How would electorates distinguish between politicians who are selfish in ambition and those who are service-oriented?
I believe that nobody should be allowed to go into public office without some antecedents in service. You must check the records of the person. What has the person been doing? What are the person’s responses to societal ills? What has been the person’s attitude towards what is happening in someone’s environment? What level of contribution has he made to the society? Antecedents of every politician should be the benchmark. Nobody should walk out of the university and become a councillor.
So how should we elect councillors?
It should be for people who are experienced in the life; people that have passed through life, those that have served the society in one or the other, people who have demonstrated some level of service to the society. I believe that the qualification for any public office should not just be what is written in the law. It should be what has this person been? Experience is the best teacher. Experience will teach the person who is holding the office and also teach the people around the person holding the office. So, don’t just allow someone walk fresh out of the university, fresh from any where he has not served before to go in to public office unless there will be abuse. Abuse will ne inevitable in such circumstances.
There is this perception that elected public office holders are not close to the grassroots people as they are suppose to be. How can we change this?
That is exactly what I’m saying. The Local Government system was a well-conceived idea, was to bring government very close to the people, it was to affect development at the hinterland. It was to ensure that the problem of hinterland is brought to the state so that the state can either intervene or take it to the Federal Government. These were some of the reasons for setting up local government system but I’m not sure we are achieving those targets. We need to do a rethink in the local government system. The smallest electable office in the country is the office of the councillor. I didn’t mean to stop at the councillorship position. Even if it is the local government chairman you are talking about, the governorship, members of the House of Assembly, office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They must have antecedents of service, antecedents of experience, antecedents of professionalism, and antecedents of what they have been doing before they are now called to serve. No matter how intelligent they are thought to be, no matter what kind of genius they a believed to be, they must have that level of exposure, that level of background, and that level of antecedent. So, the local government system will not function until we bring people who are experienced as officers, as councillors or as Local Government chairmen.
As for the funds that are going to the LGAs, there are certain interfaces that must be in place. I don’t believe that the state government should tamper with the Local Government funds. I believe that a system of Local Government that is not superintended over cannot be a very successful local government system. There must be some form of superintendence over the local government system. The state government will be in a better position to superintend over the local government not necessarily to have opportunity to take from the purse of the local government but to let the local government define what they are going to do with the monies accruing to them. Apart from paying salaries, what other achievement, what other targets, what other projects are you going to do with the money? Somebody must be there to do that. If that is not done, of course we will stay where we are.
Is the judiciary still the last hope of the common man? Yea but with some reservations, especially when it comes to election matters. I have a lot of reservations about the impartiality of the judiciary as it were, the independence of the judiciary as it were. But generally, it is still the last hope of the common man in the day-to-day cases, civil court cases and criminal cases especially with the promulgation of the administration of criminal justice act in Nigeria. A lot has been done in the judiciary to assist the administration of justice but when it comes to dispensation of political justice, the judiciary cannot come out strong on that. That is why the Chief Justice of Nigeria had to cry out over inconsistencies in the decisions of the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal is supposed to be one of the most respected judiciary institutions in the country. But what has happened in the last few months in the country has given us so many reasons for concern; that is why the Chief Justice could not hold his peace any longer.
...But there are reforms in the judiciary
Not necessarily reforms. There are a lot of reforms we have done in the judiciary but we need to look at men of integrity to man the judiciary because it is a very critical institution in any political system. We have enough law that guides what should be done in any particular matter. There are statutes, decided cases, judicial precedents. There are many cases within the Nigerian jurisdiction or within the Commonwealth jurisdiction or within the international jurisprudence that can guide the discretion of every judge to dispense justice under any circumstances and in any case. But that is not what we are having in Nigeria. There are many political cases before the court especially in Court of Appeal. There are judgments that are very questionable. The Court of Appeal stamps the decisions of the Supreme Court (which is the final court in the land) on their head. Clearly, you have seen the decision of the Supreme Court on cases, on the same fact, on the same issues, on the same legal principle and then you go against such decisions. That is why the Chief Justice said this is not fair for the country, this is not good for the country. So, there must be a system that the Chief Justice of the Federation must stand up with the Judicial Council to ensure that Judges that err in their rulings are cautioned. Because there is how you make a mistake and you know that this is an innocent mistake, but once judicial precedence and the issue of law is clearly settled and a judge goes against that, then that judge must be investigated. It can never be in vain, it can never be innocent, it can never be a mistake. There is what is called Recondite point of law, they are already settled, settled laws that nobody should go against it, that canons have already established. For instance, election is done in units, not at the collation centre. There are so many Supreme Court decisions right from 1983 that state that if you want to void any election then you must go to the units, there must be witnesses from the units to say what happened at such units. The election result is contained in form EC8 A which is the result form issued at the unit of the election. It is not contained in EC8 B or EC8 C. EC8 B is the ward collation centre result, EC8 C is the Local Government Collation centre result. These are collated results. Therefore, if anybody must void an election, it is not the EC8 B or EC8 C that should be voided, it is the unit result. And before you void such election, there must be credible evidence from that unit. It has to be stated that the election is voided because of certain malpractices and evidence must come.
For instance in Akwa Ibom State, we have 2985 units. The APC, all of their witnesses were 54 in number. If you say there was no election in Akwa Ibom State, you must bring as many as 2985 witnesses.
...Honourable Commissioner you know that will take more than a year
It will take more than a year but a case must be made on the fact and on the law. Yes, that is why it should be very difficult to say there was no election, not for anybody to go to the press and say there was no election. Anybody who goes to the press to say there was no election in Akwa Ibom State on the 11th of April is not telling the truth. Because for instance, in my unit I was there from beginning to the end and I ensured that everybody was on queue to vote. That is what happened. In Etim Ekpo for instance, the only ward where we had gunshots was in Ward 9 and we knew that the mastermind of the gunshots was an APC person. My Local Government has 82 units. How can someone come and say there was no election in Etim Ekpo. I have enough knowledge of the politics in Etim Ekpo. These are the issues we are talking about. It is wrong for the court to come and say that there was not election in 2985 units of Akwa Ibom State based on the testimonies of 54 witnesses. That court cannot be telling the truth. That is against existing judicial precedence that was laid down by the Supreme Court as far back as 1983.
It is thought that the legislature in Nigeria is a rubber-stamp of the executive. What is your opinion on that?
I cannot share that opinion because by the grace of God I’ve been around here (Akwa Ibom State), whether in government or outside government but as an active believer or an active watcher of the situation. I can say that the legislature in Akwa Ibom State has been very dynamic.
...But we have never had instances of disagreement between the legislature and the executive
We are not saying there have not been disagreements. There have/will be disagreements but they must have a medium, they must have opportunity to come and resolve the misunderstanding without it necessarily getting to the public. Every system has misunderstanding. Even families have misunderstandings. That the legislature and the executive always resolve their differences and they come out together to work for the state does not necessarily mean that they are rubberstamp. I can’t share that opinion. For instance, they are making laws. The legislature is supposed to make laws and they have made a lot of laws; laws that bother on the welfare of Akwa Ibom State, laws that bother on how to improve the lot of the people. For instance, the Child’s Rights Act is one of the most celebrated legislations that have been done by the legislature in Akwa Ibom. Anybody who reads that law will know the tremendous impact the law has on the welfare of Akwa Ibom people. The essence of the legislature is to make laws for the good of Akwa Ibom State, the welfare of the people. Legislature is not supposed to be an arm of government that takes arms against the executive.
...but it is supposed to serve as a check for the executive
Of course it serves as a check. If you go to the House of Assembly, there are committees and these committees provide supervisory functions on the executive. Don’t forget that they approve budgets and they also monitor the implementation of the budget. For instance, they came to my ministry (even when I was not in the ministry from the start of last year i.e Commerce and Industry as it used to be then). They said yes, this was approved for the ministry last year what and what have done with this budget. That is what they are supposed to do. They don’t have to come to the public at every point they are performing their function. When I was in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Renewal I was called by the House of Assembly to come to explain some things. They asked ‘you were supposed to build 3 different housing units in the 3 senatorial districts of the state, what happened to the other one in Eket?’ I answered because I know what happened and they were satisfied with my explanations. When I was in the Ministry of Special Duties, we did most of the celebrated constructions in Akwa Ibom State. For instance, the then Speaker visited the site of construction from time to time with members of the House of Assembly. This is what they are supposed to do. They are not supposed to come there with cane; they are not supposed to come there with koboko and beat commissioner so that we’ll know that they are working, so that people will know that they are not rubberstamps. Of course, we owe them explanations for the ministries we are superintending over. For instance, the committee for Public Accounts also audits the account of the state government from time to time. That is what they are doing and they are doing it properly. That is what is happening at the Federal Government because some people come from the National Assembly to even the state here to find out what is happening.
The legality of the House of Assembly, as per its constitution is being challenged. Section 91 of the constitution says that the House of assembly should be constituted by not less than 24 and not more than 40 members. And in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, there are only 21 members. What is your take on the issue? (audio insert of APC's legal man, Barr. Victor Iyanam played)
It is unfortunate that a lawyer (Barr. Victor Iyanam) came to the radio and say what he said. It is unfortunate in the sense that section 91 of the constitution is not saying what he said. Section 91 sets the upper limit and lowest limit of membership of the House of Assembly. If you read down to section 96, it prescribes what the quorum for the House of Assembly to sit for the business of the day is which is 1/3 of membership. 1/3 of members of the House of Assembly form a quorum for the business of the House to be properly done. When you are talking about the upper number and lowest number of membership of the House of Assembly, that is for the purposes of representation and it is also only applicable upon the proclamation of the House of Assembly. On the day Onofiok Luke was made a Speaker, the House of Assembly had since been proclaimed. As far back as June 8, 2015 the Governor of Akwa Ibom State had proclaimed the House. So the issue of proclamation has been dealt with and it bothers on the issue of upper limit and lowest limit of membership of the house. As at that time the house was complete. When the House of Assembly is to do business in the house, take decisions in the house whether it has to do with lawmaking, constitution of leadership of the house it is 1/3 of the membership that is expected to carry out the business of the house and can someone say that 21 of 26 is not more than 1/3? On the issue of constitution of the house, Onofiok Luke is validly, constitutionally and legitimately was elected as the speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly on the day he was so elected. Now, there is no provision of the constitution which says what percentage of the assembly should elect a speaker. The only provision we have in the constitution is for the impeachment of the speaker or the deputy speaker which requires 2/3 majority of the members. It is only when you are impeaching the speaker or the deputy speaker that the law requires 2/3. The law is silent on when you are electing the speaker or deputy speaker. It doesn’t state what number is needed for that. When the House of Assembly is 1/3 constituted, they can elect a speaker or a deputy speaker or some other person into any other office of the house. And let me make one correction. Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has 22 members now. He (Iyanam) has forgotten that one APC member from Urue-Offong/Oruko is there in the house which makes it 22. And it is not five seats that were nullified; it is 4 seats that were nullified by the Court of Appeal. The House of Assembly at the moment has 22 members and that is more than 2/3. There is no business of the Assembly or legislature anywhere in the world that they require every member of the house to be present before that business can be done. In real lawmaking, the highest that the house is expected to have 2/3 majority of the members which is about 17 in the case of Akwa Ibom. Barrister Victor Iyanam cannot be right. He was not talking law, he was talking politics. He was imputing politics into the constitution and there is no room for such imputation in the constitution.
And let me also say this, the issue of what may happen in 3 months time (according to Iyanam who is trying to pre-empt the Supreme Court judgment), that is when we can talk about House of Assembly. What will happen in 3 months, if the Supreme Court says Udom go for rerun, your election is nullified, that is when we can talk about the Speaker becoming the Acting Governor of the state. And of course at that time, the rerun for the four constituencies that were nullified would have been conducted because it is 90 days. They will conduct the rerun before the assumed governorship rerun. So the house at that point will be properly constituted with 26 members. So he should also look at that. You don’t just come here and say the House is not properly constituted. For what purpose, for what business and for what event? That is what he should have told Akwa Ibom people and he should not just base his argument on section 91.
How pivotal is your role in the government of Udom Emmanuel?
We thank God for yet another opportunity to serve Akwa Ibom people under the leadership of Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, governor of Akwa Ibom State. We know that the governor has five cardinal point agenda which are job creation, wealth creation, poverty eradication, inclusiveness in government and of course the rest. The governor is also putting as a major platform to achieve this target the issue of industrialization of Akwa Ibom State. It is a very broad based objective to industrialize Akwa Ibom State at this point or industrialization as a policy is a very broad base policy trust. I can say that that is what Akwa Ibom State needs now to change the character of the state from a civil service state that it is or has been to an economic-driven environment. And it will take a man in the calibre of Udom Emmanuel and that is exactly what we are talking about here. It is a very onerous responsibility but because we have the support of the governor, we have the dedication of the governor, we have the ability in the governor to be able to achieve this, we have the antecedent in the governor, we have expertise in the governor to be able to achieve this, we have the reach in the governor to be able to achieve this. That is why we are not bothered.
It is very ambitious. Does the state have the funds to prosecute these projects?
Fund is idea. Fund is ambition. Fund is commitment. Fund is sincerity. If you have a man who is sincere, who has sincere ideas, who is very committed, who is very resourceful, who has connection with people who have the funds then fund is available. All we want now is peace in Akwa Ibom State. That is all we need. All we want is peace in Nigeria because it will be very difficult to bring foreign direct investments into Nigeria, not even Akwa Ibom State when the parameters of economic policies of the Federal Government which provides the gateway to international community are not definable. Where we are now there are no definable economic policies of the Federal Government of Nigeria so it becomes an uphill task for anybody to say I’m bringing foreign investment to Nigeria. We are talking to our friends outside Nigeria to bring foreign investments to Akwa Ibom and it is happening. We have done groundbreakings of many industries and it is very tasking at the moment because the economic policy of the federal government is not clearly defined. What the federal government is doing at the moment is fighting crime, fighting insecurity, fighting corruption. These are not economic policies. These are government actions, these are housekeeping issues. For instance, it is difficult in Nigeria today for an investor to take out fund, even with a legitimate investment in the country. There is no foreign exchange for you to take. Even if there was foreign exchange for you to take out you are not even allowed to take out. These are issues we need to contend as a country so that the floodgates of investments from outside can be encouraged. The federating states are the ones that are going to suffer. We need the encouragement from the centre to enable foreign investors to come to Akwa Ibom, generate enough confidence, generate enough trust that when they bring their money they will also have opportunity to take it out.
Does that mean that we are trying to achieve in Akwa Ibom will be hampered?
Yes, it will be hampered to a large extent. But we have a man who on his own has international connections. That is Udom Gabriel Emmanuel. He has already earned the confidence of the international community in the financial world. He has been managing money, whether in Nigeria, whether in Britain, people who have been managing finances elsewhere trust him. So when you are using his name to talk to an investor, we are not talking to an investor as if we are federal government, we are talking to investor as if we coming from Akwa Ibom State. That is why we are having the confidence we are having to do the groundbreaking of the industries that we will soon have in Akwa Ibom because those people believe in Akwa Ibom State through Udom Gabriel Emmanuel as a person. This is different from the macro economy that will give a broad picture of what Nigeria represents which will impact the federating states in the country. So, this is an exceptional case. There must always be an interface between what the state is doing, what the federal government is doing and how the federal government is relating with the international community. Don’t forget that the world has become a global village.
Would the governor achieve his objectives with the timeframe set for them?
Yes, sure he will. The first one was the bus assembly plant in Itu. The gentlemen from Isreal are already in the country with containers. They are clearing about 13 containers from the Lagos Port. Before the end of this month they will start actual work on site. As for the LED factory, the manager for the project is already on ground. As a matter of fact, I can tell you that there are just few things that is keeping it. They are done with the demarcation of the land. They want to start construction right away. The fertilizer blending plant in Abak, they are also shipping their equipments as I speak to you now. The other day we also did a metering factory in Onna. They key men of the company are coming to Uyo this week. On Thursday they will be on ground and then we’ll take final decisions to enable them ship in the equipments. They have given us a target that by 1st of June, 2016 they should have the first metre produced in Akwa Ibom State.
Can we quote you?
Yes, you can quote me. These are all products of confidence they have in the governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr Udom Gabriel Emmanuel. If you depend on the policy trust of the federal government these things would not have been possible.
The government has proposed money for the completion of Ibom Science Park and ICT Development Centre. What do you have to say about this?
It must go through a major re-organization because the Science Park as conceived many years ago is outdated. So if we are going to do a science Park we have to reconfigure the design and the technology to meet modern trends. There is need for Science Park but not in the mould it was designed because all those technologies have gone obsolete. This is 12 years after the conception of the park. It is going to be the same location. Government committed about N6billion for it. The money that was given for that project and the amount of work done cannot commensurate. They have to come and explain where the money that was meant for that project is. The idea of the science park was not jettisoned.
So that you continue with the projects your government has so far started, are you sure you are going to win the re-run if the Supreme Court nullifies the election?
It is a very big joke for someone to imagine or dream or fantasize that APC can win election in Akwa Ibom. It is impossible for APC to win election in the state. Even if they bring all the armies in the country, they can’t win Akwa Ibom State. The journey of PDP in the state is more than 16 years old. If you knew Akwa Ibom State before 1999, if you knew Akwa Ibom before 2007, and then you know Akwa Ibom today, you will know that this is not a day’s journey. Who are the APC people that will come and uproot PDP in Akwa Ibom? Who are they? Where are they from? I know the figures of what PDP can get in any election conducted in my Local Government (Etim Ekpo). I don’t need to be present, I don’t need to be in Etim Ekpo for the result to be obtained. That is the kind of thing I’m talking about. In 31 LGAs of Akwa Ibom State, the story is almost the same thing. Let us take the result of the last election. There were over a million votes at the last governorship election. PDP had 996,071 votes. That is more than 90 percent of the entire votes cast.
Honourable Commissioner we can’t dwell on that because it has been nullified
Let’s assume that the election was not properly done and it has been nullified but you don’t nullify the people that voted. It is not the people that have been nullified, but it is just the process that has been nullified. What I’m saying is that the number of PDP people in Akwa Ibom is too much for anybody to dream of coming to win PDP in the state. I have been in the business of election for a long time. I resigned as a lecturer in the university in 2002 because I wanted to take active part in politics. I know the mathematics of Akwa Ibom politics and elections. I have also understood that PDP has a partnership with the people which is unbreakable in Akwa Ibom State. It is not a misplaced partnership or covenant; it is a covenant that has been very beneficial to the people, a covenant that has resulted in the Uncommon Transformation of the state. That is the covenant we are talking about. It is a covenant that produced a governor who is well qualified, prepared and has the capacity (mental, physical and spiritual) to lead Akwa Ibom State to the next level. It is not a vain thing. I’m talking about what Akwa Ibom people believe. I’m talking about the conviction and this conviction is not just misplaced. How many people have decamped from PDP to APC to make that possible? The last one was when they said Aloysius Etok has joined APC. He had stopped being a member of PDP since his failed 3rd term bid. He left the party. He didn’t support us at the last election. Since Eseme Eyiboh lost to Dan Abia Jnr he had stopped being a member of PDP. Otu Ita Toyo had never voted in an election, even as the State PDP chairman. We have never felt his impact in PDP since he left as Party Chairman. Is it this four people that will come and change 996,000 votes? The only person I regret him making the mistake of leaving PDP is Ignatius Edet. That is why I said don’t be a politician, be a statesman. There is difference between being a politician and a statesman. A former Speaker of the House of Assembly should be a statesman. If you have grievances with your party, it is expected you sit down and thrash it out. It is a grave mistake for the former Speaker of the House of Assembly to leave the party. I used to think he was a great politician. I urge him to have a second look at this mistake he has done. I thought he has risen above that level of politics. Election is mathematics not metaphysics. It is adding figures to figures or subtracting figures from figures. Election is not going to the television to make unfounded claims. Someone came here and said there will be a tsunami of PDP to APC. From which planet is this going to happen? For example, take a look at what happened in Bayelsa. They could be attempts for people to come and take over Akwa Ibom because it is an oil rich state but Akwa Ibom people will not allow it because for 16 years of PDP government in Akwa Ibom or even before the PDP came, there has not been federal presence in Akwa Ibom State. Federal presence has not been here. The business of Akwa Ibom is a project of Akwa Ibom people by Akwa Ibom people and for Akwa Ibom people. We have the federal government but we don’t believe in the federal government because they don’t believe in us. We believe in ourselves. That becomes the basis for the covenant. So it is going to be impossible just like it happened in Bayelsa. 3 days of excruciating election with all amount of unprecedented violence perpetrated by the APC in Bayelsa yet the people stood their grounds and said we want Dickson and that is what it was. Take a look at the gladiators of APC in the state. They have lost elections in their local government areas. The only person that won election was their deputy governorship candidate who won in Urue-offong/Oruko. Let me tell you why he won. The gentleman who is now rumoured to have gone to APC, the former Chairman of the LGA, Okon Osung, went into an unholy alliance with APC. When we had information on that, we called him three times and we told him that we have heard he is crossing over to APC or that he was having an unholy alliance with APC; for them to return him the House of Assembly and then he return them in other elections. We told him that has never worked and as we predicted the alliance consumed him. It consumed him because he wasn’t consistent. Apart from that, every other LGA we won election convincingly. We believe that we can survive as a state just like the Bayelsans are surviving, just like Lagos state survived for 16 years without getting any support from the centre.
If you have such an unbreakable bond with the people, why are you wasting time going to the Supreme Court, why not head straight to the polls and reclaim the mandate?
It is our right to seek justice at the Supreme Court.
People should stop dreaming wild dreams. If they want to contest elections in 2019 they should come prepared. They should go and start preparing. We in Akwa Ibom have decided to stay with PDP and I can tell you that the Divine Mandate that was given to Udom Gabriel Emmanuel has been sanctioned by Akwa Ibom people. If we have to redo the election we are ready because that is the business of politics. No politician should be shy of election. Let them allow election to be credible. They have started a process of framing up people, writing false petitions against leaders of PDP in the state, in their mendacious thinking that the people will be arrested and dumped in detention while they go for election. It is impossible. Let them understand that the moment they do that it will be a clear invitation of the wrath of the people. Akwa Ibom people are ready for them. If they want to do election let the election be free and fair. Let everybody be given opportunity. We want them to come and contest election with us. That is how to show which party is in Akwa Ibom State. We are not shying away from election. I want to thank Akwa Ibom people for your continuous support to the PDP government, especially the government of Udom Gabriel Emmanuel. I want to thank you for your unwavering prayers for Udom Emmanuel, I want to thank you for your patience with Udom Emmanuel, I want to thank you for your support for Udom Emmanuel as was shown by the Eket Senatorial District people last Saturday as against what we had in Uyo. They (APC) said they were doing prayers. What kind of prayer will you be doing and you are attacking leaders of the state? What kind of prayers are you holding and you are telling lies there? God cannot be mocked. Nobody can lie in God’s name. God cannot be hoodwinked. You are holding prayers and you are insulting people and telling lies. We are saying that it is justice for Eket Senatorial District to produce governor and Udom Emmanuel represents that justice. Akwa Ibom people, please continue to support the government of Udom Gabriel Emmanuel. God bless Akwa Ibom State. God multiply Akwa Ibom State and make the state fruitful in the mighty name of Jesus.