Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Charles Udoh fields questions from Okon Bassey on the chances of Governor Udom Emmanuel staying in office beyond 2019, insists Akwa Ibom will remain a PDP-controlled state and dismisses issues of mass resignation of the governor’s aides, while listing the signature projects of the current state administration
Opposition is mounting pressure to push People’s Democratic Party out of power in Akwa Ibom State, as a top government official why do you think Governor Udom Emmanuel deserves a second term?
Governor Udom Emmanuel’s re-election is one thing that any group who wants the progress of this state should take seriously. His re-election should also transend personal and ethnic interest and even go beyond party line. His re-election will determine how Akwa Ibom will be seen in the national arena. I have looked at the score card of other states, I am not sure there is one state that has a score card that is more impressive than Governor Udom Emmanuel. This is just in three years and it is a success story in every sector from health to infrastructure, industrialisation, agriculture and education you can see land mark development. This is being driven by the five point agenda of the governor. On each of this five point agenda you could see government actively trying to demonstrate its commitment. One day before the last anniversary of the state, 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 programme. Just a few weeks back, a presidential aspirant had paid for a facility, but was denied its use in Abuja. We need political tolerance to develop the state. We must have a conducive investment climate for these investors to strive and for new ones to come. In the last three years, we pride ourselves as having a peaceful environment. It did not come by dramatization. It is through the efforts of government. A lot of young men and women have been taken off the streets into gainful employment and that naturally translates into the peaceful and serene nature we have in the state. When we talk about industrialization today, we can see a mix of industries springing up. Just a few weeks ago we commissioned a mini industrial estate where you have four cottage industries. The syringe and metering factories are thriving, the flour mill is about to be commissioned, the coconut refinery is also nearing completion. This is a pointer to the fact the state is secure and safe. The antics 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 when assassinations and all kinds of vices walked on two legs. A few days ago over 200 young people who before now had constituted themselves into a terror group terrorising part of this state voluntary came out and surrendered their arms. So government has taken a step to see how to rehabilitate them those who want to go to school or learn a trade. Interestingly, we also have women in this group. If you compare that to other part of this country where you have insurgency, it is a land mark thing that the Akwa Ibom State government has been able to connect with these people and get them to hear the voice of reason and allow development to thrive.
Before the defection of Senator Godswill Akpabio and others, Akwa Ibom State was largely seen as a PDP State. Now it appears the tide has tilted, can PDP still win the state convincingly?
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 as a tsunami, which never came to past. Until the ballots are drawn, until fresh statistics are shown, Akwa Ibom State is still 100 per cent PDP. It is not about noise. In politics everybody has the hope to win. There is no cause for alarm, the agenda of the opposition is to perpetuate violence and take control of the security of the state. Nigerians and security agencies know better. 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 will leave. Your children and relatives will suffer because there will be job loss. I want Akwa Ibom people to understand, that it is not about a 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. So called leaders in opposition go to the factories established by the state government to apply to as contractors and distributors, but when they get to radio stations they will say the factories are not working, nothing is there. Comparing Governor Udom Emmanuel and those characters and actors on the other platform, who really wishes Akwa Ibom well? We see somebody who wants to be a governor of Akwa Ibom State in control of a budget of nine states. He has direct access to two per cent of profits of all IOCs in Nigeria and you want to leave that to control the budget of one state. What is your goal? What have you done with budget of nine states? How have you impacted on your state? Do you have a road to your village? And you want to be a governor. That is clearly selfish interest and ambition.
Which of Governor Emmanuel’s projects would you say is his signature project?
When you talk about signature project, some people can turn a monument to a signature project. Some people can build a flyover that is useless and call it a signature project. To my mind, what becomes signature project of this administration is how the governor has been able to transform the economy in a sustainable manner. We can talk about job creation. We have almost 11 industries in the state. You can aggregate that and say industrialization efforts of the government is the signature project of this government. Today that we have more industries than any administration. That is the signature of this administration. Today, Akwa Ibom is rated as the second highest destination of foreign direct investment in Nigeria. That is the signature of this government. The fact remains that some states of the federation cannot pay salaries, but today we pay salaries as at when due, pensioners get their pension. Anybody who says he has not got his pension, it must have been documentation issue. We have issues of people who worked in several places and when he retired, he wants to get pension from all those places. We say, ‘sorry you cannot’, you must have been playing complete documentation and chose where you want to draw pension from. He may games and nobody noticed him. Now, we have noticed. We cannot let him collect multiple pensions. The Head of Service has also challenged everybody that if you have not received your pension come up, but nobody has come up. Pensioners get their bank alert for payment the same time workers get theirs for salary. We are not playing politics with development. The governor clearly has the people in mind.
Recently, over 200 militants, kidnappers and cultists surrendered their arms and keyed into the government’s amnesty programme. What is the state doing to properly rehabilitate them?
The government in collaboration with difference agencies, the Police, Directorate of State Security (DSS), and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) are working hand-in-hand to fashion 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 appeals from the state government. If you look at the three local governments, Ika, Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun they are the least developed areas 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 came out of hiding. This government is going to harness their potential in a positive way.