by crossriverwatch admin
Chief Alex Egbuna is the Chief of Staff to Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State. He is perceived by Cross River Politicians as the de facto governor, wielding so much power and a strong financial war chest. Prior to the September 21, 2013 LG polls, several political actors in the State are accusing him of imposing candidates for the election. But in this exclusive interview with CrossRiverWatch in his Abi palatial home were he hosted senior members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors recently, the Itigidi Chief debunks the accusations saying no one can impose candidates in Cross River State.
CRWatch:There are accusations that you are singlehandedly imposing chairmanship candidates and councillors for the local government elections. How true is this allegation?
COS: That’s not true. The process has been transparent since we started the exercise to choose candidates for the local government election but as the procedure was going on, there is a policy of the party that in Cross River, the process had to be implemented, that they state should produce three women and thirty five percent affirmative action; that three local governments should produce three women, one from each senatorial zone.
So when they were selling this idea; that each LGA was supposed to produce three women councilors and even do more than that if you want; so when the governor was trying to sell this idea people were arguing that the governor should show us a good example by starting from his LGA.
He should lead by example and he should produce a woman in his council but that woman should still come from his Ekwerowo ward but there was no woman at that point in time but we thought there was no woman at all and we were in the dilemma of taking a woman; and this part of the LGA, we know women are active and since we were working on consensus and by the wisdom of the elders one of the women was picked.
CRWatch: What about other local governments beyond Abi, what influence did you have in imposing other candidates especially being the Chief of Staff to the governor, because as the Chief of Staff, you are said to have so much money and being larger than life?
COS: I have not influenced any but as a political leader you put in a word and your word may not be binding on the other party members. Let me be very sincere, in some local governments some of my friends are running especially a man who is actually my friend Captain Inah didn’t emerge. So if I have that kind of power I would have imposed him but he did not emerge. He is my good friend that shows you I cannot impose. But your friends and brothers can tell you to put in a word for them but you can’t impose in Cross River State. In Cross River State we allow the LGA to come out with their candidates and that’s what we did in Abi.
CRWatch: What factors determine who emerges in each local government?
COS: First there must be zoning. We make sure that every local government area respects zoning so that even the minority can produce a chairman of the local government to give a sense of belonging. Like we have up to four councillors in this ward so we don’t zone, we may remain councillors for life because this area is very large. My ward stretches from after Itigidi down to Abi and beyond. By so doing, choosing a local government chairman depends on the local government. Even the minorities would be given a chance to govern.
CRWatch: How are you working to ensure even and continuous development of the State especially for a state where people have accused the governor of not being around most of the time and as Chief of Staff who seem to know everything about the government; how are you people working in the area of development?
COS: Well there is a master plan for the development of Cross River State right from 1999. Some people sat down; some Cross Riverians sat in Lagos, some young men with good ideas, with good education, to plan the development of the state. They brought in Donald (former governor Donald Duke) he did eight years and Imoke (current governor of Cross River) was in the team and a fifty year development plan was initiated and Imoke is doing another eight years which ends by 2015 and after him another person will take over as the agenda is already there, whether the person is around or not. The plan is there. The development spans for fifty years and whoever is coming again after Imoke would implement the plan.
CRWatch: Does it matter if the person comes from the APC?
COS: There is nothing like that. He will not emerge. Not in Cross River, of course in Cross River we are doing well with little resources. There is peace in Cross River that is why you are seeing so many companies coming into the state. There is General Electric. We are believing that one day your company will come down to Cross River. We are coming up gradually. We are not even talking about oil. We are finding a way of getting money. We are going into tourism. If you go to Obudu for instance it is called Ranch Resort, now that place is better than anywhere in the world. As I speak to you from this my place in Abi to that place is about seven hours drive by road. The development of Cross River is something that is in-built. In Cross River State; we don’t just build schools, if you are entering a school it is a complete package of rebuilding rather than renovating only. Currently we are rebuilding over sixty secondary schools across the state; we are constructing three stadia across the state.
CRWatch: How has the relocation of the oil wells from Cross River to neighbouring Akwa Ibom state affected you?
COS: If somebody says it has not affected us the person may not be saying the truth. It has affected us. What we do believe in Cross River state is doing some re-adjustment. We have reduced some political appointees to a large extent. Forget about spending on frivolities in the state because the government wants to be involved in development projects such as building of schools; opening roads; we are trying to connect a mono rail from Calabar airport to Tinapa; but the non availability of funds is stalling the progress of such project but it’s still in the pipeline. But we hope to complete such projects as we are still believing that with the blessing of God we will get the oil back to help in the development of the state.
CRWatch: What about Tinapa? It was a project that was drummed very loud as possessing the capacity to change the fortunes of the state; but it seems to have died down?
COS: Tinapa has 270 rooms hotel working. We have about five banks in Tinapa. The expectation has not been actualized fully but it’s picking up gradually. Government wants to privatize Tinapa. The dream of Tinapa would not die. It’s supposed to be a gold mine in future especially after the dredging of Calabar River which is being done by the federal government. Cross River state is still developing and we are trying our best to make things better.
CRWatch: Finally, how do you market Cross River state?
COS: Cross River state is a tourism destination where people can come and enjoy themselves. Where peace is supreme. There is nothing like boko haram here. The state is very peaceful. I’m the only Chief of Staff that can drive around town without escort. An Akwa Ibom man cannot even step out of his house and stand outside.
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