In this special interview, a senior citizen of the state, former Chairman of the South South Parliamentary Caucus in the National Assembly, former Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Rt. Hon. Nduese Essien speaks on the defection of Senator Nelson Effiong and other topical issues bothering on issues in the polity:
DURING THE CAMPAIGNS, YOU SPOKE FOR THE GOVERNOR AND WHY AKWA IBOM PEOPLE SHOULD VOTE FOR HIM. YOU ALSO DRUMMED SUPPORT FOR SENATOR NELSON EFFIONG. NOW, FEW WEEKS AGO, THE SAME SENATOR BEGAN TO SPEAK IN GLOWING TERMS TO THE GOVERNOR, AND IN FEW DAYS LATER, WE HEARD OF HIS DEFECTION. AS A STAKEHOLDER, WHAT IS YOUR PERCEPTION ON THIS DEVELOPMENT?
Well, it was a shocking development to me because we didn’t expect it. I would want to venture to say that this is the most disastrous political blunder which our senator, Chief Nelson Effiong, has undertaken. It is a political blunder in the sense that if he intends to continue in politics, then he has ruined himself. If he had issues, he should have found out time to reach back to his constituency. What are his grounds for defection? He said the party (PDP) has split. In the Senatorial District that sent him to the Senate, the party is intact. The other party he claimed to have joined is not in existence. It is only a few disgruntled people that left the PDP either before or during the election, and went to take cover in the APC. But they could not produce even a councillor in the entire senatorial district. At the Federal House, three seats were won by the PDP; So where is the APC in the district that he represents? The decision he took, to me, appears to be more of a personal economic survival decision, because he knows that for the past 18 months, he has not been able to reach out to his constituency; he has not told them what he has been doing in the Senate. We recently found out that he has been often present in the Senate. So, having not been able to deliver in the past 18 months, he looks at a situation that he will have to come back to pay for the months wasted, and then continue in the remaining two and half years. He felt the best option, economically, was to stay away from those people that sent him to the Senate so that he would go with whatever earnings he makes. He could have used the festive periods to reach his constituency, but he never did. He has not been able to hold a single meeting with the entire Senatorial District for 18 months. He is running away from his responsibilities.
TALKING ABOUT THE CONVOCATION OF THE POLITICAL MEETING, ONE OF THE THINGS SENATOR NELSON EFFIONG SAID WAS THAT THE GOVERNOR HAS NOT BEEN CALLING FOR MEETINGS AND STAKEHOLDERS HAVE NOT BEEN CALLING MEETINGS. YOU WERE ONCE A MEMBER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WITHIN THE PARLIAMENTARY ARRANGEMENT, WHO SHOULD CALL THE MEETING?
The Governor has been calling meetings. There was a stakeholders meeting in December which each senator addressed, and he did not give any indication that he was no longer a member of PDP. He is supposed to call for meetings in his senatorial district and invite the Governor to be briefed, but he has not done so. It almost got to a point we the stakeholders would have convened a meeting and invited him. Maybe he had a premonition of that coming. We were to call a meeting, sponsor it, invite him and announce it in the media and see whether he wouldn’t come; but he has escaped that from us.
LET’S LOOK AT THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE LAWMAKER PARTICULARLY THE ONE IN ABUJA AND THE SEAT OF POWER IN UYO. FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE, HOW BEST COULD MATTERS LIKE THIS BE AMICABLY RESOLVED BETWEEN ABUJA AND HOME SO THAT THE UNITY IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE STATE WOULD BE COMPROMISED?
When you are sent to the National Assembly, the expectation is that you will represent your constituent at the national level. For you to effectively represent, you have to relate with them from time to time, call meetings and hear their expectations. But in this case, our senator was not doing that and so he forgot about the people that he was representing.
The state is also supposed to relate with members of National Assembly. I am aware that there should have been some relationships between the national assembly members and the state government. What I notice with ineffective members of the National Assembly is that they also try to find some soft targets back home to attack so as to be heard because they are not able to express themselves at the national level. It is not easy coming out in a crowd of 366 people in the House of Representatives or coming out of 109 senators in the Senate. So when people sit there and are not able to express themselves to prominence, the option is to come back home to attack the soft targets. I would advise our representatives at the national level to concentrate more on attracting benefits to themselves and their state at the national level.
TALKING ABOUT THE INABILITY OF THIS SENATOR TO PERFORM AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL, WE ARE TALKING A GENTLEMAN WHO WAS A MEMBER OF THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY; HE ROSE TO BECOME THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY. WHAT IS ABOUT THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY THAT A FORMER SPEAKER CAN NO LONGER SPEAK?
It is on the bases of having been a two-term member of the State House of Assembly and Speaker of the State House of Assembly that we supported him to the Senate. Unfortunately, he had a very easy emergence at the party level. I have to say this that I was opposed to his nomination.
WHY WERE YOU OPPOSED?
I was opposed because he is one of those who openly and repeated said that Eket Senatorial District does not have a qualified person to be governor at that time. He was canvassing through the Uyo Senatorial District candidate to be Senator for Eket and we disagreed. But because some senior elders of the party pleaded with us to allow him because of his cognate experience to go the Senator, we supported him, and luckily for him, the entire senatorial district voted one-way because of the dominance of PDP in the senatorial district. That was how he emerged to go to the Senate.
I followed him closely while he was there trying to assist him to the extent that in July last year, I told that we should hold a meeting in the senatorial district. He complained about his inability to finance it, I offered to join in financing the meeting with him, but he failed to come for the meeting.
WE ARE MADE TO UNDERSTAND THAT THESE PARLIAMENTARIANS HAVE VERY DEEP POCKET WITH THEIR ALLOWANCES, BUT I’M SURPRISED TO HEAR THAT A SENATOR COULD NOT FINANCE A MEETING…?
Deep pocket is in the imagination of the constituent. It is not as deep as they think.
HOW COME OTHER SENATORS CAN HOLD MEETINGS?
It is a big sacrifice, but you have to do it if you want to be an effective representative. Talking about the cost of hosting, you know there is so much pressure on the legislature. People are regarding them as organs of governments which they are not. When you come to a situation where your constituency asks you to give them food, pay their children school fees, treat them and every other domestic responsibilities of the constituents, the pressure is very much on the members of the legislature both at the national and state levels to the extent that the debt rate of the legislators is by far higher than that of those who serve in the Executive, not just the Governor but all those in the executive arms of government. The pressure is more on people who were voted in by the constituents.
PEOPLE FROM EKET SENATORIAL DISTRICT EVEN SOME AKWA IBOMITES ARE SO EMOTIONAL ABOUT THIS MATTER…?
In the entire history of political representation at the Senate from Eket Senatorial District, this, I would say, is the worst. Take it from the days of Barrister John Esin from Oron in the 1960s to the late Senator Victor Akan, those who were around then know how effective he was. Then we had Senator Etang Umoyo and Senator Udoma Udo Udoma who excelled in the Senate; even the two ladies – Senators Ufot Ekaette and Helen Esuene – all did well. Compare the six previous senators to Nelson Effiong. He should look for a way of redeeming his image because he is going out of PDP with nothing.
IN VIEW OF THE FACT THAT SENATOR EFFIONG HAS DITCHED THE PARTY, WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS FOR YOUR SENATORIAL DISTRICT AND THE PDP?
Well, our senatorial district is embarking on a search for a method of retrieving the mandate from him because we can’t afford to waste four years in the Senate.
THE ISSUE OF DECAMPING IS BECOMING A COMMON PHENOMENON IN THE NIGERIAN POLITICAL SCENE. IF YOU COMPARE OUR GROUND POLITICS TO AMERICA FOR INSTANCE, LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT THE LAST CONVENTION BOTH THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY AND THE PUBLICANS, ONE COULD SEE THE KIND OF BITTERNESS EXPRESSED AT THE CAMPAIGN BETWEEN HILLARY CLINTON AND THE OTHER CANDIDATE. THE OTHER CANDIDATE THAT CAME OUT AGAINST DONALD TRUMP, EVEN THE HOUSE SPEAKER RAN, DESPITE THE DIFFERENCES, NOBODY DECAMPED. HOW COME THAT NIGERIAN POLITICIAN, AT A LITTLE PROVOCATION, WOULD WANT TO NOT ONLY JUMP BUT DISLOCATE THE SAME BOAT WHICH HE USED TO CLIMAX HIS POLITICAL CARRIER? WHAT IS WRONG WITH NIGERIAN POLITICS?
Firstly, if you look at the situation between Nigeria and the United States, Nigeria borrowed the presidential system from United States in 1979 and was only allowed to practice it for a short period, the military intervened. We have not really had a long period of running the presidential system where people belong to their parties. Again, the background of the people who operate the system, the level of illiteracy and poverty amongst us is very high.
People don’t go to politics so much again to serve but to enrich themselves. When they find out that they cannot enrich themselves in a particular party or group, and they feel they are likely to make it in another, they move and their supporters are not even thinking of what the representative has in mind for them but are thinking of the little financial benefits that they can get. America has developed the system for over a number of years and it has stabilized. Principles are guidelines for the running of the system, but in our own case, principles are not there. The polity of impunity – imposition – is not helping matters. The constituents are the ones who know who their best representatives would be.
WHAT PROCESSES SHOULD WE USE IN TRYING TO HARNESS THE KIND OF INDIVIDUALS FOR THIS KIND OF POSITION IN THE FUTURE?
Governor Emmanuel is trying to avoid a situation where people are nominated by individuals to represent. It is the same process that threw him out in party which we are now regretting. He wanted the Governor to continue in that method. It is not the responsibility of members of the National Assembly or the House of Assembly to put people in the party to run the affairs of the party. It is the generality of the members of the party that should be consulted along with the leadership to produce those that should work for them. Senator Effiong is quarrelling with the Governor for not allowing him to nominate anybody he likes to fill offices.
YOU WILL AGREE WITH ME THAT THIS IS NOT UNCONNECTED TO POLITICS. WE ARE WITNESSES TO THE FACT IN OUR PART OF THE WORLD, THAT WHEN WE COME CLOSE TO ELECTION PERIOD, WE ARE BOUND TO HAVE THIS KIND OF PROBLEM IN THE SOCIETY. HOW BEST DO WE PLAY OUR POLITICS TO THE EXTENT THAT WE MUST NOT DISCONNECT, DISTRACT THE GOVERNMENT AND NOT ALLOW OUR PERSONAL INTERESTS TO SUPERSEDE THE COLLECTIVE INTEREST OF OUR PEOPLE? WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO THE STAKEHOLDERS OF THE STATE?
My advice is that we should return to the method we used in throwing out people to serve. That was collective decision of the people not individual decisions. We had a situation that each local government used to have a caucus. They would be people will be presented, analysed and best options taken. A situation where somebody sits somewhere, writes out the list of party executives and submitted, without reference to the leaders, is not the best way. I also had cause to complain because the trend has been for individuals to write names, but that didn’t make me leave the party.
In our own local government, we have a method of sitting together, analysing the aspirants for any office, selecting them and then putting to votes among the stakeholders; that is what we usually do. Eket has been quite lucky to be pushing out people that give us good representation. When people are imposed, we run into problems because those imposed will not serve the best interest.
HOW DO YOU FORESEE THE FUTURE OF PDP IN YOUR SENATORIAL DISTRICT BOTH AT THE STATE AND NATIONAL LEVELS?
We are organising ourselves to ensure that our district is represented by the best quality of people. We have done this in the past up till the last senator before Senator Nelson Effiong. The way I emerged at the Federal House was through a consensus of the people. I was not imposed by anybody. I didn’t have a godfather that sent me to the Federal House. Whenever you have that calling, you will have effective representation. That is what we expect at the state level. We implore all the office holders on our behalf to try to consult the people before taking decisions. My advice to Akwa Ibom people is that we should restrain ourselves from this attitude of trying to pull people down. I will also want to advise those who are representing us at whatever level, to try to make their position in the interest of the state and not use it to destroy the state or cause disharmony in the state. We have a number of our sons and daughters who are serving at the national level, they should not come back home to create disharmony because they serving there. If you are so effective, be effective and let your effectiveness bring good returns to the people.
Home / POLITICS / ONLY INEFFECTIVE LAWMAKERS IN ABUJA COME HOME TO ATTACK SOFT TARGETS – Rt. Hon. Chief Nduese Essien
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