By Harris Emanuel
Mr Eseme Eyiboh, a former House of Representatives spokesperson is the 2023 All Progressives Congress, APC, candidate for Eket Federal Constituency in Akwa Ibom State.
In this interview, Eyiboh argues that the trajectory of the social democratic values must be rearranged to ensure the emergence of credible candidates for effective representations with a view to engendering sustainable development.
He, however, tasks the media, the electorate and other critical stakeholders to rise up to the challenges by assisting the national umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct credible polls in 2023.
Ahead of 2023 polls, pundits are of the opinion that the major parties would collapse or implode due to internal squabbles. What is your reaction?
I am sure you are aware that all the registered political parties are jurisdictive persons. They can sue and be sued. So, they have a life of their own. It is only when they are being proscribed or delisted, that is when you can talk about the major political parties going into extinction. Even if 20 people or more have left, in each of the parties, you can’t talk about the extinction of the political parties. The major political parties are having a series of crises, but that is not to say that they are going extinct.
These crises are characterized by post primary contests and the major political parties being populated by heavyweights, usually there must be winners and losers in every primary. So, what the major political parties are going through now is a consequence of the post primary crises. That does not mean that the smaller parties are without blemish, because they are also having people leaving in droves to the smaller parties to take solace, which is the issue of getting the mandate to be on the ballots.
Giving the performances of the two major parties, namely APC and PDP in governance at the national level, don’t you think the electorate this time would want to vote personality instead of the party?
It has nothing to do with the two major political parties. What you have there is different from politics and governance. You have sub-national governments across the country and also the federal government. There are some states, as a matter of fact, which cannot be proud of themselves, considering the money they received. Then there are some states, which of course, don’t have money but are trying as much to be able to deploy the little they have for the social democratic values of their people. So, it is wrong for you to say that APC or PDP is not doing well.
It has nothing to do with the political party. If what you voted to represent you is a bad product, then it is a bad product. What the person would be doing in the name of your electoral constituency is to showcase those weaknesses that you refuse to recognize when you are voting. What I am saying is that weaknesses in government concept, weaknesses in performances are reflections of poor leadership recruitment culture of the electorate.
Do you see the Nigerian electorate voting for individuals this time around, in view of the alleged bad governance by the parties in power?
It is up for you people in the media to also mount a campaign against a new system now called vote buying. Vote buying cannot be a representation of quality judgment. Vote buying is still the same thing regardless of anything.
Don’t you think that vote buying is a result of desperation by greedy politicians, who want to win by all means?
That is why I am telling you that people in the media and community based organizations, non-governmental organizations, should mount intensive campaigns. INEC is doing very well. You have a responsibility to also mount a campaign to educate the people that this N10, 000 that you collect to vote has a repercussion. You know, politicians won’t want to stop being ahead of their opponents.
A politician won’t want to stop using all manner of intrigues to find himself in the desired office. But you should also be able to educate the people to appreciate the fact that competence, pedigree, and image are keys in the electoral process.
Many Nigerians have knocked APC over alleged bad governance, despite riding to the position on change mantra. What is your take on that?
You are still using a universal template in assessing performance in governance. For example, the poor performance of the government of Akwa Ibom State cannot be leveraged on APC. I am using that as an example. We have 36 states of the federation and FCT.
And these 36 states, some are doing creditably well, while others are performing woefully. If you want to go into the issue of performance audit, you have to do it on a state by state scale. If you look at the 774 local government areas in this country, you also do it on a local government by local government basis, because if you want to turn round to say APC is in government and not doing well, that would be a very wrong template and judgment.
It is fast becoming a fad for governors to go to the Senate after leaving office. How do you react to this kind of political arrangement?
I am very sad about it. Because one, most of the people, say 80 percent of the people going to the National Assembly are being promoted by the governors. So, as we speak today, what is the total number of the governors in the Senate? They are forming more than two third and if that is what it is, are you going to see a robust engagement? No! Are you going to see a robust attendance? No! Are you going to see contributions that would reflect the collective aspirations of the people? The answer is no! And they continue to rise exponentially in the Senate. Also, their surrogates are rising in droves in the House of Representatives.
At the end of the day, the intention of democracy would be defeated because issues of oversights, appropriation, and legislation are going to be undermined. Let me give you an example. A governor who has had absolute control over the local government administration is now coming to the Senate and his surrogates are coming to the House of Reps and then there is a constitutional amendment on the issue of the autonomy of local government, they would vote against it.
They would vote against it because they are still benefiting from the local government system. Their cronies are still there. They are going to defeat the issue of checks and balances. The products of the legislature – appropriation, oversight, legislation, etc are going to be undermined. Sooner or later, we will witness the National Assembly, the Senate in particular, becoming a national rehabilitation centre for former governors.
Do you think you can win the forthcoming polls in your constituency knowing full well that the state is a PDP state?
The narrative might still change. I am not saying this because I am the person involved. Before you will hear people say, what did the governor say in the primary, and whatever the governor says or whoever the governor anoints, that is the person to win the primary. It is no longer so. In 2023, the trajectory of our political culture is going to change. We are going into a referendum in Akwa Ibom and Eket Federal Constituency.
What is a referendum in this case? A referendum is a popular vote to determine a particular subject, a particular issue by the people. And this referendum is to determine a particular question about our future. In this referendum the result will shape the future prospect, the opportunity of each electoral constituency and Eket people are enlightened, sophisticated and urbane, and ready to participate in this exercise. I represent the symbol of this referendum. What that means is that before people used to vote on what the governors said, on political party, no matter how bad the candidate is, but today they are going to vote for people regardless of political party. It is a vox- populi. It is the voice of the people.
Do you see INEC conducting free and fair polls in 2023?
If we go by what happened in Osun and Ekiti states, you know the fairness and success of any election is not 100 percent INEC, the people also have a role to play. For example, somebody comes to your community and everybody queues up to vote and the other people knowing that they are going to lose the election gang up and disrupt the election it’s going to be cancelled in that unit.
So, if we begin to have multiplicity of such insecurity, it is going to affect the outcome of the election. Like I said, CBOs, NGOs and non-state actors should be able to rise up to complement the efforts of INEC, and security agencies. You can stand up in your polling unit and stop any strange person from coming in to disrupt the process. Everybody queues up and votes and makes sure that the result is posted.
How do you assess the performances of governor Udom Emmanuel?
Based on my knowledge, he has some pluses here and there and he has a very poor performance in some areas. For example, as we speak, are you aware that in Akwa Ibom the local government areas in the state have no boundaries?
The absence of gazetted boundaries since the creation of Akwa Ibom State till now is subjecting the local government areas to communal conflicts, quarrels, and disagreements. There is no clear delineation of local government boundaries in the state. And if you don’t do that, how do you now determine the issue of security, economic development, and the principle of justice. There should be a boundary between Nsit Ubium and Nsit Ibom.
There should be a boundary between Abak and the neighbouring local government. When those things are not there, you are leaving the citizens with the option to speculate on where their boundary is. So, there is a need for a statutory delineation of local government boundaries in the state.