Akpabio /Udom face-off: Why Uyo Senatorial District reacted – I received tons of insults and abuse for supporting Akpabio – Idongesit Nkanga
AKWA IBOM STATE 2019 TO 2023
His Excellency, Air Commodore OTUEKONG IDONGESIT NKANGA (RTD)
Former Military Gov Akwa Ibom State (OFR)
By Ata Ikiddeh
Ata Ikiddeh – Your Excellency before we go into the situation in Akwa Ibom State briefly tell us about this new project called handshake across the Niger?
His Excellency -Thank you very much. Hand shake across the Niger is indeed historic and has the potential of changing the leadership power base away from the Hausa Fulani hegemony in Nigeria. For the first time two powerful Southern socio-cultural blocs Afenifere, the apex Yoruba socio-cultural body with Ohaneze, the apex socio-cultural Igbo body met for the first ever summit of this size between Igbos and the Yorubas. I represented Pan Niger Delta Forum because we in the South South and the Niger Delta said the handshake is happening over our heads we should be represented, not forgetting our strategic economic importance. The Pan Niger Delta Forum met with both the President and the Vice President. We submitted a 16 point agenda to the President 1st of November 2016 on how to end militancy and we got the Vice President to tour the Niger Delta on 3rd of August 2017.
For so long the South West and the South East have opposed each other and have been political allies of the North at their own expense. What has happened over the years is, whenever the North is in power it allies either with the South West or the South East and the two live side by side in permanent opposition. Look at what is happening currently, the South East has been completely excluded because the North is in alliance with the South West. But compare this to the 60’s when NPC in the North was in alliance with NCNC in the South East, the South West was the main opposition Party. Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr Nnamdie Azikiwe were the most brilliant leaders of their time but they dissipated their energies opposing each other while serving the interest of the North at the expense of the South. This summit is saying, it is time the South East and the South West went into alliance to alter the political dominance of the North.
The inspiration for this summit is derived from the special relationship between General Aguyi Ironsi and Brigadier Fajuyi. When the coup plotters came for Ironsi on 29th July 1966, Fajuyi refused to give him up and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Ironsi was Igbo, Fajuyi was Yoruba. Therefore if a Yoruba man could give his life for an Igbo man why can’t we go into alliance? This was the underlying spirit of the conference. What was also interesting at the summit was we had Benue, Plateau, Admamwa and Taraba in attendance.
Finally, I spoke on restructuring. If the Federal Government will not become the arrow head and restructure Nigeria, then Nigeria will ultimately restructure itself because restructuring is the natural political progression for Nigeria. What we are operating today is the unitary system of government which is politically and structurally unsustainable. When you have, the South South, South West, South East and Middle-belt supporting restructuring, you realise it’s only 10% of Nigeria against restructuring. And so the next question is why? But we will get there, it is going to be a slow process but we will arrive the coast of a restructured Nigeria one day.
Ata – Now let us focus on Akwa Ibom State, Is there a political crises in the PDP in the State?
His Excellency – There is no political crises in Akwa Ibom State. What we did was remind ourselves, where we are, where we stand and what our various bloc political interests are. This is an election year for the party to select its flag bearers at all the levels and so there is understandably a lot of anxiety, tension, and high expectations. People are listening to what their leaders are saying. And any word said out of place can create panic and mistrust. And as a former Governor, an elder statesman, a foremost leader in Uyo senatorial district and also regarded as a father figure by both the Senator and the current Governor, I have a vital role to play before any situation gets out of hand. Not because of any fears about the relationship between Senator Godswill and the Governor Udom, because as far as I know, and you can take this to the market, the two men have a cordial and respectful relationship – but because of the larger Akwa Ibom political community and the perception of people who are not privy to discussions and what goes on behind closed doors. If one does nothing a fire might break out, not because one had the intention to start a fire but because people who have the wrong political motives can latch on to the general mood of confusion to cause serious irreparable damage to the fortunes of the party.
Politics is about representation. In PDP we encourage open debates and discussions about Democracy and Representation. It is not a sign of disagreement but a sign that our core values of proportional representation is being adhered, to the letter. But we also believe that in the midst of our open debates and discussions we are furnished with the exact facts and evidence on ground. The Senator raised concerns about the State of infrastructure in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. A day later the Speaker Honourable Onofiok to is in line with our democratic ideals as a family and as a Political Party. The result showed the Governor had achieved some infrastructural milestones in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, perhaps more than the Senator was aware. It was also revealed that Julius Berger was still working on Ikot Ekpene Uyo road. However lack of funds means the pace of work has been very slow.
Ata – You referred to yourself as a father figure to both Senator Godswill and the Governor Udom.
His Excellency – What I said was that I am regarded as a father figure. I didn’t make myself the father figure, they made me their father figure. Senator Godswill Akpabio and the current Governor of Akwa Ibom State Udom Emmanuel are my sons, I am like a father to them. When both became Governors they called me to be by their sides. For eight years I stood by the former Governor. Ask him he cannot question my loyalty all those years. I received tons of insults and abuse from certain sections of the Ibibio community, they use to say, ” how can I an Ibibio elder lift up the hand of an Annang man, when there are many Ibibio sons from Uyo senatorial district who want to contest for Governorship. But zoning to me was sacrosanct and I was not prepared to shift an inch. My sense of duty as a trained military officer means I have to be consistent.
Now when Governor Akpabio was leaving office I was one of the first people he unveiled Udom to. All of you were there. I stood by Akpabio’s side at every rally in Akwa Ibom State from 2014 to 2015 to lift Udom’s hand as the next Governor of Akwa Ibom State from Eket Senatorial District.
I have the political interest of both men in my heart, one is the predecessor, the other is the successor and current Governor. The same way I protected, defended, promoted and secured Godswill while he was in office, is the same way I will also protect, defend, promote and secure Udom while he is in office. I told myself everything I did for Godswill I will do for Udom, I will show no partiality. I occupy the revered position of father. That was why in June, I gathered the Ibibio nation at Asan Ibibio and formally presented Governor Udom to the Ibibio Nation for a second term. At exactly the same venue six years ago I presented Godswill to the Ibibio nation for a second term.
Now, senator Akpabio is the senator of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, but much more than that he is the immediate past Governor of the State, so everybody listens to every word he says. When the Senator publicly laid out his concerns about his Senatorial District area I don’t think he realised how his words would be taken. You can see it caused a lot of panic. And I think it was the panic or rather the fear that caused the various reactions. There was pandemonium and that was not healthy at this stage of our preparation. In 2019 the stakes are too high there can be no uncertainty in our rank and file.
Ata – Earlier you said, “what we did was remind ourselves, where we are, where we stand, what our various interests are. This is an election year there is a lot of tension and expectation. People are listening to what their leaders are saying”. What do you mean by that?
His Excellency – Ok, if you sit in a room of 20 people and you make a statement and you ask the 20 people to relay back to you what you said , you will probably get 10 different versions of what you had originally said. You see people perceive information differently. It’s worst when you relay information in a room of heightened expectation, if you fail to come out and clarify the statement you will most certainly create alarm and a state of panic and that was exactly what happened. I am sure if the Senator had personally clarified what he said we wouldn’t have seen the reactions we all witnessed. He might have been misquoted or the press might have stretched his words giving it another life of its own.
Remember it was not the Senator’s concerns that caused the confusion it was peopleś perception of his statement – and I think it is very important you understand that. A great many people in Uyo Senatorial District felt what the senator was saying was that he was withdrawing his support from the Governor Udom. I mean can you imagine the repercussions of such a reality for us as a Political bloc? It would mean Uyo Senatorial District would not field a Governorship aspirant in 2023. The headline on every daily read, ” Senator Akpabio says he will withdraw support from Governor Udom if..” This news came out between Saturday and Sunday and after some days there was no personal clarification from the Senator. You see that was why Uyo Senatorial District reacted the way it did. Have you asked yourself why it was Uyo alone that reacted and not Uyo and Eket. It’s simple, because if the actions of the Senator were to become a reality it could affect the political interest and fortunes of Uyo Senatorial District in 2023.
Ata – So this Is about 2023 not about Senator Akpabio?
His Excellency – This is about the interest of Uyo Senatorial District. It is nothing more than that. And and as elders of the District, in the absence of any clarification from Senator, we were duty bound to say something. Remember Uyo Senatorial District is the largest senatorial district in population size, the nine local government areas of Uyo, Uruan, Nsit Atai, Nsit Ubium, Nsit Ibom, Ibiono Ibom, Ibesikpo/Asutan, Itu and Etinan hold the largest concentration of people in Akwa Ibom State. The major ethnic group the Ibibios are concentrated in Uyo Senatorial district. So the stakes are very high. Anything that affects Uyo Senatorial District affects the whole State. The last time Uyo Senatorial District had a Governor was between 1999 and 2007. The next time we are going to have a Governor emerge from our zone will be in 2023. Uyo is going to have to wait for 16 years. Uyo cannot afford to wait beyond 16 years. You think about it, a child that was born the day Governor Victor Attah took the oath of office will be 24 years old the next time a Governor emerges from our zone. That is a very long wait, that is why it is a very sensitive issue for us, one that many people from the zone do not play with. Nothing must stop that Governor from emerging in 2023. That is why we are currently behind Udom because in 4 years, in 2023 we hope to produce our own Governor. The zoning formulae in Akwa Ibom State like I said is sacrosanct. This is a subject that is taken very seriously by everybody in Akwa Ibom State. But much more than that we are not just waiting for a Governor to come from our zone, we want to build on the legacies of Governor Attah, Governor Gosdwill Akpabio and Governor Udom Emmanuel. When the time comes Uyo Senatorial District will choose a man who will take this State into new heights of excellence and vast wells of prosperity.
Ata – Do you think the reaction from Uyo Senatorial District was too sharp because some people might think so?
His Excellency – From time immemorial zoning has been a highly sensitive and volatile subject in Akwa Ibom State, it is about protecting and defending the interest of each leg of the political tripod, Uyo, Ikot Ekpene and Eket. Everybody knows that from 2003 when Governor Attah instituted the rotational or selective zoning process it has been orderly. But it is also a process that has scalded and burnt quite a few politicians. Zoning of the Governorship is a highly combustible issue in Akwa Ibom, trust me – it is the only subject that can start a political riot in the State. Every zone wants to have a sense of belonging, every zone wants to serve when its time comes.
Remember in 2010 former Governor Attah came under intense fire from the Senator who was Governor at the time, for going against the zoning process he had instituted, when he Governor Attah went to ACN in 2011 and lifted Udoedege’s hand who was from Uyo Senatorial District. Governor Attah came under a lot of fiery flak from Governor Godswill.
Also remember in 2014, Senator Bassey Albert who was commissioner at the time was sacked from the cabinet by Governor Akpabio. Now you remember how the sacking of Bassey Albert reverberated across Akwa Ibom State, this was Governor Akpabio’s most favourite commissioner, but the Governor did not hesitate to bring the axe down on him. Why? Akpabio said he sacked his favourite Commissioner because his ambition to run for Governorship ran contrary to the zoning process. Senator Bassey Albert was from Uyo Senatorial District, it was not Uyo’s turn and his ambition had the potential of truncating Eket Senatorial District’s chances which the current Governor Udom who was SSG at the time, was campaigning for. It is important people remember that incident. The situation was threatening to boil over and split the Party but Bassey Albert was eventually compelled to step down and he was compensated with the senate seat for Uyo Senatorial District.
So Uyo’s reaction to the Senator’s remarks was not personal, it was addressed to Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, reminding them to protect our interest and keep the zoning process sacrosanct.
Ata – What would you say about ethnic relations within the State, how has this affected it?
Please note, the Ibibios have no problem with their Annang brothers. What we desire the most at this point is that the Annangs in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District are standing with their brothers in Uyo Senatorial District / Eket Senatorial District to deliver Udom in 2019. It is important that we all are singing on the same ground and from the same page. Remember for 8 years from 2007 to 2015, Uyo Senatorial District stood with Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District to deliver Senator Akpabio who was Governor at the time. We need that gesture to be reciprocated.
Don’t forget after the Senator’s comments there were lots of reactions, we had people who were angry, disappointed and upset. It was important we represent every feeling from the 9 Local Government Areas in that communique.
There are a host of people from Uyo Senatorial District with deep interest in 2023, these are people who want to run for office. The last thing we want, are these people jumping ship and joining the opposition because of political uncertainty , that would be politically disastrous for us. So we had to represent their interest.
In court lawyers can have very sharp exchanges they can even get personal but it’s all professional and in the discharge of their duties in court there is absolutely nothing personal. The same lawyers will refer to each other as my learned friend and eat from the same plate in a restaurant across the road.
Ata – How about those who would want to use the situation to score cheap political points or even want to cause mutiny within the PDP
His Excellency -I don’t know what leg they would stand on because this was not a PDP Party issue it was from one Senatorial District to the other. The Senator and the Governor are on good terms, therefore anyone who thinks he wants to breach the Peace will be on the wrong side of the law. I lend my voice with that of the Governor and warn them to desist from any illegal activity that might lead to the break down of Law and Order.
Ata – And so what’s the way forward?
His Excellency – We have never stopped we are still on course. We are determined to deliver Akwa Ibom State to PDP. Look at what is happening to an APC State like Benue, it has been completely abandoned by the ruling Party. Look at the slaughter taking place there? The situation is heartbreaking. In fact if you study the situation critically, the most unstable States in terms of Security are APC States. The most economically backward States are APC States. They are the States that haven’t paid their workers salaries. They are the States with begging bowls in Abuja every end of the month. They are the States overrun by Fulani Herdsmen, is that what we want after 20 years of democracy from 1999 to 2019? I am sure we deserve better. Look at all the States that switched from PDP to APC from Kogi, Benue and Plateau, they have all gone downhill. The people have regretted their decision and are determined to vote their APC governments out in 2019. Now do you think Akwa Ibom State will join what other people are running away from? Never!
Ata – Is Udom still Right?
His Excellency – Without a shadow of a doubt. Despite challenging economic times, the Governor has remained resolute in his pursuit of people-oriented governance and sustainable development in Akwa Ibom State. Governor Emmanuel Udom has brought to bear his wealth of knowledge and experience to keep the State’s economy afloat, with bold footprints in the industrial, agricultural and other sectors. Remember the National Bureau of Statistics in its 2017 report listed Akwa Ibom as the state that attracted the highest Foreign Direct Investment in Nigeria in 2016 after the commercial capital of Nigeria.”
It has not been an easy period for Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State, nobody anticipated the recession will hit so hard. But the Governor has kept the State going. Even when other States cannot pay salaries, Akwa Ibom State has been consistent. I am sure you know paying workers salaries is now a “project”. The focus of this government is to continue building infrastructure, promote industrialisation, invest in agriculture and provide jobs, and this – it is pursuing vigorously. When I visit other States and see their dilapidated roads, impoverished civil servants that are being owed salaries, I often wonder if we realise how very fortunate we are in Akwa Ibom State.
Today Akwa Ibom stands tall in the comity of states in the federation, it can boast of one of the most modern physical infrastructure, including a good network of roads that connects with the economic nerve centre of the state making it easy for mobility goods and services. The Independent Power Plant in Ikot Abasi is up and running even as the federal authorities have granted the request from the Governor to upgrade the plant to generate 500mw. But for the financial and economic intelligence of Governor Udom Emmanuel Akwa Ibom State would have been been seriously impacted negatively by the economic recession.
It is critical that we keep our spirit of unity and remember, the spirit that bonded our forefathers into Ibibio Union did not give room for segregation As people of common heritage the esteemed Union had prominent members from the Oro, and Annang people. Apart from establishing Ibibio College in in Ikot Ekpene , the first principal of the institution was Dr Ibanga Udo Akpabio.
So let it be known that the three blocs which form the political tripod of the State, Uyo Senatorial District, Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, Eket Senatorial District, are 100% behind His Excellency Governor Udom Emmanuel. We as a tripod have unanimously endorsed him for a second term. This endorsement includes the tripod of Ibibio, Annang and Oron who have also unanimously endorsed their son for a second term, this was exemplified when I led the Ibibio nation and its two other ethnic brothers to endorse His Excellency Governor Udom Emmanuel in June 2017.
I am one of those Nigerians who believes the main function of government is to create an enabling environment for its citizens. This is why Improved Steady Power Supply is critical because it has a direct knock on effect on the economic life of our society. I therefore call on the good citizens of this State to continue to encourage and support Governor Udom Emmanuel, your goodwill will make him do more.
Now, many times people ask me what really has Governor Udom Emanuel achieved. One of his Media Aides compiled this and I urge you Ata to publish it. It lists major achievements of Udom’s administration, it is truly commendable. I urge everyone to read it. I am confident that things can only get better. There is Peace in Akwa Ibom State.
Ata – Thank you Your Excellency.