by crossriverwatch admin
Since the pronouncement by the governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke that the PDP had deemed it fit that come 2015, his successor would come from the Northern Senatorial District of the state; so many aspirants from the zone have indicated interest to step into Imoke’s shoes. One of such aspirants is former Banker, Chief Francis Bullem.
In this interview with CrossRiverWatch, Bullem X-rays his vision for the state and necessary steps taken to catapult him to Peregrino House in 2015, stressing that his focal agenda for the race is geared towards continuity of Governor Imoke’s legacies.
How prepared are you for this race?
For me like I have always said, I am not in this race because we are looking at the other people. I am looking at myself as the person, who is into all of these, and I have prepared myself over time, for this and other moments that are going to come. When we started, we said we were consulting and like you have said the process of consultation is still ongoing. Now we have reached a state where OK, the umpire has lifted the veil on some skeletal level of activities. Those levels we have been there and we are trying to consolidate by going forward. We are getting into the critical stages where we would begin to say Hey! This is my blueprint and when you begin to talk about the blueprint, we would be looking at the macro and micro issues that are involved in development, because if you look at what the incumbent is doing, there is a clear agenda for development. Indices have been set. And those indices some are going to mature beyond when he is leaving. That is why I said that in my own case you are talking about continuity, sustainability and good governance and accountability, meaning that by the time you get these parameters right, you will be talking about value addition. So if it is education now, we ask ourselves, where are we in education? So if you follow in the paths that have been laid, you will get to standards that you want to get to. The same thing for other sectors, the hallmark of all these is how do you stimulate growth and development? So if you reduce poverty, which means all the indices that have been set by the Imoke administration you drive it to the end? So the cycle would be complete or it would be almost, I am sorry to say, foolish of anybody who thinks if when he or she gets on to this stage you will turn the hand of the clock. I don’t think so. If I did not prepare myself for this journey, I would not be here at this moment. I prepared myself and I have been praying to God to give me direction. And that is why I have remained focused. It is not like there have not been distractions or there are not going to be distractions. If you begin to listen to Oh! This one has been anointed, or not anointed or all of that you cannot be focus any longer. But because I feel that as an individual, I have the capacity, pedigree and exposure, the critical ingredients. Overall you are acceptable to all strata of society. So you put yourself forward. The next thing is everybody coming to say we have done this assessment. This guy has this quality and has worked hard. So I am not a student who feels that Oh look, I would be staying behind and asking for this. I want to feel that Governor Imoke as he wants somebody who apart from having these qualities also wants somebody who has worked hard to deserve that position.
What are the cardinal areas of your program?
Let me take you back a little. If you set an agenda for continuity that means the parameters must have been set. The critical sectors that drive development are agriculture, education, health and then infrastructure. Then talking about tourism, which is the niche area in Cross River. So these are the critical sectors that you cannot wish away. But in the short term, both in the micro aspect and in the macro, if you have to quickly get out of the poverty trap, then you must do agriculture very quickly. So you take more people back to the farm. You create a cycle of entrepreneurs. You get more people empowered. And then it would throw back the value proposition that would support the macro economy at the center.
In a situation where many come out from your area and the party decides that you settle for a consensus candidate would you be comfortable with that?
I don’t have a problem with that. You know why? Because if the indices are properly set, it would throw up a good candidate. When you talk about consensus, you are talking about a process that throws a consensus. And I want to think that if it is very fair, with clear and measurable parameters, then a better candidate should emerge. So if that candidate is better than me, I should be mature and responsible enough to say, yes! For what has happened, this person deserves this more than me. I am not in this race because I want to die. I don’t want to die. I am in this race because I want to serve and I have a valid proposition. And so if that happens and the consensus throws up somebody that is better than me, it is about supporting that person.
On Imoke advising numerous aspirants to sit together and get one person as the candidate before the primaries. Do you see the possibility of that happening?
For myself I can tell you that I have been in touch with almost everybody, both the ones we hear as stories and the ones we are all in it together. I have tried to keep a relationship. Informally we have been talking to ourselves. It is not difficult to get that to happen, but the problem is that when the other man who is not even working feels that he is the one that is anointed, he doesn’t want to come to the table, because if he comes to the table and we start looking at ourselves and he has nothing to offer, He is only looking at where he thinks he is drawing his strength from. Otherwise for me as a person, I have been communicating with all the people that are assessable. There is no difficulty all the people coming together and we start talking to ourselves, because at the end of the day it is only one person that would be there and that is why I am telling you that I have a very large heart. If I am able to push myself in what I am doing, then I should be able to punch myself anytime any day. We all need the grace of God to continue to do the things that we are doing. You see there is a clear divide between people who think they are favored and the rest of us that feel that we need to work hard and present ourselves for assessment. That is why I am working. I cannot measure what I am doing, but if the feelers of what we are hearing is anything to go by, it means I have worked very hard to get here, but I need to work harder.
There are those who argue that the central and south must have a say in who that person from the north should be, because if the north alone presents that person, there is a tendency that the person would have more allegiance to the north? What do you say to this?
Like I said, a man who wants to be governor of Bekwara or Ogoja or Obanliku is not fit to be governor. It is the man who wants to be governor of Cross River State, in which case, the south, central and north should determine who becomes governor and in most cases as it is. The south and central are in a pole position of looking into the pool and coming up decently with the profile of people who fit into equation of who succeeds governor Imoke. The north in partnership with the central and south should be able to come together. That is why the process is driven together. So apart from the senatorial districts, you have the establishment; mostly you have the party apparatus to moderate. So I want to see a process and I feel it is already on-going where we migrate from different stages. Let everyone who wants to be governor come out and go round. In the process of my consultations, a lot of people have given me advise that have helped me to get this far. People ask you questions that you know would hold you to your honor and integrity, because tomorrow, the same person will be there to ask you the same questions he asked you earlier. So if you turn around, you would not be trusted. So by the time all of these happens, you will know who is serious, who is not serious and all of that.
As someone working so hard, how do you feel that there are some people who are there just sitting and waiting to be picked to become governor?
You people are the ones helping them. Because when you do reports you put their names and when you call them in the private, they deny. I think the honorable thing to do even if I was a full time appointee of the cabinet of the governor and I have the conviction that I am going to succeed him, first of all I would have prepared myself from day one that getting into this cabinet, this is my direction, and as such, you put yourself in the eyes of the governor. He begins to see you as such a person who has the capacity, charisma and pedigree to succeed him. And so when the time comes you should be bold enough to go and sit down with your boss and talk to him about your ambition. Give me time let me go out and work so that when the time comes, if you are convinced that I can succeed you then it becomes easy for you to make a decision. But nobody is bold enough to come out and yet you want to succeed the governor!
You are coming from the private sector. I don’t know if you have held any political position before. Do you think you have the prerequisite experience to lead the state as governor?
Absolutely, yes I am in the supervisory board of internal revenue. That enough is being in government because that is the hub of government. If you drive revenues, it means you are creating alternative sources of income for government to function. What the banking career does for anybody is that it prepares you for any challenge from management to administration to prudence to decision making and leadership. More so getting to the level I got to, from a foot soldier in the bank to branch management, then middle-level management. In all of these you are gaining experience, momentum and capacity in a brand spectrum of management. And by the time you get to the “Generals” level which is Assistant General Manager and above. From an AGM you can be a bank MD. It is top echelon. So if I got there, it means that I have bequeathed myself creditably in all measures. And so by the time I was leaving, I was a divisional director in charge of six states in the south-south managing resources, personnel and driving business. So today I am an entrepreneur, a private person. So if you put me on a scale I should weigh in public administration, in general management, in leadership, in business management, entrepreneurship, human resource management and everything.
Brilliant qualities, but there is something that has been recurring in the polity and that is the man that must succeed Imoke must be a member of the PDP family. So can you define the level of your membership of the PDP family here?
What I understand here is one, a member of the PDP family who does not throw stones at his glass house. If you are member of the family you will not throw stones. You don’t throw stones means you are a member of the family. I am not disparaging anybody and I can tell you confidently that unless there is another indices or criteria you want to use to measure who is a member or not, I want to say I am a critical member of the family, because if I was not a member of the family, I would not even be serving on the revenue board. From 2006 that I came into Cross River, I have participated fully in the process of political development at all stages. And so I have relationships that cut across.
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