Charles Udoh, Akwa Ibom State commissioner for information and strategy, in this interview with ANIEFIOK UDONQUAK, speaks on the achievements of Governor Udom Emmanuel since his assumption of office in 2015. He gives reasons why the governor deserves a second term.
As the next election approaches, why do you think Governor Udom Emmanuel deserves a second term?
The governor’s re-election is one thing that any group that wants the progress of this state should take seriously. His re-election should also go beyond personal and ethnic interests, even beyond party line. His re-election will determine how Akwa Ibom will be seen in the national arena. Beyond sentiment, I have opportunity to look at the scorecards of other states, I am not sure there is one state that had a score card that is overtly more impressive than Governor Udom Emmanuel’s. This is just in three years and is combined with a cross sector development from health to infrastructure, industrialisation, agriculture and education you can see landmark development doting across the state. This is being driven by the 5-point agenda of the governor. On each of this agenda you could see government actively trying to demonstrate its commitment to achieving them. Let me look at one of those points, political and economic inclusion. In the last one month or so we had scenario where the governor clearly demonstrated his passion to allow political inclusion to take its right of place.
Recall that on September 23rd which was the state anniversary, a day before then the governor granted the opposition the use of the sports stadium, the same facility that the state was going to use for its anniversary. That is in line with his political and economic inclusion. Not many state governments will do that even the previous state administration. Just a few weeks back a presidential aspirant had paid for a facility which he was denied being used in Abuja. Political tolerance- for us to develop like a state we must have a conducive investment climate for the investors to thrive and for new ones to come in. For the last three years we pride ourselves as having peaceful environment is not by any dramatization, it is through the efforts of government. A lot of young men and women have been taken off the street into gainful employments and that naturally translates into the peaceful and serene nature we have in the state in last three years. We talk about industrialization; today we can see mix of industries springing up. Just a few weeks ago we commissioned, a mini industrial estate where you have three or four cottage industries sited there. Four jobs and wealth creation and that will also help the economics of the state. The syringe and metering factories are thriving, the flour mill is about to be commissioned, the coconut refinery is also getting toward completion. This is a pointer to the fact the state is secure and safe. The antic of the opposition in the last few weeks to draw up imaginary insecurity is laughable. In the last three years people have been sleeping with their eyes closed compared to the years of the past administration where assassinations and all kind of violence vices walked on two legs.
Today, we can proudly say that the effort of government in ensuring there is peace and security in the state is yielding result. A few days ago over 200 young people who before now had constituted themselves into a terror group terrorizing parts of this state voluntarily came out and laid down their arms and said we would not have more of this violence; we want to meaningfully create employment. So government has taken steps to see how to rehabilitate those who want to go to school or learn a trade. Interestingly, we also have women in this group. That is a pointer also that government is succeeding in this line. And if you compare that to other parts of this country where you have insurgency, it is a landmark thing that Akwa Ibom state government has been able to connect with these people, get them to see reason and get them to hear the voice of reason to come out to support peace and allow development to thrive. We are determined not to allow some divisive elements who are trying to orchestrate violent situation for personal gains to thrive.
Before the defection of GodswillAkpabio and others, Akwa Ibom State was seen 100% PDP state. Now it appears the tide has tilted, can PDP still win the forthcoming election in the state?
I like working with data and statistics. All the local government chairmen are still PDP members, all the councillors are PDP members, in the House of Assembly only three out of 26 are not PDP members. That clearly indicates that it is not one man moving and making a lot of noise. It is about the will of the people. You will recall that the so-called defection was trumpeted that it would be like a tsunami which never came to pass. Until the ballots are drawn, until fresh statistics are shown, Akwa Ibom State is still 100 percent PDP. It is not about noise. If you go to football match everybody thinks he is going to win, when you got to the pitch the reality will dawn. There is no cause for alarm, the agenda of the opposition is to clearly perpetrate violence, the agenda is to create a situation in the state to paint a picture that Akwa Ibom State is not safe. But of course, Nigerians and security agencies know better. The latest drama staged by the opposition everybody knows that they are trying to stage scripted drama. The truth is that they are doing these things for pure selfish interest. If for anything the investors are going to move out from the state. The factories we brought in that are functioning will leave in drove and those foreigners will leave. Your children and relatives will suffer because there will be job losses. With those industries working we will have moved people on the streets that do not have something to do. It is selfish reason when you run down the economic and put the state in ruin what are you going to govern. That is the message I want Akwa Ibom people to understand, that it is not about political party now it is about seeing aspiring leaders who are selfish and want to destroy the state because they want to get to power at all cost. Even the so called leaders in opposition go to the factories established by the state government to apply to be contractors and distributors, but when they will get to radio stations they will say the factories are not working, nothing is there. The issue is comparing Governor Udom Emmanuel and those characters and actors on the other platform who is sincere? Who really wishes Akwa Ibom well? We see somebody who wants to be a governor of Akwa Ibom State today he controls a budget of nine states, he has direct access of 2 per cent of profits of all International Oil Companies in Nigeria and you want to leave that to control budget of one state. What is your goal; what have you done with budget of nine states’ resources you have got? How have you impacted in your state, do you have a road to your village and you want to be a governor; that is clearly selfish interest?
Governor Emmanuel in more than three years in office has embarked on many projects; which of those projects could be tagged as his signature project?
When you talk about signature project, some people can turn a monument to so-called signature project. Some people can build flyover that is useless and call it signature project. What becomes signature project in my mind of this administration is how the governor has been able to transform the economy in a sustainable manner. Today, we talk about job creation; today we have almost eleven factories in the state. You can aggregate that and say industrialization effort of the government is the signature project of this government. We have seen governor in this state that commissioned a building and called it a signature project. Today we have more industries than any administration in the state, that is the signature project of this administration. Today Akwa Ibom is rated as the second highest destination of foreign direct investment in Nigeria that is the signature project that this government has achieved in the first term in office. Forget that this government has not built stadium but to maintain the Nest of Champion stadium, is like building a new stadium. Experience has shown that Abuja national stadium cannot be maintained and is like a game reserve and the one in Lagos has turned out into beer parlour. So maintaining the Nest of Champion pitch alone to save Nigeria embarrassment of hosting international matches is a huge amount of money is a signature item. The fact remains that some states of the federation cannot pay salaries, but today we pay salary as and when due; pensioners get their pensions. Anybody who says he has not got his pension, look him very well it must have been a documentation issue. The Head of Service has also challenged everybody that if you have not received your pension, the person should come up, but nobody has come up. Pensioners get bank alerts for payment the same time workers get for salary. We are not playing politics with development and to build monument. The signature project of this administration is the industrialisation, peace and agriculture. The governor clearly has the people in mind to develop them. The signature project of this administration is clearly the manifestation of its 5-point agenda.
There is this rumour of mass defection by aides to the governor due to lack of job satisfaction and motivation; as one of the key aides in the state administration; how bad is the situation?
Those are mere excuses. To be realistic there are a few people who are allergic to other people. Some of the aides were nominated by former governor, Godswill Akpabio. Naturally, because the former governor has moved away, some of them who probably cannot articulate what the consequences will be are bound to tilt towards that direction. The good thing is that there is just a pocket of them. The governor has over 500 aides, so if two or three of them resign, it is quite an insignificant number. After all, two commissioners were dropped. Aides are those you cannot put in the same basket as commissioners. Clearly those aides leaving are in the minority. If three resign that is not the problem.
The governorship candidate of APC reportedly escaped assassination recently and also an aide to the governor who resigned and defected allegedly was shot. While a cross section of people is alleging insecurity, others said it is fake or false insecurity alarm being played up. Is the state government not worried about this development in this political season?
The good thing is that the security operatives are on top of the situation. On the assassination, we know if there was anything close to that they would have shown us pictures especially where the bullets hit or passed through. Video clips as we speak we have not seen those things. Knowing them they would have flooded the internet with those pictures but I will not pre-empt what the police will say. As the governor has said the police have been given the mandate to go ahead and find out. If it is found to be false, the law will take its natural course. A few weeks back, something like that happened in another local government area where we found out it was a robbery attack where a young man came out claiming that it was an assassination attempt by 15 people and they gave him a small scratch on his thigh and police have also come out to say it was robbery attack. Those are things clearly orchestrated by the opposition to paint picture which they have in mind, the good thing is that these people on the other side had this antecedent. The bulk of them were in charge of this state in eight years before the current administration. We know what happened in those years; it was a period we didn’t sleep with our eyes closed so they are coming back with the same antic. The good thing is that Akwa Ibom people have experienced peace, tranquility, harmony and trust, Akwa Ibom will not allow themselves to be dragged to that ugly situation anymore.
Recently, over 200 militants, kidnappers and cultists surrendered their arms and keyed into government amnesty programme. What is the state doing to properly rehabilitate them so that they will not slip back?
The government in collaboration with different agencies, the Police, Directorate of State Security (DSS), and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) are working hand-in-hand to fashion out modalities to properly rehabilitate them. The engagement is on-going. If they are meaningfully engaged, it is easy to keep them out from those bad habits. They came out voluntarily following an appeal from the state government. If you look at the three local governments, Ika, EtimEkpo and Ukanafun they are the least developed areas for the last three years because no contractor will want to go to violence-prone areas, or risk being kidnapped or killed. It is a good sign that these young men have come out. This government is going to harness their potentials in a positive way.