Senator Christopher Stephen Ekpeyong, an electrical engineer, represents Akwa Ibom North-East in the Senate. In this interview, the former Deputy Governor, who unseated Senator Godswill Akpabio in the Red Chamber, talks about issues in the polity.
By Harris-Okon Emmanuel
What are you taking to the 9th Senate from your district and what kind of Senate do you expect?
The people have sent me to be their mouthpiece on issues that after them. We are talking about youth restiveness, unemployment and I am going to introduce motions and bills on how to create jobs and opportunities for youths and the teeming population, and stabilize power. I am an electrical engineer. To stabilize power, we must first know the cause of the problems in the power sector and then we can now find the cure. In collaboration with the Nigerian Institute of Engineers, we can find indigenous solution to our endemic power failure. When we find solution to power, we would bring to life our steel industry. Because once you have power and your steel industry is alive, and you can manufacture steel, then you create employment, then you take charge of what you want to do that requires steel. And, of course, we should think about the ailing industries such as the Aluminum Smelting Plant at Ikot Abasi and advise the Federal Government to look at what happened at the BPE. We have three paper mills in Nigeria – Ondo, Niger and Akwa Ibom – and yet we continue to import paper. Although this is the electronic age, we still write. Our children write on paper in school, therefore, we should be a paper-producing nation. If those paper mills were bought through BPE, how effective are those who bought them? Do they have the capability to turn around the fortunes of the industries? If not, what can the Federal Government do to create wealth and employment for our people? These industries alone can take so many youths off the streets. Again, I want to look at the Senate from the position of a nationalist and not on party platform. Party is a vehicle that took us to the Senate but we have to look at issues holistically and nationally.
Does that also include true federalism and restructuring?
The President has given us a window that we should look at true federalism. So, the questions we should now ask include, ‘Mr President, what is your own definition?’ ‘What is the template for the implementation of true federalism?’ That is the essence of the National Assembly.
Do you think Senator Godswill Akpabio has forgiven you after defeating him at the senatorial election?
A: I am not just thinking. He is still angry and fighting tooth and nail because I defeated him in the senatorial election held on the 23rd of February. I defeated him and the margin is so large. And he wasn’t satisfied. But if he was a democrat, by now he should have congratulated me the way I congratulated him in 2007 when he was declared the winner of then-election, not that he won because he has not won any processed election. So, this was a processed election. It was a free and fair election. I like to liken the election of February 23 to what happened on June 12,1993 between the late Chief MKO Abiola and Alhaji Bashir Tofa. That is exactly what happened between him and me. Except in his Essien Udim local government area where he used the army and the police to coerce everybody, I beat him pants down in all the nine other local government areas that constitute my senatorial district. I defeated him because it was a free and fair election. That is why he didn’t want the result of the election to be announced as it were by INEC on February 24. In Ikot Ekpene, he also had a marginal lead with 1, 500 votes.
You alleged that Akpabio has never won any processed election. How do you mean?
He has not. In 2015, there was no election. He was aided and abetted by then-INEC and he thought probably this man, REC Mike Igini, would toe the same line.
But he was in the PDP?
It does not matter. If you are in the PDP, you should allow due process to take place. In 2007, he did not win and it was worse for him in 2011. And in this (2019) election, he vied on the platform of APC, the same APC he campaigned against in 2015 and called the man who is President today an illiterate, that he could not interpret the budget and that people should not vote for him. And when we wanted to vote to decide who should be our President, because we also had an axe to grind with our party and our party’s candidate, he didn’t allow us. So it is nemesis that has caught up with him. It is nemesis and he should go and sleep. Even this governor (Udom Emmanuel), he rejected him and we adopted him. In 2015, he did not allow us to sit down and make input on whom to choose as our governor but thank God, in the second term, he rejected the governor. And because he rejected him, we now adopted the governor. If he had been with the governor, probably the governor would have failed.
How do you mean?
There was no way the governor would have won with Akpabio in the PDP. We thank God that he left us.