Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Akwa Ibom Politics: The future belong to younger generation - Idongesit Ituen

Idongesit Ituen is the member representing Itu state constituency. He has been around and understands the terrain of politics. An erudite scholar, a thinker, a leader and a legislator par excel on. He is a soft speaker and a political analyst. An interviewer’s delight.
in this interview, he bares his mind on a wide range of issues……excerpts

How has it been so far in the 6th Assembly the past one year?
It’s been a wonderful experience and I feel quite fulfilled to come this far even when I am just a first timer in the 6th Assembly.

Would you say that in the past legislative year that you have been able to achieve what you actually set out to do for your people?

I still leave the assessment to my constituency but as a person I feel I had plans and I am almost exhausting them.  Firstly, when I was campaigning, I did say that I will be passionate about representation and also raise the bar in terms of empowering my constituent in Agricultural sector and other areas of life.  About 50 people were being empowered with the sum of 1.5million naira and that was during my first five to six months in office. 

And then we have also been able to set up training in technology skills acquisition programmes.  Apart from that, I have just set up a scholarship scheme which will be launched next week.  Recently, when I had a meeting with my Party, the youth leader demanded that something should be done in that area.  And apart from that I have been doing what is called yearly road maintenance projects in my Local Government.  I am trying to bridge the gap because the local government system is not very effective but I’m looking at how to help them by bringing in equipments to construct roads in my area.  Then as a Chairman of House Committee on Works, I intend to take that to other 26 local government areas in collaboration with my colleagues.

As the Chairman, Works Committee in Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, what is your relationship with the Ministry of Works like?

Well, the relationship has been quite cordial and cannot affect the Constituted roles each of the arms of government is supposed to play.  I am only doing what I’m supposed to do as a legislature to check and make sure that the money appropriated to the Ministry and signed by the State Governor are used judiciously. 

I think my Committee has gone on oversight more than any other committee in the Assembly.  Recently, we only instructed the Ministry not to make full payment to any contractor until we do what we call evaluation check especially when the Governor has released complete fund for a particular project.

We can remember vividly that you gave out some financial assistance to farmers, what strategies have you put in place to monitor them?

Actually there is a Committee that is doing that and but not for the Ikot Offiong/Oku Iboku crises which we had lost everything.  I think that could have been a scheme that would have been most beneficial to the women.  

I would have introduced the wife of the Governor to it and then appeal to her to set up as a pivot because it was actually working very effectively.  The Committee had made sure that they had invested the funds.  In fact, they were about harvesting their goods now before this crisis set in and now I’m about having a meeting with the beneficiaries to see how I can help them again.

Sir, you have once spoken about co-operative society and transport scheme
Actually, the project is multi-tasking but I needed to set that agenda to keep me on toes.  A programme is on and we are assessing the beneficiaries and we are making sure that each of the beneficiaries should be able to show concern in managing business.  At the end of it, we are expecting between 20 or more buses.  We also want to train people on how to maintain those buses.  The target is that 20 people are introduced into this business as bus owners so that in the next ten years, about four to five persons or even more will be transporters. We had informed Nsik Motors and he has been a very helpful partner in this regards.

About the Anchor Borrowers Scheme which a committee was set up and you were the chairman, we are yet to have the report, has it died a natural death?

Actually, we just resumed and by next week the report of the committee will be ready.  This is the first time we are having an investigative committee since we came.  You know after the committee work, we have what we call the verbatim report like a comprehensive report of very statement that was made by the people and the beneficiaries of the scheme.  And the members really have to study and do what we call individual reports.  When once individual reports are made, we will put them together and then the committee will come and adopt that before we call the committee report.

The information we had from the street is that money exchanged hands.
You know in Nigeria people talk a lot but the man, Idongesit Ituen is a man of integrity and I will always protect that in any committee I am called to serve.  All I am saying is that our report is going to be clean because we are going to rely on the evidence presented to the committee that was why we decided not to give any hurry report.

As an influential and a loyal party man, how would you legislate your rule if some of your influential party members were affected in this Anchor Borrowers Scheme?

First, as a politician, secondly as a statesman.  When you are working for the state, there are lines you don’t need to cross but you have to give in all the best.  If you check when we did the investigation proper, it was quite so open and even people started saying that it has never happened since the creation of Akwa Ibom State.  I want to thank His Excellency for always saying that people must do the right thing for people to live a good life.  It is an issue we actually wanted to know if the government of Akwa Ibom State initiated the project as was published or some people wanted to bring in the government’s name to have undue advantage.

What was the terms of reference given to the Committee?
The terms was just to check if the government was involved and also the names which were published whether they are the real beneficiaries and also make recommendations and deal with those that are found guilty.

The PDP at the National level seems to be in disarray. Are you worried about the future of the Party in Akwa Ibom State especially as defection knocks on the door of your party daily?

PDP is a very strong party that has been around for a very long time.  Apart from some of the issues we are having at the national level, I have not really seen the issues at the National level transferring to Akwa Ibom State because our state seems to be one of the units of the PDP and we are very outstanding and solid.  I think if you want to wipe out PDP completely from the country, you need to come and win Akwa Ibom.  But for now the men and women we have in PDP is enough to win election as many times as possible.  Most importantly, we must manage these men in a manner to still see them around when the elections come.

About the issue of defection, to me, everyone has the right to defect depending on what the situation is but sometimes, it is just like when you have a team and you have a regular player you may not discover how good he bench is until the day that player is not there.  So for me, losing a Senator could be quite painful when they have elected one and the senator must also explain to his people the reason for his leaving.

Would you say your party had played a very good role on opposition party at the national level?

I will say that PDP is a very lucky party even as there is crisis at the national level of the PDP. The ruling party has not been able to perform anyway. It has turned into an opposition party to itself.

During the re-constitution of committee members in the House of Assembly, some people were changed and then they felt aggrieved especially those that did not get juicy committees. How was the House leadership able to manage that?

You know in a family where father shares things to his children, there could be same perceptions from the children which may not be that right.  I am a very creative person and I could mould gold out of stone and that has been my style all around.  I don’t think this committee I’m heading use to be this effective.  And everything depends on your creativity and innovativeness, so I have brought that to bear.  Ask any contractor in Akwa Ibom, they will tell you I am doing my job, I don’t want any problem with Hon. Idongesit Ituen, who is the Chairman House Committee on Works.  What I am trying to say is that in the House of Assembly all the committees are very vital.  It depends on your creativity and how you handle it.  Take for example, the Ministry of Transport which used to be seen as a dumping ground but when immediate past Commissioner, Godwin Ntukudeh came, he brought in some innovativeness and creativity around the Ministry.  But for the House of Assembly, we are OK with the leadership style of Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke for his progressiveness, intelligence in managing the affairs of the House.

Sir, what prompted you to go into sports Development at the grassroots?
I love sports and I am always passionate about it.  Why I’m coming out strongly to support sports development is because Akwa Ibom is lacking behind in almost all aspects of sports activities in Nigeria.  In order for us to make the best of it, we have to go back to the foundation of sports at the grassroots and discover the talents and train them.  I can tell you categorically that out of about 40players signed by Akwa United about 4 players only are from Akwa Ibom State which is not supposed to be so.  The fact is that the Ministry of Sports has not been able to come up with short or long term strategy of Sports development. 

I am looking at how we can discover talents between 9 – 15 years in the next five to six years we will have 100 of players that are fully trained and I can assure you that some of them will be playing in the national team and I am also going to invest in other aspect of sports like long jump, lawn tennis, table tennis and several other sports activities.  It is a long term programme but in my academy; we are looking at getting the best.

So is the football academy open to only youths of Itu Local Government Area?
Since we started it at the community level because something must be localized first, I didn’t want it to be seen as politically motivated though I started it in my community but there was actually radio announcement across the entire state. But today, it has opened up and we have people from across the state. Two of our players later this year will be flying out for trials overseas. It is a breeding ground for footballers who intend to excel in the sports.

Sir, it’s been rumoured that the relationship between you and the Commissioner for Special Duties, Akan Okon is not friendly?

I have not really experienced that because I see him as my brother and we have been working together.  And you know politics is a game of interest.  I don’t have any problem with him because even up till now, we still share ideas.  You know in politics is a very complex issue.  My thinking is that we can build a more stronger and better party in my locality by working together.

Do you think Governor Udom Emmanuel will win the second term and are you also contesting for second term?

Election has never been easily won.  Anyone who thinks he/she can win elections easily is not ready to win.  You know there must be a contest.  You see in politics just like the APC has won at the national level, some of their supporters would believe that if you put your house in order, you can win any elections at the state level and the PDP believes that victory of the APC at the National level cannot guarantee them victory at the state level so you see what that means.

About my re-contesting, you need to go back to my constituency.  I don’t like speaking for myself because I can win election on any platform that is about the love your people have for you. 

Election is about acceptability and if my constituency wants me back, surely I will come back.

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