Chief Bassey Dan-Abia is a legal practitioner who has served his state, Akwa Ibom, in various capacities. A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dan-Abia speaks about issues that will dominate the politics of the state
As a major political stakeholder in Akwa Ibom State, what issues do you think should dominate the campaign of aspiring governorship aspirants in the state?
Akwa Ibom State is majorly a civil servant state, if you take away the oil majors, and perhaps a few other and then of course the servicing companies, you will find out that there are no industries. So, the Akwa Ibom State needs to be industrialized. In fairness to past leaders from Obong Victor Attah, the architect of modern Akwa Ibom, as you can see also a lot infrastructure has been put in place. and then of course, the immediate past governor, His Excellency Senator Godswill Akpabio built on that legacy of Attah that he left behind in terms of the airport, the five star Meridian Hotel, plus the new ones he also originated.
So, you need to industrialise because the basic infrastructures are already there; and emphasis should now be on industrialisation.
And of course militancy is a common feature in the Niger Delta and by industrialisation, employment will be created so that most of these jobless youths can be taken off the streets. That will also reduce poverty in the short term, and of course in the long term remove poverty. I am not talking about poverty alleviation. Poverty should be taken away form our midst. There should be a blueprint on how to achieve this.
So, within the short, medium and long term plan, the vision to industrialise Akwa Ibom State and take it from the ruins of those civil service dominated states and convert it to an industrialized state, should be set out.
The oil companies should be able to create other industries that can take advantage of the oil related products, for example the gas. Internationally, Nigeria is more of a gas country than crude oil and this is what people don’t know. We have the gas reserve that has not been tapped.
How can the IGR of the state be increased as a way of enhancing the industrialization of the state?
What policies do you have in place to also increase the IGR base of the state and actualise industrialisation of the State?
When you set up the necessary environment, first of all, you create the enabling environment and when you do this, it means you have the infrastructures because how would you encourage the youths to go into barbing of hair, vulcanizing etc, if there is no light? How many of them can afford to buy generator and the cost of fueling it? So. you create the enabling environment by putting those basic infrastructures in place including light and other amenities.
You also support them financially through grants and soft loans and then even the attitudinal reorientation; except you are born certified evil, otherwise attitude can be changed. In psychology, it is said that a child is born blank, it is the experience and the environment that writes on them. So, if the environment has created this negative attitude to work ethic, the environment can also debrief and clean them and encourage them to have that sense of dignity in labour, take pride in earning rather than sit down.
In terms of IGR, how do you pay tax when you don’t earn? Tax is based on earning. Do you expect an unemployed person to pay tax? No. A company that is not making profit to pay tax, that thing is income tax. In actual sense you have to earn money before you can pay tax. So, IGR will be improved if we improve the industrial base, encourage entrepreneurship, generate income, people take pride having small businesses, growing businesses, even the moribund ones would also be given incentives to resurrect them.
All these will trigger entrepreneurship and economic growth within the state thus leading to increase of IGR of the state. And also attitude too, people when they see that the government is sincere, when they trust the government. How would you pay tax when you are not sure if the government will use your money to develop, if you believe that all the money is going to the pockets, if you believe that the government have not even accounted for the ones that they collected from the statutory monthly allocation?
So, when we bring the government nearer to the people, when we create people oriented government, when we allow the people to choose the government, people vote and they are happy we voted, this is our own government, when people own the government, people would be sympathetic to the government and people would be willing to help that government. So the divide between us and they, the government being they, there will be no division between the people and the government any longer.
How can the state tackle the issue of tax evasion?
We have a problem because we don’t create strong institutions, we rather create strong people and that is dangerous. When an institution is strengthened, you would not have discretion, you would be compelled to work according to that institution, which has been strengthened.
If people realise that it is their civic responsibility to pay tax, if people realise that if they don’t pay tax they would be sanctions, of course, they would stop. So, part of strengthening this institution also includes coming up with sanctions, not intimidation, enlightenment also counts.
How can leaders be made to be accountable to the people of the state?
As often as possible because it would not be wise to say monthly, weekly. I have had the privilege of serving. The trouble we have is that we now have new breed of leaders who have never been followers, you have people that are leading that have never been led. They don’t have leaders, who taught them. Where did you learn? You must learn, there must be tutelage in every profession, you learn and you grow.
I have had the privilege of working as a civil servant, I have been in state council, of course, starting from youth service, you serve as a youth corps member and you learn. You went into public service, you went into your own professional services, you went into government, serve at various levels. I have been a special assistant to a minister, I learn so if I become a minister today I have something to fall back on. I moved on to the state government, I have been attorney general and commissioner for justice, I have been a commissioner for transport, I have been commissioner for housing and urban renewal, I have been a state rep in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), I have been the acting chairman of the governing board of NDDC and I have been a CEO; that is experience, you don’t buy it in the market.
I have been a student, I have learnt from the masters, I served under Obong Victor Attah, I served as special assistant to Don Ettiebet. We have crawled, we have walked, we are ready to run and we will run systematically. We have been around and we know where those banana pills are, we would avoid them.
Soon, electioneering campaigns will take over the length and breadth of the country as we approach 2019, what is your message for the people of Akwa Ibom State?
The people of Akwa Ibom State certainly deserve something better than what we have today. Akwa Ibom needs a change, they need a new orientation, attitudinal and practically. Akwa Ibom needs to step up, build on the legacy that the past leaders have left behind.
When I say change, change in attitude, practically, theoretically and attitudinally; a new lease of life, a new way of doing things, hope; let the citizens of the state feel that something new has happened to them.
When I say continuity, you continue with what is good, you improve on what you came to see. So the message is a message of hope, I will restore the lost hope, sense of pride, participation-we own it, it is our government not their government, you don’t sit down and complain, sense of belonging, trust in government, that is what I will bring on board.
The trouble we have is that we now have new breed of leaders who have never been followers