By Emmanuel Aziken
Mr. Charles Udoh, Commissioner for Information in Akwa Ibom State, in this interview, reviews political developments in the state and concludes that Governor Udom Emmanuel will win a second term in office.
What issues will shape the governorship election in Akwa Ibom State?
It is the character and quality of individuals on parade, and also their track records. If you put that into consideration, you will realise that the incumbent governor is ahead of his nearest competitor. In terms of character, professionalism and personality, in terms of integrity, the incumbent is miles ahead.
We are not building roads for the sake of elections. We are building roads that will stand the test of time, from design to construction. Every road we construct today should have a minimum of 25 years life span before any resurfacing or reconstruction on such road. If you look at education, health and infrastructural development under this administration, they are dotting the landscape of the state.
Today, we have equipped ten major health facilities. We have over 15 industries that are currently functioning and production fully on top. That underscores the determination of the government to achieve its dreams of industrialization and tourism. Beyond the rhetoric, one significant thing this government has done is to bring down the price of staple food in Akwa Ibom State.
In 2015, when this government came on board, for N200, you bought a cup of garri. But now, with N200, you buy between eight and 10 cups of garri, depending on the locality. We have the Green House Initiative along the Airport Road, to produce vegetable that is comparable with any other produced anywhere in the world. They will produce for exports.
We are witnessing the most peaceful era in the state. The eight years before the administration were eight years of hiccups. We now have a peaceful environment where lives are not being taken for granted. All the societal vices are being kicked out so that we can have a peaceful community, so that we can attract foreign investors to set up industries in Akwa Ibom State. We are succeeding.
The principal opposition in this state is a gentleman who sits on the budget equivalent to those of nine states. In addition, he draws two percent from the gross earnings of international oil companies. But he has nothing to show for the humongous budget. He cannot build roads. The electricity transformer in his village was installed by Akwa Ibom State government, not by his commission. That paints a gruesome picture. The headship of the commission is rotated among the oil producing states. Today, it is the turn of Akwa Ibom State. What have we done with it? The agency is antagonizing Akwa Ibom State government. Akwa Ibom is the largest producer of oil but we have zero presence at the commission. And no project has been implemented. It is sad. This is a major intervention agency. Calabar-Etuk Road is in a mess. While the Federal Government is still grappling with contract awards, the intervention agency should have made the road motorable. We have a commission that is politicised.
I am concerned that our democracy is being threatened. The actions and inactions of the police leave much to be desired, especially in my state where the police have clearly taken sides. The police sided with five members who were sacked from the House of Assembly through a court order. That is not what we should expect in our democracy. What we want is a democracy where both sides can sit down, dine and wine together, go to the polls and the loser will congratulate the winner. We have not got that.
What are your fears for the 2019 elections, particularly the governorship election in Akwa Ibom State?
I wouldn’t say fear, because it will mean painting a picture of apprehension. But there are concerns. The opposition is not ready for the election. They are not campaigning. They are not doing ward tours. They are trying to act a script, cause trouble and disrupt the process to an extent that the Federal Government will want to create an emergency. They want to roll in the federal might and take control of the state. Be that as it may, the will of the people will always prevail. The people of Akwa Ibom State cannot be intimidated. They will not sit down and fold their hands and allow anybody to bring federal might to take power.
What’s the justification for the governor’s second term?
Look at his score card. I don’t think any first term governor has recorded the achievements that Governor Udom Emmanuel has recorded in the last three and a half years, in the face of dwindling national economy. That is what stands him in good stead during the elections. The former governor that defected was his political leader. He (Senator Godswill Akpabio) expected a bandwagon effect. That bandwagon effect didn’t happen because people have seen the genuineness and sincerity of purpose, and the honesty of Governor Udom Emmanuel. Some of the people standing by Governor Udom Emmanuel today were the people mentored by the former governor. When the chips are down, it is better to stand on the side of the truth.
The wife of the president said your governor will soon be on his way to the APC…
That is a pipe-dreaming. It is wishful thinking. I can tell you emphatically that Mr. Udom Emmanuel is a man of honour and integrity. He will never eat his words in that regard. He stands for something. Before he stood for governor, he was well endowed: a Director at Zenith Bank. He was controlling the finances of the bank. He has always shown integrity and strength of character. The former governor (Senator Godswill Akpabio) joined the APC because of the EFCC. He now wants to strangulate the state.
You painted a picture of great achievements by the governor. But the opposition does not see it that way…
The opposition will not see any good thing in the government. The opposition, naturally, wants to run down the government. Just a few days ago, we commissioned the rice factory; the rice processing mill. The opposition said there is no rice mill. The reason the opposition is doing that is that, in the past, they would claim they were commissioning projects and there were no projects. So, they are thinking that this government is doing what they used to do. This government is a government that stands for truth and integrity. If we say there is a project somewhere, it is there. If we say we have a coconut refinery, we can take anybody there at any time. We will not commission an empty building and call it a hotel. We will never do that. This government has integrity. Look at what happened recently when the wife of the president visited. The opposition started peddling lies. But the video is there. They are always trying to manipulate the people. Unfortunately, Nigerians are more exposed than before. They have the gadgets. You can’t blindfold the people.