Thursday, 14 May 2015

My position on the Udom, Umana battle – Arc. Nya Etok

My position on the Udom, Umana battle – Arc. Nya Etok
In this chat with pressmen renowned social housing crusader and seasoned politician, Architect Ezekiel Nya Etok speaks on sundry national issues including General Buhari’s incoming administration and how to manage change.
You were very active during the General elections. How did it go?
    The first thing is that I have a very strong opinion of the politics in Nigeria and if the international community has been kind enough to rate our election as being fair and credible, I think that I will like to ride on that grade from the international community and also say, we did very well with the elections, because we have been backward for so long. But in-house, we must come and tell ourselves a simple truth, and that is that, the election had a lot of challenges! I speak not as an Akwa Ibom person, I speak as a Nigerian and I generalised the problem because in every nook and cranny of this country, we had that challenge. And, I think going forward, I have try to put forward a few things that must be done as an imperative for 2019. The very first thing is that, the introduction of the card-reader was an amazing introduction. And, you can see that, there was so much enthusiasm in the first election, that was the presidential and people said with the card reader it was as good as could be expected. But the card reader suspension brought in results, particularly from certain section of the country that were unbelievable, and a lot of times when people look at Akwa Ibom and Rivers and shout waow!, I tend to wonder if we were oblivious of what happened in other parts of the country with respect to under-age voters and a lot of other things.

So, I think that we need to take the card reader concept to the next level outside of which we would have made a total rubbish of a very good step that we put forward so far. So firstly, I think the concept in 2011 was a step in a right direction but in delivery, we didn’t take it to a logical conclusion, so, as I earlier said, in going forward; we need to take it to a logical conclusion and this should be done through very, very systematic approach. We have four years. I believe in the first year we are going to use it to adopt, and come about a technology that is full grown, we should spend the time networking with the institution, the IT world, we need to interface with them; network with them and let them come up with a modified creation of the card reader, the details of this we have made available in other platforms that could be easily checked. That should be the first year. By the end of the first year; we should have had a technology that will pass from accreditation to voting, leaving no room for any act of manipulation.

The second year will be taking this concept and giving it to the political class; giving it to the party to go on massive sensitization of their people because that’s the only way they are going to win their elections. So, it becomes incumbent upon them, if they want to succeed, to make sure that everybody on their side understands what it’s all about.

By the third year, we should try it out with those election that come up in between for a  kind of test run, we should be able to enter 2019 with an election that every Nigerian knows that they will vote, and that their votes will be count, that there will be no act of manipulation. To me that is really the bottom line.

You had warned the PDP your party to get her act together or face the consequences before the election, what do you think made PDP lose the Presidential election?
The PDP got what it deserved. I believe that success is a responsibility and the PDP had the capacity to rule this country for 60 years, like they said, because they have the spread on their side, they had the numbers on their side, they had the capacity on their side, but rather than seeing it as a responsibility they took it for an occasion to be pompous; to have no element of restraint; to be almost careless with it and they brought in the impunity that comes with the pride that ends with a fall. And at the end of the day, they needed to be woken up to the larger interest of this country and as bad as it was, I think that it might be to the larger good of this country because the PDP and the APC have structurally changed position and if the APC is wise, they would realise that the issue is not in the name, but in the concept. What is the concept? If you do not protect what you have; if you take the people for granted. You will pay expensive price. The people in the PDP are those who have moved over to the APC, so beyond the nomenclature, it is the same. What would have to change is the ideology and I do not know to what extent the APC have learnt. Why I say this is because I’m amazed that after victory, they have not been given so much time to the responsibility of victory; they are busy basking in euphoria of success a little longer than it should be; they busy around throwing jab and punches that are absolutely unnecessary. What they need more than any other thing today is a stable polity. It’s a peaceful operating environment and they should go out of their way and pay expensive prices to ensure peace. Unfortunately, I don’t see them doing that, they are still in the cloud and my worry and concern is that, by the time the tenure ends, they might realise that it has gone irredeemably.

So in what do you think APC should be looking at in pursuing this change?

I will tell you. For everything there’s a price you are to pay. By the time you have a man that has his back against the wall, he has two options. First, is to fall and die; the second is to bite you knowing that he is going to die. So, now if you know that somebody is going to die, it’s not wise for you to continue to like provoking him to the point of reacting. So, two things they can do; first is that, they can call their members and say look, their president conceded, the elections had its challenges, their members are so unhappy that the President conceded. I would like a situation where for the sake of peace, let’s let sleeping dogs lie.

Don’t want to over push the matter so that someone does not say after all they are doing this, we can also do that. No case is ever too bad to start a fight. I see that, first they should call all their members and say, well the right to a tribunal is your right, but can we let it be so we can have peace; by showing ourselves as magnanimous in victory. That is one way because the spate of tribunal and cases can either heat up the polity or were you call the people that are involved and compensate them, such that, they just let the sleeping dogs lie. It might end-up buying you a lot of goodwill, it might end up buying you a lot of peace; it can end up buying you a lot of conducive operational environment and alternatively give you a ground that you need to have a very smooth take-off.

Let’s look at the issue of security. The country has been witnessing some level of unbelievable breakthrough in the fight against insurgency, what do you think is reason for this latest gains by our military?

I do have an idea of certain details and the first is that, the fight against the insurgency was a fight that needed to be executed with certain weapons. And every effort to get these weapons was frustrated. Co-incidentally, just before the election, the incumbent government had breakthrough of some sort by having access to weapons they needed. Now, with that access came what you may call a boost in the morale of the soldiers. Now, apart from having the weapons, they also for the first time after a very long while, this collaboration with the neighbouring countries and the battle was taken to the enemy’s territory. First, the weapon; second, the collaboration and third the successes recorded really gingered them and it’s like a balancing scale, while one side is lifting up, the order side, inevitably has to go down, so the success that they recorded became a booster to the Nigerian side and a damping of the spirit to the insurgents and with each information recorded came a lot of plucking of a hole in this fight; a lot of supply chain was cut and we could not but make much, much, much more advance and recorded a lot more success. I will like to give Mr. President a lot of commendation because some people would have said, look him already on my way out, let’s keep this monster for this man to come and taste what it’s all about and he could have subverted or even looked the other way so that this man comes and starts from the same rough terrain. But President Goodluck Jonathan sees things a lot differently; he sees things as a nationalist, he sees things as a man who is opportuned by God to be there and that it would be most unfair and the highest act of ingratitude to God to get to the top and decide to pull the ladder so that nobody else can climb.
So he insisted on doing what is right to the very last minute so that we can enjoy the peace that we are enjoying.  And I think that the incoming President would be happy to have one less of the evil and challenges to contend with.

Sir, before coming to Akwa Ibom, let’s talk about the incoming President Buhari, do you have any optimism?
Two things, first is that I have a lot of reservation, a whole lot of reservation, but you see, that every coin has two side. I always give this example of this family with a lot of enlightened, cultured, well mannered and well brought up people and then there is this ‘idiok udo’(black sheep of the family) who is just a problem. He fights and scatters things and nobody stands in his way. But one day, one mad man came to the family and really embarrassed the father; while all the good children were busy speaking grammar; don’t do this, don’t do that, that’s not proper; that’s not ok! You shouldn’t do that. That’s very uncivil, the man was dazing their father until ‘idiok udo’ showed up and boiled and beat the mad man to save his father. So you could see that in what was supposed to be negative there is positive out of it. That is why the Bible says, that all things works for good. I have a lot of reservations concerning the incoming President, but you cannot take it away from him that he possesses a particular attribute that Nigeria is in dire need of. 
And that attribute is one that also countered what the PDP had almost come to personify and that is a bad combination of affluence and impunity. We have the other, impunity. Now, we have on the other hand, the President-elect, who comes in with that reverse side being that of moderation, extremely moderate; extremely conservative and also having this need, I will say he is a man that is incorruptible and one that cannot tolerate corruption. I call it a need because for the first time he’s going to be exposed to the testing of this need. I was quite concerned with the theme that he had and it almost dampened my enthusiasm on my need side of him but I think that the platform he is having now as a President is a platform that he can use to prove me wrong and I wish to God that i would be proved wrong by his cracking down hard on corruption, by sparing nobody and if that and that alone is what he is able to bring to the table, I think that I would score him a 100% at the end of his tenure.

 And what am I talking about? If he able to bring corruption to a zero level, bring impunity to a zero level, Nigeria is great with that. I read somewhere that he says his aides should obey traffic light, I don’t know how that is going to work? If that means as a convoy when he’s going through the city, he would be stopping to obey the traffic light now if that is possible, that would be novel, though I think it might be stretching a path. 
And he has to learn to also draw certain line between being excessive on the order side because as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or any country, you are entitled to few privileges and rights for good reasons, sometimes security because, as much as I will love Mr. President to stick to the Rule of Law and obey everything, I think that we may not have the Airport closed for 3 hours till he comes, but I think that when he comes to fly out, the Airport should be closed within the 20 minutes or 10 minutes for him to take-off and when he’s going through the road, I think that the road should cleared for him to pass. So, basically on him, he has been elected my President and I am bound by my religion, and my faith to honour him, obey him, respect him and give him every possible assistance as within my capacity. That is what I owe the office of the President of Nigeria; that is what I owe the National Flag; I owe the National Anthem and that is what I owe the Coat of Arms of Nigeria.

Ok, Sir, what kind of National Assembly are we looking at as they get set for inauguration?
That’s a very hard question. But I will tell you this; justice is justice, equity is equity. By the time you are silent and a man spent his life savings and borrows to get into the National Assembly, and you go there and want to change the rule, you may just be unfair to the person, but we must agree that life is not always fair. So I am expecting a National Assembly that is going to be a little bit confused. Confused in the sense that, they are going there with certain expectations; expectation of being enriched; expectation of their lives changing monumentally; expectation of becoming somebody from nobody. Those expectations based on what have obtained in the past is what I think is in the minds of the people.

These expectations have to be matched and balanced against a new system where moderation is being preached, where impunity is being exorcised, where consideration becomes the password; where corruption has no more place. So balancing between the two is not going to be a very easy task. It is going to need a lot of wisdom, if not so, you realise that what you called a system shock will set in. If we are not careful, we find a situation of a revolt.

And within the democratic dispensation, there’s one of the ills or evils of democracy, freedom of expression where you cannot like, wave the magic wand and everybody moves to one side, where somebody can stand up in the house and look somebody in the eye and ask you why? Now, that makes a fundamental difference between the military and the civilian dispensation.
And also, a man who has been in the military all his life, had a sojourn by wanting to become a civilian President and also giving himself the task of converted democrat, he has to be tutored; he has to humble himself to take very hard lessons on democratic principle, democratic tenets; the do’s and don’ts of democracy. When he has been thoroughly tutored which are one of the problems that our leaders have had- that of being coached, our leaders get into the field without appreciating the place of a coach; you must have a manager, you must have a coach; you must be tutored on certain fundamental, principles and decorum. There are certain protocols you must be tutored with. I believe that if our past President had taken up that tutorial himself, his aides; his family, he would have performed a lot better. There are protocols of an office you must be tutored in. I hope that the incoming president will take out a little bit of time during this process and get tutored in those fundamentals of democracy. If he does that, he will be an amazing democrat.

Where are we in terms of housing delivery in Nigeria and where are we heading to in the 5 years?
I will be extremely speculative if I say this is where we are heading. I can tell you where we are but in terms of where we are heading, there’s a new government, a new administration and you can only appeal to them. We have taken a good step that we have not been taken over the years. It took 22 years to have an approved Housing Policy. We have been in the process of evolving a road map for the housing subsector that was not concluded, unfortunately. But we have a policy that we have not had in 22 years.  Since government is a continuum and we have gone so far in the Ministry with Housing road map, I believe that the incoming administration should finalise that process and give us a road map. Anybody being associated with government and best governance practices would know that a road map is inevitable to the success of any sector, now that’s where we are.

Where we are heading should be, in two areas; first, that the road map be completed. Second, Mr. President has come in on what you could very easily described as popular yearning; popular supports and in a country when 90% of the people live on 2 dollars or less, it means that if you use a 100% of the resources of this people over a period of 10years, they will not be able to afford a house of 1.5 million. There’s no how, 1.5 million Naira can complete all the dynamics of housing delivery. The construction; the funds; the technical hands, when you put all this things together you realise that 90% of the people of Nigeria need the help of government.

And the least that the government can do is to look into what they call Social Housing. There are some of us, I am talking as an expert, but what I can tell you is that I am not the only one, several Nigerians are outstanding in this sector, I’m just privileged to be honoured with that title of Mr. Social Housing in Nigeria. But, I can tell you that there are a lot of people that have the passion, the commitment, the drive, the knowledge; the understanding to be able to help put social housing where it should be. So, I think that Mr. President, the first thing he should do is to gather these group people. I can help him at the highest possible way of level without any consideration or cost of things like that. Gather these people, give them a document and let them run with that document within a first year of his administration, because social housing is one principle that exclusively targets the ‘DE’ segment of the economy and the DE segment is at the low income and low income earner.
You backed Udom G. Emmanuel in the April 11 elections. He has won that election, but some people say there was election and some people say there was no election, what is your overview on the election and the emergence of Mr. Udom G. Emmanuel and what Akwa Ibom people should expect from him?

Now, this is very important question and luckily or unluckily for me, we have two set of media. The answer I will give to this question on the national media is different from the answer I will give to this question on the home media.

I speak a lot on national issues and national media and the national media, as a policy, I will never go outside to criticise my state and I say it out of a common knowledge. Nigeria had challenges in election in every part of the nation. After the election, there’s what we called peace for each of the federating unit to operate and what I want is peace for Akwa Ibom State, my state; the enabling environment to trigger our prosperity. What’s the peculiar situation? First is that we have a governor who has laid first class infrastructure. A car as good as it is without fuel is as good as a toy for children to play with. There must be fuel for it to run. So, the infrastructure that has been laid must be activated to run.

And God in His infinite wisdom, did not just give us another person, but He gives us an investment banker who is not just an investment banker but one that is A rated; one that is internationally exposed and if there’s one thing that infrastructure needs, it is investment to drive on it. So, today we have infrastructure in Akwa Ibom and we also have as an elected governor; man who is a global player and renowned investment banker. What he needs more than any other thing is not to cook an amazing dish and people are afraid to come and eat because they say that the house is about to collapse, and why do you want to go to be eating food only to lose your life? What the investors in Europe, China, South Africa, and others want to hear is that Akwa Ibom is ready, safe, peaceful, secure, most conducive for investment. I will tell you the difference between Udom and any other person in house today. 
If you pick up our phone as we seat here and call the MD of Shelter Afrique, he picks the call and asks, “who is on the line?”, and you answer, “Mr. John”, he’ll like, “what can I do for you?”, ok!. The first thing in his mind will be who is this guy? What does it want? It will take you another 10minutes, if the man has the patience, for him to listen to what you got to say, he hears what you got to say; it sounds amazing, the next thing, he will start to do due diligence from you as part two and before he can come to conclusion that he should act on your request, God has to help you. But on the order hand, I pick my phone and call the MD of Shelter Afrique, he will say, “oh! Ezekiel, what’s up? how are you?” and I’ll say, “Men! I am the new Governor of Akwa Ibom State. I’m looking for this or that”, he will say, “Ezekiel with you, I have no problem”, and will immediately look into or respond to my request. 

He will call me my first name; so they already have my number on their phone. So it’s going to be like plug and play. That is the situation where Udom finds himself when investment banking is concerned. Because of the portfolio he handled, he had networked with virtually all facets of the global play. If we take that and put with the state of infrastructure on ground, without looking for a prophet, you can close your eye and prophesy that Akwa Ibom is moving in for a new deal. What I mean is that I was willing to pay whatever price that was necessary for this state to move to the next level, that’s what it means for you to vie to be the governor of the state like I did.

My appeal is one, to the opposition. It would be amazing if they can pick their right in the most right and civil manner and if somewhere along the line, they are willing to even cede their right in the larger interest of this country which is what Mr. President did, I think that posterity will judge them with smile. On the other hand, the winner must not win with an attitude. The winner must be magnanimous in his victory. He must justify the claim of leadership by rising above pettiness. He must see Akwa Ibom not as a party, not as a religion; not as a tribe but as a state where everybody owns. I will like to caution the President-elect that there are 12 million Nigerians who said no! And 15 million Nigerians who said yes, you cannot come to serve the 15 million and disenfranchise the 12 million. Take the same thing back home. There are people who did not agree with you as a governor or governorship candidate. Those people have their reasons; they have their right. It shows you are a mature governor when you come in and you bury all hatchet; sink all the differences and bring all the people to the table.

Let me tell you this, looking at the two principal actors, I will say this with every sense of responsibility, the worst mistake that anybody can make is to disenfranchise Umana Okon Umana. What’s to disenfranchise him? It is to discountenance what Mr. Umana Umana has to offer this state? A man who has been through being a Director of Budget to be the Permanent Secretary, being the Commissioner for Finance, being the SSG has excessive wealth of knowledge, exposure and experience that you cannot buy. So I, expect the Governor-elect to bend over backward, to seek the hands of Mr. Umana Umana in friendship, your are already the winner, so instead of waiting for Mr. Umana Umana to start groaning to you, I expect you to go to him and heal the wound and make him feel good and bring him to you and be able to add what he got and what you got to make Akwa Ibom better, that is my position.


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