Governor Godswill Akpabio is often in an upbeat mood. You would too if your state is literally speaking the richest in the country. You would have to concede though that the huge resources have been put to judicious use. But you have to wonder also why he seems bent on further grabbing a paltry 76 oil wells from Cross River, a sister state. He dismisses such insinuation. He tells Laurence Ani, Roland Ogbonnaya and Ahamefula Ogbu why he called for dialogue on the issue, support state police and intends to run for Senate in 2015. Excerpts:
What did you consider the most expedient area of need five years ago when you were inaugurated?
First of all what was very apparent when I came in as the governor in 2007 was the lack of access roads to many local governments in the state and even the state capital itself and most of our local government headquarters, the dilapidation was very apparent. That was the first major thing that I noticed. There were a lot of things if you look at governance generally you could say there were a lot of issues that needed to be addressed: the absence of road infrastructure and the dilapidated nature of what we used to have as roads, you could say that was the first major one.
The other one was in terms of education. The situation was such that there were too many children who were being trafficked outside under the guise of being sent to school and they were being used as child prostitutes in Gabon, in Ghana and some small countries around us and then a lot of them were serving as houseboys and house girls in Lagos, in Abuja and other places and the reason for that was obvious, inability to access school meant that your parents were either very poor or you had no means of support so I had to address that and that was the reason why a year after I became the state governor, I declared free and compulsory education up to senior secondary school level and then I signed a bill into law to protect the rights of children and stop maltreatment of children in all facets; so looking back five years after and looking back four years at that policy, I feel very gratified that today we have tripled school enrolment in Akwa Ibom State and then I was also mindful of the need of other Nigerians so I felt if you educate your children and you don’t educate your neighbour’s you are preparing armed robbers to attack your graduate children so I declared the free and compulsory education open to all Nigerian children who are resident in Akwa Ibom; so today we have more than triple school enrolment. The schools are bursting, the facilities are stretched, we had to employ more teachers and all that but I am very satisfied that the response has been tremendous.
So many of our children returned from many places , from Gabon, from Senegal, from so many places, from Lagos and Abuja infact some orphans and I don’t want to use the word destitutes came back so they needed support so we had to set up a center here which we call Divine Children’s home which is run by the office of the First Lady to cater for those children and they are all in school anyway and then I did not just stop there, I made sure that basic education was compulsory, not just the question of free education and then to avoid a situation where the heads of schools whether Headmaster or Principal attempted to charge the children using all sorts of excuses, we decided to pay some subventions, so we paid N100 per child per term to the Headmaster in the primary school and N300 per child per term to Principal for logistics and that policy was well received across by the bodies of Principals and Headmistresses and Headmasters in the State. That way, children are now allowed to go to school. We had to even abolish Parents Teachers Association levies.
We changed the configuration of road construction and we insisted that we shouldn’t do political roads where you put laterite over black soil and then put asphalt and six months later the road starts smiling which was the situation that we found in many parts of the Niger Delta so today there is no single road we did even way back in 2007 2008, none has a single pothole because we made sure the construction was near perfect and then we brought in first class construction companies to assist.
Julius Berger for instance is working in Akwa Ibom for the first time since 1960 and then you have companies like Setraco and companies that work for Shell, Semco even one of the best Chinese construction companies we are patronising in the country, CCECC construction Company, they are also in Akwa Ibom and of course the policies have to be such that it places high priority on ensuring that payments were made as and when due and not only that, we set up a robust monitoring system made of architects, quantity surveyors, engineers and all that and we call them Senior Assistants to Governor on Project Monitoring. We brought in a professional from Schlumberger who is a general manager and put him there as Special Adviser on Technical Services to supervise them and it doesn’t matter who does a job here, the quality must be the same because people are on ground to ensure that if you need 9cm of asphalt it is 9 cm whether you are a JB or you are an unknown contractor and the achievement has been tremendous and really wonderful in that direction and I think if you go round you will be slightly impressed with what you would see.
I did not promise my people flyovers but we have just completed the fourth me in Uyo and the dualised roads are everywhere to see. We did not also distinguish between State and Federal roads, we decided to intervene in all hoping that in future the federal government will refund the money to us because most of the federal roads here were in terrible condition for over 30 years and now hardly do you see federal workers or people like you come from Lagos or Abuja to traverse those roads.
We were the ones suffering and dying on the roads on daily basis so I decided to intervene in that manner and I thank the people of Akwa Ibom for understanding with me because I just don’t think the transformation would have been enough if we had only concentrated on what we call intra roads without looking at the external roads from where you approach the State from other States of the federation. So to a large extent we have been able to answer the yearnings of our people and we go round and people shout and say so government can work. A lot of people did not know that government can work.
So, how would you rate your performance?
If I look at the last count in five years, if you judge me you judge me as an old governor that is why I tell people that after five years I have been stabilised on the job. We have done over a thousand kilometres of roads, intervened in over 295 urban roads and we have dualised a lot of federal thoroughfares and all that.
In 50 years we had no airport but today we have an airport. It was an ongoing project; on bare ground, there was nothing on the ground, the work done was less than 10 per cent but we have finished the first phase and we lifted over 450,000 passengers since we started in 2009 November and then today I can tell you that Akwa Ibom is now a destination courtesy of the access we have created through the International airport. Other infrastructure are ongoing at the moment but those were some of the areas that I felt that needed urgent intervention. Roads and education were areas that I felt government needed to do something even if it meant declaring an emergency in that direction so I placed them on very high priorities.
We did not leave out the aspect of food generation so we also intervened a lot in the agricultural sector so today we have managed to improve a lot on food sufficiency in the State. As I speak now we have just completed the major hatchery that we are going to produce day old chick in Uran.
You could see if we want to supply day old chicks to the whole of the South South region and we have just completed it so it is something that is going to be inagurated very soon and we have also assisted a lot of our women with small micro, non interest credit loan of about N250,000 each; over 4500 women in the first phase and we also training our people, young people in batches every quarter, 900 of them each in what we call integrated farming and then we give them stipends of about N500,000 to start small farm holdings and they are doing well; that is a group you can interview and find out from them how far they have gone and whenever you employ one or two people, we increase your money to N1 million and it goes up like that depending on the number of people that you employ.
Here was a totally civil service State that we are now trying to create a little bit of enterprise from so we are thinking that entrepreneurship can start from direct support from the state government so those are just the areas that I felt we needed immediate intervention. Of course there was a lot of dilapidation in the State so the government house was in terrible shape when I came as a governor. I don’t like to remember it because when I wanted to bring it down the House of Assembly had to come in; after inspection they passed a resolution in the House that I should not repair it that I should just bring it down so I had to stay in my house for the first two years as a governor until the whole of the complex was brought down. We did it day and night and we finished it in one year four months.
An interesting part of the State is that if you are a contractor here and you complete your work three months ahead of schedule, you get an automatic second job and that has worked very well for us. We didn’t forget the people in terms of human empowerment so we also have Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee that farms out jobs to five million, 10 million and the rest of them like renovation of schools, provision of potable water, electrification in communities and sundry activities to politicians while we are still giving out big jobs to big construction companies to do for us.
So outside the government house we also built a brand new banquet hall, almost of international standard and then we did a lot of guest houses; those ones you could say are for government but the first place that people go to when they get into the State is the government house, so if the government house does not befit the status of the State it is not good for the people of the State so we had to make sure that this was a showpiece and I think to God’s glory that we have answered what we can call the yearnings of the Akwa Ibom person. The Akwa Ibom person is a very proud person, very clean person very honest person, very dependable person. That is why we man almost all the kitchens, almost all the accounting sections in the country because people trusted us because of our honesty so they could trust us with their children, they could trust us with their food and therefore there was need for me to put up a face so that whenever people come in they will say yes they have done something at home.
Outside the banquet hall and the governor’ lodge, I also decided to build a brand new governor’s office which has just been completed and is going to be inagurated in the next two weeks for the 25th anniversary of the State. Then we have also intervened in the healthcare delivery system; that also was an area we needed outside rehabilitation of a lot of primary health centres we had to go down into rehabilitation of a lot of existing hospitals in the State. One of them is Emmanuel Hospital in Eket, we had one in Ikpitabong, we have one of them in Ikot Ekpene; then we built five brand new General Hospitals and they are operational now in the State and then of course we declared free medical treatment for all pregnant women in the State and so we reduced maternal mortality.
When I was campaigning in Oron Local Government, there was a Senatorial candidate who distributed wheel chairs from First Lady’s programme and one woman came to me and said sir they gave me four wheel chairs; I actually have five cripples and I said my God, how many children and she said six and I said why five, she said I want one more wheel chair so that they will not quarrel. When I left the campaign field I was very sad because I knew that polio was an preventable disease so I had to take that very seriously when I became a governor and I said never again shall a child in my State suffer from polio for someone to come to a campaign field and be looking for a wheel chair. Probably she didn’t know that those were preventable disease so I can tell you that in the last three to four years we have not recorded a single incident of polio in the State.
We had to declare free medical treatment for all children up to the age of five and then give them free vaccination and government is funding. We didn’t leave out the aged, people who are also 65 years and above, particularly retirees are also receiving free medical treatment in our hospitals. He needs to take you to one of the hospitals, the place is almost bursting with a lot of crowd. So it is an interesting thing that the healthcare delivery system has also been improved. Of course that came with an enhanced package for medical doctors and medical personnel and I also make sure that every single doctor employed by Akwa Ibom State government has a brand new car because I also needed to encourage them so that they will not abandon patients under the guise of lack of transportation. So we have done quite a lot in the last five years and I think the results are very clear.
In terms of infrastructure we have had to even look at the aesthetics of the State. If you are coming in from Ikot Ekpene and you are entering the State the first thing you see is a prison, built in the 18th century or whatever and that prison was a terrible thing. It gave a bad psychological feeling to my children and to a lot of children in the State that you grow up as an adult and you end up in prison so I had to relocate the prison so we built a major prison which Nigerians regard as the first reformation centre and then relocated the prison. I am hoping that the premises the prison was we are creating a park there now and we are hoping to have a small two star or three star hotel which will be privately run and I think that will be much more acceptable for a centralised location of that nature. So we have to a large extent done a lot in the infrastructure.
In housing we finished about 31 security estates. We built estates for all Local government helmsmen so that you can have head of Council in one location, head of personnel treasurer, Secretary to the Council, Divisional Police Officer, the SSS, the NDLEA, everybody living in one location so this question of someone winning election as Chairman of Council and living in the State capital will not be there. We wanted a place people could run to when there is problem in any LGA so we finished 31 number estates and soon some of them will be inagurated. Infact the one in Uyo we had to use as temporary site for the motherless children, for the orphans and all that and then of course we are also intervening in housing. At the moment we are building three major estates, one of them is about 500 housing units along Ibiwak. We are attempting to produce 10,000 units of houses across the State so that as the population is increasing we also begin to cater for the needs of the people so that we don’t end up with too much of high rent in the State.
The underground drainage system is a significant one...
Amazing isn’t it? That is not the only one. The second one is almost ready for commissioning. The second underground drainage system is ready for inaguration. The one along Abak-Ikot Ekpene road. There is a third one going on because the state is like a flat land, flood use to be one of the greatest problems in the State for instance Itam junction there, if they will show you the picture for over 29 years nobody could pass through to Calabar.
Infact the State had to find a diversion through a place we call Uyo village road just to have a diversion from the flood plane that characterised Itam junction for over 20 years. So we came there, we intervened, dualised that road, produced a flyover over the place and then did the underground drainage system. Two seconds after the rain, you don’t see any single drop of water under the ground; it is an amazing thing and then it stopped also the idea of paying compensation for excavation and all that so you don’t need to bring down any building. It is the first pipe jacking drainage system in Africa and so we are building the third one right now; we have just completed the second pipe jacking drainage system so I think we can pride ourselves as that State that did the first pipe jacking drainage system, the second and we are on a third one, please if you have time take time and go and see how the construction is done.
The pipes are so big you can stand inside and you still have a lot of space for a second person. Have you not seen them at the discharge points? Even the President stood there and there was still a lot of space. The pipes are so big you can drive a car through. If you come there during rainfall and you hear the volume of water when it is coming from one mile, two miles away, the velocity is such that it can turn a turbine to produce electricity. If you hear it coming, it is an amazing construction.
I opened the fingers of the roads because I am expecting expanding traffic; you will be wondering why we are doing what we are doing, let me tell you why. The reason is simple. I met a pedestrian state where people pass through to Calabar or Port Harcourt and I wanted to build a destination for Nigerians and that is what I am doing now. I am hoping that by 2015 I would have succeeded in building a destination where Nigerians can come for leisure; come and relax here instead of going to Dubai, that is what I am building here, that is the reason infrastructure you see here, you will not see it in other States. The signages on the road would not be the same in other places and then you move around and in some places you see water fall and you stand and the waterfall will be changing colour.
Some have up to eight different colours from green to that and then you will be wondering where you are. I have a young man who came the other day he stood on top of the flyover and was shouting can somebody tell me, am I in New York or in my State and I said someone should go and let him know that somebody built New York; that place used to be called York, when the person finished the building they changed it to New York. The same thing with Orleans, when they finished they called it New Orleans. It is same with everywhere they call new so when I finish they will call here new Uyo.
Do you sometimes regret that there are things you might not be able to accomplish before you leave office either for want of time or for want of resources?
More for want of available resources than for want of time. Eight years is enough time for me to actualise my dream but I didn’t have the resources to start everything at the same time. For instance, I am dualising from here to Abak; I would have liked to dualise from Abak all the way down to join the East-West Road. I would want to dualise from here to Umuahia in order to open up that flank for commercial activities and for the people to link.
I have written to the President to give me approval, I will want to dualise from Uyo here all the way to Aba in Abia State, a totally dualised thoroughfare; I would like a state without a single pot hole on the road and of course I believe I still have time, I will finish a brand new international hospital, I am on the fifth floor now and I am also building the second five star hotel, I’m on the 14th floor. It is going to be run by the Hilton group. The intention here is to put these infrastructure in place so that people can come here for holidays so that during holidays with your family you can say let us not go to London, let us go to new Uyo. I wanted to build a small resort for Nigerians and that was what I set out to do
If you notice you can also drive around for two hours, up to 50 kilometers without seeing a pothole. It is intentional; I don’t like pot holes so when I came I declared war on pot holes. I started a programme called operation zero pothole. That was in 2007 and six months after I was able to pursue potholes from the road. Pursuing potholes on the road is not something that will cost you N1 billion, it is not even up to N500 million. It is just the ability to ensure that when you see pothole you can nip it in the bud before it gets into a gully. That is the type of thing. What moved me is that I used to ask questions and say what do our leaders see when they go outside Nigeria?
The reason why Africa is called the dark continent is because the per centage of electricity in Africa is about 19, infact about five per cent; even the national average in Nigeria is about 19 per cent. Here we bought transformers every quarter and we were able to raise electricity coverage from 39 per cent that I met on ground to 85 per cent and we are still counting. By 2015 we would have attained full coverage of all villages.
We have about 2 700 villages, when I came only 1062 were connected to the national grid but today we have connected over 2000 so what we have left is less than 280 villages to finish. I feel very strongly that by 2015 latest we would have been through with electricity and connected every village to the national grid. If you are able to have light by that time, my next governor would be able to put street lights in all the Local governments so that even though you look at Africa from space, you will see a small place with a flicker of light and that would be Uyo and Akwa Ibom.
Is there a commensurate attempt to empower the people to the extent that the leisure spots will make meanings to them beyond the aesthetic value?
But you know that these things are in stages. First of all when I came and I met no infrastructure, I didn’t see road so I could not even travel to my village. We had battery industry that collapsed because even when they produced the battery there was no road to evacuate it. It was built by Dr Clement Isong so eventually the place was abandoned. If you are talking about empowerment there is no how you give out a job to a construction company and they will not employ people to work. So thousands of people are also getting jobs on account of the jobs we are giving out.
And I also mentioned a deliberate policy of government to give out small small jobs and farm them out in N5, N10, N20 million to people under what we call Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating jobs and these ones are in billion by the end of the day when you calculate. They are the ones handling directly, the building of the classroom blocks across the State; infact they are even the 2000 units of housing we just finished roofing now they were all handled by Akwa Ibom people; so we made sure that it was done through direct labour. We got the approval of the State House of Assembly and the Executive Council to make sure that those things went directly in order to empower our people.
I also mentioned integrated farming where we are giving out money, N500,000 each to our people to create small farm holdings and even this year alone we gave out about N2 billion to women for them to buy seedlings for them to improve the quality of their farm products. When we banned okada here, we didn’t just ban okada and said go home, we collected the okada and gave each of them N50,000 in addition to other opportunities for them to go into other businesses, so my administration is people oriented; it is people focused administration. If Akwa Ibom people were not being carried along in the administration, there is no way you will have N2500 visitors a day at the cinema place. As I speak to you if you go there on some weekends you will not have a place to sit down.
We monitor the impact of government policy and I can also tell you that we have reduced maternal mortality very seriously to an insignificant level. When you look at that and know that a lot of our women are no longer dying during pregnancy and child birth, that is when you will know that government policy on free medical treatment is working. Education is empowerment, even the welfare programme, free medical services for the children and not only that, what of the idea that you are not paying school fees any longer, wont the parents put that money in leisure? They will, so clearly speaking during our campaigns the opposition said we were building all these things without empowering them but they mean sharing money.
You need to have the infrastructure first. The infrastructure creates empowerment, without infrastructure there will be no investment and with investment comes empowerment and with infrastructure comes industrialisation; with industry comes empowerment but if you don’t even have the infrastructure, houses are not there, building infrastructure is not there, airport to access the State is not there, so how can you even imagine that empowerment will come? You continue to be a pedestrian State and really people will just pass through to go to Calabar or Port Harcourt.
We are also building the maintenance overhaul and repair facility at the airport and by the way it is the only one in the whole of West Africa. It will carry at least six 737 planes simultaneously or two 747 air planes, air tight fully air-conditioned at a point in time in terms of repairs. It will be the first repairs and overhaul hangar and I do hope and pray that it will become a national hangar because it will help a lot to stem the tide of air accidents in this country so that people would not have to fly their planes six, seven hours to go for minor checks and all that, they can do it here in Uyo.
What of the human capacity development to drive and sustain your plans?
It goes hand in hand; that is why even in terms of education we are sending a lot of children outside the country to do their masters degrees in various fields. In ICT we have over 200 children outside. Then in the aviation industry we have children who are learning every aspect of avionics maintenance their various airports across the world. We are preparing them so that in the future we can now have a reservoir of manpower for whoever is going to be an MR operator.
It goes hand in hand and I also look at it and say well with the influx of students into secondary schools because of the free education policy then we are going to have problems with admissions because we have only one federal university here so I had to open the State university at Ikot Akpadem, we are now on the second year, I started it in 2010 so we are now admitting students for the second year. So the human capacity development is the same thing.
I want a situation that if my people cannot get a job tomorrow because of quota system let them get it because of their skill; so I will like to have a crop of skilled manpower that can also come in to augment when the need arises you know how to assist the country.
It would appear that governors particularly in the south clamour for fiscal federalism and state police as if it is a guaranty for good governance. What is your take on that?
Well, from the point of view of experience, having been the governor in the last five years I support the idea of state police. We have seen now that when you leave office you could be called upon to account for your deeds. Nigeria has proven that; former governors have been invited by the EFCC, ICPC and all that to come and account for their deeds, so when you are in office and you think you have immunity and you don’t exercise your authority with caution, then when you leave office you could be called upon to account for your deeds.
The international community has also proven that even former presidents could be called upon to account for their deeds and that is why a lot of people have been charged from Charles Taylor to all sorts of people. Some of them have been arraigned for crimes against humanity, so the fear we have that somebody could use it as a weapon of repression should no longer be there. We should be realistic with policing. It is becoming increasingly difficult for us to have a centralised policing system. Nigeria with the population of over 160 million cannot afford to have centralised policing. How many millions of policemen can you create?
Sometimes when you post a policeman to locations he doesn’t know the language, he doesn’t know the culture, he cannot even pronounce the names of the streets; how do you expect that person to be able to police that community well? There is need for us to have another tier, even if you are to call it a local intelligence militia, but controlled by the state because every community knows the bad eggs among them. The police is overwhelmed right now because of the fact that they don’t have the number, they don’t have the weaponry, the equipment to be able to contain crime the way crime ought to be contained. We should not be afraid of trying something different.
If for 50 years we have done something in one direction and it doesn’t seem to be working them we shouldn’t be afraid taking the other step. The next step is that we must have municipal policing or what you may call state police. We must have it. We may consider the idea of a regulatory body that will regulate state police so that there is a body that monitors the activities of state policing
Again, the Constitution makes the Governor the Chief Security Officer of the state; unfortunately he is like a general without troops because he doesn’t control any arm of security in the state. He doesn’t control the SSS, he doesn’t control the police, so he neither rewards nor punish. He cannot promote, he cannot demote. He can direct, they may obey and they may not obey. Where does their loyalty lie? With the President and the Inspector General of Police that sent them. So what happens to the governor?
At the State level the governors are doing almost everything for the security services in their states. Go round and ask any Commissioner of Police when was the last time they received up to 20 vehicles from the centre in the last 20 years. The last set of vehicles I bought here for the police was 150 and then I also bought about 180 or thereabout for the Joint Task Force. How will the police perform their role when they cannot even move around? You go to any police station and they tell you there is no vehicle for patrol. So I think we are paying lip service to the issue of security here unless we address the issue of state policing seriously.
What about the push by governors in the south for fiscal federalism?
No it is not the governors from Southern Nigeria only; it is the way the Nigerian federation is structured. The Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria talks about federalism, then we should obey the constitution. Federation means that you must also have fiscal federalism. There is nothing like federalism minus fiscal federalism unless you want to change Nigeria into a unitary government. What we are practising is not a federation but we call it Federal Republic of Nigeria, so it is not that anybody is clamouring, we are only saying let us do the right thing.
Why then do you think the issue of state police is polarising the governors along regional lines?
What we are saying is that if we have done the same thing for 50 years and it has not worked, don’t you think it is time to make a paradigm shift? All I am asking is talking about the transformation. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has already announced to Nigerians that he stands for transformation so if we have to transform Nigeria it means we have to bring security to Nigerians.
Are we going to continue with the same thing that we have done in the last 50 years that has not worked for us? I don’t think it is a question of the northern governors or southern governors; I think we are talking about Nigeria. Anybody that loves this country and wants this country to blossom and continue as one entity with very minimal crime where visitors can come in and feel at home must know that there is need for us to secure this country. I don’t know about northern and southern governors, all I know is that every Nigerian should be concerned about the security of the country and the challenges of today dictates that we must make a paradigm shift.
With benefit of hindsight, do you think that the dispute with Cross River State concerning the oil wells could have been resolved in a manner that would have produced less rancour?
I am not aware of any dispute with Cross River State. The dispute with Cross River State is contrived. The people of Akwa Ibom and the people of Cross River are peace loving people and they see themselves as brothers and sisters. Akwa Ibom has never gone to court against Cross River State. The problem I see is leadership and leadership can produce brotherliness, leadership can also
produce hatred. Leadership can also encourage friendship, leadership can also encourage rancour. That is the only thing I see there. For me there is no dispute, if you are talking about the 76 oil wells I will give you information that you can go an verify: with or without Bakassi, the 76 oil wells will never and could never have belonged to Cross River State.
You see, the 76 oil wells were given to Cross River State by President Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 2005 and when the 76 oil wells were given, there was a condition. The condition was that Nigeria was negotiating to keep Western Bakassi as part of Nigeria and that this will give Cross River State a leeway to the sea. In other words, they can access the sea through Western Bakassi. The oil wells are on Nigerian maritime territory. The oil wells had always been accessed through Akwa Ibom, Mbo Local Government Area, through Oron anywhere on the sea because we have maritime boundary. We have a littoral status, but Cross River State could only access the open sea through Western Bakassi or through Akwa Ibom.
So the then President said the boundary of the two states was being delineated and the government of Akwa Ibom then did not see anything wrong with it because Cross River is our sister state. But that condition was lost in 2008 when Cameroun refused to allow us to keep Western Bakassi so whatever agreement reached between the federal government, Cross River State and Akwa Ibom was frustrated by the mere fact that Western Bakassi went to Cameroun.
I advised the government of Cross River State even though the oil wells belonged to Akwa Ibom State there was no point going to court; that we should negotiate: how much you could have made on the oil wells, the pecuniary interest on those oil wells and then my House of Assembly approving it and after consultations with stakeholders in Akwa Ibom you continue to have the money.
But I was ignored and then Cross River State went to court. What you are talking about now that looks like a dispute, when the judgment was about to be delivered, Cross River State suddenly declared a dispute with Supreme Court, not with Akwa Ibom; that Supreme Court should not give the judgment in a case they took to the Supreme Court and in the attempt to stop the judgement they went as far as raising the issue even on the floor of the National Assembly. Would you say they had a dispute with Akwa Ibom? No.
So when the judgment was given, because we didn’t have problem with Cross River State, I issued a statement that we are still ready to negotiate with them and still assist them with financials monthly for development of Cross River State. Forty per cent of those in Calabar in my belief are from my state and it is my belief that it is in my interest for Cross River to do well. Don’t forget that this same judgment was already given in 2005. It was Cross River State that also went to court in 2005 and the decision was the same. In 2012, the decision is still the same so how can you say there was a dispute between Cross River and Akwa Ibom? There is no dispute. I am not blaming the leadership of Cross River State for going to court; even if they go to court a third time it would still be the same thing. It has nothing to do with Akwa Ibom.
Was there a gentleman’s understanding between Cross River and Akwa Ibom that would have culminated in an agreement but which, shortly before its signing at the presidency, you changed your mind?
No. I have always offered an olive branch to Cross River State that we should sit down and discuss. The Governor of Cross River State has never accepted. He has never sat down with me, he has never said let us sit down to talk. But I put mine in writing. I communicated my offer in writing that we should sit down and discuss the issue even when he was still in court. When I heard that Cross River State has filed a case in court, I wrote to the President of Nigeria and said there was no point going to court that the two states are too close and that going to court may cause unnecessary rancour and misunderstanding. That we should instead discuss and get our Houses of Assembly involved so that we can resolve as brothers and sisters. They never took that offer instead they continued to pursue the matter in court. So that was what I said there was never a dispute between us and Cross Rover State.
Do you see the revival of the call for the abrogation of the onshore-offshore dichotomy law as a challenge to expand your revenue base?
Onshore-Offshore dichotomy was a buried issue so I see it for what it is and I thank Nigerians for recognising the injustice of over 50 years, debating it exhaustively, coming to a compromise and burying it as far back as 2004 November. I want us to please allow it to be buried. With regard to creating an alternative economy, it is not me; it is Nigeria. We have only one economy, the Nigerian economy. Every leader in Nigeria must be challenged. Every oil producing country today must recognise the fact that dependence on oil is very temporary because one day, you may end up having oil but you won’t have the market to sell the oil with the emerging technologies. So every leader must think of alternative sources of revenue. I believe that the first thing I need to do as I cannot do everything is to put the necessary infrastructure in place for industries to thrive; I should put the enabling infrastructure in place for my people to emerge victorious in agricultural sector, I have only two and half years left, I may not be able to do everything, that is the truth and that is why I thank Mr, President for seeing the need for us to join hands to build a deep sea port in Ibaka because it will serve very well for the Gulf of Guinea not just for search and rescue, but it will provide a major hub and could complement the effort of the port in Lagos.
Nigeria is not a very attractive destination. If you go to Lagos Port you will see over 130 ships waiting to berth. So we can on this flank here have an alternative shipping route will enable us to become an attractive destination for shippers across the globe.
Although it did not quite diminish your popularity, you were a beneficiary of the sentiment that power should move to other zones in the state in 2007; do you still believe in the principles of rotation or you feel there should be a level playing field for all candidates in 2015?
I think we should have a bit of guided democracy because of the need for equity. The way I look at it for instance is that my Senatorial district through me now has had power for eight years. I don’t see anybody from my district coming out again to replace me as governor of the state; it would not be right. What we did in 2007 was that the party had clearly opened the governorship up to two Senatorial districts and said the Senatorial district the governor came from for eight years was excluded. So I think that we should adopt that same policy, that was why I said there was a bit of guided democracy where we can say okay the Senatorial district the governor comes from should be excluded, the other Senatorial districts can go ahead and vie for the governorship. Again, it is not going to be a one man decision, it is going to be a collective decision. I think there will be a lot of discussions and horse trading among the stakeholders and eventually the will of God will be done.
Is the BRACED Commission achieving its developmental aims?
No. I think we are still grappling with the structure of the BRACED Commission and when we get the structure right, we will achieve our aim but the concept is a beautiful one because right now if you run the BRACED Commission like the United Nations then you should expect a lot of contributions from member nations but I don’t want us to make the same mistake that we made in NDDC where they wanted to do everything including the training and retraining of teachers and in the end they have no single success.
What would your political life be like after government house in 2015?
Initially, I said I was going to retire from politics and thousands of people attacked me on the internet. Nigerians were so angry, so I don’t know yet. I think what my people are clamouring for now is that I should not retire, I should try and get to the Senate as a major stake holder in the Senate and put my experience to use on the national sphere. I may have to agree and contest for the Senate because of popular demand, but you see, if you ask me what I like, I will really like to retire. I would like to retire but I can see popular opinion forcing me to the Senate.