Prince Godwin Ntuk Udeh is the immediate past Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Transport. He is a member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party in Akwa Ibom state. Last week, he was rumoured to have advised the state Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, to dissolve his executive council. But, in this exclusive interview with the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Radar Newspapers, Otuekong Franklyn Isong, in Uyo, he debunked the report and reinstated his avowed support for the administration of Mr Udom Emmanuel. He talked on other nagging state issues.
How has life been after public service?
I have been in my private business from 1986 to 2013, and exited in 2016. You can see that my life is completely more of a private man. Coming out of public service is a call for duty, to serve my people and the state, as well as, assist the government to add value to the people. I resumed my private work just one week after leaving public service; the Unique Vision office.
Since then, there has been no dull moment because, I am either moving to Abuja or Lagos where we stock our imported good, to make sure that everything is in order; and to get back my old customers and the ones that have been patronising us while I was away. I met them face to face in case they have any challenge.
So, as you can see, there has been no dull moment, and it gives me excitement because it shows that creating employment opportunities is what should be paramount, till when the government decides that I have an input that is necessary to any calling.
Then if they call me, as an obedient and patriotic citizen, I will go but I will never forget that it is a temporary moment to discharge a specific function.
The only challenge is that, when you are in the public service, you are asked to withdraw from your private work, which I did within that period.
Thank God, when I came back I re-filed the papers and got back my mandate which is a permanent mandate.
How were you able to manage public life and family life?
Well, when I was actively involved in my business and even when, I was the president of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio; it used to be such an engaging time that I rarely would have a full day with my family. So I made them get used to communicating with me through the phone. Anytime I have opportunity to spend one or two hours with them, I made sure it was quality time.
I would take them out, sit with them, chat with them and ensure that my children understood exactly the need to follow my footsteps of being patriotic and going after excellence.
Therefore, since I was that active, travelling to almost twenty-six states in America as many times as possible, in order, to put Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio up in America, London, Liverpool, Manchester, all of these made me a very busy person.
So when I came over to the government service, because for you to ensure land mark footprints on the sands of time, you need to commit your time, energy and God into it and therefore you got to spend time. I used to close most of the days at 10pm or 11pm from my office.
I used to sympathise with my staff who were working directly under me, because they must spend all of their time with me and to them, it was strange.
I want to say that in the private sector, I was a very busy person and a hard driver and my family had to adjust to that system. So my family is used to it, even as I came out here, I travelled three or four days ago and came back just this evening.
What is your religious belief?
I’m an absolute believer in Jesus Christ alone. Therefore, I profess Christ and Christ alone. I’m only for God and He has been my pillar and strength and provider.
What is your view about Easter as a Christian?
Easter is to humble us to know that the life we live is made possible by somebody’s sacrifice; that a man with our own flesh and blood sent by God in a human form came to pay the price; humbled Himself to wash the feet of His disciples whom I want to say represented all the Christians. That is humility in leadership.
That is to say any leader who is not a servant-leader cannot be said to be a true leader and if Jesus can do that, we need to learn a lesson from there.
And the life we live today without sacrificing rams and goats is made possible by the blood that was shed by Jesus Christ on the cross.
Easter reminds me that I owe myself a duty of realising that it is not about me but about God Almighty, and I must live a life that, when He comes to call me, I will be partaker of His kingdom. I value Easter as a period of sober reflection to allow me reminiscence my life.
I asked that question because yesterday, Sunday, was Easter and today, Monday, you must have been offended by some media reports. So I was going to ask, if you believe in forgiveness?
Any Christian must do his best to forgive, though injuries from people may be very painful that you may not be able to forget but you must try to forgive. If that person intentionally wrote something to defame your character and you know that your conscience is clear, leave it for God and He will fight your battle.
Let me take you back to your days in public service, what can you lay claims to achieving while you were there?
I want to say that to the glory of God, when I was appointed first as the Special Adviser, maybe my luck; I was posted to a Bureau that was so dry and completely inactive. The workers were so demoralised. But by the grace of God, when I got to the Bureau, the testimony is that under three to four months there was a change.
Because everywhere I am, I must commit that place and my activities to God first. In less than four months, a place that was dormant became a beehive of activities. We brought so much initiative to energise the system.
I started by visiting all the different ethnic and socio-cultural organisations in the state.
I did conferences and seminars to orientate the minds of the people; and before we knew, every politician in the state, started visiting the Bureau for one information or the other.
I started engaging the House of Assembly for the relationship that is supposed to exist between us.
For the first time, I raised the bar and became an active participant in the House of Assembly and the matters of the House.
After my tenure there, it became necessary for me to be moved to the Ministry of Transport. Again, you know, transport is a very important sector in the socio-economic development and milestone of any state, because of the number of people coming to and fro to the state.
Transporters are too important because they carry a lot of information. My first duty was to ensure that I go round all the necessary stakeholders in the transport sector. And the government also gave me the mandate to ensure that there is sanity within the transport sector.
Then I discovered that the parks were overtaken by grass, so on that note I set up a committee to foresee the rehabilitation of the abandoned motor parks and we did that.
I made sure that there was a public address system; refurbished the lights; repaired the transformers and generators that were in the motor-parks, renovated the toilets in all the motor parks, after which we embarked on dismantling of all illegal motor parks within the Uyo capital city. Though it was not an easy task but was made possible by God and by engaging them.
Though we had resistant, they adhered and moved to the motor parks. Today, there are a whole lot of activities happening along the roads and within the motor parks. From there, we moved to the keke operators. We made them to see the need of working as a team in order to know how to reach out to them through their leaders. From there, we moved on to introducing taxi because the keke is not a very serious signature that can attest to modern state development.
So I had to look for a way of encouraging introduction of taxis. I gave them liberal policies and that led to even private car owners coming up to turn in their vehicles for township taxis.
We started with about ten vehicles but by the time I finished we had about two thousand vehicles within the Uyo metropolis. We also introduced the mini buses and today we have over two thousand mini buses in town to compliment the keke. We also empowered the different union of road transport workers by giving them seventy-five buses in order to boost their operations and for them to also know that the government is working. We also moved the AKTC to the present location. We introduced solemn assembly. With all of these, we had so many empowerment programmes; we came into a multi-purpose cooperative business.
We were able to see the need for supporting the government, that is why for the first time in the history of Akwa Ibom transporters, they contributed their own money and chose a day and declared their support to Deacon Udom Emmanuel’s government. It was something that had never happened before.
These happened because we engaged them and showed them the face of leadership; we reduced ourselves to their level and from there we were able to take them to where they ought to be.
What are your regrets if you are given another opportunity?
I don’t think I have any regret now; it is just about few months, so the structures we laid down are still working. And I believe that the Commissioner on seat now has the mandate of the Governor and he definitely will build on the little we did, he cannot break. I look forward to continuity of the projects while new ones would continue to come.
All I want to see is the influx of those taxis. I have no regret because it is the same Governor, the same cabinet and it is continuity.
How did you feel when your name was not in the list when the Governor reshuffled the cabinet?
I think that His Excellency is in control of the government and he knows exactly what he wants from all of us. Yes, people had told me that they had so believed that I would make the cabinet. I want to say that His Excellency is a man of God.
God is totally involved in what he does; therefore, my name not being in the list was spiritual.
Maybe God has another calling smaller or bigger or it is a way for me to be out of one problem or the other so that I can be alive to continue to add more value. When I love somebody, the way I love that person is beyond definition because I take a whole lot of things into consideration when I love.
The love I have for His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel is beyond government. We were friends long when I was in business and in Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio. I recall how he contributed significantly to my being received in a celebrated place in Lagos during the time I was in Mboho as the president.
So we had known ourselves but I came to appreciate him because of his trust and believe in God and the fact that in his capacity, I can see him being good enough for a time like this, after the uncommon transformation.
With that kind of love, I can see that something would have happened to me, not too long after that day because of my mindset for him and each time I remember that 15th of October, I look up to God and say to God be the glory because it was divine.
Nobody influenced my moving out of the list, I’m sure it was God that directed him. Exco or no Exco, what is important is relationship.
Do you bear grudges against those who are there now?
That would be regret and it would mean that I don’t love His Excellency. Anything that will make His Excellency to succeed, that is where you will find me. So I know them as my friends, why would I have grudges against them?
Were they the ones who selected themselves? It was the Governor who selected them. I can rightly say that my removal was by divine directive and for my own good and that of His Excellency. I can’t bear grudges against them; I support them in everything I do.
Could this your closeness to the governor, be why it is reported that you are advising the Governor to dissolve the cabinet?
Well, it will be a condemnable and unchristian act for me to go to the public and say that I’m advising the Governor. If I have a suggestion or anything I will go and discuss it with the Governor, because he has given me access to him. But I have no reason to tell His Excellency to dissolve the cabinet.
I saw that write-up, it is very unfortunate and if you look at the English language you will know that, that is not my level.
Those are not my words. Even those names that they have referenced like the Udo Ekpeyong, who will find Udo Ekpeyong in a political setting and would not thank God?
This is a man who has been in the executive of another government before; he has played party politics, occupied positions both in the state and at the national level.
Then they also talk of Charles Udoh, the Commissioner for Information. Except you were not with us in Abuja when His Excellency was receiving the Best Governorship Award in the International Conference Centre, then you would not have appreciated the innovation and creativity with which Charles Udoh brought to bear in making us the most celebrated state on that day.
If you are to assess the government, what would be your views?
Thank you very much; His Excellency came with a vivid knowledge of Akwa Ibom State. He undertook critical study of the challenges and problems of the thirty-one local government areas.
That is why when he went around campaigning; he campaigned from a position of strength. He told the people of key projects he will undertake, but his principal programme was industrialisation.
But unfortunately you must note that in this country, that we have recession now and the monies accruable to the state from the federation has reduced as the governor is not getting up to one-third of that.
We used to receive in this state close to 19 to 20 billion naira and above but he is yet to receive 7 or 8 Billion naira, you can imagine the population in the civil service. You must recall that he paid ten years of gratuity to local government retired pensioners. You come to see that roads have been constructed.
In Ibiono Ibom, the road to the paramount ruler was an eye sore, impassable, but today that is history. A good number of roads in all the three senatorial districts have been constructed by His Excellency. If you move from there to the industries, you will see that he has engaged a lot of investors, but unfortunately, because of this epileptic economic and fiscal policy by the federal government, those people witnessed a geometric jump in naira to dollar, no sane investor would want to come in and invest.
But however, you can see that he has been able to put the Akwa poultry on ground, you can see that it is already changing the fortunes of Uruan people.
He has refurbished the paint industry in Etinan. His Excellency is doing so well, given the challenges today. Finally, let me say that a man who has God as his alter, deserves to be celebrated.
Somebody who has not diverted the local government fund into anything but allows whatever comes in for them and even supports them.
With all that the Governor has done, I think there is no local government that he has not touched with at least one project.
His wife is also complimenting seriously using the FEYREP platform.
The leadership of His Excellency is people centered, development centered and I believe that if we allow him time, very soon this state will be a centre of attraction and the envy of this nation.
If the Ibiaku Uruan and the Nduetong Uko Road is not constructed by the Udom’s administration, what will you do?
It will be constructed. I’m saying to Uruan people that on my honour, any moment from now, you will hear from His Excellency, the Governor, because that was the number one request from Uruan people during his consultation.
We are the only local government that passes through Itu and Uyo before we can get to our local government Headquarters. What if Uyo and Itu people decide to install toll gates on their roads? So Uruan people will be paying toll gates to get to their local government headquarters. Uruan people need their own road and His Excellency is sympathetic to this request.
What are you going to stake on this, in case, the road is not constructed?
I’m staking my honour.
Why I asked this, is that, few weeks ago, we saw what could be termed as a political tsunami in Uruan; I mean, the mass defection of PDP members from to APC led by Engr. Ime Ekanem; and Engr Ekanem attributed the reason for the defection to the none construction of this same road by the PDP led administration in the state over the years. If you are now staking your honour as a PDP chieftain that the government will construct it, then, what are you telling your PDP followers that have already defected?
Well, Engr. Ime Ekanem has no political capital. His defecting to any part is a minus to the party; because he will not add any value to the party he has defected into. When he was at home in PDP, was he active? Was he a team-player? What value did he added to the PDP? Was he not the first person who came from nowhere with no qualification and said he wants to contest governorship position in the state?
And, you can imagine a man that takes somebody to magistrate court in Abuja over PDP primaries in Akwa Ibom.
With his closeness to Obong Victor Attah, the then Governor of the state, I used to beg him to use his position to request the Governor to do that road which leads to his village, but he was not patriotic enough to do that. He was concerned to things that pertain to him.
He was busy supplying vehicles, televisions, to the airport while the people were there doing nothing. What has been his patriotic contribution to the development of Ibiaku Uruan per se, that should make him to leave PDP? Who are his followers? Anywhere he goes, whoever receives him is only wasting that seat because he is not coming with any capital and no sane person from Uruan can follow a man who has not offered him anything before.
We are appreciating the gestures of productive leadership in Uruan and leaders, youths and women know them. So wherever the people of such category stand that is where Uruan people stand. We can always count on them and they look up to us.
If what you are saying is true, what do you think will become of the Governor’s second term ambition vis-à-vis the defections of PDP members to APC in the state?
Let me say this; in any system, opposition will always be meeting in the morning, afternoon and night. All they know is to talk, because they do not have any project, no burden, and no care. So they use propaganda to tell you that I will do this and that when I’m there. And thank God, we have experiences coming from the APC federal government. I have an article I am writing, the title is; “Oh Donald Trump Well Come to Washington, the Realities of Leadership is also happening in Nigeria”.
The hypothesis you put up during campaigns can never become theory. What I’m telling you is that, if you look at all those so called defectors, it is because the opposition party has nothing to do than to canvass, lobby, meet, consult and work to make sure that they pull you down; and make sure that they collapse the system and install themselves for personal relevance. They use their old members and call them defectors. Seventy eight percent of the so called defectors are expired politicians who have no value; who do not mean well for their communities; who do not have followers; who have never contributed anything positive to their people; and who have defrauded their people. Like you said, you saw Atuekong Don Etiebet during the APC defection in Uruan; is Etiebet an Uruan man? Why should he come to be sweeping Uruan? We have gone beyond using broom to sweep Uruan. This is a man during our time in Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, we went to him and begged him to put a petroleum tank farm in Ukanafun and he did not listen to us, when he was opportune as a petroleum minister. Etiebet could not do anything that changes the narrative of the petroleum industry in Akwa Ibom state as a minister of petroleum. He is always fighting leadership.
Are you aware that he was a beneficiary of former Governor Godswill Akpabio’s administration in the state when, he was contracted to build five cottage hospitals. Four of the hospitals have been commissioned, where is one? We need to ask him. He worked with former Governor Victor Attah for a moment and the next moment he started war.
If Don Etiebet could not defeat Obong Attah when he fought him; he could not defeat Senator Godwill Akpabio; if he failed in these two former governors, is it in Deacon Udom Emmanuel that he will win? He will keep failing.
I understand because of what he did to President Muhammadu Buhari during the ANPP days, Buhari had to look at him again and say; “You again?”
That is why the only appointment he can get is to be the chairman of APC Caucus in Akwa Ibom state; a man of that status? It is annoying for you to say he was in Uruan local government area with his broom. We don’t need people to come and sweep Uruan with broom; we have gone beyond that.
Uruan has no Commissioner in the state executive council after your exit, are you not worried about that as a PDP leader in Uruan?
When I served as a Commissioner, I want to tell you that Uruan people had a taste of a Commissioner’s office that they have never had for quite a long time. I made them felt the office. I tried my best and any patriotic son and daughter of Uruan will tell you that life has come back to the people of Uruan. A good number of youths, women and elders were duly empowered. I created a new Uruan.
At that time, for example, Nsit Atai people did not have a Commissioner in the state executive council, did they not bear it? What is important is that whether I’m in office or not, I am critically important and Uruan is not neglected with the present facilities on ground. We have SAs and PAs to the governor from Uruan.
You said that Governor Udom Emmanuel has paid ten years of gratuities to retired local government pensioners, are you saying that former Governor Godswill Akpabio owed ten years gratuity of pensioners while in office?
This did not come out for us to note at his time or maybe it came up but was out of negligence on the part of those who ought to have handled it in the Akpabio’s tenure.
Well, whether they noticed it or not; what is crystal clear is that ten years of gratuities have been paid to local government pensioners by Governor Udom Emmanuel within less than two years in office.
Let me take you back to your days in Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, you achieved much but when you left, you left with a lot of contentious issues in Mboho, especially the USA chapter had split into two group. How do you think the issue would have been best handled in order not to cause disunity among the members of Mboho USA chapter?
Well, God used me by His grace. There are evidences on ground that I moved Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio from where my predecessor stopped to most of the Northern parts of Nigeria. Significantly, God used me to make Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio an international organisation. That was why I became the first international president. It was God’s benevolence ,because when I sit back to look at how much was committed, God empowered and strengthened me and Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio cannot say that I collected one kobo of their dues whether in Nigeria or Diaspora to travel to any place.
After I left, somebody decided not to recognise that little contribution of mine, upon all that he has received from me.
When I was the president, I made sure that I took a commissioner into Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio. I made sure that the governor chose a rector of a polytechnic from Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio when I was the president. I sacrificed so much and I thank God that he alone has started paying me back. I built the Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio Unity School till the day of commissioning without one Kobo from Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio. Now that I left, somebody decided to alter the truth and down played my achievements, thinking that the only way to succeed is to suppress my influence.