Governor Godswill Akpabio
The Gubernatorial Interview
Shortly after the just-concluded People Democratic Party retreat in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital, Governor Godswill Akpabio who turned 50 years recently presented what appeared his score card to journalists. Chuks Okocha presents excerpts of the session:
Given your success record, are you not worried about sustainability?
From a physical point of view, what I did was to submit a bill to the House of Assembly, setting up Akwa Ibom State Infrastructure Maintenance Agency. That bill has been passed and signed into law. So, we now have an agency that will maintain the existing infrastructure in the state.
We also brought in equipment worth about N6 billion which is like full compliments of construction equipment including asphalt plant used in construction companies and allied agencies. We also hope to employ a good number of our youths, train them and ensure that the equipment are properly deployed and maintained.
From the point of view of sustainability, I think that is spiritual because this thing comes from God. It was God that brought me in as Governor. So, what we did in 2007 was to pray that God’s will be done. In 2011 we said, let God’s will be done again. So, to actually sustain what we have done- the tempo of development- and be able to sustain it, for the good people of Akwa Ibom, I believe that should come from God and we shall continue to say, let God’s will continue to be over Akwa Ibom and the entire country.
I believe that comes from God and I always put a joke that if you take a pig to Buckingham Palace, he will turn the place to a desert, nobody will go there again. But, if you take a wise man into a desert, he will turn the desert into Buckingham Palace and everybody will go there to visit.
So, I think the aspect of succession is very important and that is why we want to handover that to God so that we will have somebody who will have the same zeal, the same passion, the same dedication to develop the state. I think it is a bit spiritual and I think God’s will, will be done when the right time comes.
Does it not bother you as a governor that the PDP governments are widely criticized across the country for non-performance, despite your supposed peer review?
The reality is that we discuss peer review mechanism as state governors as a whole not as PDP governors. This is because we believe that after election, we shouldn’t emphasize so much again on the party. Party issues should take the back seat and we should be emphasising on governance because the people voted us into offices to provide dividends of democracy.
When we put it into template, I believe strongly we should do so. Quite fortunately for us as PDP governors, the biggest showcase for democracy dividends in the country is the PDP administration in Akwa Ibom. It is there for all to come and see. If anybody is in doubt if PDP can deliver, come and see what we are doing here and also how the ordinary people feel about it in terms of current outlines in a robust sector.
The plans we are making in gas sector is second to none; the plan we have in the agricultural sector and the plan we have in the power sector. I believe that Nigeria will be better for it.
I want you to know something, a member of the War College asked me: how come after 13 years, you don’t have enough roads, enough that and that? I explained to him that Rome was not built in a day. Democracy in America took over 200 years to get to the level it is today. 13 years is not enough to judge any government, but you see, because the decay by the military took over 30 years, PDP cannot embark on quick fix in just 13 years.
How do you mean, in specifics?
We have achieved accelerated development in Akwa Ibom and other parts of the country. We have decided to redouble our efforts in order to catch up with the comity of states in other parts of the world. You know, the world has become a global village, the example that you see in many other states of the federation and even in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja is something to behold and that is what PDP government are doing in the states. These have proved that yes, PDP can sustain its governance in Nigeria and it can sustain the momentum. Rather than say PDP is not performing, people are saying, PDP is over-performing.
People are even asking that with what is happening, where will they get all the money to pay for all these things they are doing? I give you an example, will anybody tell you after delivering well over 300 urban roads that you are not performing? Will anybody tell you after you have ensured that you can drive over 50 kilometers in your state without pothole that you are not performing? Will anybody tell you that when you have doubled school buildings and tripled school enrollment and you have over 1.3 million children in basic education level that you are not performing?
Will anybody tell you after you have built well over 2,500 classroom blocks that you are not performing? Will anybody tell you that with additional 1,700 villages that now have light that you are not performing? I have raised electricity coverage in the state to 87 per cent and I am going to make sure that in 2014, every village in Akwa Ibom is connected to the national grid- there will be none left- 100 per cent coverage.
We have finished a gas processing plant in partnership with Sectar Energy from UK and we are going to be supplying gas. The gas is from our own soil and the reservoir is in Akwa Ibom. It is what we are domesticating for our use. As I speak with you, we have finished the first phase of the International Airport and building the maintenance, repair and overhaul facility that will repair aircrafts for Nigeria.
There is none yet in Africa and that is why we have a lot of air crashes. So, we are looking forward to it. We are even doing the main terminal building and a second runway. As I am talking to you now, we have built the first e-library in the whole of Africa- a five-storey site- a knowledge-based center where you can access no less than 70 million e-books and e-journals across the world.
We have also done free medical treatment. We have eliminated polio in my state. We have not had a single incident of polio in four years. Since I became governor, that is the first thing we have pursued. We have ensured total vaccination of children; free medical treatment for children from ages one to five and free education and medication to all pregnant women and children. It is open to all Nigerians who are resident in Akwa Ibom and not just Akwa Ibom people alone. We have to be our brothers’ keepers. With such a thing, will you say Akwa Ibom is not performing?
The infrastructure you have seen is second to none- brand new Government House and Governor’s Office and Banquet Hall done by the PDP. We are doing Tropicana Center; the shopping mall is there, a multi-storey building. We have done the fifth floor for the five star hotel to be managed by Hilton International. We are doing an International Conference Center with ECOWAS Hall for the President to move ECOWAS and AU meetings to Uyo and we have a mini Disney for children. We are also doing a Specialist Hospital somewhere in Itam.
We are not only doing state projects; we are also doing federal roads. We have done up to 1,000 kilometers of roads with completed four flyovers of international standard. How can you say such a government is not performing? PDP is a showcase for Nigeria. That is the simple truth. You can use the achievements of PDP to challenge any administration in the country. There is no way you highlight these things and people will not hail PDP government. My feeling is that in 2015, we might end up having 36 over 36. PDP might end up winning all the states because of their performance at the states. It is superlative!