Chief Edet Nkpubre is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State. He is a former National Vice-Chairman of the PDP (South-South). He was at the forefront of the agitation for power shift to Oro in 2015 election. In this interview with Peter Isio-eyen, he speaks on a wide range of issues. Excerpts:
You were recently honoured with a traditional title by your people. What is the significance of the title and how do you intend to use it for the betterment of the Oro people?
The title is the highest in Oro Nation. When you are recognised at the capacity it means more responsibilities for you to put the interest of Oro above any other interest in your dealings with humanity and in every situation. I am an Oron man first before an Akwa Ibom man before a Nigerian. It’s a serious responsibility. You are supposed to live above board and to protect the interest of Oro at all cost. It is not a frivolous title. At that level of recognition as the Ikpoto Oro, you subsume your personal interest and emphasize that of Oro. Your people recognise that you are in a position to fight a cause. That means you must be able to put food on your table and talk to people and express your views without fear of consequences to your personal comfort. It’s a very high honour and I cherish it so much.
The administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel has appointed an Oro man as the secretary to the state government. What is the political value of that office to the Oron Nation?
I want to emphasize that spirit of Oro 2015 is still alive. We didn’t produce a governor in 2015 but the message we sent forth was very clear. If the people in power could not concede to Oro demand, the good of people of Akwa Ibom will in future know that there is a need to accommodate Oro for a harmonious relationship and for the total development of Akwa Ibom state. It is that spirit that the bulk of us who were in PDP have moved to APC in support of Nsima Ekere’s aspiration in 2019 whom we believe when elected will be in a position to address the yearnings of Oro people. Yes, Udom has picked a good material from the Oro as secretary to the state government. Previous appointments have been given to persons who are humiliating to Oro political hierarchy to promote the syndrome of dogs eating lions in Oro.
But, what is the political significance of that office to Oro nation?
That appointment reflects inclusiveness. Oro had been completely out of the political dynamics in Akwa Ibom after Akpan Isemin and Attah’s government. Akpabio completely ignored Oro. Udom is a continuation of Akpabio. He started on the same line of marginalizing and ignoring Oro in the political equation of the state. Fortunately, for one reason or the other, he realized that there is a need to bring an Oro person into his government. I suspect it is because many serious politicians from Oro are on the other side of the political divide.
What do you mean by the other side?
It is because very senior politicians in Oro are in the APC. So the politics is that let me bring Oro in my government so that I can weaken the strength of APC in Oro. It is a smart political move. We in the APC are aware of the strategy and we have developed a counter strategy come 2019 to bring Oro more into the government of Akwa Ibom and in fact reflect the tripod configuration which had in the past emphasised inclusiveness and tribal harmony in the politics of the state. But let me reiterate that the spirit of 2015 is still alive, and we would advise APC and PDP to take interest in discussing Oro issue with the entire Akwa Ibom stakeholders as regards the time and year a person of Oro extraction would become the governor of the state. That will be the greatest pronouncement that would influence votes in Oro in 2019.
What is your assessment of the Udom administration in the infrastructural development of Oro Nation?
Well, in 2015 when we were at the tribunal and then to the Court of Appeal, and the Appeal Court ordered a rerun of the governorship election in the state. Udom rushed and did groundbreaking for the dualisation of Nsit Atai-Oron road. I granted an interview and said where I emphasised that this was a deception to woo Oro votes because of the impending governorship rerun. I did say that this groundbreaking political shenanigan to deceive Oro people. And immediately the Supreme Court upturned the judgment of the Appeal Court, that road construction stopped. Again, when Etim Inyang was being buried, they resumed it again; the same road. This was done to deceive the visitors that Oro was in the development equation of the state. The little they are doing today in Oro Nation is because the NDDC is making an inroad in building roads into Oro Nation. So the few roads the Udom government is doing in Oro is because NDDC has set a very high mark in terms of road construction in Oro Nation. In fact the government of the state has being preventing the NDDC from doing some of the roads that were awarded and contractors mobilized to site.
Suffice it to say that this type of competition is not healthy for the development of the state, particularly Oro Nation.
The Udom administration is reputed to be performing well in the area of industrialization. Do you share this sentiment?
Udom’s strong points to the ordinary people would seem like the security and peace currently enjoyed in the state because there are no kidnappings and killings as it used to be….
What about the insecurity in Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun?
He has dealt with the insecurity in Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun like in other government would have done. But what I fault in the security issue is that he is still keeping cultists in his government and people related to cultism from our localities in his government. He is still keeping them as chieftains in his party. This came to the fore during the local government elections. We saw guns been shot; we saw boys running away with ballot boxes and papers. Those were the same boys; the same attitude we had during the administration of Godswill Akpabio. So he should check his security and the boys he is preserving for 2019. What we want in 2019 is a free and fair and non-violent election.
What about his industrialisation initiative?
Talking about industrialisation; anybody who wants to industrialise Akwa Ibom should go and dust up the development template of ex-Governor Victor Attah. If you use that template you would have developed Akwa Ibom to a level where we should be competing or leveling up Lagos state.
In other words, are you saying that Udom’s industrialization template is not feasible?
You see, he has his own idea of developing his Onna people with little cottage industries here and there. Is it not the same government that promised an industry in every local government of the state? Have you seen one in your local government? I have not seen one in mine. We talk about coconut, pencil, metering and syringe factories. To my mind, those are little cottage industries that don’t have the multiplier effects that can transform the lives of the people. That is why I am saying that he should go back to what Attah did. If you go back and do the Ibaka industrial city; Ibaka Industrial City was supposed to have a deep seaport, a fertilizer plant, some oil companies, five star hotels, industrial estates, residential estates etc. If he does that he would have transformed Akwa Ibom and attract population build up from other parts of the world with attendant economic benefits. Go to the airport project. That airport was not meant for mere passengers. That airport was conceived primarily for the maintenance and repair of aircrafts which is a major source of income to the Ethiopian government. We have belittled that airport.
Don’t you think the problem could be lack of funds?
No. it is due to the lack of focus. If they borrowed in Akwa Ibom to develop the stadium and other non-revenue projects which to me has no serious economic benefit to the people of Akwa Ibom; if they could tar roads at the cost of over a billion naira per kilometer, then lack funds could not have been the issue. Somebody was out to diminish the brilliance of Attah’s government. Talk about the science park. By now our children would have been in the Silicon Valley. They would have developed Akwa Ibom. People would have had good living; people would have been creative in that park and probably we would have been somewhere else. But some people were not willing to take off from where their predecessor stopped; they were out to diminish the predecessor so that they come out with their own projects. And they then do the publicity which was not matched with the volume of funds which came to the state. But some people contended that Akwa Ibom has moved and my answer is at what cost?
Some APC states are said to be owing salaries but the case is different in Akwa Ibom. What is the secret?
Who told you that? Some workers and pensioners are crying. I have some pensioners who are my friends who ask me for help to eat because the state government has not paid them. Who told you they are paying pensioners? Who told you they are paying salaries as when due. They are owing backlog of salaries of teachers, local government workers etc. They are owing. Those fake stories are politics. Go to the streets and speak with teachers and other civil servants and ask them when they were paid last. It is politics of propaganda.
Do you think Buhari deserves a second term with the issue of insecurity, dwindling economy?
Let me tell the honest fact and I am going to be very frank here. You see the economic situation in this country; people are crying wolf. I think the economy is Buhari’s strongest point. This country was run as there no policies, no control. Government policies were not there to encourage productivity.
We created policies which encouraged everybody accessing foreign exchange and imported whatever they liked. Such policies killed Bata which used to produce shoes from hides and skin.
We opened our doors to second hand shoes and Bata died; Lenard also died. These were companies which used to produce shoes from hides and skins from Nigeria. We drove away Dunlop; we drove away Michelin. We opened our doors because we had foreign exchange. People brought in rotten second hand tyres from China and we killed those industries.
Ibom as a unit, not as my tribe or local government. Fortunately we have shown capacity in the APC to bring out that change because we have the template to transform the state.