by crossriverwatch admin
Hon Commissioner, what are your preliminary remarks to kick start this meeting before the questions come?
I called this meeting for us to meet and rob minds and interact because the time has come for to go into the field. I know that for quite some time now, some of you have been reaching me and asking for a forum like this but my response has always been that it was not yet time. I have decided to call you to tell you that the time has come because in a couple of months, we are going to be having primaries in our party, PDP.
I have spoken with the governor and he has given me the go ahead to consult and let me reassure you that my door remains open to the press and I will carry you along as the exercise progresses. Those of you who know me know that right from the time I was chairman of Bekwara Local Government Area, I was one of the most press friendly local government chairmen in the state. As chairman I had a budget and was more or less my own boss but as Commissioner for Works, what I do borders on the major policy thrust and programmes of this administration and I have a boss I am answerable to so I have to be more circumspect in what i say or do. When i was moved from the council to the ministry, there were a lot of insinuations and as someone new like the chicken that is new in a place I had to stand on one leg to observe the new environment. That is why I have tried to be as careful as possible- that seems to be the reason for the gap between the press and me.
Were you waiting to be anointed before stepping into the ring?
I was not waiting to be anointed even as the permutation is favourable . I am a grassroots person and when you talk about the capacity to do the job, I have the capacity that is if we look at the record of my accomplishment. For instance if you give a man the position of a councilor and he does it well , the tendency is that if you make such a person a chairman of council, he will also excel but if he does not do well as a councilor , chances are that he is not going to do well.
I did not know Liyel Imoke anywhere until I became chairman of Bekwara that was when I became close to him. He at one time visited the eighteen councils in the state and when he came to Bekwara he was impressed with what I had done with the monies he released for the execution of projects. He was so impressed with my efforts and said chairman, you have done well- let me bring you on board my Executive Council. I have a short time to serve as governor so let me bring you in so that you can add value to what we are doing in the state and I think that was how I came on board the state Exco.
What are you going to focus on when you become governor of the state?
Mr Donald Duke started the process for the repositioning of Cross River and he expended so much energy taking the state to the outside world and when you have such massive work to do, some things would be left undone. When Liyel came in he saw that development from Bakassi to Obanlikwu was neglected so he embarked on massive development of the rural areas and today people in all the local government areas can boast and say they have benefitted something from the state. On Monday this week I was in Boki for the new yam festival and I was able to crisscross the length and brash of Boki and still came back to Calabar that same day because of what had taken place in the area in terms of the rural roads construction. What needs to be done is for us to look forward as a people. . when I was chairman of Bekwara the local government recorded zero maternal death of both mothers and children which was a feat that had not been achieved in the whole country and even the west African sub region that was what led to our winning the award which was presented at Abija. Though the award was not presented to the local government but to the state government I was there. As Commissioner for Works the Rural Access and Roads Mobility Board has done 475 kilometres of rural roads. These are tarred and asphalted roads in the rural areas across the state. We are not talking here about the urban roads and the flyovers but rural roads that have transformed the lives of the people and economy of rural dwellers. Some people say they are experts and technocrats in specific areas and I respect that. ; I expect the technocrats have a role to play at the appropriate time and when they are needed they will be invited to handle those specific areas they specialize on. The import of this is for the state and its people to get the best services. Having served in the local government for three years and gained experience I have the ability to manage people. I have all that is needed to manage the political dynamics of the state and with all hands on deck, we will excel.
How are you strategizing for the PDP primaries since five Executive Council members have been given the to go ahead to consult by the governor?
That shows that our governor is a true democrat because in some states if you decide to begin political activity and you are not the anointed one, you automatically lose your appointment but that is not the case here. Already we have close to twenty two who are indicating interest for the job but don’t be surprised that as the days go by more people will join the race. –that is democracy in action. The leader we have in Imoke if a person goes to him and whispers that he is interested in the race he allows him to consult but in some states if he is not the anointed of the governor, the person loses his job automatically but that is not the case in Cross River because we have a governor who is father to all.
Hon Commissioner, governorship election requires a huge budget, how prepared are you financially for the contest?
It is only a fool that will think he will run election unopposed and as such fails tom prepare for the race. That is not to say I have made so much money that I can go it alone. By the time we crisscross the length and breadth of this state, the people will speak. The people of Cross River State are wise ; they know those who have been carrying them along and if you like, bring one billion naiara into the race, they will cvollect it and when the time comes vote for the man who they can easily access.
The financial situation of the state we have always been told is desperate, how do you hope to source for the money that you will run the state?
It is not only Cross River State that is facing financial difficulties, our problem is compounded by the fact that we are in the south south states where most states are oil producing states and have additional revenue but there are some states inj the north that are worse off and they are coping. The ability to be able to manage resources is the key. Talk is cheap but that is not what will bring result. As chairman of council, we have had to run councils with zero allocation. AS chairman of Bekwara I have attended Joint Allocation meetings and went back with nothing. The only thing is for the people of the state to come together and appreciate the peculiarity of the situation. People need to stop depending on government for jobs and contracts because at the end of the day, it is only salaries that they look up to at the end of the month . people need to be more resourceful. In some states, many people do not even know the name of their local government chairman – they are busy doing their businesses. People of the state need to shift from depending on government because one day the oil will dry up and we will go to the Federal Revenue and Allocation Committee and come back with nothing. We need to be able to manage our resources.
You have age, education, experience and your sense of humility and all these would work for you but if you rdcall you came from Bekwara because they are people from there who believe you have capacity, are you still relating well with them now.
Among all the aspirants I happen to be the only one from Bekwara while in some local government areas, we have two, three and so forth. On Saturday, all the stakeholders came out for the PVC exercise and it was not a planned thing but everyone gave me his full endorsement. People like Walter Eneji, Tom Ogar, Assembly member, council chairman and the like were all there. But speaking about Chief Linus Okom, he is aa Chairman of Caucus which Makes him a father figure to all and people wonder why he is not raising my hand and saying he supports me. Chief Linus Okom is midwifing a process running across five local government areas . He has to play a fatherly role and as such it will not be fair if at this stage he chooses to back me because the next day, the Caucus will pass a vote of no confidence on him. I don’t expect Chief Okom to spoon feed me neither do I expect to be spoon fed by the governor. I expect Chief Okom to watch me walk across the eighteen local government areas and see how I would fare .
Some people say you are angling to be deputy governor to a southern governor, is that true.
I am running for governor. People will insinuate so many things. The Governor has midwife the process for the zoning of the governorship slot to the north. The national chairman of PDP was here during his birthday and he made some far reaching statements and that includes the fact that governorship has been moved to the north yet people are still insinuating that the governor will come from the south. However, the south has the right to contest but it is a fact that it has had its turn for eight years and I believe it is in the interest not to contest; they should concede the governorship whole heatedly to the north but if they contest and lose, time will tell what will happen.
People say because you see yourself as the anointed aspirant, you have consistently snubbed meetings called by the leaders of the north and other aspirants towards reaching a consensus. Is that the true situation?
I have never been a desperate person in my life. Even when i contested for the post of chairman of Bekwara, I was not desperate and when in 2010 I was asked to run again I said no but it was the pressure from my people that made me run again. In one of those meetings which I suppose is the one you are talking about which was chaired by General Ukpo, I took permission because it coincided with the rededication of a church in Bekwara which I helped in renovating. that meeting, was not to streamline who will run for governor or not but just to begin a process for dialogue but I took permission to attend the rededication service. I have been holding meetings in my private capacity with some aspirants here in my house with people like Fidelis Ugbo, Dr Julius Okputu and Peter Ojei and we have agreed to help the governor in the process that if one person is selected we should join forces with that person. I want you to leave here with one message and that is Legor has never been a desperate person.
With the plethora of aspirants, do you expect the north to reach a consensus?
I subscribe to the north coming out with one candidate. The primaries are coming up and they are requirements for that primaries. One the aspirant has to resign thirty days before the primaries. For instance I am the Commissioner for Works and before I resign I must ask myself some questions. At that time some people will drop and the intent form will cost about 5 million naira. Before the person gets to invest such sums, he and his wife will review the situation right in their room and his wife will ask him in the privacy of their room, honey are you sure you can make it? I don’t have any fears because when the whistle is blown, the number wil, reduce to a sizable figure.
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