BY CHIOMA ONUEGBU, UYO
Mr. Umana Okon Umana was a two time Commissioner for Finance in the Victor Attah administration in Akwa Ibom State and served as the Secretary to State Government under Akpabio’s administration until last year. He is one of the leading gubernatorial aspirants in the race to succeed the incumbent. In a session with newsmen in Uyo, he spoke on his aspiration and allied issues.
While you were Secretary to State Government it was severally alleged you had a pact with the incumbent to succeed him. Is it true?
What is important is that I am in the race and I am committed. It does not matter who could have made suggestions to me in the past or who offered to support me in the past. I think that is academic because whether the incumbent governor offered to support me in the past, with other people, or whether he has changed his mind today, what is important I believe is that I will be running for the office of the governor because I believe I have something to offer in that regards, to make my contributions that is to better the lots of our people, so I will not want to focus on whether the governor promised that he would support me in the past or whether he is no longer supporting me. That is all in the past.
Is it true that the wife of the governor forced you out of office?
I believe that based on my letter of disengagement, if we have to go by that, the governor thanked me for my services and for my contributions to the development of the state and wished me well, so that will show that we have come to that point where we felt we had to separate. When I also heard reports that my office had been sealed up by Police and SSS and in fact it was on AIT, on Channels and on NTA, it couldn’t have been mere speculation…because I severally saw on the news bar of AIT, Channels and NTA that my office had been sealed up by Police and SSS and I believe that may be the Commissioner of Information must have issued a statement or must have contacted those news platforms before they could go ahead, and they had that running for two to three days. So it couldn’t have been speculations. So I wasn’t in the office when that happened so I am not in the position to confirm who led the operation. But just like you, I also read that it was the wife of the governor who led the operation then, I was not an eyewitness so I am not in the position to confirm whether that was true, but I also read the story.
According to reports sometime ago you petitioned the human rights commission about threat messages to you can you give clarification into this?
It is our petition, and it is not a personal thing. It is not about Umana Okon Umana. It is about all of us who have been threatened or who feel threatened and we stated why we felt the appropriate authorities should carry on with investigations.
The issues of kidnapping, assassinations you are now raising are not new and were raised while you were a key part of government. So, why are you raising them now?
You think that because I served in the last administration that whatever transpired then I must have been the one who gave the advice. I don’t think that I can give advice for murder, assassination, or criminal issues. I don’t think it so. I only operated and acted within the mandate of my office. And let me also point out that even in government it is the governor who is the Chief Security Officer, because all the security chiefs report to the governor. And as the governor who is vested with the executive powers to run the state constitutionally, that means he must take responsibility and that is why nobody will talk about the Umana or Udom administration because they were SSG.
Assuming that the ruling party PDP which is the party latform you are running under did not give you the ticket, what will be your next option?
Well if you are an aspirant you will be running of course to win, you do your best and you then believe that the delegates will support you to emerge as the flag bearer of the party, so I am contesting to win and of course I believe that with the consultations going on already give that indication that we have massive support from all over the state and that by the special grace of God we are looking forward to my victory at the primaries, so the issue of plan B does not arise at all.
Is it true that you are planning to join forces with other aspirants against the interest of government?
Well, I don’t know why government should have an interest as government. I don’t know why because when we say that there should be a level playing field we are saying that everybody should be given an equal opportunity, then let the people of Akwa Ibom state vote and decide. That is all that we are asking for. And we have been very consistent with our position. And we have also made references. We made reference to the past, even when the incumbent governor also contested the primaries against 57 other aspirants in 2006. The then governor did not interfere, he did not issue threats. We did not have report about former Governor Attah threatening aspirants or delegates that they will die or that they will not come near the venue where the primaries will be held, within 4 kilometers radius, you see there was nothing like that, everybody was given an opportunity to go round to make consultation, to reach out to the delegates, to reach out to the party.
Is it true that you were offered appointment to the position of Managing Director of NDDC and you rejected it?
You cannot reject something that is not there. That is the truth, you only reject something unless it is a concrete offer then you can say you rejected the offer and you can only have an offer when your name goes to the Senate. Was my name sent to the Senate for the position of MD of the NDDC? If my name was never sent to the Senate then there was no offer, so I couldn’t have rejected something that was not there, that is the truth.
Zoning of Governorship position
Even the governor himself in the past had said that he is not a product of zoning. He said so on national television when the Minister of Information came for the good governance tour. During the town hall meeting when the question was put to him about zoning he said he was not a product of zoning and that in 2006 they were 58 contestants from the three senatorial districts and that it was not zoned exclusively to any particular senatorial district. The party did not bar anybody, so you had aspirants from all the 3 senatorial districts. That was in 2006. Again in 2011 we had Frank Okon from Eket Senatorial district, we had Imoh Udo from Uyo senatorial district and I think Frank Okon is still in court, he is still contesting and some of his supporters are very optimistic, they are even hoping that he may be declared governor.
Can you clear the air on insinuation in some quarters that you were rejected by Abuja?
This is the kind of story they tell you in palm wine joints, with isiewu and dog meat. So there is no such thing. Even the national chairman said that the race is open. You see the race cannot be open and then someone is rejected, so there is no such thing. The race is open.