that I was empowering a particular ethnic group. Coincidentally they are not talking about my own ethnic group; they are talking about the Ibibios; they are not talking about the Annang, because, yes there were few errors in the fact that there was no due diligent with some contractors. The first set of contractors that got contract above one billion naira was Ibibio sons. Inyang and Inyang is Ibibio son from Itu. OEC that handled part of Use/Ikot Amama Road is Ibibio and so many. So when I roll out the first set of empowerment works in billions for our children and most of the consultant that consulted on jobs of billions of naira were mostly Ibibio sons. If you look at the Government House premise, Benji Okoko who was a consultant is also an Ibibio son from Ikot Abasi. If you look at the place like Tropicana where jobs were in billions, it was an Ibibio son that was in charge. If you look at Ekit Itam to Idoro Road it was Umanah Associates and other construction company that belongs to Ibibio son that handled the contract and the chairman of inter-ministerial committee who was also the Commissioner for Finance was an Ibibio son from Ibiono Ibom.
So you noticed there were also many inter-ministerial jobs in Ibiono Ibom. Of course, my Deputy Governor and the Speaker were Ibibio people. The chairman of the Party was an Ibibio son. For the period that I was there, the Chief Judges were Ibibio children. All of them, Secretary to the Government for my eight years was Ibibio. Most of my Special Assistants, twenty four of them out of twenty eight, and so forth and so far, so many of them; most of them were people who walked for me and campaigned for me. As a Governor, you have to work with people you are comfortable with.
I did not look at ethnic affiliation while I was making most of the appointments, but people accused me of empowering a particular ethnic group. If people want to say the truth outside politics, the particular ethnic group I empowered was Ibibio and not even the tribe that I come from. The totality of inter-ministerial project I did, about sixty percent were done in Ibibio. You cannot blame me because the Ibibios are represented in the three senatorial districts in the state. So that allegation was not about my Local Government or my ethnic group.
Sir, before you left office, you conducted recruitment exercise for teachers in the state and about five thousand (5000) supposed teachers were employed across the state. That exercise has been faulted and nullified by this administration. The 5000 teachers have been sacked. The government stated that the recruitment exercise you conducted was marred by fraud and malpractices. What do you have to say on that?
I will disagree with that. I will rather say that this is politically expedient for the governor to review the employment. At the same time, those who were employed were Akwa Ibom children. We need much teachers even more than the five thousand. So you can have the five thousand, instead of even sacking and employing others, because we need even more than ten thousand teachers to even make a difference in the free and compulsory education policy.
So the issue of fraud, of course, you don’t expect me as a state governor to go and collect money from an applicant looking for job as a teacher. So some of the allegations, I will say that people should be careful how they make some wild allegations. I would rather say that if it is politically expedient to review the employment it should be done.
Sir, you built a five star hospital in Uyo, Akwa Ibom capital while in office, but few months ago you had an accident in Abuja and were flown abroad for treatment. The social media went agog with several reports including that the Ibom Specialist Hospital was not completed. There was even a report that the hospital was commissioned with equipment hired from Lagos state and that after the commissioning the equipment was taken back to Lagos by their owners?
That is not true. That is why you must do investigative journalism. Don’t depend on what people say. Recently, we had a mishap quite unfortunately that is the Reigners church collapsed and when people went to the Ibom Specialist Hospital, they saw the same equipment. Did this current administration go to hire the equipment and bring back? It means it was a total fallacy. Those equipments are there so it was all political jargons and attempts to tarnish my image. They said it to diminish the modest infrastructure built in the state. They were not true and I challenged anybody to go and show me where we borrowed or hired a single equipment from, instead people come from Lagos check their patients in our hospital. We have the best equipment here. Go there and see for yourself, don’t believe everything you read because most of them are politically motivated stories. What happened in my time was that most of the personnel were not on ground. After the commissioning most of the personnel did not have more than two weeks’ visa. Most of the personnel had to go back and we prepared them the Expatriate Quota for them to come back to Nigeria. Even as at when I had that accident, we had the best equipment here, but the experts were not on ground, because they were still processing their papers.
Sir, at the build up to 2015 elections, it was cleared that all the people that opposed you and your supposed candidates were people who have either worked in your government or benefited from your 8 years administration in the state. What would you say was responsible for that?
The reason why many people who worked with me opposed the candidature of Mr Udom Emmanuel and tended to be very antagonistic was very clear. It was because they also had political ambition and many of them would have loved to be in Udom Emmanuel’s position. But I always tell people that there is what they called the ‘G-factor’. In any decision making particularly in leadership there is a God factor. So as an individual, I can say, I want to support Mr. ‘A’ but God says otherwise. Unless God says ‘yes!’ Mr. ‘A’ cannot be the governor.
So most of them were not happy that they were not the one favoured to become the governor, so that is why they opposed the candidature of Mr Udom Emmanuel and tended to attack me. I don’t think they have any personal issues with me. They acknowledged my efforts in their lives, but just that I did not give them governorship.
I think that was basically the only issue. For any reason at all, if I had given one of them governorship, the person would not have attacked me, but I want to appeal to them to recognise the fact that I am only a leader, but sometimes God takes the decision. When God takes the decision, we have to follow because Udom was not in the picture as at 2013. But Udom came to the picture I think in October, 2013 and by 2015 he became the governor, and that is why we love to call him a ‘Divine Mandate’, because God had a hand in it.
God is the master designer. He is the architect. Let them forgive me that I did not give them governorship not because I did not have the will, but it is the will of God. So God blessed Akwa Ibom people with the current leader. That is the simple truth. So if you noticed, almost all of them, who attacked me and who left my government were interest either in becoming the governor or senator and when they couldn’t get it, they went into their camps. But that should not be the attitude. Loyalty should not be when it is favourable to you. Loyalty should be even more, say even, when it is not favourable to you, because the future is longer than today.
I would not be fair to you if I do not ask you this question as an ardent critic of your 8 years administration in the state. When you were saddled with the leadership of the state, there was a serious insecurity situation in your two terms as a governor, what would you say was responsible to that?
Well, the ideal is like what is happening in the North East today. The Boko Haram sect will like to create the impression that the entire North East is unsafe. So when you pursue them from Yobe and Borno states, they go to Adamawa state. Right now, they are launching attacks in Adamawa. As I am talking to you, they are also amassing in Taraba state. So when we had militancy in the Niger Delta, they tried to create the impression that the whole Niger Delta is unsafe and that the whole Niger Delta is on arms struggle, whereas, Akwa Ibom was not.
We constantly said that we needed to have dialogue. That we believe in dialogue and so we had sporadic attacks from people you may be called insurgence from the militants who were from other places; who were not from Akwa Ibom state and they targeted Akwa Ibom. They could not believe that the state could be so peaceful. The youths were so peaceful without a militant camp. In fact, ‘why should they be part of Niger Delta yet they are not violent and they are not carrying arms’ and so, our state now became a purpose of attack both the local criminals and the external criminals by then, they had a lot of cross border crimes.
Most of those who kidnapped the STEMCO engineers were from Abia State and also we inherited an insecurity situation which was not well known to the people; which would have gone as bad as Boko Haram. That was in Ika Local Government where a group of youths decided to make the place so ungovernable, so much, so that, for five years, there was no local government chairman in Ika and the local government was overgrown with weeds and so, we had to solve that problem.
People did not know that there were so many arms in Ika, so for us to dislodge the insecurity found in Ika, naturally it supposed to have a spillover effect mingle with the fact that Akwa Ibom did not have a militant camp. Militants were in a hurry to show that we were part of the Niger Delta and so, we became a subject of attack.
Sometimes, they used to come through the water and then attacked the banks in Oron and even used dynamites to blow up structures, like they did to Union Bank and sometimes, they would come through the water and attacked ALSCON in Ikot Abasi and at a time, they kidnapped six Russian expatriates and they proceeded to keep them for almost nine months.
So that period was a period of total militancy in the Niger Delta. There was militancy in Bayelsa, Delta, and River State. Unfortunately, when they couldn’t have their way to Akwa Ibom, they went to Cross River state and they, went to Bakassi and formed Bakassi freedom fighters. The target was also Akwa Ibom by this time, economic activities in Akwa Ibom in terms of construction and other activities have reached the hyper level. We had more cases in Akwa Ibom state alone than we had in the whole of Nigeria.
I had said to myself that whenever I meet you, I will ask this question; you appeared to be the only Nigerian Governor to my knowledge that had three Deputy Governors. You started off with Engr. Patrick Ekpotu, and later Obong Nsima Ekere came onboard, but you ended up with Lady Valerie Ebe. What could have been your reasons?
The reason was political expediency. First Engr. Ekpotu was supposed to be a bridge. He was not my choice of deputy, so in my first term, my choice of deputy was Nsima Ekere.
So one would say that was the deputy, I had from day one until we had a truce and attempted peace meeting between me and my predecessor (Arc Victor Attah). Ekpotu was brought in and I was given two choices, so Ekpotu came because I had worked with him as a commissioner. Ekpotu was a gentleman to the core, but unfortunately the bridge that brought him onboard broken down, not through his fault, but my predecessor who still did not see the need for total peace at that time. But we worked together and that tenure ended.
The truth is that a Governor had four years, that tenure had ended, so for the next journey there was no need to go to the arrangement of my predecessor who by now was already standing on the podium and working for the opposition and raising the hands of the opposition. So I couldn’t have gone on with the deputy governor he produced as a means of working with him. That tenure ended and Ekpotu successfully ended his tenure, so I had no problem with Ekpotu.
Now the original deputy governor I had in mind, I went back and brought him on board, that is the one you could say there was a disagreement and then, the disagreement was not because of the fact that he was not a good guy, the problem was that of political exigency. The reason was that a mega party was coming in Nigeria, and the emergence of the mega party meant that some of my colleagues like the one in Rivers state were a key player and it was time to recruit people very close to me as part and parcel of the mega party. And he may have resisted, but because of their very close relationship, he could also been used as a medium to create insecurity in my state.
So the reason is that it was for the political survival of my administration that Nsima Ekere resigned. That’s why I’m very happy that God has given him opportunity as Managing Director of NDDC. I applaud him and I wish him the best, and a successful tenure in that establishment. So if you look at the political dynamics you will see that we had three deputies, but nothing out of political exigencies. That is the answer. And then you also look at Obong victor Attah, his first tenure also finished and he was attempting to replace his deputy, when the power that be in Abuja did not allow him to do so, it ended up almost in impeachment a year or so after.
So a deputy governor is like a wife, it’s a marriage between a man and a woman and so the man has to be comfortable with his wife for the marriage to continue. You can have social friends and there is social cohesion, but politically you may not be cohesive because people have different ideologies, so sometimes, there could be disagreement between friends politically, but socially they agree. So that almost ended up in impeachment. You can’t blame him. It must be the political barometer because you can see that politics is dynamic, just like you see insecurity is dynamic.
The same insecurity former President Obasanjo met is not the same that late Yar’adua met, and not the same that Jonathan or Buhari met. The amount of money President Buhari is going to spend on security with the Boko Haram like we voted N500billion for the development of the North East alone, not talking about the weapons, over a trillion will go into security in Nigeria when you talk about equipment and you talk about the damages that has been done not to talk about human losses. So he is meeting a total different scenario. Somebody can say why is President Buhari spending so much money on security whereas former President Shagari did not spend such money? It’s because of the changes of the time and the political barometer at the time, and of course, for you to be able to accommodate what is happening at the time. Things differ.
There is one mathematical calculation I have not been able to resolve and I know you have the answer to it. When you were the governor there was election in the Nigerian Governors Forum and that election produced 16 is greater than 19. You may call it political mathematics. What actually led to that debacle in the Governors Fourm?
Oh! Okay, it’s not only you; you know recently it came up in the senate. What people do not know is that the then chairman of the Governors Forum when his tenure finished he refused to step down; he wanted to stay and then conduct his own election. But by this time, we had enshrined in the constitution, so we thought, that it would be two years in the South and two years in the North. But we were surprised when somebody went and inserted in the constitution what was supposed to be a collective decision of all of us without our knowledge. We said two years in the North and two years in the South and someone went and inserted there, “except chairman can go for one more term.” That means you have turned the thing to four years.
And then, this did not pass through us again, that is what brought the disagreement. We even attempted to say that the deputy chairman should take over as it is done in the American Governors Forum, when we met and say two years in the North and two years in the South. The first beneficiary of that arrangement was former Governor of Rivers state, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. This was in Kwara and the reason we said deputy should takeover, but then, the deputy was not from a majority party, the deputy was Mr Peter Obi of Anambra state. So as a compromise, we said Peter Obi should continue as the deputy, even though, both of them were from the South.
Because our expectation was that a chairman will do two years and when he steps down a deputy takes over. The deputy should have been from the North, but for the fact that Peter Obi was APGA, not from a majority party, everybody said NO! Let’s pick from the majority party, so the first person to benefit from that arrangement was Amaechi. So what do we do with deputy, who really ought to take over, by that agreement? The north said let him continue since it’s just two years. So you see we got two people from the South. One as chairman and the other as deputy chairman, which is not a normal situation, it was not meant for four years. So when Amaechi attempted to elongate the tenure, saying the constitution has even been registered in the Corporate Affairs Commission with my name as a trustee, that the chairman can go for a second term.
The reason was obvious that they wanted to use him to form mega party and to oppose Jonathan, at that time, that is why we had that. We also said okay! If at all he wants to contest, he has to step down, if you are a president of a social cultural organisation and your tenure ends, you have to step down. And then, somebody will be appointed as the president pre-tempo, or somebody will be appointed as chairman electoral commission, but he refused and said, he must sit there and conduct election.
So what we did on our own was to say, okay! Let’s have a majority, so we bring out a form in which 19 Governors signed, I still have it, and then, we have never done election in Nigerian Governors Forum before since 1999. It is always through consensus, so you tell me which one is stronger? Is it the paper I had in my hand with signature of 19 Governors or the purported election he said he did with 19 Governors? And no Governor came out to say, it was not his signature, all signed for Governor Jonah Jang, so which one would you take? (General laughter)
(Cuts in) How about the voting result of 19 in favour of Gov Amaechi?
That’s the point I am making. Many of us did not vote and still they managed to manipulate 19 votes, and we also worked out before the so called announcement of result and you say, “oh we were 35 and now we are 19 and they have 16.” What about the paper I gave to the Press with 19 Governors and no one came out to say that is not his signature, which one will you believe? Is it the one he organised by himself or the one signed by the Governors? So that is the thing. That is the reason we said 16 became stronger than 19 because there was 19 signatures for Governor Jang signed by 19 governors and no one came out to say that was not his signature. Do you understand this? Many people did not understand this. Theirs was a charade because he could not even show us the truth.
So please explain this to Nigerians that 16 was indeed stronger than 19 for two main reasons; first, because the person named in the 16 was the unanimous choice of the 19 Governors; secondly, the person named was the choice of 19 signatories from Governors across the country.
Sir, I will do just that (laughter). Now let’s return the state, on Monday, January 2, 2017, we had the 2017 Solemn Assembly at Ibom Hall grounds, and in the middle of the function, you walked in and there was a disruption of the function, even when, Governor Udom Emmanuel was taking the only Bible Reading at the event. I wrote an article on it titled; “Akpabio’s Repeated Breach of Udom’s Protocol” and published it on my Facebook Timeline and other social media platforms and also on my Radar Newspaper latest edition. In that article, I criticised your action; I condemned it and said ‘you should be called to order.’ I know you have read my article and seen the reactions trailing your action from Nigerians. What is your response?
That is why I invited you for this interaction, so that you can also know the reason of my coming late to the event, because it wasn’t intentional. I will give you an example; when the government had the (2016) carol night, I was in Port Harcourt for an event; the Governor (Mr Udom Emmanuel) called me to say I should come to Government House so that we can attend the event together.
But, when I got to the stadium in Uyo, I said to myself supposing on my way to Government House, I run into traffic and I miss the Governor, would I be able to make it back to the stadium without arriving late after the governor? So I decided to enter the stadium and wait for the governor instead.
I had to disguise myself with a Toyota Corolla vehicle. I changed my cloths and put on a face cap, so that the people won’t see that I am the one and then, start shouting. I went behind the DStv and entered inside the VIP lounge, but the lounge was locked so I had to use a public toilet by the left hand side of the lounge to change my cloths before they came and opened the VIP lounge for me to stay and wait for the governor to arrive.
When the governor arrived, I went in between the VIP seats to take my seat and the Governor said; ‘when did you arrive?’ I said I was here before you arrived. You see, I was there 30minutes before the governor, because I am not unmindful of the fact that it is important to respect the institution of government.
So such breach of protocol does not happen every day. Coincidentally there were also a few former and serving senators who came after me (at the Solemn Assembly), but that did not seem to attract your attention.
There are two things here: you can come early for an event and you can come a bit late for an event depending on personal reasons. For instance, if you are coming in and the governor has already entered the event, your vehicle could be blocked, because of traffic.
But that is not an excuse, the reality is that it was an unfortunate incident and for me, I will make sure it doesn’t reoccur. And secondly, I also had to show humility, that’s why I did not work to the centre of the event. That’s why I tried to take the back of the canopies to get to my seat, so that I won’t be noticed by the cameras covering the live event.
So when I heard the ovation when they saw me come out of the car, I did not know that the event had already started, what would have happened is that, I would have gone back into my car and sat. But I didn’t know the event has already started until somebody brought to my notice and said Sir, ‘the event has started,’ and I said, oh! My God; I raised my hands and try to calm people down from shouting; and I went through the back and tried to calm them down but, they didn’t want to calm down.
So, I sat behind the women. I refused to move. I said to the women, if you people don’t stop the shouting, I will not move from here. Then, when I wanted to move, unfortunately the ones in front now saw me and began to shout also, I then sat again amongst the paramount rulers.
I was very unhappy with the situation and I said to the women, please, please, the event has begun why are you people shouting nah!?
The security people also helped me to control the situation. So for me, knowing who I am; I thank the people for their love, but I assure you that I won’t ever try to come late to an event again, so that there will be no question of breaking protocol again.
I love your response. I will report exactly what you said to Nigerians.
No, no, no, I really felt sorry for what happened at the Solemn Assembly and I apologise and assure you that it won’t happen again. That is not something that should be celebrated. You know I usually come early for state events, remember I came very early for the carol night. I was there 30minutes before the arrival of the governor. Just that I did not show myself, I was hiding inside one of the rooms so that there will be no too much commotion so that the organisers can arrange the place for the arrival of the governor, so when the governor arrived I now came out.
Even the stakeholders meeting that was done by the governor, I did not go to the Government House to now come with the governor, I went straight to the meeting venue and I was there with people long before the governor’s arrival, so, just one incident and somebody runs into conclusion. Even when, the governor was honoured by Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, I was there with the Governor, and we went in together. It’s not my character. I have been in that office of Governor so it’s not my character to imagine doing anything at all to demean the Office of the Governor, no!
So I commend you for your article and Radar publications, I think you are doing a good job, at least, on the one hand, to make people comments and call on my attention to it; and on the other hand, it’s also good to hear from me to know the other side of the story. I used to read your Radar newspapers when I was the Governor of the state. I know you would be shocked that I had time to read through your newspapers out of my busy schedules.
As for the solemn assembly, basically, it was because the event was exceedingly important to handover the state to God. And also, to handover myself, and my children as part of the state to God; that was why I came in and I didn’t walk through the centre of the event. I went through the back, unfortunately, some people still saw me and I wouldn’t have entered when I saw that the event has already started.
Do you think you are too loved by the people of the state?
I don’t think I am too loved by the people, I think I love the people too much and they know. I think, I love Akwa Ibom too much. The thing is that they know I love them. Because you see there are signs to see that I love the people. The signs are the uncommon transformation of the state, that’s overall how I achieved my relationship with the people of the state. I think, I love the people too much and the people know I love them too much. What is your own opinion?
I do not understand what you mean by ‘uncommon transformation,’ please can you throw more lights on that?
You cannot understand it, but first let me tell you that ‘uncommon transformation’ in three instances; firstly, the mental psyche of an Akwa Ibom child. Everywhere they go to now, they excel; you go to quiz competition in NNPC, if you are not careful the first three winners will be from Akwa Ibom. Because Akwa Ibom person has now realised he wasn’t made to be a second class citizen, that he is also part of the first class citizen of Nigeria. So we have been able to raise the mental psyche of an Akwa Ibom person to know his self-worth. That’s uncommon.
Some aspects of it, is the infrastructural renaissance in the state. Local governments that hitherto couldn’t be accessed, today, you can traverse them between ten to twenty minutes. A good example is Etim Ekpo; another good example is Ibiono, Ukanafun. Some parts of Eket, there were streets in Eket that nobody thought could be tarred like the road that leads to Assam Assam’s house. I recall when he gave out his child in marriage there was no access road when I went there, but when one of his parents died I passed there without knowing I had reached the house, ‘uncommon transformation’ had reached there. If you have a place like Abak coming to Uyo where you have the river side, and each time a truck tries to come up carrying granites from Akamkpa, and in the process the truck begins to slide backward and an upcoming vehicle runs in and everybody dies, on a weekly basis, people were being killed there, unfortunately, one of my permanent secretaries loss his 32 year old son there, that entered into the back of a truck. So people were being killed there on a weekly basis and then, today we have been able to do the best bridge that is ever constructed in Nigeria. 34 meters high, under that bridge today, a Resort has emerged called Tilapia, a centre of attraction, that’s ‘uncommon,’ totally ‘uncommon’ because it has stopped death that used to occur on a daily basis at the river side.
Then if you come to a place like Nung Udoe, near where you have Civil Service Centre, there was a very dangerous curve there from Ikot Ekpene when you are coming and there is also a market there, on a weekly basis, vehicles run into that market and kill people. I remember when I was a commissioner, four people were killed, one of the drivers attached to my ministry, and a pregnant woman, and a man whose wife had just delivered twins who came to buy things. At that spot, was my bosom classmate, the son of late Justice Johnson Akpabio of Onna, he was in a bus coming from Lagos just look at Uyo, look at where he died, that’s where he had an accident and by the time they carried him to hospital in Calabar he died. So for his memory, I decided that the place must be strengthen; so I had to boycott that curve and create a dualised thoroughfare, that covered that place, ‘uncommon thought’ for the safety of the people.
So if you look at places like Itam which was totally below sea level, the only thing that makes a road to work there is a proper drainage system, and we were able to construct an underground drainage system without paying compensation that took care and we did the road now. That road, 18 kilometers that took till Itu, is full of clay soil; we had to do soil reclamation; we dug meters to get to red earth, and bought red earth from somewhere to come and piled so the cost was not the same thing and so we were able to construct a road that I am sure the next 15 years there will be no single port hole.
My brother Franklyn and with the underground pipe jacking system you will not see a single porthole, and then we have a flyover there, not just a flyover with flowers everywhere and then we turn it to a tourist attraction; a place people had not passed in 30 years. That is ‘uncommon.’ You have a government that can stop the witchcraft syndrome in Akwa Ibom state. The child-witch stigmatisation, throwing children on the streets in the name of child witch by their parents and wards. We brought them and gave them a place called Divine Children’s Home, where over 700 children are kept. Some of them were kept in one place in Eket and were being molested, and then we made a Law, we signed the Child Rights Law that made basic education compulsory, whether you have parents or not. Then we paid subvention, never done in Africa, 100 naira per child, 300 naira per child, in primary school and secondary school respectively for logistics.
My brother, we had over 1.9million children in the basic education level; we were now even educating our neigbours; and we were now doing over 6000 brand new class room blocks, and then, we took our children out off the streets of Lagos and Port Harcourt and brought some of them that were child prostitutes in Congo and other places, and they are now in schools; Orphans are in school and some of them are about to graduate. That is ‘uncommon.’ That is a government that cares for its people. Section 2 Subsection 19(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) says that the primary duty of government will only be the security; and the welfare of its citizens. Government that was able to fulfill the aspirations of the people, that is ‘uncommon.’
A government that was able to partner with God to ensure all things are possible through God and took people to God and organise a mass choir to herald the birth of Jesus every Christmas, and organise a solemn assembly to handover the people and projects in the state to God; bringing in guests ministers for eight years, and we broke the Guinness Book of World Record. Is it easy to break Guinness Book of World Record? By being the only state in the world that had the highest assemblage of choristers to pray for the peace of Nigeria and the peace for the world; and to show God that we appreciate Him for loving the world and sending His son to come and create the path for salvation.
A state that realises that the only reason why God created us was for humanity to worship and honour Him (God) and you tell me that it was not ‘uncommon’ thing? That is totally ‘uncommon.’ The transformation of Akwa Ibom State, a state that was looked down upon; a people that were looked down upon. I used to see in Lagos an Akwa Ibom child leaving with a woman whose husband worked in NNPC, she took hot a pressing iron and placed it on one of the breasts of an Akwa Ibom child for asking her madam “what did you asked me to pick from the kitchen,” because she didn’t hear her well. The madam said; “it seems you don’t hear, you must hear,” and took hot iron and burnt the breast of the child. And the child went mental and ran outside and started rolling on the floor. I saw it; I took that child to the police station. My people were being tortured everywhere; you cannot come from Lagos to Akwa Ibom without someone in Lagos asking you to bring him/her Ekaete or Akpan. They portray with all sort of innuendoes, even in, local film industry, the Nollywood. They don’t give you the part of a General Manager to act; they give you the part of a gateman and the part of a servant. We have turned that psychology around, even the perception of Nigerians.
My brother Nigerians now know that we are capable of doing other things outside the kitchen; Nigerians now know that we can handle leadership outside to fetch water and firewood. I went to the Senate and my colleagues in the Senate honour me as an Akwa Ibom child, and said no! We cannot have him from an ‘uncommon’ state and he does not become an ‘uncommon’ minority leader. We made history, and I was humbled because Nigerians now know that leadership can be gotten from Akwa Ibom state. It’s ‘uncommon.’
The people in Etim Ekpo could not believe that for forty (40) years they could not get access road in Akwa Ibom. They have to go through Aba to Ikot Ekpene, to Uyo before they can say Hello to their people in Abak, but today, they have 7 kilometers of road with bridge. What of Enen-Nsit in Nsit Ubium? They never believed that Enen Nsit road, 44 kilometers with bridges could connect them and they no longer have what we call slippery hills. Their local government chairman used to battle it every rainy season, because the people from Nsit Ibom here could not go home because of the fact that their vehicles could not climb the hill and that road today has been completely done by this administration.
You want to talk about Ibesikpo Asutan, today they have a dualised road completed with street lights. One of the best constructed roads in Nigeria with underground pipe jacking drainage system that takes water from the new stadium 10.8 kilometers to go and empty in some of the villages in Asutan.
My brother that is ‘uncommon.’ It’s ‘uncommon’ love for the people. This is the same money, I could have bought houses in Dubai and have foreign Accounts; if you could have a Governor that ruled for eight years without a single foreign account, that is ‘uncommon’ in the history of Africa. You want to know more about ‘uncommon transformation’? (General laughter)
From the physical infrastructure to the spiritual infrastructure, to the mental psyche of the people, that were changed, turning Uyo from being a pedestrian state to being a destination and you say that is not ‘uncommon’? Did roads that were not politically motivated; that did not spoil after two years? Some of the roads like a road in Cardinal Ekanem road in Ikot Ekpene that nobody could access for 39 years, today had street lights, and after the construction, not a single porthole 9 years after construction; is that not ‘uncommon’ love for the people? You want to talk about the Specialist Hospital, that saved so many lives, the number of brain surgeries, the number of heart surgeries; with the nature of equipment there; the equipment there are far better than what is in University hospitals in Nigeria. The CT scan is 640 slides. There is none like that in Africa, and the Middle East, they manufactured only three in 2014; we were the first set of people that bought it; that was in 2015, it cost a lot. But your people said that we hired those equipments. They forgot that the equipments were all brand new.
We never had them in Nigeria. The current Minister of Health Prof. Adewale went to that Hospital on a visit; he couldn’t leave, because of what he saw. He had been a Provost of a Medical Collage; he has been a Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan; he stayed there from 11am to 6pm and couldn’t leave and said, he was shocked with what he was seeing. But Akwa Ibom people do not know what they have. None of them has ever even been there. Until this accident happened unfortunately. Many didn’t even know what was inside there. They were only quick to condemn, that is your state for you.
You still don’t think that there is something ‘uncommon’ there, or you want to talk about the Government House? Have you seen the ambience of the Government House? A Government House that used to be full of goats, and chicken passing up and down with people living at the back of that place, who have been there since the military era; their relations have died but they still lived in Government House, when visitors came, they had to horn for goats to clear from the road.
Have you seen the Press Centre in Government House, the whole of that stretch from the gate to the Government House was full of small thatched buildings oh, and small shops, today you can see the ambience. A brand new Governor’s Lodge, casted, with bullet proof windows and doors, the best of its kind; a brand new Deputy Governor’s lodge, the best of its kind, the best Government House Banquet Hall in Nigeria, completed with acoustics, not as if you talk and you don’t hear, with two underground, one of which is an industrial kitchen, and the other one is industrial laundry that you can use that place to do laundry for the entire state. With a car park that can take at least 2000 to 3000 cars. With brand new Guest Houses of international standard, and you tell me that these things are not ‘uncommon’?
Good example is Anambra state that gave a contract in 1997 for construction of Government House till today the Governor is still living in the house of the High Court Judge of Awka when Anambra state was created, that’s still the Government House till today. They have not been able to complete their Government House since 1997.
But we awarded contract in 1999 and re-awarded again in 2004 and all these things were done, almost with the speed of light.
A government that met an empty ground, that the runway of the airport was being cleared; that was to be a runway of 3.6 km, expandable to 4.5km, and we were able to turn it and make an international airport that carry people straight to Rome; everywhere and you say those things are not ‘uncommon,’? And closed down the Oron road there, did a by-pass and produced international airport for the people; are these things common?
Is it because we are used to bringing down our own? Is it because we are used to putting down our people? Is it because Ayodele who was vice chancellor of University of Calabar, assessed us and addressed us as “atomistic society perpetually at war with itself” and then our people are at war with themselves? These things are ‘uncommon’; we have done things that are never done.
Okay! Let me say that you have the inexhaustible list of what to say at this point, but what would you say are your regrets, as a former Governor of the state?
Yes, I would say that as a former governor of the state, I don’t really have many regrets, the only regret is that we didn’t have much money towards the end of my tenure to accomplish all that we wanted; finances of the state started dwindling in 2012 when we started having zero allocation from NNPC and the money was no longer coming in due to many reasons which you now know, for a government that could look at how to serve national interest; for a government that takes security as a priority and ensure that the children of Akwa Ibom state despite its population did not go into militancy; for a government that maintained peace despite the turbulent; for a government that was able to attract investments and build its own Gas Plant and stop gas flaring along the shoreline of Ibeno and channeled the gas towards domestic use, and today we have 69km of gas pipeline to ALSCON; for a government that was able to complete the Independent Power Plant and today, we are producing about 130mega watts of electricity; for a government that is now able to power the NIPP in Calabar with 22km of underground pipe from Esit Eket to Calabar to give them gas; the only government in Nigeria that invested in the gas sector for the past 17 years of democracy; and you say, ‘it’s not uncommon’? A government that saw tomorrow and sign up a gas purchase agreement at 2 Dollars per cubic feet in 2008. Today gas is selling at more 3 Dollars; a Governor that saw tomorrow, and you say, that was not ‘uncommon,’ that must be a government made by God.
It wasn’t a government that was done by man and that was why we kept singing praises to God and broke a record as the government that gathered the highest choir to sing praises to God.
In 2007, I came in with the little I knew, but when I took God and added, he added the blending hands and from the “Transformation” I had, God added “Uncommon,” and we had “Uncommon Transformation” for people of Akwa Ibom.
For want of time, and as we round up this interview, as the Senate Minority Leader if I don’t ask you to assess the APC Federal Government, I would not be fair to readers…
(Cuts in) You as a journalist, you should be the one to assess the government. You see, I am part of the government as the Senate Minority Leader, so we are like masquerades dancing, we cannot see our backs.
Parting words to Akwa Ibom people…
There was a media report in 2015, which they alleged that the last administration under my leadership made a deal and purportedly gave Senator John Akpanudoedehe, the leader of APC in Akwa Ibom state, N350million and that it was the reason PDP won 98 percent in the elections in the state. I thought this report was said to have been peddled by APC members against Senator James Udoedehe, and that it is not my job as PDP chieftain to answer to his inter-party affairs; I believe that it is an inter-party allegation, but because my name was mentioned and the name of the current Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, and the name of PDP was mentioned, I want to say that such thing never happened.
Senator John Akpanudoedehe never received one naira from me; there is record to proof that we won elections with the support of Akwa Ibom people, because this is one hundred percent PDP state, and APC as a party in Akwa Ibom had no supporter in the state in 2015. And so, that rumour that Udoedehe was given 350million naira should be ignored by right-thinking people of the state. It’s nothing but blackmail against his person.