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Iwaad Emmanuel Okon Mbong is an astute politician cum business man with a touch of class. A former special assistant to the Governor on project monitoring, incumbent chairman, Eket Chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Known for his patriotic services and undiluted quest for Udom’s administration to succeed, in this interview with press men, he speaks on issues that affects his party, the electorates, his polity, the opposition party and the way forward.
There was an assertion by Gov. Udom Emmanuel during his inauguration that he has extended the olive branch to all aggrieved party men. 1 year plus in office, some party men (i.e. your fellow PDP members) decry outright marginalization by the same man who promised an all inclusive government. What is your take on this?
Well! I do not see Governor Udom Emmanuel renegade from the promise he made to all aggrieved party men. Governor Udom is a party faithful and understands the tenets that guide the party. Stretching out the olive branch to aggrieved politicians was an indication that Gov. Udom is truly a professional in politics who wants the best for his administration. You know as a leader, it is going to be very difficult to satisfy everybody simultaneously. I am seeing a lot of the aggrieved party men working with him; some are trying to align with him. To me, I am confident that every member of our great party who decry marginalization has deviated from the path he is supposed to tow. It is either they are scavenging for greener pastures somewhere or looking for contract somewhere as a political animal he is. Government is a continuum. If Governor Udom marginalize party men today what will happen during the 2019 election? That means he will be struggling to have them to his side. But as a chapter chairman of this great party, I can tell you that Udom is running an all inclusive government and not on the basis of sentiments.
Paul Ekpo’s return as your party State Chairman (2nd term) and other state party Exco is claimed by many to be the handiwork of the former Governor and Senate Minority Leader, with the Governor having no structure. If this be true, don’t you think it will give rise to conflict of interest in the nearest future between the Governor “who will seek a second term in office” and his predecessor should he refuse to support him for a second term?
I have not and I don’t think I have seen any influence of Godswill Akpabio (My former Boss) over Governor Udom Emmanuel. Governor Udom Emmanuel is the leader of our party right now and Senator Godswill Akpabio is a loyal party faithful who understands the nitty-gritty of intra-party affairs. Paul Ekpo’s return to the party as state chairman was born from his devotions and proactive measures he procreated to stabilize PDP in the state. His experience spoke for him. Every PDP member supported Paul Ekpo overwhelmingly for a second term without being induced monetarily. Don’t forget this same Paul Ekpo had resigned from office and the chairmanship seat was also zoned to Uyo Senatorial District where he comes from. Anyone who says Godswill Akpabio nominated Paul Ekpo as state chairman is a liar. I am one of those who emerged as a chapter chairman. There was never a time Godswill Akpabio called me or discussed with me about the portfolio. So how come does he own the structure? People are just speculating what isn’t true.
As a former SA to the Governor on project monitoring and incumbent Eket chapter chairman of the PDP, how will you assess the performance of His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel vis-à-vis development since his inauguration?
Governor Udom Emmanuel has tried beyond expectation. As you are aware that it is not right to tailor achievements of an administration in one year of governance, if I could reminisce the Akpabio’s administration vividly, despite the fact that the crude oil price was of high index and allocation accrued to the state was good. No one actually measured him in one year. It was about three years (3yrs) that the vision was brought to fruition. But it is like everybody wants Udom Emmanuel to perfect all what he promised Akwa Ibom within one year (1yr) even when the oil price had dropped and allocation to the state is minimal. The APC led Federal Government in one year is unable to give a clear developmental road map. They have not initiated any project since their inauguration; they are either commissioning projects that was initiated by the past administration; like the Abuja- Kaduna railway or dwelling in the blame game, which is plunging Nigeria deep into recession. Udom has tried, within one year he has laid foundations of various industries and infrastructural development in the state. A lot of projects are going on, some have been commissioned. Some housing projects were commissioned, roads are being commissioned, and many are still on the drawing board like the 12 lane road project and other industrial corporations. So within the period of time he has been in the leadership position juxtaposed with his achievements, in fact he has surprised me and has proven critics wrong.
Sir you talked about the Governor laying foundation for industries. Let’s talk about one of the groundbreakings. You are aware that Eket people are groaning since the groundbreaking of “EKET ULTRA MODERN MARKET” with nothing on ground to substantiate the groundbreaking. To worsen the situation, the Governor also demolished “URUA OFFIONG ETUK” a popular market that generates revenue to the Local Government and creates opportunity for people to earn a living in view of beautifying and modernizing Eket urban. As a party man, do you see the government’s promises in this regards to be substantial?
Thank you very much. Eket as I know was becoming a close-up city. Why I say so is that Eket was a very beautiful city before, people see it as an enigma. It was the fastest developed Local Government Area in the south-south Nigeria, all of a sudden the place was closing in; so many things began to happen, infrastructure decayed, roads got dilapidated, government tried their best yet there was no clear road map for Eket since it lost the city touch. But Udom came up as Governor; he realized that for him to turn Eket into the modern city to befit it contributions to the state and country’s economy, he must have to break open the town. He then came up with a developmental city plan and that plan is so certain. The cost of developing this city during this recession is what we are facing right now. The Governor despite financial challenges is doing all his best to complete soonest this projects that will give Eket a new face. Development to me must come on the altar of sacrifice. There must be sacrifices for this mega projects to be instituted. One of such sacrifices is the problem with “Urau Offiong Etuk” which is my grandfathers market. If there is anybody that should be affected, I think it should be me because it belonged to my grandfather, and I am at the fore of governance. What happened is that we must give grounds for development to come in. Part of the market was demolished and compensation was paid. What is actually disturbing the starting of the new market is acquiring a permanent site. Two sites were proposed; one was closed to Pegasus primary school and the other was at the outskirt of the town. We are trying to discourse with the land owners, once this is achieved, the Government will come in to remit their postdated cheque to Eket people. I am not seeing this administration rabble-rousing with fictitious projects, the Udom’s administration meant industrialization from day one.
What about Eket Ultra-modern Market?
The Eket Ultra-modern Market project was not a directly sponsored project by the government, it is a PPP project. The Government after due discuss with the private partners decided to flag off that project because both party’s met their requirements and due MOU signed. The private partners had already told the government that after the flag-off, they’ll need Three (3) Months to mobilize to site, and the said 3months expire this Month of October. I think they were on site few days ago, talking with the occupants of timber market with an aim to relocate the market temporarily to the timber market, so construction can commence. I am optimistic that before the end of this year construction jobs must have gone far.
Let’s talk about security and militancy : The resurfacing of militancy has caused so many oil companies to quit doing business in Nigeria; what in your opinion should be applied as a panacea to curb youth restiveness and militancy in the Niger Delta region to enable our youths get involved in oil dealings?
The government at the top must realize that it is not all the time you exert force to win a battle. There are some wars you don’t win by the application of force but dialogue; most especially in a democratic government. But instead of the government to have opted for discuss in the initial stage, they exerted force on this people with a view of turning democracy into autocracy, and the youths of Niger Delta revolted; that’s why you see the emergence of different factions of militants. Under this tensed situation, no sane business man will invest his money in a place that there is no security guarantee, and no jobs will be created. There are no jobs for the people. My advice is that they should take the ongoing dialogue with the Niger Delta statesmen very serious. They should dialogue with the boys. I have been involved in dialogues over the years “when I was Afigh Iwaad Ekid’s President”. I used to represent this region; most times in Abuja or other Niger Delta states. I used to even summon all the Niger Delta leaders from all the ethnic groups to Eket; we gather to seek solutions to our region problems. Government must dialogue with the people, dialogue with the militants and also dialogue with the oil owners. They must allow the smooth sail of the PIB bill, so that the rights of the owners of the oil can also be discussed. They must ensure that the derivation principle of 13% is increased to enhance adequate development in the region. Look at the region; it’s as if we have no resources. We are hunger stricken. We wallow in abject poverty. No good roads to commemorate our contributions to the country and state economy. The Niger Delta region needs to get the country’s attention and the federal government should wake up to its supplications now, so that investors can come in and the industrial freedom be handed to curb unemployment and other activities that will threaten utopia.
Sir still on the Niger Delta crises, the APC led federal government accuses your party (PDP) as the reason for the underdevelopment of the Niger Delta Region; citing corruption in the sixteen (16) years leadership of your party to buttress their point. What is your take on this?
Anyone who says the PDP government did not try their best in developing the Niger Delta region is a liar. Development is in phases and it basis must be vested in the region’s understanding. If one does not understand the problems of a region, it is a very difficult task initiating monumental development. Every incoming government must have a developmental plan. Take for instance from the beginning, the Niger Deltans were not involved in so many oil dealings. Most of the oil companies operated out of the boundary of the region. The employment quota, contract quota and major decisions were taken outside, but operational bases in the Niger Delta. The PDP government came up with a road map; which was to prepare the youths of the region educationally, technically and otherwise to enable them be beneficiaries of jobs from the region. The PDP government introduced local content in the country. They brought the amnesty program, which forced many to drop their arms and embraced education, skills acquisition, etc. most of them are back from training overseas now that the APC governments is in power; they deserve to be employed. So if there is any government that should be blame for the escalation of crises in the Niger Delta region, I think it is the APC governments. They should come up with a road map that will appease the Niger Deltans. We deserve so much compared to what we are being given. Upon the little offered us, we are still victimized, oppressed and maltreated by the Government. Innocent people are the victims of this circumstance. I think it is time to drop the blame game and be focused to end the Niger Delta crises. PDP had done theirs, APC should improvise.
The recent appointments of Obong Nsima Ekere, as MD NDDC and Obong Umana Okon Umana as MD, Oil & Gas Free Zone is feared in some quarters to be a conscripted plan by the APC led Federal Government to break the chain of your party’s leadership by dislodging your party in 2019. Do you believe these appointments can influence the populace and the outcome of the upcoming elections in the state?
Let me use this opportunity in the first instance to congratulate the two personalities for their appointments into NDDC AND OGFZ. We are lucky to have them both represent Akwa Ibom in this Government. I believe their appointments were on merit and have nothing to do with the elections. We all are aware that there is nothing like APC in the Akwa Ibom State. PDP in Akwa Ibom state is a religion; people believe in it. So there is no way APC will come in to dominate Akwa Ibom with just NDDC and OGFZ. What we as Akwa Ibom faithful are to do is to give them helping hands in other to aid them succeed in their respective parastatals.
So you mean they are no threats to your party?
They are no threats at all. They are good gentlemen with great resumes capable of functioning very well in the paratatals entrusted into their hands. That is why they are there.
There is an agitation by several individuals and groups in the core oil producing Local Govt. in the state that the Governor who hails from a core oil area should establish a development commission that will aid develop the region as instituted in other states, as a party man who hails from this region, do you support this agitation?
I am fully in support of this agitation for this commission. But I fear that this commission might not be feasible in this recession era that ‘we’ as a country are plunged into. Even as at now, the resources accrued to the state is not even enough to pay salaries. That is why you see the Governor travelling everyday and talking to investors to come and invest in the state. It is a good agitation that should be brought to fruition, but what will be the essence of constituting this commission and there is no money to finance it? We just have to be realistic. I know the Governor is from here and understands what to do.
It is obvious from the none-dualization of Ikot Usoekong – Eket Oron Road (a part of the East- West Road), that there is a breech in the contract terms establishing the East- West Road as awarded by President Olusegun Obasanjo. Despite continuous outcry of this anomaly, yet there is no reversal to the original terms of this contract. Some people believe that Eket stakeholders had conspired to share the money meant for the road dualization. As a party forward, what is really the problem with that road?
All what you’ve heard are speculations. I don’t think a sane man in this modern age will agree to sell his posterity for peanuts that will end up in the toilet. When the east-west road was first mentioned, it was initially to stop at Onne, Port Harcourt. I was one of the delegates who met the President “then I was Afigh Iwaad Ekid’s President” and pleaded that the road should be extended to Oron through the help of Obong Ufot Ekaette. The President gave a nod. At first it was designed to be a single carriage way, but along the line, the contractors proposed that the road needed a by-pass. A meeting was convened; the senator, minister and the Governor were present. The Governor even proposed that if the Federal Government refuses to construct a by-pass that he will. The federal government approved some money for the contractors, but it was yet to be released to the contractors until Jonathan left the presidency. I believe if the money is release, the jobs will be done. No body from Eket has sold his birthright for a plate of beans. Once the Federal Government releases the money, it is settled. The dual carriage and by-pass was already marked, so it is the Federal government to release funds that was approved. This is a call to the federal government to release the money meant for that road as approved to the contractors.
There have been several publications by some activist that our lawmakers in the national assembly are sleeping. Beyond these publications, it is obvious from trending occurrences that our lawmakers contribute less during deliberations in the upper and lower chambers. What word do you have as an advice for our lawmakers in the national and state assembly?
I appreciate the fact that some of our lawmakers from Akwa Ibom hold good positions in the legislative chambers; even as minority. Every government faces the challenges of opposition. Now our party happens to be the opposition/ minority. But that should not shield our voices. Opposition normally has a say while the majority always have their way. It is a wakeup call for all our state and federal legislators. They have to sit up in their legislative engagements. They have to make bills, make an enclave around the bill. They have to lobby; lobbying is permitted in the legislative chambers, so that they would be remembered for something at the expiration of their tenure.
You were once a chairman of Afigh Iwaad Ekid. Since 2013, the Afigh Iwaad Ekid known to be the voice of Ekid Nation has gradually lost its prestige and strength due to infighting traceable to the annulled Afigh election of 2013. This uproar is inclusive an instituted case in the High Court, which has also ridiculed the organization in the face of other renowned socio-cultural groups leaving them with little or no input in communal and governmental affairs. What is really the problem?
In an organization which is democratic in nature, where people have the right to vote and be voted for, once in a while you must expect fracas of this nature. It is happening even in the political parties; my party (PDP) was found in this web; even the ruling party (APC) is also having their fair share of it. But it is incumbent on the people to come together and resolve the problem amicably. The problem in Afigh Iwaad Ekid right now is because we agreed on the principles of zoning offices to Local Governments. It was the time for Esit-Eket L.G.A. to produce a president, but they are logged in a fight between two brothers. We have stakeholders in Esit-Eket who are members of Afigh. They are the ones that should have called the two brothers together and forge the way forward. At first people said that Afigh was our family property, but ever since my family pulled out of the Afigh’s affairs, its like problems are eminent. Afigh Iwaad was a voice of the Ekid nation; they were part of those who championed the issue of the derivation principles that Akwa Ibom benefits today, for Afigh not to be functioning properly is a big slap to the Eket people; everybody is feeling it. We will restore the dignity of Afigh Iwaad Ekid soonest.
On the expiration of your tenure as the Eket chapter PDP Chairman, what will you love your party faithful and the electorate to remember you for?
I came into the party not because I know so much but to contribute my own quota to the party. Although the task happens to be a fierce task, but I know I have done a lot that have scribbled my name in the sands of time. I inherited a party with so many people aggrieved; I went on a reconciliation tour, which I have succeeded to reconcile about 90%, and still hoping to complete the remaining 10%. I have acquired a new party office and very soon we are moving in. other humanitarian services rendered by me on the course of writing the party’s name in gold is ongoing.