By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Mr. Eseme Eyiboh, one of the most erudite legislators to grace the House of Representatives was in his time the Dean of the Initiatives, the group of intellectually minded men who set the discourse for the Yomi Bankole House of Representatives. His return to the House was derailed after inauguration on account of attacks from home supposedly masterminded by the then governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio. Eyiboh subsequently defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC. He is now the chairman of the Cross River Basin Development Authority, and also the dean of the committee of chairmen of River Basin Development Authorities in the country. He spoke on the defection of his onetime antagonist, Akpabio and insistence against a second term for Governor Udom Emmanuel, a man he calls his brother.
Of what relevance is the defection of Senator Akpabio to you as a politician in Akwa Ibom
Unfortunately people are making it sound as if the former governor, Akpabio has done anything unusual. You have people defecting from PDP to APC and APC to PDP. All these are determined by interests. If our politics were to grow a culture of building institutions and not individuals, nobody would be bothered with one person defecting from one party to the other.
Against insinuations that the defection was to protect himself from the EFCC, do you think this particular defection was for personal interest?
I don’t think so. Look at former governor of Plateau State, Senator Joshua Dariye who left PDP to go to APC and still a serving senator he was eventually jailed. So, it has nothing to do with whether you are in APC or PDP. The ethical narrative of this administration is premised on anti-corruption. If anyone were to escape, I think Dariye should have escaped, but he didn’t.
So, what do you make of the EFCC’s decision to freeze the state government’s accounts?
The issue of freezing the state government’s account was not a permanent measure to stop the payment of salaries or that government should not be run. And the state government has so many accounts and if a particular account is operated in a way that suggests infringement of any law as it were, I think it is not the issue freezing, but of putting a hold on that account to be able to understand whether it is money laundering, misappropriation or capital flight and all of that.
Do you see the defection altering that narrative of Akwa Ibom being a PDP stronghold?
I can’t say that Akwa Ibom State is a PDP stronghold because there is something that has changed. Before now, everybody was in PDP and it was a question of just coming to deliver votes from anywhere. But today, Akwa Ibom people are going to have the opportunity to see election results as an outflow from the people’s participation from actual voting. So, those people who used to fix votes it would be no longer so because the interests have been divided. This is because the dynamics of the society is evolving and to that extent, it affects not just politics, but general lifestyle changes. Some years ago you won’t have had the kind of rally that APC had in Ikot Ekpene prior to the one that welcomed Akpabio.
Recently, when the governor went on endorsement rallies all over the state and he said that he was responding to the yearnings of Akwa Ibom people; I am from Akwa Ibom State and I am not saying he should go for second term, I am saying he should not go.
So, there are people who are holding the same opinion with me that he should not go for second term.
In Eket Federal Constituency where he comes from and where I used to represent in the House of Representatives, majority of the people will not support him because he is going to war, with a borrowed army.
When he came in we were expecting him as a banker to recapitalize Akwa Savings and Loans Limited. Akwa Savings would have been supportive to market women, artisans and low income people. Some of us thought that he would have used his connection in the banking industry, he would have used his capacity to recapitalize Akwa Savings so that by now the bank would have become a regional bank.
In Eket Federal Constituency, we have what is called Akwa Palm Industries which was promoted by the World Bank. Today, that plantation is now a fortress for cultists and kidnappers who are now residing there.
But he has been lauded for eliminating cultism and kidnapping?
Yes, when you might have made a law, but it is the enforcement of that law that is the achievement.
So, do you say Akwa Ibom is less safe than it was during the previous administration?
I have never known when Akwa Ibom was safe except during the time of Obong Victor Attah and that I can say very proudly. That cannot be an achievement when most of those involved in the making of that law against cultism are themselves cultists. So, it cannot be an achievement.
If you were to look at this administration, what two positive things can you say it has impacted on the people?
He has positively shown to the people that they can no longer count on poor leadership recruitment process. Now, the people have to take upon themselves the responsibility of prescribing the parameters for governance and not the governor or somebody in government telling the people what constitutes governance.
Many of you who left the PDP for the APC did so because of Senator Akpabio. So, how did you react when he came into the party?
Akpabio has come to APC to join most of us. He has been in the process of reconciling and indeed, he has been reconciling with a lot of people and I feel that I don’t have anything against him and I doubt if he has anything against me. The problem I had in the past was the problem with an institution, it wasn’t the problem with an individual.
Did Akpabio as a person influence your leaving PDP?
You couldn’t have said that he influenced my leaving the party, what I am saying is the attitude of the institution because the institution was no longer protective of the issues of rights of individuals and since the party couldn’t protect the rights and privileges of individuals I had to go.
In what way will Akpabio’s coming influence your party to win the forthcoming elections?
Every card carrying voter has the capacity to influence the vote. He has a value, he has followers, he has the means and he has the capacity. But politics is local and every politics is local and this is defined by peculiar interests. His own locality and his own peculiar interests could also influence for or against the party. But that cannot mean that an individual no matter how strong you are will under a reformed process will be able to say that he is the king. There is no king in this matter. Everybody is equal.