Akwa Ibom governor Emmanuel Udom
In this interview, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa-Ibom State justified his second term endorsement by a large section of his state saying he has done everything expected of a governor. He also spoke about local and national politics and how his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will take back the presidency. Niyi Bello (Politics Editor) reports.
*A large section of Nigerians still look up to your party, the PDP to come back to power. How do you hope to seize this opportunity in the next round of elections?*
There is only one thing we can do and that is top make sure that we have a credible candidate who understands the economy. Anywhere in any developed nation of the world, election at that level is won and lost based on the economic policies you put on the table, because any nation that is strong economically will be strong democratically.
That is why democracy is wobbling in Africa because the economy is not strong. So, whoever can come up with strong economic policies that we are convinced will drive the economy of this country, certainly, that is the person the PDP should put forward. I know politics is also about popularity and all that but at the national level, it is not just about popularity because popularity, at times could just be out of sentiment.
Nigerians can decipher and look straight and can ask who in this country is aspiring to be president that is well trained, who adequately understands economic issues. I think that person should be the candidate the PDP should present. I am sure you can know who is trained.
Nigerians are really suffering from this bad economy. I am of the private sector. Take for instance, somebody who was holding a hundred million naira worth of investments and has not done nothing wrong and through no fault of his, even with that investments in his hands, he has lost more than 50 percent of its value through the economic downturn.
If you are holding investment at the exchange rate of N177, with the present exchange rate at N365 and without doing anything wrong, you know how much of that investment you have lost.The country is bigger than an individual. That is something we should take note.
Besides, we should also not be looking back. We should be looking forward. We should not be regretting our past. We also have not planned for population explosion in this country. Population has exploded in our faces and we have no plan to take care of this. That is why facility is inadequate. For us in the South-South, we are not contesting for the Presidency. All major political parties have zoned the presidency to the north and I am in total agreement. Let it go round. But whenever it comes to your turn, give the country the best you can offer. That is all.
*But there is a corruption albatross still hanging on the neck of PDP. Would it not affect the party?*
Why would it affect us? See, let me tell you something you don’t know, whoever is holding political power at a time – absolute power corrupts absolutely too, can do anything. So, if you hold power, you can do whatever you want to do. So, it depends on who holds the power and how he wants to use the power.
Many still believe that a strong coalition of alliance of opposition parties is required to tackle the APC.
You see, there is no formula in getting these things. Most of these things are just human tactical approaches to what you think might give you result and at the end of the day, what matters most is result. And in life, everybody is hoping that at the end of the day they would carry the day, so why go into the race?
World cup is about starting; there are certain countries we call footballing nations, so each of them just go to win the cup. Same thing here, everybody going to 2019 hopes he would carry the day, so any particular approach that you think will give you result is what you will employ. If it gives you result, fine. And let me tell you something, no two elections have ever been the same and it will never be. 2019 election will be completely different from 2015 election. Above all, no matter what we do, it is God who determines who gets the power. All power on planet Earth belongs to God; He gives it to whoever He wants.
*You are on record to have said that the Federal Government has not constructed even one kilometer of road in Akwa-Ibom State. Is it because you don’t belong to the APC?*
Not party differences. It did not start today. Not party differences. I cannot explain the reason. If I have explanation I would have offered it. I do not know the reason.
But that is strange, being an oil-producing state.
Well, that is where we found ourselves. So, I stand to be corrected. Even the so-called old federal roads that we have all spent money to reconstruct and rebuild to bring to standard, we are still waiting for reimbursement of the money. Unfortunately, the Federal Inland Revenue is asking me to pay tax and to remit withholding taxes on money that I am still being owed and paying to contractors.
*But some officials of NNDC alleged that you stopped them from working in your state.*
Can I answer that in two perspectives? Number one, there are nine states in NNDC, push Akwa-Ibom aside, pick other states and lets show the roads they have commissioned for how many years. So, mention other states that they have commissioned road and mention how many kilometres of road and how many of you were called on the date of the commissioning of those roads.
If I commission roads, I call people to come and witness, or I bring it to media houses to publish, so let them also show you the roads they initiated, constructed and commissioned. What can come as an advice is, there are certain offices anywhere in the world that if you occupy those offices you should not also have political ambition because we cannot be playing politics with the development of our people. Today, IOC feel somehow exonerated in this matter, because we have made contributions and we are not getting anything from it.
As much passionate as we are about development, do you think it is practicable for us to tell somebody not to develop our areas? It is just blackmail and propaganda. We dissociate ourselves from propaganda and blackmails. I am just following your questions, though that your question is completely not correct and it is not true.
It is a different ball game where you just probably want to score political point. That is why we are saying certain offices should be reserved for people that we know are out for development, not a place that you know, one way or the other, is to define your political ambition. Right now, I have a road I have awarded; you go and place a signpost there. No state government will allow that. It is not only NNDC even FERMA does that. I will be doing rehabilitation of a road, FERMA will go and put a signpost there, of course, I will remove the signpost. I am using my money to do it. If it is in your budget and you have probably paid for it, go and account for it.
But there are those who believe strongly that governors of South-South states, including Akwa-Ibom, have not done enough development given the resources available to them.
I don’t know where you heard that from and I am saying the truth, I am hearing that for the first time, because a lot of people do ask: where do you guys get the money? As at today, it is only PDP governors, I wouldn’t say South-South, that are commissioning projects. The question is what do we get in naira value – look at the inflation. When we had a similar oil price how many years ago at the exchange rate prevalent at that time, how much were we getting? How much are we getting today with the current level of inflation?
Today, look at naira value, divide that by 365 and compare that with what we used to get and the rate of inflation at that time. How much is a bag of cement today? So, by the time you check that you will wonder how we are doing projects. These are facts, check that and compare with what we put on ground, you will see that we have done far more.
So, by the time you look at this, when the oil price was just about 60, so many South-South states were getting over N17 billion and oil price was over 80, the so-called largest producer of oil was getting N15 billion. Divide what we used to get by 176, factoring the inflation you would now know that the true situation.
*There is a proposal by the Federal Government to take over the authorities of Nigeria’s water bodies, how do you react to this?*
I am one hundred percent against it because it is anti-development to the whole country and it also violates the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria completely. Take for example, in my area, the whole life of our people is on water and the constitution does not separate water from land. So, how can you now say water on the surface? So what happens to us? We live on water. So, those that have land and live on land, their governors can control their land? But governors from riverine areas where the entire area is on don’t control anything?
It is a violation of the constitution so it is a total rejection. Not just by me, but by the entire people of the South-South and Southeast of this country. Complete rejection! Total rejection! And we just want to believe that at this time that our democracy is still fragile, we will be doing things that can make the country stronger, not things that will put so many things to question. Lets do things that can move us forward not things that will move us backwards. The bill can take us several thousand years backwards as a country and it is totally rejected by our people. Lets assume it was an error. It is an indirect way of saying we are not Nigerians.
*Are there specific steps governor from the Niger Delta are taking to make sure this bill does not see the light of the day?*
We have a Chairman among Niger Delta governors. I think he has been speaking on that and I refer to the statements he has made so that I don’t make a contrary statement.
*APC is really coming up in your state, how are you preparing to checkmate the party?*
You see, there is a difference between APC in Lagos and APC Abuja and APC in the states. I don’t mention political parties. I don’t know whether it is Armoured Personnel Carrier, so I am just borrowing your words. Look at what happened on May 29. Is that the kind of state you think there is any other political party?
Let me state here clearly, PDP in my state is like a religion. I told you three years ago that the young lady coming to conduct praise and worship in church, if she wants to say ‘praise the Lord’, and says PDP, people will answer. So this is purely a hundred percent PDP state. People have seen development brought about by the
PDP, so what new idea are you bringing? What would you do new?
*You said your people have endorsed you, what did you do to deserve this?*
I will ask the question the other way, what do you expect a governor to do that I have not done?Whatsoever you expect a governor to do I have done, so that is why they are endorsing me again