Hon. Victor Abang, popularly known as Mature, ran for the Boki/Ikom Federal Constituency seat in the recent general elections and lost to his opponent in PDP. He spoke to CrossRiverWatch recently on why he lost and what he has been doing outside politics.
CRW: Your party, the APC lost everything in Cross River state in the last general election, including your federal constituency where you were candidate for House of Reps. Where will you put the blame, on yourself or your party or was the opposition too strong for you?
Well, it was a combination of all that. Our party wasn’t organized as it should because of intractable crisis that were in the party. Then secondly, inspite of that, my popularity will have seen me through but the last minute exclusion by INEC also played a role in me not winning that election.
CRW: Now that the elections have come an gone, are you stepping out of politics?
I am always in politics. Politics is about the people, about developing our people. My own passion and idea is to build my own private economy, my own small small businesses, so that I will be able to continue to impact our people whether there is election or not; because politics will come and go. I mean those who say they are full time politicians, you will remain hungry. I have my businesses that I have fallen back on. Businesses I built over the years. Particularly in the twelve years I worked with the National Assembly. The three Senate Presidents Nnamani, David Mark and Bukola Saraki, before I resigned to go to NDDC. So I really impacted on our people a lot because politics, for me is more or less about serving our people, so to that extent, I will be available for service anytime. I have also learnt not to plan beyond one year. When people begin to talk about 2023, I have never thought about it because it will be as if one is challenging God, one is taking God for granted. Between now and 2023 is a long time, we can only put structures and leave the rest to God. You don’t begin to plan that, in 2023 I want to be this, I want to be that, but we just pray and hope that God should keep us alive and when the opportunity comes, we should be able to offer service to our people. But basically I am taking this time now to rebuild my small small businesses. I had to start small small businesses and grow them. I went into farming. I have several hectares of oil palm farm I started about six years ago. I have the hotel in Ogoja, it’s one of the biggest in Ogoja now. Even in Obudu, I have a warehouse were they sell beer. I am a distributor for International brewery. Outside the oil palm farm, there is piggery section, there is fishery and so on. So these are the things we are developing. We will still keep our eyes in politics because we believe that politics is one of the biggest and easiest way to offer service to your people. Though at our own level, we have been trying. I have people that are under my employ. If I check from my hotel to the farm and all the businesses I own, if I check, I have up to 60 workers on employment. But through politics we will be able to impact on our people more, so I will offer myself for service whenever the need arises.
CRW: There are mixed feelings about the performance of the Cross River state governor as he begins a second term, what is your opinion about that?
Quite relative. Doing well or not doing well depends on the person who is saying it. I thought that the governor can do better than where we are now, I believe that so much went wrong in his first term, now he has an opportunity to redeem himself in the second term. Second term is supposed to be merit based, it’s supposed to be based on performance because I wasn’t too satisfied with the performance of the governor in the first term. Too many gigantic projects that he couldn’t take to the finishing line. If governance is for the people, I think the government will have done projects that should impact on the people. The numerous appointments that he gave to the people, I didn’t see that as something that will build the economy of our state. If those people are taken off the allowances they get monthly, something has to be done either social packaging or something else, to reorientate them otherwise, we may end up causing a problem. I believe that the governor didn’t do well in the first term in my own assessment and I think that he has an opportunity to redeem himself in the second term. I believe that one of the ways to do that is to look beyond his immediate environment, his immediate political family, he should look at Cross River State as his constituency and put hands that will help him deliver dividends of democracy to our people.
CRW: There is ongoing advocacy to embrace electronic voting in our elections. You have worked in the National Assembly for some time, do you see electronic voting as a possibility in 2023 and do you think that electronic voting is what we need?
Yes, once there is a political will, we can have electronic voting, El Rufai implemented it in Kaduna in his local government elections, if he can do that in a state, INEC can also do it. And if we have electronic voting anybody can vote from anywhere you can register in Cross River and even vote in Lagos just as you use ATM card. So I think that will be the solution.. It will significantly reduce the rate of rigging and make votes count. I believe that electronic voting is possible once there is political will. I remember when I was working with Senator David Mark, when they (NASS) passed the Doctrine Of Necessity. The country was at the cross roads and they introduced that doctrine of necessity to empower the Vice President to act. And I believe that if there is political will for electronic voting to be used in 2023 election, it is achievable.
CRW: How do you think opposition parties in Cross River State can revamp themselves to be able to challenge PDP in subsequent contests in the state?
Beyond re- inventing themselves first of all, reduce internal conflict, between the opposition parties, then we need strong institutions if the institutions are strong they cannot be influence but today because our institutions are so weak the highest bidder will always dictate and like they say who pays the piper dictate the tone. Nobody in Cross River is as rich as the government of the day. In fact, even when I was running election, you see people from these institutions who come to us on their own to say if you do this wisely, we will put this system in your favour. In fact, we need to first of all come together as politicians in Cross River, especially those of us in opposition stock, need to unite and work together.
CRW: Advise to youths in Cross River:
I want to advise our youths in Cross River that the crime rate in the state is alarming. The number of youths becoming cultists is alarming, it is something that if not nipped in the bud, it will get to the situation where these youths will begin to terrorize us even in our villages and even get up to challenge their own parents. What we are seeing now with loyalty to the cults, you go to a family of four adult male children, four of them belong to four different cults. So when there is a problem, the problem might lead to the entire family. So government must be deliberate in trying to ensure that the issue of cultism is nipped in the bud. Now that cultists are patronized to give appointments, cultist are hired for the purpose of elections, it is not acceptable. I want to advise our youths to look at their future. Where we have reached now, if we did cultism the way and manner they are doing it now, we will not be where we are; so I want to appeal to them, the young people themselves should think inward and see how they can refuse to participate in cultism.
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