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Monday, 12 June 2017

NOTHING WILL MAKE ME LEAVE PDP — UDOM





Two years down the line but many governors, for some obvious reasons, are still trying to find their feet. Did your new calling make any difference?


I wouldn’t say there is a huge difference. Rather, I think I have gone down and I have lost weight because of the pressure and demands of this job. But God has prepared me for this job; I keep saying so. Nobody just wakes up and finds himself in the position of being a leader. You build yourself up to become a leader through your experience. So, I believe with the exposure that we’ve had over time; our training both in and out of the classroom and hands on experience; our interaction with the outside world across the globe and even the field of the masses, the grassroots. By the time you put all of them together, they contribute in different areas.

It means you’re fulfilled?

I can only be fulfilled if I provide free and compulsory education and every child will be jumping to go to school because he must have had a balanced diet; must have eaten well, must have had enough protein that can actually enable that child to develop, so that when the child is in the class and is being taught, he will be able to feel happy going to school.

Political inclusion remains the bane of ruling parties in some states, thereby becoming a breeding ground for wrangling and defections by members because they don’t get hand outs. How inclusive is PDP in Akwa Ibom State?

We don’t issue hand outs. I don’t even know what you mean by hand outs. I only know of hand outs when we were in school and that was for us to read and pass exams. Then, in everything we do, we don’t deal with political party affiliations; what we do is that we just look at our people, our state. At the same time, if you look at the way we give appointments, a lot of people who did not even support me have been considered and what drives it is that the day election is over, its governance. You embrace everybody and try to break those barriers of partisan politics. That’s the way we do it.

A minister recently said by 2019, Nigeria would be producing pencil. However, not long thereafter, Akwa Ibom State launched its pencil factory. Does that mean producing pencil is something special?

Well, I didn’t hear the minister say so. But, let me also say something here clearly; I’m not the one who brought out the statistics, but let me tell you what I heard, that Nigeria spends about N350 billion importing pencil! So, the question is, is producing pencil a wrong exercise? The answer is no. If you pay a visit to Akwa Ibom State, I have everything that it takes in terms of raw materials. Is it the bamboo, the wood, or is it the pieces of paper? You know, with the new attention on environment, you can actually get used papers and produce pencil that will be more environment-friendly too. What matters most is do you have the people, do you have the material? The answer is yes. I’m one of those who believe that we can do these under small and medium enterprises scheme. These are entrepreneurial schemes that we are running for small and medium scale enterprises. It doesn’t actually pay us as a country to import pencil when we have so much unemployment, and so much of those things we can also use in making our own.

Payment of salaries is also seen as an achievement in some states these days. Is it the same thing in Akwa Ibom State?

I know a lot of people say you (Akwa Ibom) still get highest revenue but at what revenue line? I only get when it comes to sharing from oil. For months, there was a time when we did not even lift a barrel of crude oil. Akwa Ibom produces almost 46 per cent of the entire oil this country produces; you can imagine the impact of that on our revenue. I think for those that count payment of salaries as a major achievement, yes it is because in a period of recession, what cash can do is an achievement.

You embarked on many projects; especially in agriculture, are they sustainable?
The answer is yes because of sense of ownership. For example, the coconut plantation we are doing, the communities own certain percentage, and people protect what they own. Even when they don’t have the money, you give them certain percentage of shares, from there that is sustainable. Secondly, we made these projects as pure business. 
In terms of rice production, I know without even improved seedlings or anything, our yield is one of the best. 

There’re insinuations that you will jump ship from PDP to APC, is it true?

The answer is no; I’ve never considered that. It is unthinkable that a pillar of PDP like me will think of jumping ship. In my entire lifestyle, I don’t jump ship. I’m a very loyal person. The church I was born into is the church I’m still maintaining till today; I’ve not changed. I can’t go anywhere. PDP is my blood, so I can’t go anywhere outside. PDP can never die; it is the largest party in Africa, forget propaganda. PDP is the only party that if you enter any ward in all the 774 local governments in this country, and you mention PDP, nobody will ask you what you are referring to. In fact, PDP in my state is like a religion; PDP is the only place that you can see quality leaders. Anything you hear of and you still see in Akwa Ibom is PDP. So, how do you expect my people to leave PDP? I don’t know of any other party; anywhere you see me, know that you’ve seen PDP.

Have you resolved the issues that pitched you against your predecessor, Senator Godswill Akpabio?

I’m not aware of that, depending on what you call issues. If you’ve listened to my speech on Democracy Day, I said our politicking is pro-development. If you are talking that we are having issues on developing the state, of course, that’s how we do our politics. The day I was voted into power, I was not voted to have negative issues. I was voted to have positive issues and those positive issues have been part of developing the people and resources of our state. So, we don’t have any issues in the direction that you are looking at. Somebody told me one day that this is a banana peel and I said we won’t match that banana peel. Our state is too precious for us to be thinking of any other thing; we have a very cordial relationship as expected. It’s left for you now to define ‘as expected.’

To which side of the PDP do you belong?

I belong to PDP; not any side. But at the same time, I belong to everybody. Once you are in PDP with all sincerity of purpose, you are my party member. As human beings, there is no way that we would expect to live in this life without minor hiccups; it’s not practicable. Anywhere you have two or three people, there are bound to be one or two issues. In PDP today, for somebody to say if you go this way, he’s going that way, when you hear somebody talking that way, you know that he’s not a PDP person. Any PDP person will stay to build PDP.

You mean people should remain under Senator Ali Modu Sheriff to build the party?

It doesn’t matter. After Supreme Court judgement, the name will disappear; the party will remain. The day I was voted into office, I wasn’t voted as Udom Emmanuel; I was voted as PDP. So, people go to the polls to vote the party, not individuals. So how come somebody will be talking about individuals and not the party? Once you see people talking like that, you know that they are not true party people. How comes it’s only in Nigeria that people just jump ship, probably because your party has lost election at the centre? Even some neighbouring countries here, not to talk of the developed world; if you are a Republican, you are a Republican for life. Somebody can even tie your grandfather, ‘oh that’s the family of Republicans,’ ‘that’s the family of Democrats.’ It’s only here that you can’t even determine where people belong to. But not me; I’m in PDP. Anywhere the judgement goes to, I remain PDP. I want somebody to look tomorrow and tell my children that you are from a family of PDP, not where you can’t pronounce certain name. I hear all kinds of names, but forget it. Nobody is going anywhere. Politics is about negotiations. All those people who are creating those things, they are just looking for negotiations, all of them; we will negotiate. Judgement will not change the umbrella of our party; judgement is just to decide who heads and all those things are just personal issues. It’s just individuals. Why must you follow individuals? The party should stand on its own; it should stand on the principles on which it was founded and not individuals. Don’t let anybody deceive you.

You were among those who took decision that led to the emergence of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as national chairman of the PDP. Did you ever regret your action?

I’m one person that if I take decisions, I don’t regret it. I took that decision at that point in time based on what was available for me. So, it was the best of judgment at that minute. Situations change; it’s only God that does not change. So, if situations have changed that could change the character of people, it doesn’t actually matter, you don’t sit back and regret over that. This is when your ingenuity in management of crisis comes in. How do you manage yourself out of that situation and remain unscathed? That’s where we are going towards and at the same time, we would go with the rule of law. So it doesn’t call for me castigating somebody’s character. At the time we took that decision, it was the best at that point in time; be rest assured that before Sheriff was nominated to be the chairman, the (Governors) Forum talked to so many other people. There was actually an interview process and everybody at that committee accepted that. Was that the best decision to take at that point in time? The answer is yes. Can that decision change in the next minute? The answer is yes. That’s why we are mortal, we are not God. So, we can take decisions today that might not look good to anybody in the next minute; but we must stand by that decision and manage ourselves out.

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