By James Ezema
Comrade Peter Akpatason relinquished power last December as president of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, after eight years of exemplary leadership.
He is currently aspiring to clinch the Edo North Senatorial District seat come 2011.
Currently, he is a national Trustee of the Nigerian Labour Congress.
In this interview with Vanguard, he spoke on his senatorial ambition,Â the developmental efforts of Comrade Governor of Edo State, electoral reform and other national issues. Excerpts:
How would you assess the role ofÂ civil society groups and the organised labour since ailing President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua was flown abroad for medical attention, his dramatic return and the politics of the emergence of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President?
In summary, Iâ€™ll say the civil society has done well in sensitising Nigerians and bringing to the fore issues that border on constitutional violation and those that can also cause a threat to the unity of this county. Iâ€™m particularly impressed by Nigerian citizens who took part in the Save Nigeria campaigns.
How will you react to the dissolution of the Executive Council of the Federation, EXCOF, by the Acting President?
It is expedient from time to time to change the team that work with a leader. But for me, it is nothing different from what has been happening in the past. It is important for someone to understand the people he works with,Â have a team that think alike, and have people that can make contributions towards actualising the dreams and objectives of the group.
Youâ€™ve talked about all the good things the Comrade Governor is doing in Edo, what do you think is not being done right that you would want the government to look into to deepen good governance in the state?
I would rather want to pass a message across to Edo people and whatever advise I have for the government, Iâ€™ll go to the Government House, which is very accessible, and talk to them. My message to the people is that they should continue to appreciate the good work of the Comrade Governor.
They should be vigilant because there are always tendencies to want to cause disaffection among good people and they should not allow anybody to do that. They should also be focussed on the need to sustain this development and they need to be united in this goal. To achieve this, they should also bear in mind to give mandates only to those who could actually deliver.
What would you tell the people of Edo North whom you are seeking to represent in 2011?
The same message I have for Edo State is what I have for my people in Edo North. They should also be assured that I remain the ambassador of my people and Iâ€™d continue to do so.Â Iâ€™ll need their understanding and mandate to continue to even do more.
What should be the expectations of the people in Edo North if they decide to vote for you?
They should expect better representation. Today, weâ€™re experiencing a situation where weâ€™re not heard, and it appears to be a disconnect between the government and the people. We need to bridge the gap. My presence in the Senate will foster a kind of synergy between the state and the federal government and being a grassroots person myself, I know Iâ€™m going to provide that connection between governance and the people.
Weâ€™re going to build the bridge now between the government and the people to make sure that the dividends of democracy gets down to the people providing easy access between the government and the people. Iâ€™ll make sure that they are very effectively represented. I know their concern because I belong to that category. Iâ€™m not a bourgeois, Iâ€™m not disconnected from their challenges because their challenges are my challenges. In summary, my ambition is to ensure that there is good governance in this country and that my people benefit from that good governance.
INEC has rolled out what could be regarded as a plan â€˜Aâ€™ and plan â€˜Bâ€™ 2011 electoral time tableÂ and people have been reacting to it. Do you think with INEC as presently constituted that we are going to have a credible election in 2011?
We hope there is going to be one. Good enough, there is enough time to review the situation and make appropriate changes where necessary. If we were to go by recent elections that took place in recent times, one would agree that there appear to be a change in the positive direction to some extent.
I hear there are challenges in Anambra election but before then there was this election in Akoko-Edo and another at Etsako. And if you look at those elections you would agree with me that it seems that things are getting for the better. What it takes is for us to ensure that we play our individual role and put pressure on the various agencies to do what is right. Nigerians should prepared their minds to defend their votes.