By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
…Without dichotomy Lagos ‘ll be biggest oil producer
GOV. Godswill Akpabio was almost at ease with himself in the new state of the art Governor’s Lodge recently completed as he sat down to breakfast with a set of visiting journalists last Sunday.
The high-tech Government Office that allows the governor to conduct meetings with his cabinet from any part of the world, the ultra modern e-library, the network of asphalted double carriage highways with underground culverts, the dazzling Cineplex centre that rivals the Lagos Silverbird Galleria, and the Uyo airport are among other infrastructural developments Mr. Akpabio’s aides say are efforts aimed towards putting Akwa Ibom at the same level with the rest of the world.
“Any citizen coming into Akwa Ibom from any part of the world should not be denied the luxury of what he is used to,” his Commissioner for Information, Mr. Aniekan Umanah who guided the journalists round said.
It is a vision Akpabio’s aides have dubbed as the uncommon transformation. Mr. Akpabio’s efforts in infrastructure are indisputably positive. But the matter of human capital development remains an issue that the administration is not unaware of and which officials and the governor say they are now focusing on.
Governor Akpabio who claimed he was spurred by anger over the state of infrastructure he met, including the humiliation of only being able to go to his village with motorbike because of bad roads, in the interaction with the newsmen spoke more of his efforts. Excerpts:
Comparison with predecessor
You could just have performed if you have the vision and sincerity. If you have the passion and commitment, you could also have impacted on the lives of your people if you do not have ulterior motive and this has been the problem. So I am building the state from the scratch as if Akwa Ibom was born today. It wasn’t born today.
Why he is angry
I started with a lot of anger. I served as commissioner for five years and I know that where I met the state is not where it ought to have been. I used my money to repair this Calabar road when I was commissioner when Obansajo was to pay a visit to the state. I went and brought a heap of sand to try to fill potholes along the road. So I went to the incumbent governor at that time and I said Sir, let’s do something about the road. He said, get out, is it my father’s road? Let him (Obasanjo) come and see how he has been neglecting Akwa Ibom.
I said Sir, but the visitors that are coming, they would think this government is not performing. He said, is it my business to fix federal roads? Will you get out of this place, so I was a man who over-advised. At times you have to be very careful how you advise government because the reason my former governor picked quarrels with me is because I over advised, If you over-advise government, you become an opposition even with your best intention.
Let me also tell you, an international award was given to me in Kenya and a television correspondent came to interview me and asked: What was your motivating factor for all you have achieved in your state which won you the award, I was stunned because that was not the question I expected he would ask.
I expected he would ask how is Akwa Ibom and the rest. So I looked at her and answered that question, I said anger. What motivated me was anger. Do you know that after my speech, they set up a panel of discussants on Kenya Television to discuss the Anger of the Akwa Ibom Governor? And the conclusion was let Kenya produce many angry politicians who can on the spur of anger bring monumental and phenomenal development to the country.
If you are not angry with the state of insecurity and the state of underdevelopment, the state of poverty in the society, if you are not angry with the lack of development and infrastructure and if you are not angry that it is the duty of state to ensure that employment opportunity should be created for thousands of people, then you have no business in governance. Somebody must be angry. It is that determination and anger that spur you to greater height.
Assessment of his regime
Obasanjo came here and described the three segment of Akwa Ibom society. Those who support Godswill Akpabio; those who are neither here nor there; and those who are in total opposition to Godswill Akpabio. Those who are in support of Godswill Akpabio said ah, the governor is performing excellently well, those who are neither here nor there said the man is trying and those who are in opposition say yes, he has done well but he has money (laughs).
What about the anger now?
The anger should be going down. You see, I am not criticising, I am only telling you the situation of things as regards how much we are getting and the transformation we have put in place in Akwa Ibom.
On onshore/offshore dichotomy
The onshore and offshore issue is still there, it has not been totally removed. The compromised position was that states are to be paid for oil wells located within 200 meters isobath (from their coasts).
When they said that it was 200 nautical miles it was in order to incense the North. 200 nautical miles on international waters? No African country has the capability to produce oil there.
But what the man (Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso) said in his interview is that they are paying derivation for 200 nautical miles that is deep on international waters. There was an element of falsehood in order to cause violence. He knows the truth; he said it so that he can get support.
I know Nigerians. If the totality of dichotomy is removed, Lagos will produce the highest quantity of oil. Yes because, Bonga oil field is located within the Lagos area, it is a deep sea oil, it produces 800,000 barrels of oil a day. If the issue of dichotomy is removed today and they say there is no longer dichotomy, the state that might be the highest oil producing state in Nigeria today is Lagos .Go and look at the amount that they pay derivation on, but it is not commensurate to the oil sourced because the rest of oil wells are beyond 200 metres isobath.
The governors are saying that exploration is affecting aquatic life, it impacts on the sea, on the livelihood of the people on the shore because the life can never be the same.
In the past, you could take white sand by the shore line and use it to brush your teeth but now the sand is black. You know with the ecosystem and the continuous burrowing, and you know this oil will not last forever.
Implications on national security
And what are the implications to national security? It was the same derivation issue and same onshore-offshore issue that gave birth to militancy in the Niger Delta and Nigeria had nothing to sell for months. Under former President Yar’Adua, there was a month we had nothing to sell. So why do you as a country continuously take decisions that take us backwards?
I think we should focus on doing things that will unite this country rather than doing things that will divide us. I am very worried that we are promoting religious dichotomy today when Nigeria is supposed to be a secular state. I take decisions based on Nigerian constitution.
My Chief Security Officer is a Muslim, and he is from Kano and you will not believe that for the past six years, my ADC is from Azare in Bauchi State , he is a Muslim. He had worked with me for over six years. My first orderly for the first four years came from Benue State , this present one for the last two years is from Kaduna State .
So I recognise Nigerians in people. So even in my state, my Commissioner of Finance is not from my tribe, for six years now, my security adviser is not from my town. It is incumbent on leaders to live by example. If Nigerians begin to focus on religion, on things that divide us, it means people like my CSO, my ADC and the rest will be from my tribe.
On road projects
We have done a lot on drainages and the rest of them to take care of flooding and within two minutes after major rainfall, you can hardly find water on the earth surface in Akwa Ibom. Those are the kind of drainages we have done. The President even advised that we could do a documentary so that it could be put in National Library for future reference. This is the kind of legacy we are living behind. I prefer to dispense rather than acquire, let me dispense goodwill, let me dispense dividends, let me dispense good governance.
You can’t even understand what I am talking about, that my village, the economic activities there died, there was no single filing station, there was nothing for 29 years. Any time I was going home, I had to park my car at Ikot Ekpene and even the okada man that would carry me must be somebody who knows me because he would refuse no matter how much you offered. You have to understand what I am talking about. I don’t want to get angry. When I tell you I was angry, you need to understand.
Verdict on the Military
You need to know that there are more projects in Nigeria between 1999 and today than between 1960 and 1998. So no matter how you hate democracy, don’t ever forget to highlight that side. The military underdeveloped this country. There are many more projects in the states. I was in Anambra, I was in Awka, you will be surprised that they have built some good roads in the area, yes. For one and half hours, I was on good road in Anambra and I was very happy. This came about through democracy.