Following his third anniversary, Governor Udom Emmanuel in two separate interactive sessions with newsmen in Uyo and Lagos spoke on the strides of his administration and on issues of national importance. Excerpts
How would you assess your administration in the past three years that you have been in office as the governor of Akwa Ibom?
So far, I can say that we have done well. I will give myself an ‘A’ if I were to rate myself as we have done very, very well as an opposition political party leading a state that has no Federal Government presence; not even a kilometre of road.
As the largest oil-producing state, there is not even a depot owned by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, in Akwa Ibom State. The corporation doesn’t even have a kiosk as an office in the state and you can’t point to anything to show that the Federal Government has interest in Akwa Ibom, which is an oil-producing state.
How do you react to allegations that South-South governors have not done enough to justify the huge revenue inflow they get?
I am hearing that for the first time because a lot of people do ask: Where do you guys get the money to do all your projects? As at today, it is only governors of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, who are commissioning projects.
You should look at what we get in Naira value and the rate of inflation. When we had a similar oil price some years ago at the exchange rate prevalent at that point in time, how much were these states given and how much are we getting today at the current level of inflation and exchange rate?
At that time, how much was a bag of cement and how much is it today? These are facts. So crosscheck them and compare it to what we have put on ground.
How feasible are ongoing talks by opposition parties aimed at unseating the APC-led Federal Government?
Most of the things going on now are human tactical approaches to what people think can give them result, but at the end of the day, what matters most is result. Everyone is hoping to carry the day in 2019, so any tactical approach, which you think will give you the result, is what you are going to employ.
And let me say something; no two elections have ever been the same and will never be. So, the 2019 elections will be completely different from that of 2015. So, if somebody thinks that there is a formula to it, it might not necessarily be. Above all, no matter what anyone does, it is God who determines who gets power as all power on planet earth belong to Him and He gives it to whoever He wishes. There are situations where people have ruled without anyone casting the ballot for them; what coalition would you call that? So, I believe that these things are just human approaches to actually see what result they can get.
You said that there is not even a kilometre of road constructed by the Federal Government in Akwa Ibom State. Could that be as a result of party differences?
It did not start today and it is not because of party differences.
What could have been the reason?
I cannot explain and I stand to be corrected if there is any. Even the so-called federal roads that we have spent money on to reconstruct, we are still waiting for reimbursement of the funds that we spent. Even at that, the Federal Inland Revenue Service is telling us to pay tax on money that I am still being owed.
How would you react to the assertion by the Niger-Delta Development Commission, NDDC, that your government is stopping it from embarking on projects in Akwa Ibom State?
There are nine states that make up the NDDC, put Akwa Ibom aside, pick other states and let them show you how many roads they have constructed and commissioned. If I am commissioning roads, I call people to come and be witnesses; let them show Nigerians the roads they have initiated, constructed and commissioned.
What can come as an advice is that if you occupy some public office, you should not have political ambition because you cannot play politics with the development of the people. As passionate as we are towards development, do you think it is practicable for us to tell somebody not to develop our state? It is all just blackmail and propaganda and we disassociate ourselves from such.
Probably, they just want to score a cheap political point and that was why I said that some public offices should be left for people who we know are out for development and not for those who will use such offices to actualise their political ambitions.
No state will allow any agency of the Federal Government to go and place a signpost on a road that it has awarded contract for its reconstruction.
It is not only about the NDDC; even the Federal Road Maintenance Agency, FERMA, does that. If I am doing rehabilitation of a federal road and FERMA goes and puts a signpost there, of course, I will remove it because I am using state funds for the job. If it is in their budget and I am doing it, they should go and account for it. They should not use what I have done to account for it. If you go to Akwa Ibom State now, I am resurfacing the road from Okot Ibot to Oron, which is a federal road, but you would be surprised to go there and see a FERMA signpost on it.
Are you saying that people, anyone with a political ambition should not be appointed into the NDDC?
I didn’t say only the NDDC. I said certain offices of developmental agencies that cut across the regions of the country because there would be some element of bias and I don’t need to define those biases.
How would you respond to the Water Resources Bill, which seeks to establish a regulatory framework for the water resources sector in Nigeria?
That was one of the major issues we addressed as South- South governors. It is not only affecting South-South. It is affecting everybody from Lagos State, Ondo State.
Whoever has water is affected by that bill. Because If you look at that bill, it is vesting everything water – surface water and underneath water in the Federal Government. It is a very dangerous bill.
I am completely against it because it is counter development. It also violates the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Take for example, my area, the whole life of our people is on water and the constitution does not separate the land from water.
So, how can you now say water on the surface and water beneath? What happens to us because we live on water, we survive on water, we do everything on water? Does it mean that those that have land, live on land and do everything on land, their governors have control, while governors of riverine areas where the people’s entire life is on water should not control anything? Is that not a violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
So, it is a total rejection not just by me, but by the entire people of the South-South and South-East of this country and we just want to believe that at this time that our democracy is still fragile, we should put in things that will make the country stronger and not those that can call so many things to question.
Let’s do things that can move us forward and not backward. Such a bill can take us several thousand miles backwards. Believe me, we reject it in its entirety because it is against the constitution and it is an indirect way of saying that we are not Nigerians because everything about our life in the Niger- Delta is on water.
Is it true that there is a rift between you and your predecessor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, upon claims that some of his loyalists in your government were sacked?
No official has been sacked from government, I am not aware of any because the highest official through appointment is commissioner and no commissioner has been sacked. At times people misinterpret certain things. You know that it takes two to be in love and it also takes two to fight, so in this case, I will give you a straight answer; there is no rift because the second party is not available. You don’t play a football match when you don’t have an opponent.
Given the recent reconciliation among APC leaders in Akwa Ibom State, are you not afraid that they are putting aside their differences to fight you?
Let me tell you something. There is a difference between APC in Lagos State and APC in Abuja, and also APC in Akwa Ibom State. Personally, I don’t mention names of political parties, but because you mentioned a name, that is why I am doing so, though I don’t know whether the name you mentioned is a political party or whether it is Armoured Personnel Carrier if I may borrow your words.
Look at what happened on May 29, 2018 in Akwa Ibom State. Does it show Akwa Ibom as a state where you have another political party? I want to say it clearly that PDP in my state is like a religion. I told people three years ago that if someone is coming to conduct praise and worship in a church in Akwa Ibom State and happens to make the mistake to say PDP, people will answer.
Akwa Ibom is purely 100 per cent a PDP state, and it is a state that the people have seen development done by the party. So, what colour of another political party are you bringing to the people of the state and what new thing will the party do for them? On May 29, the people came out in their numbers to say this is where we belong.
Where have you seen such a thing before? Mind you, Akwa Ibom is 99.99 per cent Christians and if these people from all the 31 local government areas of the state led by the former National President of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and Prelate Emeritus of the Methodist Church Worldwide, have come out to say that there is no vacancy in the governorship office until 2023 and that it is Udom Emmanuel they want, which other political party are you mentioning?
How does the PDP expect to harmonise the various interests angling for the 2019 presidential ticket of your party?
If there are no aspirants at the national level, where else will you have people indicating interest? The constitution is clear that as far as you are eligible to contest, you can indicate interest. Different people aspire for different positions, but at the end of the day, it is the will of the people that will prevail. And no matter the number of people aspiring for the ticket, what matters is that we must have a candidate as a political party. If people don’t aspire, it means that the party is not alive. So, the number of people aspiring on the platform of the PDP shows the strength of the party and I welcome more to join. In fact, let’s have more than 100 aspirants, but like I said, at the end of the day, the will of the people will prevail when we go for the convention.
In spite of what you said that you have done, why are there pockets of protests against you from time to time?
Protests in which areas?
The last one was by a group of youths protesting against dearth of infrastructure in their area…
No, it has never happened, not in my state. You know I stated my opening remark by telling you that there are a lot of gossips and propaganda and so on. Let me also mention that sometime last week or two weeks ago, a state that pays salaries and pensions constantly, somebody went on the internet and posted that workers did not receive salaries.
But, it took even those who got their alert to come and defend the government to say they were not being owed even for a month. You see, you can’t take away this mischief, it didn’t start today, it started from creation. There have always been mischief makers all through.
That’s why we have that word in the dictionary, but you cannot take mischief to be a fact, mischief is mischief, propaganda is propaganda. There has never been any protest in my state, never.
How do you react to the prosecution of some PDP chiefs on the use of campaign funds and the question about the campaign funds of the ruling party?
Let me tell you something which you don’t know. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, so if you hold power, you can do whatever you want to do, this thing we call power, I don’t want it to sound like a tautology, but as the name implies, anything called power can shock, it can bring light, it can burn, it can do something else.
So, depending on who holds power, and how he wants to play with it. What do you define as money laundering? If I contest election right now and I try to buy fez-caps and I buy them from you; what offence have you committed? I think it’s something that we might not be able to answer totally right now, but the future should be able to provide answers to some of these questions.
How prepared is your party ahead of 2019 to ensure that you win the presidential poll?
I think Nigerians can decipher and put it straight who would govern this country, and who among those aspiring has deep knowledge of the economy. Again, the person must trend. I think you know what I mean by trend. You know those who are in that category.
The person must trend, the person must have adequate understanding of the economic issue that can make an impact. I am from the private sector, I know how I feel for somebody who was holding hundreds of millions of Naira investment and of no offence of his nor has he done anything wrong, even with that investment in his hand, he has lost more than 50 per cent value of his investment. These are things we need to look at because the country is bigger than an individual.