Ntufam John Okon is the Cross River State Chairman of PDP. In this interview with CrossRiverWatch, he sheds light on the ongoing financial crises the state branch of the party is facing and also reacted to the swearing in of Usani Usani as substantive Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
Good evening Sir!
Good evening, thank you very much.
Your staff in the PDP secretariat are angry that they have not been paid salaries for months, they are complaining that the governor has abandoned the party after winning elections, what is causing the delay and what are you doing to resolve the impasse?
I think they are very very unfair. I mean, let us put these things in the right perspective, we get money through grants and deductions and so on. As at the time His Excellency travelled out, the JAAC (Joint Account Allocation Committee) and other meetings have not held and I told them that everybody has to be patient until we are able to source for money and pay them. Government does not fund the political party. It is not a ministry. Please help us clarify this issue for Cross Riverians. We get money from deductions and grants and others and you know we have not done appointments. Even the National Assembly members too have not settled down. It is when they make contributions that we pay. It is not directly the duty of the governor or the government to give us money or pay us salary. And the man has been trying on his own personal basis to assist us. Please help us explain this thing. It is very wrong to think that government is just taking money and giving to political parties, it is not done.
It is a very wrong impression. You people should help me explain it please, I saw one publication and I was very embarrassed. Deductions have not come in, they have not sworn in commissioners, they have not done jobs, the National Assembly people have not settled down and you know we have lost election at the national level, so we have to gather before we are able to pay. Yes, the governor is our leader and he has been assisting but it is not the governor’s duty to take money like they budget for ministries and give to the political party, please it is not like that. You just have to explain this thing for me please. I am trying my best to talk to the national assembly members and now that we have also appointed commissioners, if they start work and we make the statutory deductions, we will be able to now pay the workers. But without the commissioners resuming work, the deductions will not be available, so that is the situation.
How will you react to the emergence of Usani Usani, the State Chairman of APC as the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs?
It is wonderful, very wonderful, we really thank the President, in fact, he has done so well for us. We are so happy. And we hope Usani will be able to carry everyone along. It was a very good surprise. So we thank the President so much.
If we access the reward Cross River got for 16 years of near absolute commitment to PDP which was clearly near nothing and the so called ‘juicy’ appointments the state is now getting in view of the previous appointment of the Chief of Naval Staff and the Head of Service of the Federation from the state, even when the President was rejected at the polls by Cross Riverians who preferred the PDP, will you agree that the APC government is a better deal for Cross River state?
I agree with you. This kind of thing also highlights what sometimes we don’t appreciate. But like I said, once the President won the election, I thank my governor for his attitude towards the President and all of us because of the situation of the country, so whatever he gives to us, will cover all of us. Today Usani is Minister, whatever road for instance that he does in Cross River state is for all of us regardless of whether you are PDP or APC so we are thankful to him.
It is a lesson for us in PDP and it also gives us in PDP the ability to negotiate better. Maybe we have not been negotiating well, so to me I think it is also an eye opener to us. A lesson for us in PDP. Maybe we did not know how to negotiate, but we are very grateful to the President for keeping his word that he will be President of everyone. We also want to thank our governor for maintaining a very good and cordial relationship with the President. That is how I look at it. With this President, it is like the way God deals with man, he allows rain to fall on everyone’s roof, whether you are righteous or not.