In this interview, Enefiok Ekefre, an elder in the church and a titleholder in Uyo speaks about politics in the state and national level as well as the 2023 governorship in Akwa Ibom. An Honourary Special Adviser on Grassroots Mobilisation to Akwa Ibom Governor Udom Emmanuel, he profiles performance of the administration in some key sectors and lots more.
How will you appraise Akwa Ibom State generally?
I am an elder and a titleholder in Uyo. I am involved in the politics of Akwa Ibom. By the grace of God, I am working with the governor of this great state as the Honourary Special Adviser on Grassroots Mobilisation. Generally, the state is calm; everything is okay. You know the situation of the state today is a reflection of the man in charge- because the captain of the ship is a peace-loving person. That is my observation in terms of peace.
As an honourary special adviser, what is your job description?
My duty is to relate between the government and the people by helping to interpret the state government’s policies to them and taking the feedback to the government. Like here, I live in my community; I talk to people locally to know their feelings and all that. In terms of basic facilities, they are complaining; that is what I take back to the government and the government is addressing them.
Do Akwa Ibom people form a united front when it comes to national issues?
I would say ‘no’ because our leadership has not been consistent. For example, if you go to other states, there are some people you cannot challenge easily- somebody like Alhaji Tafida of the north because of the age disparity. But here, we don’t respect those who have been at the forefront of our national polity. That is why sometimes we don’t have hysterical backing to articulate positions or to confront people at the other level. Most of the time, we don’t have a stand or forge a front because history is not just there. But in recent times, the governor has been trying to weld the state together. You now see every ethnic group moving at the same speed.
Is Akwa Ibom a marginalised group in Nigerian politics?
Every leadership is a reflection of who the people are. Nobody gives anybody power. You fight for what you want and there is a price to pay. If you sit down and say ‘they will come and give me this,’ nobody will give you anything. Even the grace of God is not free; if you do not pray, you will not get it.
Is it proper to see a governor as a political leader knowing that he has a tenure?
Well, it’s a normal thing. Like in Lagos, for example, Obafemi Awolowo was the premier of defunct Western Nigeria and he opted to become an opposition leader of the national parliament. The politics of the South-west till today is that you are either for Awolowo or against him because of the social content of the leadership. So, tenure has nothing to do with leadership. When you have what it takes, people will support your policies- even that of the next government. Awolowo’s policies until today are still receiving policies of the Western Region governments. And most of the leaders of the western state today, were at one time or the other, beneficiaries of the Awolowo’s policies. A leader does not have to be on the seat before he can influence issues or decisions. So, even if the governor is no longer on the seat, he can still speak and the people will listen. It is a personal thing.
Is Governor Udom Emmanuel showing leadership in the economy, civil service and other sectors?
Well, leadership is a matter of style. In terms of innovative ideas, the governor has put Akwa Ibom on the world’s map. Talking about Ibom deep seaport, the last document for its take-off has been signed. I’m not talking about renovating schools and hospitals. Governor Udom is doing well.
Do you believe in the Ibibio, Annang and Oron tripod of Akwa Ibom State?
Yes, I believe in it.
If you were in the governor’s shoe, would you hand over power to an Oron person?
It has never been based on a tripod arrangement but on senatorial district arrangement. When the tenure of the present administration expires, political power will shift to Uyo senatorial district with particular reference to Ibiono Ibom/Itu Federal Constituency.
Since the inception of the state, which of the governor has performed the least?
I cannot say for now because I have not had the time to appraise each administration. The present government is ongoing and I cannot judge it now. However, every government has its style. Obong Victor Attah brought the airport and Godswill Akpabio built the stadium. So, the governorship is a matter of style.
Can you equate the level of basic infrastructure in the state with the volume of monthly allocations accruing to the state?
I am in sympathy with Governor Udom Emmanuel. He came and inherited a backlog of debts. I can tell you that this is one of the most indebted states in this country. He came in and had to pay over four billion nairas to banks and contractors. However, he reached an agreement with the banks and converted the debt to bond. Currently, this state is paying N700,000,000 monthly to service debts.
What’s your opinion that the governor doesn’t want to hand over power to a cultist?
Every government has a policy. No, the government would want to hand over power to cultists.
Did the governor use cultists during the previous elections?
No, he did not. No sane governor will call a cultist to come and work for him. If you are in government and secretly belong to a cult group, anytime you are caught, you have to face the law. The governor is not in sympathy with cultism.
Are you satisfied with the funding of public secondary and primary schools in the state?
Nobody has complained about that.
Have you defected from APC to PDP?
I am not in APC as a political party. I never left PDP so I cannot say I have returned. As a matter of policy, anytime the party’s directive is in conflict with the constitution or the collective injustice of the people, I take side with my people. The law is clear; where any instrument of power is in conflict with the constitution, the law prevails.
Is zoning of PDP chairmanship to Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District okay by you?
Yes, it is very okay. It has always been on zoning. If someone from Ini or Ikono wants to be a chairman of the party, why not? It is open for everyone from Ikot Ekpene senatorial district. The chairman and the governor cannot come from the same zone. It must move to other senatorial districts.
Does government practise even development among various tribes in the state?
The governor is working very hard to see this happen. No area is left out in the distribution of social basic infrastructure. If you go to Ikot Ekpene, for instance, you will see some ongoing development projects. Government, as I said, is a continuum. Government is permanent; only the elective officers have tenures. The SSG comes from Oron and all the commissioners are from different parts of the state. It is statutory that every ethnic group in the state should have someone in government.
Is the allegation that Governor Emmanuel is sponsoring Udom Inoyo for the governorship in 2023 true?
That is mere speculation. The governor has said it many times that he has a contract with Akwa Ibom people and that sponsoring someone was not part of it. The governor has three years to go. In politics, when people are idle, they go about making false claims. The elections were over and now we should be talking about governance. The governor is facing the Ibom deep seaport, the Ibom Air and other projects and not who will be the governor after him. The person who will become the next governor will be a collective decision of Akwa Ibom people.
What’s your take on the clamour for the dissolution of the State Executive Council?
The governor has every right to commission and de-commission anybody- including my appointment. He can ask me to go and I will go. I’m not a professional special adviser; I did not study that in school.
Are the present commissioners and special advisers performing well?
The performance rating is entirely left for the governor. He has their scorecards. He appointed them to interpret his visions and policies in various ministries. If there are complaints about a particular commissioner and the governor sees the complaint to be genuine, he will simply relieve the commissioner of the appointment or will send him to another ministry.
What is your view on complaints that the governor is not releasing enough money to ministries and other government’s parastatals?
Who is complaining? Are the commissioners complaining? Why cannot they resign if they are not comfortable with the system?
Considering the state of insecurity in the country, the Yorubas have set up a security outfit. Do you think the South-South should follow suit?
We do not have to be imitators. The Yorubas are a cerebral group of people and they know what is good for them. The South-South also knows what is good for them. When militants were agitating for resource control, the Yorubas were not involved. I think they know why they had to form that organisation.
Are there reports of insecurity in the state?
There is no government in the world that can exist without insecurity. It is also part of the social process. If there’s no insecurity, there won’t be police, prisons. So at every disadvantage, there’s an advantage.
What is your view on Fulanization policy?
It is only speculation. If it happens, then it means the people are not serious. The situation of the country is such that we should protect ourselves because it is not only the duty of the police. If you are in this house and someone attacks you and you refuse to defend yourself because you are not a police officer, you are a stupid person. The federal government does not have the political will to enforce the law. It is not about the Fulani. They were here before the government came into power.
What are your parting shots?
Well, I think people should continue to be loyal, law-abiding and support the government. But in terms of security, it is a collective responsibility for everybody to team up with security agencies. If you have a brother who is a criminal, do not shield him. People who are anti-social elements should be kept away from decent people. If you have a brother or cousin who is a criminal, call the police to pick him, for others to live. It is the collective responsibility of everybody to enforce the law in conjunction with the police.
The other day, I saw the release of more than 1,000 repentant Boko Haram members. That is something I do not support. People are dying in the war front and the government is releasing these ones. What is the guarantee that they won’t go back to that group? I do not know the policy framework, but the timing of the release is too bad. It was after the civil war that the late General Phillip Effiong surrendered; it took time before they were re-integrated into the Nigerian Army.