Thursday, 14 August 2014

We’ll defeat Akpabio and his candidate - Sunny Ibuot

We’ll defeat Akpabio and his candidate - Sunny IbuotWe’ll defeat Akpabio and his candidate - Sunny Ibuot
Pastor Sunny Ibuot, immediate past chairman of Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area, is an outstanding performer whose legacies dot the landscape of the area. As a grassroots mobilizer, he is not new to state politics and has brought his in depth knowledge of the system to bear in his recent appointment as Director General of Akwa Ubok Abasi 2015 Campaign Organization, supporting Obong Bassey Albert’s gubernatorial aspiration.  In this interview, he reveals the drive behind OBA’s campaign organization and other boiling issues in the state polity ahead of 2015 Excerpts:

Sir, you left office two years ago as the chairman of Ikot Ekpene local government area. How is life after public office?
Thank you very much, life after office is pleasant. It is pleasant because right from when I entered office, I knew that I will leave office one day. I was aware the office has a terminal date, so nothing took me by surprise. The only challenge was that I was hoping to enjoy a second term like every other person around my environment, having worked assiduously and committedly in the government and doing my best I thought I was also qualified to be given opportunity to run the council again, but just at the last minute that wasn’t to be. I knew it was the will of God, so life after office is pleasant.

Let’s talk about your current assignment as the Director General of Akwa Ubok Abasi 2015 campaign organisation. Why do you think Obong Bassey Albert chose you for the appointment, bearing in mind that you are from the same federal constituency with the incumbent governor, whose body language points toward Eket and not Uyo Senatorial District for Governorship in 2015? 
Well, let me start from ‘why’. I think it is my principal, Obong Bassey Albert, that knows why he appointed me, but from the little he told me, he said he asked God and God said he should appoint me as his Campaign Director General and when he called me, he asked me to pray over it, which I did and after meditation, I received a green light from God to come and do the work.

Coming from the same area with the governor should not be a hindrance, in fact, it should be a credit because the Governor has done well in the state so people should look forward to the Annang people, knowing that they have the capacity and sagacity to perform well in any assignment. So, that should be a credit and not what discourages people.

Talking about the body language of the governor, I don’t know which body language you are talking about. I need you to elaborate a bit before I can answer.

It is widely reported that Governor Akpabio has said, in several fora, that governorship in 2015 should go to Eket senatorial district. But, here is your principal coming out from Uyo senatorial district to seek for that same position?

Okay, this body language for those that are in the law profession is similar to the saying that “the first in time is stronger in law”, I believe that is the dictum. The Governor’s body language shouldn’t start today, it should have begun from when his same body language indicated that he wanted to hand over the power to the former Secretary to State Government, Obong Umana Okon Umana, to which a lot of people were drafted into the project.    

During that time, the governor came out openly to say that he was not a product of zoning, which is, of course true. When he contested that governorship election in 2007, all the senatorial districts contested, the statistics are there for all to see, you as journalists, know that before now when former governor, Obong Victor Attah, contested all other senatorial districts contested with him also. Even when, Governor Godswill Akpabio came back for a second term election, all the senatorial districts contested with him and you are aware that one of those contestants, from Eket senatorial district, is still in court with him.

So, having spoken loudly that he wanted governorship to remain in Uyo, that time his body language showed he (Governor) wanted Umana (former SSG), we had to agree with him whichever way because according to scriptures, “where the voice of the king is, there is power”. So, he had spoken that time, if he has changed his mind, it is left for people to decide which voice to follow.

Thank you for the analysis. A lot is happening in Akwa Ibom polity with several consultations going on here and there. How far has your campaign organisation gone and what is the impact?
We are still consulting and judging from when we started, we have gone far, you know, Obong Bassey Albert is about the last person that came out only when he was relieved of his appointment as the state Commissioner for Finance, about April 27, so it’s barely three months now, yet we have consulted stakeholders in majority of the local government areas. We are still consulting.

About the impact, you are in the best position to tell us, nevertheless, from feedback we get from the field we believe that God has helped us and the message has spread into the nooks and crannies of Akwa Ibom state, the people have received us.

Frankly, the impact is felt in the right places, it is reported that at Oron, Chief Okon Osung, commented on the array of politicians in your group. Aside that, there have been support groups rushing to register in your campaign organisation, is this one of your yardsticks for measuring your acceptance?
Yeah, there are lots of socio-political organisations that have indicated interest to work with us. They do so by way of application to the campaign organisation, as I talk with you there are several hundred that have done so.
(Flips through a large pile of application letters) 

These groups are made up of people; we appreciate their identification with us because they will help further disseminate our message to everyone, the more groups we have the better for us. As I’m talking to you, we are still trying to sort through all these applications and minute them to relevant sectors within the campaign organisation. It is something very impressive and insightful that people, on their own, without cohesion or force are willingly identifying with us at the campaign organisation.

Sir, during one of your consultations, to Ikono and Ini local government areas, at Ini your principal spoke and shed tears about poor infrastructure in his village. It was very touching yet someone scoffed and wondered if as a commissioner for seven years Obong Bassey Albert could not influence a single road to his village how then will he be able to impact the hinterlands when he becomes governor?
Well, such comment is borne out of ignorance, if that person was aware of running of government, he would know that no commissioner has the capacity to construct a road in his place. If you are aware of the working of government, you would know that as Commissioner you can only present proposals and recommendations, but the buck stops on the governor’s table. If elected as the next governor he will have the capacity to execute projects as he deems fit.

What should Akwa Ibom people expect from Obong Bassey Albert as he continues consultation?

Yes, they should expect to hear the truth about Obong Bassey Albert, his aspiration and plans for the people. You know, it is not only Obong Bassey Albert that is gunning for the position of governor, there are several other aspirants. One thing we know is that Akwa Ibom has gone beyond the level of imposition. Akwa Ibom is an enlightened state, there are other people who will have a say in who becomes the governor and I believe that everyone of us, you and I, desire that the next governor will perform as much as the present one and even better because a child should be an improvement of the father.

We expect that at the end of our consultation people will understand that Bassey Albert is a good man. If he had been a commissioner for seven years and the impact of his commissionership is spread all over the state, it is an indication that if he becomes the governor of Akwa Ibom state, his impact will triple and spread much more across the state in terms of distribution of amenities, appointments and infrastructure.

That is what we expect our people to understand, if Bassey Albert did not restrict his legacy and assistance to his community alone but was able to extend his benevolence to all peoples across the three senatorial districts as a commissioner then, of course, as a governor, he will have a bigger capacity to ensure that every section of Akwa Ibom state is touched.

You have mentioned an interesting analogy, father-son relationship, perhaps his former boss and mentor, Governor Godswill Akpabio. As a matter of fact, during the last town hall meeting in Itu-Ibiono Ibom federal constituency, Bassey Albert publicly told the governor that, he (Bassey) has no reason to betray him (Akpabio), but there is talk in town that Akpabio raised him up yet he (Bassey) betrayed the trust Akpabio had on him.
Well, I don’t know what you mean by betrayal of trust......

....Coming out to aspire for governorship ticket.
Is it not legitimate for him to aspire for governorship in a state that he comes from? Is it not Bassey Albert’s constitutional right to express his desire on what he wants? I believe the word betrayal is not the right word, you know, if you said he (Bassey) was commissioner and money missed under his watch, that would have been betrayal of trust of his office and not someone coming to claim that for another to aspire for an elective position is betrayal of trust.

Every eligible citizen of Nigeria has the inalienable right to aspire to any office as far as Nigerian constitution is concern, so that is not betrayal as far as I know and I don’t think that is what he (Bassey) meant when he said he won’t betray the governor. He meant that he won’t betray the governor as his appointee in the work assigned to him. I am sure that Obong Bassey Albert has not betrayed Governor Godswill Akpabio. Unless you have reasonable proof and evidence to buttress this allegation of betrayal, but if it is coming out to contest an election, then I don’t know how that is betrayal.

Unless you are not from this country, because  even if you are not from this state but have lived for a couple of years, you are constitutionally entitled to contest any election in the state, so there is nothing like betrayal of trust in what we do.

Recently, Amayam clan in Ikot Ekpene local government area, where you are from, convened a stakeholder’s meeting. How did it go?
Well, I heard over the radio an announcement that there was going to be a town hall meeting and also that organisers of the meeting gave invitations to Amayam people. Yet I waited till the last minute for an invitation that did not come. I was forced to call opinion leaders of Amayam,

who said since it was an open invitation to all Amayam people, I should also avail myself in case they had forgotten me.
We went to the meeting, where I realised that it was a stage managed meeting, the kind of things they had been doing to say that this is what Amayam people have decided, when actually that is not true. While in the meeting, there were lots of speeches, purportedly to correct an impression that Amayam was playing opposition. So many people spoke after much struggle I was eventually given the mic, since they didn’t want to give me opportunity to speak, I used my opportunity to state my stand and put things in the right perspective. 

Firstly, I addressed they insinuation about my position as the DG of Akwa Ubok Abasi 2015 campaign organisation. I had to correct them that as far as I and every other enlightened mind in Amayam is concerned, what we are doing currently is party primaries, Obong Bassey Albert is still in the People Democratic Party, PDP. He has not gone to any other party but what is happening will continue to happen is that all aspirants are allowed to express themselves and consult the people, at the end of the day, when congress is conducted, who ever emerges as candidate of the party, is the flag bearer who starts to represent every shade and opinion of the party then everyone will come together to ensure they work towards the success of that candidate. 

So what some people call ‘opposition’ is sheer ignorance. They don’t know that a lot of people need to come out and work for the party to bring in a larger support from their environment to the party. Incidentally, after congress a candidate emerges, if anybody goes then to do something else, that is when he or she is guilty of committing anti-party offences.

I took time to explain these issues to my people, to debunk the claim that governor said this and that must be so. I informed them that this is not military rule. The governor is an enlightened person, so cannot decree. I have not been in any fora where the governor said he is in support of any particular aspirant. I have not heard it with my ears. All people are saying is about a purported ‘body language’. But, the governor, according to what I know, has never pointed to any aspirant. He is a leader of the party at national level. He occupies an enviable position and would want himself to be emulated as a role model as far as democracy is concerned. So, to dabble into imposition is doutable. I would defend him, he doesn’t have such a character.

Subsequently, when the people were about to be confused, I had to correct them and put the record straight that we should not play the normal politics until after the congress when a candidate emerges, when all of us will go one way.
That was the confusion they wanted to bring but thank God I was there to save my people, who really appreciate my insight. Interestingly, the conveners even tried to reach a lopsided resolution, which the people opposed to. However, later we discovered that since it was a paid job, they had to come to announce what they did on radio.

Aside Amayam clan, it appears so many other communities in Ikot Ekpene senatorial district are tethering to diverse aspirants, is there no common ground for a particular aspirant?
What is happening is that people are aware of their right to support whoever they wish, that their right of choice, right of association, right of expression as enshrined in the constitution and from available empirical evidence, as the governor is from Ikot Ekpene senatorial district, every other senatorial district will likely vie for that position in 2015 except Ikot Ekpene, having already served for two terms.

Consequently, Ikot Ekpene senatorial district becomes a shopping ground for other aspirants, believing that no governorship aspirant will likely emerge from this axis. These aspirants know that if they can work hard on Ikot Ekpene, they will get majority votes required to emerge as candidate of the party that is why I am against the idea by anybody that we should not express our constitutional rights as to whom we should support or not.  

Considering your success at consultation so far what are your prospects in the near future?

Our prospect is that as others we have consulted before now have accepted us. It is our believe that many we are going to consult will accept us. We have been to Etim Ekpo, Ika, Ikot Ekpene and others. At Ikot Ekpene, for instance, the crowd and calibre of people, who thronged out to receive us, is causing ripples and sending shivers all over the place. We noted particularly, the encouraging responses and goodwill speeches they gave. So, now they have received the message and person of Obong Bassey Albert, OBA, very positively we also believe that the remaining local government areas, yet to be consulted will accept Obong Bassey Albert, who will become the next governor. We expect even more cordial reception from the remaining areas.

You seem very sure that Bassey Albert will be the next governor, why so and how do you reconcile that with the claims that Bassey Albert is only raising his stake to negotiate for deputy governorship?

(Smiles) well, you know, in politics there is so much blackmail and propaganda. Much as people are entitled to their opinion, but frankly speaking, among all those aspiring to be governor, who has been able to make more impact that Bassey Albert in Akwa Ibom State? Nobody! Nobody!!, we are aware that there is a government machinery behind certain persons yet the people have noted all that and have determined to voluntarily support Obong Bassey Albert till he emerges the governor. When that government machinery went to Ikot Ekpene, for instance, some many resigned openly from ACA, to declare support for Obong Bassey Albert. I therefore do not see how the most popular aspirant will now negotiate to deputize a person that is not even known in the system. I will discard all those insinuations as cheap blackmail and propaganda.

Sometime ago, after the state wide town hall meeting, a portion of PDP stakeholders in the state met and took a resolution mainly on 2015. Part of that resolution was that state PDP supports the declaration of its leader, Chief Godswill Akpabio, that governorship be zoned to Eket senatorial district. What is your take on this resolution?
On zoning, I want us to put things on perspective, consider antecedents before we begin to build bridges. Zoning is a good principle, no doubt about that but here in Akwa Ibom state, we have three major ethnic groups which are Ibibios, Annangs and Oros. If therefore, a position of governorship should be zoned it should be to Oro Nation.  

You cannot zone it back to Ibibio and claim it is for Ibibio of Eket, Ibibio of Onna and so on. All these gimmicks breed confusion. If we are zoning governorship to our Oron brothers, we all support that, but a situation where one attempts to zone the position to Ibibio as it is currently, the Ibibio say they have a better aspirant than the person you are zoning to, that’s all.

All the Ibibios, both in government and outside government are speaking the same language, which is, if you say you are zoning to Ibibios of Eket senatorial district, the whole of Ibibio people have unanimously declared they have a better person they want to support for governorship other than the person you are presenting. That is where the confusion is.

If you wanted to zone governorship seat to Oro Nation as the third largest ethnic nationality in Akwa Ibom State, there wouldn’t have been problem otherwise everybody follows the present zoning arrangement only disagreeing with the person being presented.

You mentioned propaganda and blackmail as part of politics. Does this explain an online petition purportedly written by a group called Integrity Vanguard and addressed to the Vice Chancellor, University of Uyo and the Independent Corrupt Practices  Commission, ICPC, alleging that your principal was engaged in first degree certificate forgery while in school?  

There is a saying that, ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’; they have already seen the crown on Obong Bassey Albert’s head so, in their desperation they want to throw every imaginable thing against him.

Any reasonable person should question that petition, considering that the person in question, finished school and worked in a bank for twelve years, rising steadily through the ranks to the position of a vice president of that bank.

This same person was screened by Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and by extension, passed through the security screening by all agencies of the Nigerian security establishment. His credentials were thoroughly scrutinised and cross checked severally before being given clearance to serve government. It would be an indictment on the system, both the financial institution that employed him and government security apparatus, if this farce was true.

Over and above that I am sure it can’t go far because since Bassey Albert did not school in Oklahoma or Toronto, in some foreign countries, where one would say it is far and will take time to cross check. University of Uyo is a track able distance; one can visit the Department of Economics to find out whether he was in the school at all. Also, there are those he graduated together from the school, one could check whether their own degree certificates were also forged. His classmates are all within for verification, seriously, I think this is a definite act of desperation, showing all their antics have failed and they are left with a very lame weapon, we have already surmounted.

Before the last question, what does OBA bring to the table that is different from other aspirants?
OBA brings his person to the table. What is he person? Obong Bassey Albert is a person that does not know ethnicity, while serving as a commissioner, he was able to empower everyone, he came across, the youths, widows and all. He has bought over 400 cars for people across the three senatorial districts. He has built houses for people across the states, given countless scholarship to indigent young people not withstanding their place of origin. There is no other commissioner who has surpassed his liberality and benevolence not even among those still in government. There is none like him in terms of humanitarian services and welfarist impact on lives of Akwa Ibom people. That is what he brings to the table, we are saying if as a commissioner he was this liberal, how much more as a governor.
OBA, as a governor, will not stop being himself, providing what people really want. Apart from taking the current infrastructural development notches further, OBA will undertake a crucial ‘stomach reconstruction’ for the people. It is obvious that there is so much hunger in the land, yes we have structural reconstruction in the state, but people are dying of hunger today. 

Obong Bassey Albert is coming to compliment that aspect so that while we are having infrastructural development, people should have food to eat in order to live and enjoy those infrastructure, these are what he is bringing to the table, with his connection to the grassroots, nationally and internationally, Bassey Albert will open the best vista  for Akwa Ibom people.

Finally sir, if you are given two minutes to sell your product, Obong Bassey Albert, to the delegates what would you say?
I would tell them firstly, that Obong Bassey Albert is a good man. Right from his village you can get authentic stories of his unparalleled benevolence. Bassey Albert has not being browsed from the internet to become our governor; he is a home grown person, whom everyone knows. Thirdly, the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know. It is best to deal with the person that has been on ground, felt our pulse, knows our concerns and agitations; he has been available to the people right from 2007 till date.  Anytime you pass his gate throughout these years, you will notice crowd of people, whom he attends to individually, feeding, paying school fees for, assisting in whether way to alleviate their sufferings. This is the kind of person we want to be given the responsibility of governing our great state.

Thank you for your time and frank answers to questions
You are welcome.

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