Thursday, 5 March 2015

I may not be going back to the Senate Chambers but am not going out of politics - Sen. Ita Enang

Sen. Ita Enang

Sen. Ita Enang is the Senator Representing Uyo in the National Assembly, in this interview with newsmen, he bares his mind on a range of issues including the 2015 polls, PVCs, Jega’s fate and other several issues of National discourse.  Hear him speak, excerpts: 

As a ranking senator in the National  Assembly, we will like you to tell us more about what Jega briefed the Senate on when he appeared in the Red Chambers as regards the postponement of elections and the preparedness so far by INEC
Well, I want to thank you for this interview as I just came back. I also wish to appreciate Nigerians for the understanding they showed over the postponement when Jega came; I’m sure anyone who watched it both on television, the live streaming on the social media and other platforms saw that he assured everybody that elections would hold. Secondly, that the Permanent Voter Card (PVC) will be used; thirdly, that they are ready for the election; fourthly, that there will be no excuse on the part of the security that the election will not hold.

Of course, we’ve seen that on the part of the security, there’s a lot of confidence because what they went to do in Baga, Bama, Chibok and other places in Borno state, they have succeeded by routing the insurgents; and so everything about the election is very sure and certain. I understand some persons are saying that there’s a plan to remove Jega and to ask him to proceed on a terminal leave. I want to say that the Senate is not part of that arrangement; two, that there’s no such arrangement at all; that it’s just invented by some persons to raise tension; in the alternative, invented by those persons just to raise something like a pre-emptive alarm so that if you are thinking about it..., please don’t because we are all aware there’s no such thing and it’s not possible to be done. The tenure of Jega is finishing about the 30th of June and by that time, if he’s to go on terminal leave, it is not compulsory that he must go. Terminal leave is his personal prerogative. He can decide to take his leave after his tenure.

If he’s to take three months terminal leave, it’s going to start on the 30th of April and last election is on 11th April which is the gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections. The first election is on the 28th of March, so, there’s nothing that has happened. Again, we want to assure Nigerians that the president nor the Civil Service Commission nor the Secretary to the Government of the Federation nor any authority at all cannot remove the Chairman or any National Commissioner of INEC because the law we’ve made is that the chairman of INEC can only be removed by the president acting on an address supported by 2/3 majority of the Senate; and so it’s not possible for him to remove Jega because it’s a tenure that is protected so Nigerians should worry about how to vote; the political parties should think of how to mobilize people to go and vote for them and not those who will conduct the elections.

How about the controversy about the deployment of troops for the general election, we learnt this is also before the National Assembly...? Cuts in
No, there is no such thing before the Senate. The president has the operational charge of the armed forces and he can deploy them to use for any purpose that he wants. The law did not specifically say that he should deploy them for elections neither did the law also prevent him from deploying it for any purpose for which he deems appropriate as  Commander-in-Chief.
But people should not worry whether army comes or not. Army is not PDP, APC, LP or any other party. They are a group of Nigerians. And the army whether they hold the voter card or not, have feelings about what is happening. Again, their job is not to come and tell people who to vote, guide people on how to vote or help people to rig the elections. No. if they are deployed, it will be to maintain peace and order. Therefore, people should not be afraid. The political practitioners should just go about voting; they can know that the House of Representatives is raising the issue; I know that the court have decided on the issue therefore that’s not a matter that should concern anybody now. It is that 28th of March should come quickly so that we can go and do what we ought to do.

Sir, in Ekiti state the military were deployed for the election and today, we are learning of the result of that action which is that they were ordered to aid a particular party rig the election...cuts in

I think Nigerians should know that nothing can be done in that manner.  That was a specific localised election in a state. This is going to be a generalised election. So, you cannot give the army general instructions in the whole country. So, people shouldn’t worry about it. The political parties shouldn’t worry about it. They should just have confidence in the electoral officers and the electoral commissioners.

Distinguished Senator, you are a very active member of the APC and back home in Akwa Ibom, there’s this controversy that there’s lost of love between a former ACN gubernatorial candidate, Senator John Udoedehe and the APC standard bearer today, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, what is your take on the raging issue and your advice to both parties?
I think it is a family matter and they are discussing and agreeing on it as family friends and brothers. And I want to urge that everything in any political party should be done in amity without much of negative publicity because nobody is contesting the election rather it’s the party.

We have what is generally known as political eldership, especially someone like you, and other experienced politicians in Akwa Ibom and they continue to grow within the system; which means whenever the need arises, they could stand up to protect the political interest of the state. But sometimes, especially when they are no longer in power, they are nowhere to be seen what do you make of this?
I may not be going back to the Senate Chambers but am not going out of politics. I will definitely play very active role in the development of the country and the development of the state. I am an investment of Nigeria and I’ll keep yielding dividends for Nigeria. I am a tree planted by Nigeria and Nigeria still has to keep plucking fruits from the tree it has planted and watered. I am not going to be like many people when they leave office, they seem to have left the people. We must make sure those who believe in us, we still do things to keep them, put them in office, help them earn a living, help them have what to do. Help them work within the corridors of power. 

Let them know the political system. They should also be able to survive independently because you must keep maintaining people until you are weak and tired. Being a senator is a different class. A senator rarely fades out. Look around, none has fade out even in Akwa Ibom state. Therefore, being a senator is a special credit because you are permanently relevant unless you go out of relevance. And you control at least one third of the state; and so people still look up to you, think about you and rely on you. There’s no time anybody will say no, this person is no more there unless you decide you are no more.

As a major stakeholder in the Akwa Ibom project, it appears the economy of the state is falling very seriously and a lot of accusing fingers have been pointed at some persons, do you think the state governor Chief Godswill Akpabio is wasteful? Secondly, what do you think should be done to help the economy of the state?
I will not say anybody is wasteful because the fact speaks for itself. It is for the people of Akwa Ibom to draw conclusion when you consider how much money the state has had from 2007 to 2014, you consider that the money and oil wells were ceded from Cross River and from Rivers to Akwa Ibom and it increased our revenue. And then you also consider that in the revenue of Nigeria, Akwa Ibom is the highest revenue earner. When you also consider that between Anambra, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu states that what those states five take is less than what Akwa Ibom alone takes. 

When you consider that there were projects that were started like the Cineplex, the hotel building which was supposed to be managed by Hilton which by now ought to have been completed and it could be yielding revenue to the state; that they were investments of the state which ought to have brought benefit now. When you also consider that the state has had the privilege of borrowing money and borrowings are normally undertaken for the purpose of investing in projects and programs which will yield money to pay the state. When you consider also that there is the excess crude fund and yet the state government has been collecting it and we’ve not seen where it is. And then, when you now have all that, and you now consider the projects that have been started and completed by the government; you consider how much a road cost (dual carriage way) that is about 250, 000. 000 (two hundred and fifty million) at the Federal level and that in Akwa Ibom state it is done at between 1.6 to 1.7 million naira per kilometre of road while the federal government does it at two hundred and fifty million, when you consider all that, then you draw a conclusion whether Akwa Ibom has any business being poor. Whether at this stage Akwa Ibom should again go to the capital market to borrow, you can also conclude whether at this stage, Akwa Ibom should be owing salaries.

You also consider whether Akwa Ibom local government should be unable to pay their salaries and of course, if they are unable to pay their salaries, we should pay the salaries. And it is the person to whom the monies were sent. Because when the monies were sent for the local governments, it was trapped by the state for the purposes of the state and the local government did not see. So, those are all the facts you will use in drawing conclusions on the question.

There’s tension in the state occasioned by threats from the ruling party that if on the voting day, you vote for the opposition, you will either lose your life or be violently attacked. Sir, as a stakeholder...cuts in.

I want to assure Akwa Ibom people and all voters that they should go out and vote. Go out and get accredited because nobody will see how you vote and where you vote because no one is standing by any body’s line. You are not standing by anybody or any political party. When they give you your ballot paper, you go and write the person you want. It’s a secret balloting not in the open. Again, thugs will be very scarce that day because the only operational use you can have for thugs will be to make him vote because under the card reader machine system, you cannot vote more than what the card reader has verified. If it is 50 or 100 that is accredited then you vote 101 ballot papers, the whole vote in that area is cancelled. Of course, there is also the incident form that if you go and the card reader cannot read your finger prints or your finger is cut off and you can no more thumb print, and they identify that the face on the card is yours and the card reader cannot verify you, they will give you an incident form. In the incident form, you write your name, write the complaints and then they will give you the ballot paper. Each station is not going to have five or ten incident forms. 

So, after being accredited, you now wait when it is 1pm, all of you will be given ballot papers and you vote at the same time. So, there is no question of somebody voting and leaving. And I want to tell Akwa Ibom people that what INEC has said is that you vote and wait for the vote to be counted because your vote must be counted and it must count.  When your vote is counted and it doesn’t count, and you don’t wait, then your vote may not count. I understand the commissioner of police in Akwa Ibom state was quoted as saying that when you vote, you leave. I want to plead with the police and security agencies not to give instruction on the election. Let them allow the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to give instructions on the elections; and when the instruction is given by INEC, it is that instruction that will guide the election.

Distinguished Senator, it appears the PVC and the card readers may not be used
I want to assure everybody that the card reader will be used and that there’s other means of doing the election other than with the card readers. Because if anybody uses the temporary voter card, almost 80 percent of the people, after being given their Permanent Voter Card have thrown it away and discarded same. And if you say that the card readers will not be used, then you are saying that elections will not be conducted because it means that INEC must go and let us do another registration of voters which may take over a year. So, there’s nothing else that will be used other than the card readers. And am afraid I don’t know why some people are afraid of the card readers.

Some people say elections will be rigged or something. You only rig election when the whole parties agree; you don’t rig election if you are not popular. So, everybody should be confident about the process. The elections will be free, fair, and credible and will be violent-free. Because the best thing you can make of anybody is to make him to go and vote because if the person is not there and available to vote in his voting unit, the vote cannot count. That is why everybody has agreed that thuggery will be very rare that day because every thug must go and vote in his unit for even one vote matters.

Who will you advice Akwa Ibom people to vote for on Election Day?
Well, my position is that I’m supporting the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the governorship, senate, House of representatives, House of Assembly and Goodluck Jonathan for president.

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