*Says massive development of Akwa Ibom State is assured
By Jide Ajani
In this encounter with Godswill Akpabio, the Akwa Ibom State governor, he speaks about the challenges of governance in the state and how he has been surmounting them. He also explains that the transformation of the state is an on-going process to which he is committed. On the politics of the 2011 general elections, Governor Akpabio, a staunch supporter of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, insists that the North should have the serenity to accept the candidacy of President Jonathan
If you were to give an overview of what is going on in your state, how would you begin?
We decided to set up education policy. We are building a futuristic state and with God on our side, we have laid the right foundation. I don’t really have much to say than to say that in terms of human capacity, we are training a lot of our children abroad. We are also training over 200 people abroad who will come in as pioneer staff in the Akwa Ibom State University. Your parents were second or third generation graduates but for many families here in Akwa Ibom, we are first generation graduates because of the lack of opportunities in education. Yours was provided in the west by Awolowo and in the north by Sardauna and Tafawa Balewa.
It was not the same in the south-south and south-east; opportunities were denied a lot of children. That is why many of us are first generation graduates. We have to take steps to give our children a future. The runway you landed is just a temporary measure and that is one of the products of the three and half years of our struggle for we are yet to build a major terminal building.
The structures we have now are just in the interim. By the right hand side you will see the maintenance and overhaul facility; that should be functional by December this year. Within the last three and half years, most of the facilities we embarked upon are nearing completion. Like the new e-library and all that, the place is being furnished right now and we are going to commence the usage of that place by the end of the year.
We have finished about 204 urban roads. You probably saw around the Central Bank of Nigeria office another 12km stretch of road inside bush; it is because the place is just developing. Even my daughter asked me; Daddy, they said that you have finished over 3000 projects and you are winning awards and you have done a lot. I said yes. Then she asked me: why then do you need to go for a second term?
That is the question: Why then do you want to go for a second term?
I looked at her and I said that this child is very intelligent. On my own, I would not have bothered, but the people said so. And they are also telling me that since I have started projects like the Tropicana and the flood control scheme, which are yet to be completed, then I should continue. We have not started the rehabilitation of the maritime industry in the state. We are yet to lay the foundation. So next year, 2011 upwards should be targeted at industrializing the state. And I want to ensure that in every zone or local government area, there should be an industry in order to create opportunities for the teeming youths as a way of fighting the current situation of kidnapping in Akwa Ibom.
I am approaching governance from the point of view of the 15th president of America, John Adams who said: ‘I will study politics and war so that my children will have the freedom to engage in industry and commerce. And that my children must engage in industry and commerce so that their children will have the prosperity to engage in literature and arts.
So that means war against decaying infrastructures, war against illiteracy, and even war against marginalization. So I am hoping that in the first four years, I have done the politics of war against marginalization, decaying infrastructures, war against poor educational facilities, war against bad roads and we have looked at the health sector. So now, I want to see whether we can now move into prosperity to now move into commerce and industry.
So for the next four years of my second tenure, we are going to be concentrating on industry and commerce. We will create an industry in every local government thereby creating employment opportunities. We have finished the independent power plant. The phase is enough; we have applied to the federal government to give us distribution license.
We are hoping that we would have investors coming into the second phase. Then if you have the power and you have the road and you have the educational system and you have the health sector right, the next thing to look at as far as Akwa Ibom State is concerned is to look at industrialization. I will also continue to pursue the policy of ensuring that Akwa Ibom remains the preferred destination in Nigeria.
When I came in as governor, I met the state as a civil service state, so we are creating something out of it.
Secondly, I met it as a pedestrian state where people pass into Calabar or Port Harcourt. Now that we have finished the first phase, people are now flying into Akwa Ibom. When they are asked: where are you going to? They will say Uyo. So we are now turning the state into a destination.
There are measures to control erosion and flood in Uyo metropolis including the underground…?
It is the first in Africa, but when I talk to you about it you will think I am joking. We are committed to that. That was exactly what President Jonathan said. The President asked: “I sit down and your people come and bring one petition after another, then I wonder ‘Is it for the governor of this same Akwa Ibom State?
These are the kind of things that we see on Discovery Chanel.
What have been the security challenges in Akwa Ibom?
We are really working hard to improve security in the state because the spate of kidnapping is increasing in the state. What is happening in Abia State is gradually creeping into the state and that is making life unbearable for a lot of families. That is the major challenge that I am facing as governor of this state in the last three and half years. The issue of insecurity is posing serious challenge to this administration, particularly kidnapping and armed robbery.
Sometimes, you feel terrible because you don’t have control over the police, you don’t have control over the SSS and you don’t have control over the army. Yet the constitution calls you the chief security officer of the state and commander without troops.
That is why I will not stop calling for the creation of state police. If we must deepen democracy in Nigeria, we must allow state policing. The states should be allowed to have their own police force because sometimes you bring a man here from Sokoto and he has never seen water before. And that is why he cannot pursue a criminal on water and he does not know the meaning of creeks.
Then you bring in people who cannot even pronounce the names of villages and these are the same people you expect to protect the place whose names they cannot call. Such people you bring from Sokoto and Kano, they don’t know the nooks and crannies of the community they are told to police.
If we are copying America, America has even municipal police in addition to state police. So the fear that politicians will use state police to go after their opponents does not hold water. If you are to go after your opponents, will you go outside the constitutional area? The constitution has limited the tenure within which you can stay in office.
What inspires you?
Well, in terms of ideas in governance, I have a very good team. I came from the corporate sector and we believe that when you have a good team, the machinery of government can work whether you are there or not.
So I give kudos to my team; my personal and special advisers. They are doing very well. I give all credit to them. Many of them are group managers. When I say group manager, you know what I mean. In the corporate world, when you say someone is a group manager, then he requires constant supervision. So when I say group manager and I did not add that they require constant supervision you know what that means.
South South leaders’ endorsement of Jonathan?
From the South-South perspective, we believe that the future is very bright for Nigeria. But we are looking at it from the point that he who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. We are saying that since Nigeria was born, for 100 years that we have existed since 1914, and for 50 years after independence, we have not given any opportunity any minority person to rule this country.
That is why every Nigerian must back Jonathan. He is a man that we all can see his intentions and what he plans to do for this country. It is not just about saying he is the incumbent, people have been talking about what he has achieved and how he has helped stabilize the polity after all we went through from December last year. Even his disposition presents him as a calm, collected and peaceful person. It would be to the benefit of all Nigerians when he becomes President and Commander_in_Chief after the free and fair elections of next year. He is committed to giving Nigerians that and he has said it and he is also working very hard to achieve it.