By Harris Emanuel

In this interview, a governorship aspirant in Akwa Ibom State, Hon. James Iniama, says he remains focused on his aspiration and nothing will stop him from contesting the primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), not even the endorsement of Pastor Umo Eno by Governor Udom Emmanuel.

The Commissioner for Lands and Water Resources has been endorsed as preferred successor of Gov Udom in 2023 . How do you react in view of your aspiration to become governor in 2023?

I have been a private person throughout and as, a young person, I was a trader selling groundnut, palm oil and even cigarette during civil war. I never saw a child who carries groundnut or banana and you told the child to call another groundnut seller for you. The child obviously wants to trade in her own wares. What I am saying is that I am focused on my conviction which is aspiring to be the governor of Akwa Ibom State. We are looking forward to the party primaries when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announces the time-table. So, for the time being, I am staying focused. I am deaf to destructions. I am pursuing the cause for which I have consulted my family members and they have agreed wholeheartedly and supported it. I have consulted my friends, professional colleagues and political supporters, so I want to appeal that we stay focused avoiding distractions in the guise of endorsement. I have my own agenda. Don’t tell me to leave my own game and join another person. So, let’s stay focused to what James Iniama is riding towards 2023. I am preparing for the governorship primary in Akwa Ibom, waiting for when INEC would announce the time-table and we should be guided by it. I believe we should be having consultations which should be at a very quiet level and should be in line with rules and regulations.

What do you bring to the table for Akwa Ibom people that other aspirants do not have?

You are asking me as if I have gone out to ask other aspirants and they have given me their own agenda. No! I haven’t. So you can’t ask me what I have brought to the table that other aspirants don’t have. I rather say what I have brought to the table must meet the needs of the teeming Akwa Ibom people. I am not aspiring to serve the agenda of other aspirants but aspiring to serve the agenda of approximately eight million people. Therefore, I bring to the table the issues that I know will satisfy their needs. If you ask me what is critical to my mind, I would say it is education of the people. There is so much that is undone in our educational sector. We want to build an Akwa Ibom of educated sons and daughters, not the state of illiterate people or the state of half educated people. We are looking at introducing education that would make our sons and daughters as competitive as possible. We are looking 2023. The world is moving and completely digitalized. We have to look at improving on men and women who teach and impact knowledge to our children. We will need quality teachers to teach our children, teachers who are specialized because there are schools where physics teachers teaching mathematics without specialization. We need to train our teachers. We used to have teachers whose main duty is to teach hand and craft where we learned how to weave basket, make brooms etc but today such specialized teachers are no more in our school system.

I am also looking at building infrastructure and create healthy learning environment in schools. I am not talking of paying lip service to this state. I come from a village. Sometimes, I am the one doing the cleaning of the primary school in my village. So, we will improve on school infrastructure. When we talk, we are not resting our discussion on information. We would undertake database of available infrastructure in our educational institutions. We call it in my profession ‘inventory of the asset’ that would give us what we would easily refer to as the schedule of repairs and dilapidation.

Apart from education, we will embark on agriculture to deal with our food insufficiency. I am looking at planning a good agricultural policy. We would encourage subsistent farming so that every family will have enough food to eat. In 1997 when I contested the governorship of this state, we had enough documents that would have served as a blueprint for the implementation of agriculture programmes. Let’s make agriculture commercial despite its challenges such as access to land, lack of modern agricultural tools and lack of access to modern agricultural methods.

As you are ready to contest for governorship, what are the areas in the state that need attention?

Akwa Ibom was created in 1987. And we have grown to hear that “Rome was not built in a day”. Don’t forget Uyo was a local government headquarters. I came to Uyo on the 21st of February 1985. And I can say confidently that Uyo, though a local government headquarters, was still an urban village. Most of what we see in Uyo today were not there. So, if you take from the day Governor Tunde Ogbeha (the first Military Governor of the state) was received from Okom River boundary between Cross River and Akwa Ibom state, up till today, when you come to Uyo, you are faced with the challenge of turning the urban village into a state capital very suddenly. At a time, we had the University of Cross River State, now University of Uyo. Thank God we had Cross River Television Station, now Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation (AKBC), we had Champion Breweries, Plasto Crown, Auto Park and Qua Steel in Eket. Other companies in the state were Quality Ceramics at Itu, Sunshine Batteries, Ikot Ekpene Biscuit, Cement Factory, Asbestonit and Palm Mill Industries in Abak local government area. But these were only foundational industries that could help us to evolve. Since the administrative headquarters of the state has been settled with befitting edifices of a state, Tunde Ogbeha, Godwin Abbe and Obong Akpan Isemin found themselves in that realm of development. And then came Obong Victor Attah as an architect and planner. Attah said, “come, we need to have orderliness in the state through a master plan”. He then gave the master plan that defined the nature of development of the state. That is the template of which I believe every administration in the state can ride on. But you see, if you talk of a master plan, it is dynamic. We have come to a point where that master plan of development of our dear state would be revised. Now, came Governor Udom Emmanuel.

Udom came and initiated the cluster industrial development. I thank God we are now going to have the Free Trade Zone, Deep Sea Port etc. Obong Victor Attah started the airport, Governor Udom Emmanuel has brought Ibom Air. We are still at the development stage of our state. So, if you look at the state, let me challenge you, on any day it rains, just step out to any local government area of this state and the immediate challenge that confront you is flood. We still need to develop infrastructure. So, what are we going to do? We would address that immediate need through preparation of an auto photo map of the state. The map will simply tell us exactly the lay-up of the entire state to ensure an integrated development plan because the way this state grow, very soon, we would have a one – city state. So, everything would be well planned and laid down in a manner that there would be no chaos when we get into the development of the state. There is more to be done. So, we must prepare to step into the shoes of our past leaders who have laid this foundation with commitment and patriotism.

How would you improve on the unemployment status of Akwa Ibom?

Thank God Governor Udom Emmanuel has come with industrialization policy .For me, it is a policy to latch on and improve on it. I would also tell you that I am worried about it. And my worry is the sustenance of these industries. Why does it worry me? A former governor of Cross River State, Dr Clement Isong, built nine industries within four years of his administration but none of those companies is producing today. They are moribund. I can count them. Among them are Quality Ceramics at my backyard and Peacock Paints. In my tenure, factories would be privatised. When Akwa Ibom was created in 1987, one of the committees set up was Asset Committee which was later changed to Committee for Reactivation of Ailing Industries in the state. We would privatize these companies to employ the teeming population of Akwa Ibom.

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