Thursday, 26 December 2013

2015 Guber Poll: Eket Sen. Dist should present a credible candidate – Kufre Etuk

2015 Guber Poll: Eket Sen. Dist should present a credible candidate – Kufre Etuk

Hon. KufreAbasi Etuk is the chairman, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Committee on Environment and Mineral Resources. He represents the people of Uruan state constituency in the AKHA.  The lawmaker is in support of Akpabio’s zoning of 2015 governorship seat to Eket senatorial district and advised that the area should present the best man for the plum job.  Excerpts:  

Let’s go to the fundamental issues of where the next Governor should comes from and indices for the selection. I don’t know where you belong. Opinion is divided. Some people are of the opinion that power should rotates while others are of the opinion that merit and capacity should strictly be the yardstick for selecting the next governor. Where do you belong?

No matter the decision that a man would take he will be challenged. No matter what you say, people have a way of believing in you or believing in your position or contradicting what you say. So everybody is free in whatever school of thought he/she belongs to. And if we don’t forget easily, we should remember that His Excellency Obong Victor Attah started it, when he zoned power to Ikot Ekpene senatorial district. That didn’t stop people from contesting. Obong Attah gave a direction as a leader which led to the emergence of Governor Godswill Akpabio from Ikot Ekpene senatorial district. With regard to 2015, I don’t know why people should contradict that, because it also shows that Governor Akpabio also believes in giving a direction.

As a leader, when you are giving a direction, is for you to begin to work towards that direction for that goal to be achieved. What bothers me is when people sit in their houses and believe that they will bring zoning or brings a person from his house to contest because there is zoning; I don’t believe in such things.

If the Governor has said that the governorship slot should go to Eket senatorial district, we need to see Eket people that are up and doing. Let’s begin to sell a state ideology not ethnic ideology. It doesn’t mean that since it is Eket thing, everybody in Eket is qualified to contest. Even, if everybody was qualified to run, you have to show a high level of capacity. It would be disastrous for a sectional leader to rule the state. We need an Eket senatorial district person who would take development to the length and breadth of the state. Another issue is that the people of Uyo also want the Governorship slot. Uyo is a major power house too when it comes to Akwa Ibom politics. But we have to negotiate and let the various sections in the state to see the need to cede power to Eket.

Once again, let me emphasise that the Governorship thing should not be seen as a sectional thing. Let the gladiators begin to emerge and begin to engage people in negotiations, not by name calling, not by blackmail, not by propaganda, but on real issues that will take the sate to another level. Let me tell you why I am for a person that has capacity. When I was small, remember how Ikot Ekpene was. My aunt used to stay close to where they called ‘Control Post’, along Ikot Ekpene Road in Ekot Ekpene. Over the years, the place was like that; no development, but today you won’t be able to identify that place.

 That’s the kind of capacity we are talking about. We need a man that can go deep and bring development. We need to expand the state. We need someone who can challenge Akpabio in terms of development. And to some extent Federally, I am not very satisfied with the fact that we are doing much to get what we want. I have not seen a project initiated by the Federal Government in Akwa Ibom State. We should get Federal Government to work for us, because we voted the same Government to power. I remember during Obong Attah’s administration, the Ibagwa Bridge was constructed, since then no other federal project has been initiated in the state. 

(Cut in) We will get back to that because it is an irony given the robust relationship that seems to exist between our leader and the Centre. The issue of 2015, some people are of the opinion that we will see a replay of 2007, where 50 or more aspirants lined up for just one office. Do you see it happening again? If it happens, do you think it healthy for the polity?  

I think it is almost playing itself back, because as at today, we have close to 20 aspirants; this is just December 2013. In 2014, the number may most likely increase. The funny aspect here is that people want to be governor, since they want to take something back to their people not because they want to develop Akwa Ibom State. You have to be around government to know what the government has done well, and what you want to correct. When Governor Godswill Akpabio came on board, he started developing the state. We all know that he was part and parcel of the Attah’s administration. He learnt something. We also need somebody who is in the system that understands how the system works because someone can’t stay outside and think that it is easy to govern. In governance, experience is very delicate issue.

Given the antecedent on ground, in terms of spread of amenities, development pragrammes, would you say that there is even spread across the state so that people would begin to play down where they come from and agitate to become governor for the good of the state?
I will leave it for individuals to look at how their areas are developed. I won’t be able to speak for anybody. I have problem as an individual in the sense that, I disagree to how things are done, for example, the budgeting system in government. It is high time that we change it. What we have is a top-bottom-budget, instead of a bottom-top-budget. We have government that sits in Uyo and decide to give you what you want, not what you need.

If we do what should be done, the people should be able to tell the government, the budgeting department, what they want. For instance, Uruan people may say that they just need Roads, but the government would want to come and give Uruan a Hospital or Airport, when they don’t need them. That’s why so many government projects are being vandalized, because the people don’t need them. While planning a budget, the government should go to the villages to ask the people what they want. It would make people feel part of government. You can’t come to my house and tell me what I should eat. This trend should be discouraged because it is counterproductive.
From a practical perspective, you have been in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly for two and half years, would you truly say that budgets are really what they are supposed to be?
You need to see it from the point of the leader. What he sets out to achieve. All the Roads he has built, and other things he has done, must be part and parcel of his dream. It is the responsibility of another person to understudy him and also start from wherever he is going to stop. Whether he has been able to spread the amenities or whether budgets are actually implemented completely is not issue that we can actually really debate because budget is only as estimate. It is a projection.
Would you say the House of Assembly members are doing their oversight functions as they should?
I think we need to do a whole lot of awareness-drive when it comes to budget implementation. We need to look at when the governor did the presentation; he mentioned the short-fall. What we budgeted for and what we got. I’m not going to go so much into it because I’m not the spokesman for the House of Assembly, neither am I the chairman of Appropriate or chairman of Public Account Committees of the House.

Every member has a Committee he or she heads. You only do oversight on your Committee. You only wait for a Committee to bring you a feedback, to explain how budget was implemented. It is at that point of budget defense of 2014, that we would be able to know the level of implementation of 2013. It is just too early to begin to make judgment on how a budget was implemented.

Generally, the Fifth Assembly is priding itself as The People’s Assembly. When you came on board, you presented to Akwa Ibom people, what looked like an agenda; two and half years after, would you say that you have met this target; Can Akwa Ibom people truly say that you have performed well?
I think without blowing our own trumpets; I can rightly say that we have done well. Initially, we tagged ourselves as The People’s Assembly. We vowed to let the people feel our pulse by giving them effective representation. I remember when we came in; we had a very challenging security situation in the state. I mean the years of armed-robbery, kidnapping etc. But remember, we were able to compel the Police Force to replace the Police Commissioner because he was the Head of Security at that point in time.

We saw that he wasn’t doing enough to protect us. And they replaced him when the new Commissioner came; he rose to the challenge of protecting us. So, we had to make that important move for the benefit of all Akwa Ibom people. Secondly, as a House member, no matter the kind of laws you make, without reaching out to the people, it doesn’t make any meaning. You may know that between 2011 and 2012, there have been a lot of competitions in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, where you have empowerment programmes initiated by various members of the Assembly that is the target we have set for ourselves.

Let’s go to the House of Assembly’s partnership with the executive arm of government. The Legislators try to give the Executive a peaceful platform which is often misunderstood by the people. They think that we are just rubber-stamps of the government. They believe that we should always be fighting the executive before they realise that we are functioning; the fact that we are not fighting openly does not mean that we don’t fight in the backyard. For instance, the fight that we all saw at the Rivers State House of Assembly came after a series of fights behind the curtains. The day someone was beaten with a maze was the day everybody knew that a fight has been going in the Rivers State House of Assembly.

As far as you are representing your people well, you are able to touch their lives meaningfully well; there is no cause for commotion in the House. Let me try to explain what I was trying to run away from. You may remember that there was a time we had a flood situation in the state. There and then, the Executive came up with a Committee to investigate the issue. Whether the report of the findings is submitted now or later, the truth of the matter is that the issue has been taken care of. We are also in touch with all the related and relevant Ministries to know why we actually had the flood. During the investigations, we discovered that we didn’t have flood around the Itam axis where there is an underground drainage system in the area. The flood occurred at the Ewet Housing Estate, Osongama and the Four-lane area of Uyo. What caused it was that the drainage wasn’t linked. It is still under construction. That is why if you go towards Aka-Nung-Udoe Road, you’ll see heavy drainage system being constructed. Until they are linked, the flood won’t be curtailed. But I assure the people that very soon all the drainage systems would be linked up.

Are you saying that from your preliminary findings, there was no sabotage as feared by the Executive arm of government?
I would not say that because we’ve not seen it at the point of sabotage at the level of our Committee in the House. We have not finished our work, but from our findings, the flood was caused by non-linkage of the various drainages in Uyo to the drainage system.

Let’s go to the Centre, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) seems not to be at ease of late. The umbrella has been shaking and so much has happened; the biggest of them is the defection of five serving state governors to the All Progressive Congress (APC). How do you feel about issue?
I think maybe my party has not done well to a point that we don’t have a conflict management committee that would have been able to manage that conflict. There is nobody that would say his house is in order, when in actual sense, his house is burning. Even, if we had ten governors in PDP, and three governors then defect, there is no way we would still feel satisfied. In the scripture, Jesus even said that it is good for a man who had 100 sheep and one got lost to leave the ninety nine and start looking for that one. Having said this, it isn’t a very nice thing that we have lost five governors. To me, politics is all about negotiation; it doesn’t matter what you want; it depends on how you negotiate. Since politics is all about negotiation, there is a possibility that the aggrieved governors would come back to us.

The leadership of the party has also come under punches. As we speak, we heard that the Presidency and the remaining PDP Governors are divided with regards to whether Bamanga Tukur should continue as chairman of the party. It seems the ongoing problems in the party revolved around Tukur. Do you think that Tukur’s sack may bring an end to lingering crises?

I can’t really subscribe to it, because I don’t really understand what you mean. I’m not at the National level to understand what you insinuate. To add to that, I believe that if we had some conflicts management techniques, I believe that the issue would have been settled. If Tukur’s exit would bring peace, so be it. Let’s believe that his exit would bring peace. Having said this, I must add that it is not a very palatable thing for the PDP to have a chairman today; tomorrow he leaves; another person comes in with his own vision.
Over the years, we’ve had a lot of chairmen. We have to redefine our ideology because it would help us to know what we want as a party. If we allow anybody to just come and lead us that mean that we are not getting it right. There should be an immediate resolution of all this crises. 

When the five PDP Governors defected, there was semi-pandemonium at the National Assembly. There was this views that this translated into the PDP losing its majority stake in the Hallowed Chambers. From what we have seen, so far, PDP Legislators have also defected to the APC. What is your stance on the issue?
This is politics. They are all bargaining. It is not a bandwagon thing. It depends on the approach to what is going on. It doesn’t mean that since the governors have moved, everybody else must move, I don’t think so.

Okay, let’s leave the World of fantasy and face reality. The fantasy would be that President Goodluck Jonathan is saying that the five governors would return, but the reality is that, APC has 16 serving governors. Is this not a pointer to the fact that the boasting of PDP to rule Nigeria for 60 years is fast waning?
I don’t believe in such things. I believe in leadership, is PDP actually delivering its electoral promises? If yes! Then they can rule for even 100 years. But if they are not delivering, it is the people that would decide that. For me, it is all about taking responsibility and delivering on the promises made to the people.

How dangerous is this ongoing crisis to the entire polity?

I don’t believe that it is dangerous. The only thing I could say is that, we are gradually returning to a two or three party system in Nigeria, which is what I like. As an individual, I would love a situation where a good material in PDP stands, APC stands and we face each other fiercely and squarely. If the emergence of opposition would bring robust representation and move Nigeria forward, so be it. I don’t see opposition as a problem. Opposition is a structure that makes you sit up. I must say that the leadership of this country has manipulated the people for so long that the masses have lost trust in governance.

We had a former President who ruled for eight solid years; who had opportunity of giving us electricity; had the opportunity of doing all sorts of good things for this country. He tried his best and left; now another person is here. You are now telling us, this is the time for us to employ. What did you do while you were the president? What level of electricity power did you generate when you were there? It makes me feel bad. I’m not saying that the former president should not write and the other cannot reply. It cast a very big question as far as leadership is concerned. You had the opportunity to lead us and give us solid foundation. What did you do? What did you left us with? It means that they have been manipulating us. I believe we have a leadership problem in Nigeria; not really a party problem. We need leaders who will show some level of antecedent; not leaders who will leave us worse than he met us.  

We all know the role Ex-president Obasanjo played in the emergence of President Jonathan. On the whole; you have probably isolated a few things; you are not quite comfortable about the weighty letter. What are those areas you would actually punch in that Obasanjo’s letter and what are those areas you will applaud?
If the former president thinks that he has written series of letters to President Jonathan and never got a reply, and he decides to make this one open just to show that he is frustrated. It goes to show that the Nigeria he is seeing is not, the Nigeria of his dream. Don’t forget that when you leave leadership to someone else; it is the new person who is dreaming, you have moved away. He should just wait and see where the president’s dreams would take us to. However, there are some serious issues raised by the letter, but we have to wait for the president’s reply. It will make us have more confidence in this structure.

So far, the president has been quit; some members of the National Assembly are beginning to be worried. Your position is that the president should respond to those issues raised by the letter. We all know that this country has suffered a great deal. On the whole, so many things that God has blessed us with are too little to get to everybody. You have followed the trend of the devastation of our country. Where do you think we should start the process of fixing the country?

Let’s see how I can sum this up. Nobody can take you to where he has never been; nobody gives what he doesn’t have. A man must understand his purpose of calling. Do we actually have leaders that are prepared for leadership or we have people who stumble into leadership? That is the problem. Everybody is talking about Nelson Mandela. Mandela knew where he was going to. Do we have leaders who are focused? Do we have leaders who would rule and go and then, another person comes in? I know our problem is that of leadership.

Late Dr. Nelson Mandela has gone back to his creator, since he died on the 5th of December, so much have been said about him. The entire World almost shut down. What lessons do you think we Nigerians can learn from Mandela?
I must say that he was almost like god to some South Africans. I and the member representing Abak State constituency, Hon Friday Iwok went to Mandela’s House in Soweto, South Africa before he died. If you see the house Mandela lived before he became President of South Africa, you will shed tears. A standard two bedroom apartment in Nigeria is bigger than the house Mandela stayed. This is a man who fought for his people, who never got into material things. He ruled for a single term as president and left office for someone else.
Here, we have leaders who would steal into the future of another generation yet unborn; we have people who believe they must keep for their children’s children. This is a country, where because you are a House of Assembly member, you must have over twenty Houses across the globe. We also have people who can sacrifice his all. How many really would leave the seat for another person willingly? We should really begin to study how he manages to achieve so many things for humanity during his time on earth. I must say that I will always try to do my best for my people.

Will it be possible to have another person in the mould of Mandela in the next 50 years?
It all depends on the will of God. He brings down one and also raises another. I believe that with God there would be a replacement. Whether it is Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe or any other Nation; God always raise man that would stand as a leader for his generation.

Well I thank you for your time with us but, before we let you go, we have talked so much about who would succeed Governor Akpabio in 2015; the next election in Uruan will also come up in a year’s ahead; is Hon. Kufreabasi Etuk planning to succeed himself?

Every dream begins and ends with God. For today considering what God gave us to dream; we have not moved into part two of the dream; it is the part one that we are still dreaming. But for now, I believe that we should concentrate on what we are doing rather than declaring or not declaring for the next election.

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