by crossriverwatch admin
The Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly and governorship contender in 2015, speaks with UBONG ANTHONY, in Calabar on wide range of issues, including when he served as the acting governor of the State in 2012 when a Supreme Court ruling sacked Governor Liyel Imoke from office.
There are lots of complaints from the business community in the state over double taxation. What has the Assembly done to streamline the activities of numerous tax collectors?
We are, deliberately as a government, trying to grow our economy. In the absence of oil, we look back at some areas we believe we have a comparative advantage, where we believe we are naturally endowed, explore all of these. But, one thing you need to understand is that all over the world, citizens, who have attained certain age in life, who are self-employed or employed by government, must pay some form of tax. For instance, the Gambian economy is a tax economy. Taxation is that country’s primary source of revenue. The government taxes the citizens and the people are happy because they see the results of the taxes they pay. That is what we are trying to do in Cross River state. We are not limiting ourselves to whatever we get from the Federation Account because we know what we get from there cannot give us what we are doing in the state. But, we believe that if our economy must grow and wax strong, we should all be fully engaged in the process of giving fillip to it (the economy). Everyone who is doing any form of business in the state must be captured in the tax system to the extent that you give your little. I certainly frown at double taxation. I won’t be able to make a clear statement on that because it is something I need to look at and also cause the appropriate committee in the Assembly to look at. But, taxes that are defined, as for example, the local governments by their own law, have their taxes which they expect the citizens to pay. The state government has power to collect some taxes but all the taxes y should be streamlined in such a manner that they do not appear double.
It is no longer news that you are running for the office of the governor in 2015. What particularly informed your decision to contest beyond the rhetoric of most politicians with inordinate ambitions?
I have the motivation to offer service. I believe a lot has happened in the last couple of months in our state in the build up to 2015, particularly in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which I am a member. We have tried to look closely at the principle of zoning and we recognise that we have three senatorial districts. Two out of the three, as it were, have benefited and the party thought that for equity and fairness, the third senatorial district, which is the North, should be given an opportunity to have its turn. So, with that understanding, the enlarged caucus of the PDP met towards the end of 2013 zoned the governorship slot to the North. It has been formalised at the level of the enlarged caucus of the PDP in the state not by any court of law any way but based primarily on understanding, realizing and appreciating that for equity, justice and fairness, we need to respect that (arrangement). Having done that and by the special grace of God that I come from the North, it gives me first the platform and reason to contest. So, I have been able to scale the first hurdle and have been around too for some time and still serving and working closely with our leaders in the party and in government and above all, believing that I do not lack in capacity to offer service at that level.
I am offering myself and I have started consultations. I started in December 2013 to meet leaders across the State. Primarily, my motivation is to serve and I believe that our state is a peculiar one, as we don’t have all that our sister state have. Nonetheless, we are rich in human resources and we believe that by working together with our leaders and followers, we will continue to manage ourselves and our little resources in the way and manner that we will still be able to create the necessary impact, provide welfare services, security for our people and take our state to the level that we expect it to be between now and 2020.
How do you intend to brave the odds, considering the fact that other aspirants are also well connected politically and possess the war chest?
I don’t know what you mean by well connected but I am well connected to God the Almighty and that is my source of strength. I am equally well connected to the members of my party, the PDP and the people of the state. All these constitute my strength, by the special grace of God. The contest is all about politics, it is all about democracy and the choice of the people. It is all about how well one is able to market himself; it is all about trust and confidence. I am not looking at who and who are in the race and how well connected they are. I believe in what my vision is and what I will be able to do for my people. I welcome everyone, who thinks he or she has somebody to offer and at the appropriate time, the PDP family, through consensus or the ballot, will come out with someone as candidate that will have what it takes to truly take our state and our people to the next level.
Would you say that having enjoyed the perks of that office in 2012 as acting governor gives you an edge over other aspirants?
Of course, it does or you don’t think so? I believe it does because they say the taste of the pudding is in the eating. I have been there and I know how it works. Short as it may have been, the spirit is already inculcated and I will say that I know the terrain. To a great extent, I know the beauty of it. I know the challenge that lies there. I have seen the enormity of it; I believe it is not beyond me. I can tell you yes, having been there and through a very challenging time and I think I only wish for a change of baton from Imoke to Odey, by the grace of God.
If you are elected governor, what would you do differently?
I will sustain the current momentum and create other avenues that will make us to achieve the same purpose, which is to put food on the table of our people; which is to put smiles on their faces; which is to make education accessible to our people; which is to provide security for our people. I will also create a private-sector driven economy and aid the people to get the facilities that they require to be able to create businesses and support government to build the state economy. We are going to work together to expand and move forward. These are the things that we will do differently. We will try to move up from where we are to greater heights.
What is your relationship like with other aspirants?
We need to build confidence so that no one feels that he has lost out at the end of the day. If it is not me, I will support whoever emerges. But, let me not feel that mine has come to an end and vice-versa. By the grace of God, we are talking and this confidence building is very important.
culled from Tribune
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