Hon. Elucate Okora Ekom, former member of the 8th Cross River State House of Assembly (Obubra 2) who after decamping from PDP to APC was blacklisted and subsequently denied his statutory allowances for two years shades light on sensitive issues in the Sen. Ben Ayade administration in this exclusive interview with Archibong Jeremiah and Patrick Obia.
The Academic Doctor’s ordeal began with declaring his seat vacant which Hon. Justice Ekwo of the Federal High Court Calabar, the Cross River State capital ruled as “unconstitutional, illegal, and null and void” for the Cross River State House of Assembly to declare the seat of Hon. Elucate Ekom Okara (Obubra 2) vacant for decamping from PDP to APC directing the State Assembly under the leadership of Hon. John Gaul Lebo to “restore the plaintiff and give him all his entitlements.”
For the record sake please introduce yourself to us.
I’m Honourable Elucate Okora Ekom, former member of the 8th Assembly of Cross River State.
As a result of your decamping from PDP to APC, I understand it didn’t go down well with your colleagues. Please tell us about it.
Yes, as a member of the Legislature, in a democracy especially in multi-party democracy, the Arms of Government are there to complement each other and haven served as an aide to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, I appreciate that fact to the extent I know that the Legislature is a complimentary Arm of Government to the Executive Arm of Government and I came with that impression, I came with that capacity. The only reason that would have made to defect as I did to other party was to give me an independent relationship with the Governor who is the Head of the Executive arm of Government because the group dynamics that are involved in the legislature, they are complex to the extent that if you come with different experience, different background you will have problem of compatibility with one another speech especially in the House.
So, I wanted an independent opportunity to have independent relationship with the Governor so that I can on my own without the influence of the group relate with the Governor and offer my best and to make it succeed and that was why when I had the opportunity, I defected to APC. It was not with any bad intentions because I saw that the young men in the Assembly; as a graduate teacher, I also know that members of the legislature were not equal in terms of their capacity, in terms of entry behaviors but the fact that all of you are members of the Assembly you are intertwined. That gives them a false sense of social status where you will not want to know this person is higher than you. The fact that you are in the same Assembly, you are equal, no it is to operationalize a difference in terms of capacity, in terms of experience, in terms of value that I felt it was important for me to have independent relationship with the Governor on a different platform so that the Governor can appreciate me.
Was that achieved because you were accused among other things of defecting because of your loyalty to Sen. John Owan Enoh?
No, Sen. John Enoh and I have been old friends from the University, we are peer friends into politics and he had his own issues with the Governor and I was not part of those issues, as a matter of fact, at my level I would have assumed my independent to the extent that the politics of Enoh cannot influence my decisions so it was not related at all. However, the issues that the Government of His Excellency, Prof. Ben Ayade have is that, as somebody came to have a philanthropic background people came to savor from it.
So they did all manner of things include blackmail, cheap blackmail, sycophancy and so to earth out so many people being close to the Governor and to that extent, some of us were treated as if we were not loyal. So it affected Governor’s attitude towards us, it affected party attitude towards us and you know when you suffer that type of severe treatment from the party out of share malice by cronies who have nothing to offer the Governor but just to tap from his philanthropic good will using blackmail.
What are some of these blackmail?
For example, they will say that we are not loyal to the Governor and loyalty become so robust that it does not have definition because, if we are not loyal to the Governor it means that all the Executive bills that have come to the House you’ll oppose them. They will blackmail you, that he is loyal to this person, he is loyal to that person. To the best of my knowledge, Owan Enoh did not influence me, it was just politics of blackmail.
Those who felt that the only thing they could do for the Governor was to tap, to savor from his philanthropy not even to understand his vision of Government and help him to achieve it. They did all manner of things to put some people aside and those of us who had genuine intentions, I wouldn’t have being fighting to be close to the Governor because I want to get extra money from him, no, the only thing I yearn for that closeness was for me to add value so that at the end of the day, he will go home with a name in the plate of history.
You saw APC as a tool to achieving your goal being independent minded, how formidable is APC in your eyes?
The formidability of APC could not be brought in Cross River State. The reason is because, over the time PDP has dominated politics in Cross River State so it could be imaginable for anyone to think that we go to APC to go and constitute an opposition against the Governor in PDP, unimaginable and therefore, it was completely out of the rail as far as my considerations were concerned. I was just trying exercise an independent mind so that I can have independent relationship with the Governor just to be able on that platform give him my ideas on how to run the administration and make a name outside pecuniary material interest which dominated majority of the PDP supporters and loyalist.
When you were in the Assembly the Legislature and Judiciary Arm of Government was not autonomous until recently by the Presidential Order Number 10, was that part of the reason you defected?
Independent of Local Government or not, independence of Legislature or not, it is one Government; it is just one Government, it is just a matter of political thought to look at the Executive, look at the Legislature and Judiciary as separate otherwise all of them function as a Government, it not Executive Government it is just one Government. Now the idea of going to another political party in Cross River State, from PDP to APC, considering the crisis of APC then. Since I didn’t have the intention of going as a party to go and harvest the strength and fortune of the part against PDP I wouldn’t say I was coming from that flank to come and negatively influence, I was only mindful of the fact that the lots of people in the PDP were not interested in His Excellency’s achievement and making a name.
Psychological reading of them, they were interested in the governor’s philanthropic disposition so they will come and play sycophancy in the name of loyalty but behind the Governor as much as I witnessed, majority of were very negative in their representation of His Excellency and I wished some of us was sycophantic as them and opportunity to be with the Governor, to expose all of them. Ayade is the Governor with the largest army of supporters compared to Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke. He has the largest army but the loyalty content the general loyalty content in that army is merely 5%.
Those who want to die, the rest are there to harvest from Ayade’s philanthropic disposition and that is not loyalty as far as I’m concerned. I came from a university background and I am not a materialist, so my own is let systems work. I am a Community Development Expert by training, University of Ibadan so, I know I carry capacity that make things work. Governor Ayade has the deepest vision among the previous administrations and he thought that he could execute these visions simultaneously but if he had people who are loyal as they claim they were and they were close to him, fenced almost all of out from been close to him they should have been able to advised him that you’re a Governor, you are not adviser to yourself.
Every Governor no matter how filled he is with capacity, needs advice and this advice will come from his appointees and these appointees must be loyal to the extent that they have a commitment to his success but I tell you, 95% of these bang of supporters and loyalist are there to harvest from Sen. Ben Ayade’s philanthropic disposition which he is known for and of course I can also put it on record that, among the three Governors, Ben Ayade is the only Governor that has materially impacted on the citizens of Cross River State; the number of personal house infrastructure in Calabar here from his tenure compared to Imoke and Duke, there are more.
Was there backlash to the decision to defect?
Well, as a media man you would have also known that it came with some reprisals and I can also say that whatsoever the backlash were has affected me, it’s not His Excellency’s calculation, there were still the calculations of these loyalist; don’t pay him his allowances, you pay him he will do this. For example, one of his aides who told me that, we cannot pay you your allowances because you will use it to fight party; to contest election to against PDD and all of that. You can imagine depending on highly placed that Adviser is, if he takes that kind of mind set and shares it with Governor, will the Governor give me my money? He will not give me my money.
The Legislature by the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Organization Law has its own statutory earnings so, I have the law and I have the statutory. If you look at the time my seat was declared vacant to the end of the tenure, it is 24 months exactly; that is two years, so, those two years if you compute the statutory entitlement of a legislature as well as other known privileges that members enjoy in the course of being members of the Assembly, if you put that together you can arrive at a figure and I have done that with the aid of the Assembly; the documents have been forwarded to His Excellency and by grace of God by the intervention of the Presidential Advisory Committee on State and Local Government, that matter has been handled and His Excellency is very disposed to it and there are no issues. I take his words; I thank His Excellency and I’m using this medium for being disposed to that conversation for the matter to be resolved.
8th Assembly, 9th Assembly, what is your assessment?
The 8th Assembly which I was, we were coming in fresh with the Governor together and for me I Know that the vision of His Excellency was to take Cross River State out of Civil Service status to an industrialized State and therefore you have a number of industrial programs that lined up for implementation under his fiscal policy and the 8th Assembly was also able to legislate and put some legal frameworks to back up his industrial policy agenda of His Excellency.
And if you look at the programs, the programs would not been achievable under four years term, you know, there were long term programs and the Assembly lend itself to these processes and were able to lay out legislations to give legal framework to these Governor’s policies and programs. Now the implementation of most of these programs have taken off during the 8th Assembly and I can give credit to the 8th Assembly.
Now, because of their long term nature, the 9th Assembly which also has the content of the 8th Assembly by majority of them returning is also there to ensure these policies are driven to their implementation stages. Now therefore, there will be a tin membrane in terms of difference between the Assemblies. What 9th Assembly owe itself is to facilitate the process of the implementation of the programs and policies of the Government that had been given legal and statutory backing by legislations in the 8th Assembly.
Though, if majority of the members are drawn from the 8th Assembly, it is my expectation that, they should stand firm if they want the Governor to achieve and make a name to be regular in the conversation implementation of the programs.
Let’s talk about the word “rubber stamp”, it has become synonymous with the Assembly in Cross River State, what’s your take?
The rubber stamp stigma on the Assembly is a mere misrepresentation of the workings of the Arms of Government as far as I’m concerned. Granted that there is no full autonomy of the Legislature, the working relationship between the Legislature and the Executive is complementary. You have not programs to execute as Executive Arm of Government until those programs are given legal backups from the legislations by the Legislatures.
So, it’s complementary and interwoven. Now, when it is the common expectation that the Legislature and the Executive should be at war with themselves and that war is not coming out, there is the tendency that Legislature is a rubber stamp and that is what characterized the regime of Governor Ben Ayade where the Legislature is seen as a rubber stamp because there is a smooth relationship between them.
If there is a lack in implementation of policies, the Legislature should be held responsible because it is their duty to oversight the Executive and I don’t see the Executive barring the Legislature from over sighting its functions. To what extent is the Legislatures disposed and prepared to oversight and report in such a manner that it will bring energy to the Executive to function. So, it is not the Executive that makes the Legislature a rubber stamp.
If you are a rubber stamp Legislature, you made yourself a rubber stamp Legislature, it cannot be credited to the Governor and the Governor at no point have I heard or seen he stop the Legislators from over sighting it functions and reporting to the public and to the Executive and to the Judiciary. Ben Ayade administration is very very careful about other Arms of Government and the skill in which the Governor does that turns out to give the Legislature the stigma of being a rubber stamp.
Will you say that is the same thing playing in the State Judiciary?
The Judiciary is to interpret the laws and what the Executive owes the Judiciary is fiscal responsibility and of course they have a budget. It is for the Head of the Judiciary and Head of the Executive to always meet so that they can agree on the essential.
The issue of succession is a matter of legal interpretation, is a legal issue, and is constitutional. I hear that the NJC has intervened on the matter, those are processes that are not subject to manipulation but again, the Governor has an Attorney; a State Attorney who by training and profession is a Judicial Officer, so the reason why the Governor has Attorney is for that Attorney to relate between the Executive, the Judiciary and Legislature because the output of the Legislature gives function to the Judiciary by reason of interpretation. If you are a lawyer and you are the State Attorney, the interpretation or the implementation, the understanding, the appreciation of Judiciary views, you are the one to take them to the Governor.
The Governor is a layman as far as this issue of the Judiciary and Legislature are concerned whether he is a lawyer or not he is a layman to that extent. Now statutory responsibilities are defined by the constitution so why did the Legislature ignore the counsel of the NJC which is constitutional, it is for Legislative to advice through the Attorney General of the State that this is the position but when you sit down in the chambers and refute a constitutional provision and the Governor now carries it on his head; it is not the Governor’s fault.
The Legislatures should go back and do their work. If they go back and do their work I don’t see His Excellency fighting them. So these are the issues and that is why I was cut out in that group formation because as an independent minded person. I can easily walk to His Excellency in an informal way and say, your Excellency on this matter, this is this it will affect your name and he is a rational person he will listen to you but I tell you people are not interested with the Governor succeeding, they are interested in harvesting from his philanthropic goodwill and so anything they can even come behind and all flanks to fuel crisis that will rob on his integrity and his administration, otherwise the Governor of Cross River State is a Professor, he has a legal background and the layman content of him is not much in any profession for him not to understand some certain things and so on but he can’t stay in his house to appoint a Judge, he must get the consent of the Legislature and the Legislature must guide him through proper.
Two years plus after leaving the Assembly, you’re still living in the Assembly quarters, tell us about that.
Well, my accommodation in the quarters is owned by Obubra elected member. He is my brother. He has enjoyed my goodwill, so, if I was removed from the Assembly and I’m still locked in because of the issues of capacity to get a private accommodation and so on. It is up to him as a brother to shield me, that is what it means and I’m happy with that.
What is your thought concerning the signature projects and the stage at which they’re now?
The signature project by His Excellency by my own assessment and rating makes him stand out as the Governor with the deepest vision ever. If you want to industrialize your State, you must anchor on development programs and the program that capture the essence of this industrialization fall within the realm of the Deep Sea port, Superhighway and City Development and all of that.
The Superhighway was caught up in the web of Environmental Impact Assessment controversy and a lot of politics also affects it and if you don’t overcome this bottle necks, you can’t proceed with the project and I do know the Governor have made frantic efforts to get through this Environmental Impact Assessment bottle necks to no avail because of the various interest; some of which do not want him to make a name out of it.
The same with the Deep Sea Port which is why if I have my way in a close relationship with the Governor I will advise him to depend more on informal Advisers than legitimately appointed Advisers because some of these appointees are loyalist to other master political masters. There is no how the Governor will claim that all his political appointees are his boys, no, majority of them they have their own backgrounds. The appointees are saying the Governor is not listening, those are the things they stay behind; who has walk up to him? Walk up to him, I tell you all these the Governor does not listen. These are backbite, these are some of the things some of us suffered from the same people. The Governor is also suffering heat of backbiting from the people that come to present to themselves before him as his loyalists. Me I will be able to tell the Governor to the face anything, anyhow I feel about a particular matter because the overall interest is for you to succeed. Those who are saying behind him that he does not listen are the same people who are presenting themselves that they are his sincere loyalist.
This is the controversies that surrounds the army of Prof. Ben Ayade’s supporters support structure, it is an unfortunate thing because, for an example, if I’m appointed an Adviser to the Governor on Projects, that appointment should give me a relationship, give me a platform to relate with the Governor and candidly offer my impute. Now these people, some of them who do not have portfolios that generate income will back bit, those who have portfolios that generate income do not report to the Governor, they concentrate on revenue generation and harvesting from there which is part of philanthropic content of the Governor; you can therefore not say that so much is being generated out of Internally Generated Revenue for Cross River State because the Governor does not check them, ask them questions and all of that.
Where he is critical off, those people will back bit, where they don’t see anything to benefit materially they back bit but nobody will walk up to His Excellency to say look, this whole project let us not spend money simultaneously in all the projects, let us concentrate in Odukpani and Calabar dual carriage way, if you achieve that you will make a name, the Governor will be proud to have you to call you this; I tell you Odukpani dual carriage way there are people there who are harvesting, they don’t mind what quality of work is there; the super high way people are there who want to eat from that side and who are there while the Governor is just sited and I can tell you that Ayade regime there are people outside who function not as Governor who are richer than Professor Ben Ayade. They are because of an open door administration where you are in charge of revenue, they will harvest revenue they will not remit to the State and he will not ask them questions because he does not want to hurt anybody. That is where the Governor finds himself.
What will be your advice to your constituents, your followers in particular?
I will like to use this opportunity to thank my constituents. Those of them who understood my situation and circumstances are still with me and I’m proud of them. A few constituency project I was able to initiate, they are evidential in my area and my people are proud of me and it is my hope that whether by election or by appointment or by my private capacity as their son, I will stand up to represent them the much I can and I tell them using this medium to appreciate the fact that Government is a function of the entire citizens, so I wouldn’t have done so much of what I did and this now takes me beyond my constituency to say that there is no how the Governor can achieve his vision without stakeholders key in into that vision and making frantic efforts for him to achieve but where we are looking at the harvest area, the personal, interest area we will benefit and benefit and at the end of the day, the Governor goes without a name.
I like to say that His Excellency still has opportunity to make a name for himself through people who are frank and sincere with his vision. They are informally, let me tell you the President is restructuring the APC; is a function of informal advice that the confider of the President gave to him in an informal meeting. He is a friend of his, he walked up to him and told him this is what we are going to do.
So when people were going with so much expectations in the last National Executive Council meeting of the APC, they did not know that, that man has benefited from an informal advice of going to form his own agenda of that meeting. What happened there many people who attended that meeting did not expect but those of us who are close we know that he got an informal advice from an informal person; a friend, a close confider who is interested in his success and say look, my friend you are the President, this crisis will earn you a bad name, do like this, do like this and that is what he is doing.
This current caretaker APC platform at the National is a product of that informal council, the Governor of Cross River State should avail himself of informal sessions with his informal friends like us so that he can succeed. We are very disposed, I don’t want to get any money from the Government. In fact, Government is a social contract, you don’t take from Government without giving Government, so when you support a Government that makes you to build houses, own business and the Government itself is not succeeding that social contract is not is not achieved.
If returning to PDP is made a condition for your entitlement to be paid, will you leave APC?
That coming as a condition has been over taken by Presidential intervention. So it is no longer an issue, it is not in contention. APC or PDP, we are all on one umbrella of the State Government, so if you can be there to offer your best to the sitting Governor who may be in another party you can offer your best even much more of those who are in the same party because the people who are in the same party are doing sycophancy.
I can come from this platform, in fact that has been what I have been looking for. You offer your best advice without any material intent and that is what I stand for. Thank you.
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