Dr. Udoma Ekarika, until recently a chieftain of the APC was an influential commissioner in the Obong Victor Attah administration and by his account helped to influence the appointment of Mr. Godswill Akpabio as commissioner in that government. The two of them subsequently parted ways during the controversial 2006 governorship primaries.
In this interview, Ekarika who defected to the PDP once Akpabio joined the APC traces his relationship with the former governor and issues arising from their reverse defection.
By Emmanuel Aziken,
Political Editor and
What is your reaction to the defection of Senator Akpabio from the PDP?
For Akwa Ibom as a state, it means that the Jonah that was in the boat, that made the boat not to move has left the boat and the boat will now move very freely.
I can also say that somebody who was the cog of the wheel and stopped the development and progress of Akwa Ibom State, has voluntarily left the wheel and the wheel will now move freely.
Akpabio as a person, as a former governor, as minority leader did not serve any useful purpose to the Akwa Ibom people. He was only propagating his personal interest from the beginning to the end of his defection.
Why do you say so sir?
Akpabio was a governor of this state by default from 2007 May and 2015 May, 28, and throughout this period we can show many things that happened that did not happen before and those things have not happened again after he had left the office as the governor.
Like what sir?
During his reign, there was politically motivated assassination. There were kidnappings. By the way, kidnapping is organized crime that cannot be done by anybody, raping, forming a dynasty that if you don’t to Akpabio or go to his ancestral village and probably to submit to whatever they would like you to submit, you cannot be carried along in this state. And that is why the people and the state are getting poorer and poorer, except few of his cohorts.
But some people say that Akapbio took the state to the uncommon transformation?
Well, it depends on whatever way you want to look at it. They are people who come to do things without blowing trumpets. His Excellency, Obong Victor Attah who I worked for was one of such persons. And they are people who don’t even do anything , but they want to publicize themselves , do image laundry and so on.
I remember vividly that when we came into power in 1999, Obong Attah used to receive less than or not more than 250 million as allocation. But this is the money the man was managing to pay salaries, to cater for the state and conceived signature projects like airport, independent power plant, Le Meridian Hotel, Ibaka Deep sea Port, all the ring roads and many other things despite the challenging he had with the lean resources. As at the time Akpabio took over, even though he said he met an empty treasury with the debt burden of over 45 billion.
Is that what Attah left for him?
No, that what he said His Excellency left behind for him as a burden. But I remember vividly that allocation for that month was not touched and it was 11.6billion naira, that money was spent by Akpabio from the beginning to the end, but he said they left empty treasury for him.
Does it mean that he lied?
Yes! He lied indeed and besides, the then Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonji-Iweala had challenged Akpabio despite all the noise he made that he did not spend up to one percent of what he received from the federation account.
You mean one per cent?
Yes! One per cent quote me. Till tomorrow, Akpabio has not responded to that.
Akpabio gave his reason ford defecting as that he wanted to connect the Akwa Ibom and the South-South to the government in the ceter?
Cut in..who is he in the first place? When we talk of South-South who is Akpabio? Where does he come and who does he know in this country? He was making noise.
So that reason is not tangible?
No, it is not. He is just saying that to deceive people as usual.
There are insinuations from his associates that the current governor has not performed?
What do you mean by performance? How would the present governor perform when he was the cog in the wheel of Akwa Ibom state.
How did he stop the present governor from performing?
He is a dictator. He did not want the present governor to do better than him. That is why he caged him.
They mentioned the Four Point by Sheraton, the Uyo- Ikot Ekpene Roads, among others as the reasons for his non performance?
Go and ask Akpabio to show his hand over note to the present governor on the Ikot Ekpene Road. It says that the road was completed. All the money allocated to the road squandered by the previous government. Four Point by Sheration, he commissioned it. How can you commission a project that there is nothing? Is it not to deceive the public? What kind of deceit would have been more than that? You go and commission a carton.
When you talk of hotel, between you and me, you know that it is more detailed than what you see on the road side. And this Four Point, recently through the Commissioner for Information, has alleged that nobody knows who owns the hotel as I am talking to you now. How was the site acquired and by who? Who was the contractor building the hotel, for who? How much was spent? These are the big questions. And just go and carry somebody franchise and put there, Four Point by Sheraton. Where is the agreement by Starwood the owner of the company?
You come from Ikot Ekpene with Akpabio. And of what import is the defection; are your people going with him to APC?
We had been hearing about his defection for more than one year ago. When he eventually did, he said he would move with battalion of people. How many people did he go there with? Nobody will follow Akpabio.
There are insinuations that he was hounded by EFCC. Do you buy into that?
I don’t key into that. Anybody who has been in public office should know that there is a day of reckoning to be called to account for what he did. As a former commissioner I was called. So, it is not new. But the only thing is that when you are called; prove that what they are talking about is not true. So, whether Akpabio goes to EFCC or not , I am not interested. All I know is that if he had been mismanaging the resources of Akwa Ibom state, the day of reckoning is coming. Akpabio collected more than three trillions for eight years. Does Akwa Ibom look like a state that has collected three trillions?
So why did you leave the APC?
As a matter of principle, I don’t associate myself with failure. When PDP was formed from 1998, Akpabio was nowhere to be found.
I became a pioneer Commissioner for PDP in Akwa Ibom State, where was Akpabio? He didn’t have a card? He didn’t vote? I was the one who brought Akpabio from Lagos with nothing to be made a Commissioner in this state because we were together at the University of Calabar as friends. He had been my friend. When Akpabio came to the University of Calabar in 1983, I was already the President of Annang Students.
When I finished my MBBCH, I was working in Akwa Ibom State until I got married in 2000 and he came for my wedding. If I show you the picture we took together, you would be surprised. It is a long story. When my brother-in-law equally wedded in Lagos May 19, 2001, he came and he invited me to his house. He was living in Dolphin Estate through the instrumentality of a company called Habis. And I went there with six doctors plus two lawyers.
As a matter of fact the wife was pregnant for the second child. And from there he told me that things were very difficult with him. And I said don’t worry, I am now in a better position that I can help you and that any opportunity that comes my way I will make him a Commissioner and that opportunity came and that is how Akpabio became a Commissioner in 2002 through my instrumentality. Now, people say oh! Chief Etim made it possible for him to become a Commissioner. How could that be possible, because he doesn’t want to tell the people the truth. I don’t want to go into details. From then onward, we had been working together as Cabinet members and two of us aspired to become governor in 2006 and I beat him hands down but they were maneuvering.
I left PDP in 2009 to AC, from AC, I was the Chairman of Electoral Panel for ACN,
So, suddenly he (Oshiomhole) became the national chairman of APC and of a sudden he came to say that Akpabio is the leader of the party. Does that sound good?
So, that is why you left?
That is why I left. I have just mentioned one of the things. What about others who were there before? What about Senator James Akpan Udoedehe who has been suffering with us? What about Air Commodore Sam Ewang? What of Umana Umana who came recently? What of Nsima Ekere and Don Etiebet and Ita Ennang who were with him then? They had come before him. So how come Akpabio now become the leader? What is he using to become the leader? What criteria have you used to assess him to become the chairman or the leader of the party? Anyway, when God wants to kill somebody He makes him mad in the first place. The circle now Akpabio that has put himself, I pity him.