Mr Toby Nkangudeh is a former commissioner for commerce and industry in Akwa Ibom State. He is also a former auditor of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state. Nkangudeh, in this interview, speaks on some trending state and national issues and decries the continuous erosion of party supremacy, among other salient issues.
Let us meet, sir.
I am Toby Nkangudeh, an elder by ordination and top member of the PDP. I have been a chapter officer and state auditor of the party. I am also a former commissioner in the State Executive Council. I am from Ikot Abasi Local Government Area.
What is your impression on the recent crisis that almost crumbled the party?
PDP is a movement and what you see is what happens anytime there is plan to move from one regime to another via transition. It is happening in all the parties, the bigger the party, the bigger the impact.
What is your take on the current situation in Nigeria?
I don’t really like comparing two governments because the situations can never be the same. I don’t know what the current government is facing but I know that their performance is below the expectations of Nigerians. When they came, they promised the change mantra but rather than the change lifting Nigerians up, we are drifting to the unknown. Sadly our leaders appear not to recognize we are drifting to put a stop to it and presently we don’t know where we are heading. When I look around the situation in the country today, what comes to my mind is Sunny Okosun’s song, “Which Way Nigeria?”
As an indigene of an oil-bearing community, what is your take on the three per cent approved for such communities by the Senate in the Petroleum Industry Act?
I don’t know why people should be in the Senate and be playing party rather than playing Nigeria. Nigerians are yet to cultivate that patriotism of seeing ourselves as Nigerians first before party in national issues. The problem is that there is no adequate record of the quantity of oil produced from the state. All efforts I have made through Google and other means are yet to yield result till date, and until we have accurate records, we will always be deceived. We will always be given pittance. A situation whereby communities who merely have pipelines running through them are classified as oil-bearing communities is unfortunate. Can oil spill affect them like it does to communities on the coast lines which at times destroy their ecosystem which they survive on? What has happened is an error before God and man. The governors recommended at least five per cent but I don’t know how they even came about it. To me, maybe they hope to get it and bargain for more tomorrow because the five per cent is grossly inadequate while the three per cent is annoying.
The 13 per cent derivation is meant to be upgraded with time. But why has it not been mentioned as the Constitution is currently being reviewed?
We don’t know what has happened to the 13 per cent because I hardly believe if any state has ever collected the complete 13 per cent. I know they collect seven per cent and others, not even the 13 per cent in full. There was no accountability to know if ever any state has even collected the full 13 per cent before now.
We have heard that subsidy will soon be removed from fuel and still no functional refinery in Nigeria. What is your take on this?
We should start by knowing the cost of producing a barrel of oil otherwise you can never explain the politics of subsidy; we are paying the price of corruption.
How can Nigeria not tell the citizens the cost of producing a barrel of oil, where is the NNPC budget? Nobody knows, it is like somebody is dipping hands into the national treasury to go to the desert to look for oil and whether they find it or not, the citizens bear the brunt of the corruption and mismanagement. Nigeria doesn’t do the exploration as a country which on its own is a shame. Outsiders and foreign companies do the exploration and all you hear is NNPC joint ventures in which the Nigeria takes 60 per cent and foreigners 40 per cent. Foreigners do the exploration, have the measurement parameters, and transport the oil to destinations only known to them. The partners use their own 40 per cent to make high profits and when you visit New York, you see how ExxonMobil lives like a king. They use the resources to develop themselves and own property across the world while our own 60 per cent cannot be accounted for. Where do the partners refine their own crude and make profit and why do we refine ours and add subsidy to bring it back home? I want economists in Nigeria to explain to the common people why we refine our products abroad and add more money to receive it before distribution. What I see about the whole process is that Nigerians are paying the price of corruption.
What is the way out?
The way out is the Petroleum Industry Act. If it is sincerely applied and the industry privatised, the price of petroleum products will collapse. By the way, why don’t we adopt resource control? Why is there resource control on gold in Zamfara and none on oil in Niger Delta? For me, the way out is resource control where oil companies will deal directly with the communities, pay the adequate price to them and pay a percentage to the Federal Government.
Talking of resource control is akin to talking restructuring. Nigeria needs to be unbundled, especially the area of security. What is your position?
We need state police but so many people are afraid that the governors will abuse it. But we have to start from somewhere. By the time we start, we will wobble and joggle until it stabilizes. After all, we will not have one governor forever. A governor will go and another will come and still use the same police left by the former governor.
The state police will save us a whole lot of problems. If local police is not good enough, why do they approve vigilante? If they are using the vigilante to help the police, then why don’t they turn it into state police while still retaining the federal police?
If you arrest me because the man who is the governor does not like my face, I can petition the federal police. The judiciary is a good example where we have the magistrate’s court, high court, court of appeal and the Supreme Court. The same method can be applied in policing: from local police when the matter is above them, the state takes over and when above the state, the federal police take over. We have it in politics too, the local government sacks a vice chairman, the state assembly steps into the matter and where they don’t agree, they go to court to interpret their roles according to the Constitution.
The fear of the unknown should not be allowed to kill a good idea.
Do you see the PDP retaining the state against the APC in 2023?
The governor of a state plays a vital role in every transition and election. At any situation you go for campaign at that level, what the government presents as their scorecard becomes the campaign tool. The achievements of the government become the measure to rate the party in the next election, the achievements of Governor Udom Emmanuel will become the scorecard of PDP. People are looking up to the government because party is the midwife of government. But a lot of times, party becomes like a mere observer. The party should realise that whatever the government does affects the party and should not just be following government blindly and being a mere observer in the governance issues of the state.
Our dear governor in the next two years will leave the stage and hand over to the next governor. PDP will assess the situation on ground before going into the next election. I was in the forefront when we brought this government in 2015. I was in charge of ACA in Ikot Abasi. What we did then under Godswill Akpabio was to go on a town hall meeting all over the federal constituencies and that helped us to know the gap between promises made and those delivered. It afforded the then governor the opportunity to feel the mood of the people and how to deal with them. It was also an opportunity to tell the people thank you for electing him two good times. You have to shape the perception of the people, it is not enough to make broadcast on radio or send propagandists to start talking.
There are certain things the people want to hear from the governor one on one. I remember when we visited Ibeno, the paramount ruler told Chief Godswill Akpabio that it was a shame for Ibeno the hen that lays the golden eggs has no one in the executive council and Akpabio there and then asked for a person to be named a commissioner. Such interactions with people reveal gaps in communications and perceived injustice.
A lot of silence does not mean peace. It may just be tolerance and waiting to explode like a time bomb. There is need for government to go round to interface with people, know their thoughts and feel the mood of the state with the party hierarchy. It helps a lot in effective and efficient transition. You don’t sit somewhere and call the shot with the belief that it will work out. Then through the interface, the issue of zoning the governorship to Eket Senatorial District was done without rancour. I appreciate that they are going round with Maintain Peace Movement but it is not the agents of government that will properly give the scorecard. There are certain questions no government agent can address. If there is a contract to be awarded right there, can an aide do that? When we were then at Obot Akara with Chief Akpabio, the issue of road came up. The governor directed the commissioner for works to immediately take action. At Mkpat Enin, the same thing played out during the burial of late Udoinyang. No governor’s aide can commit the governor without his consent. A tour or assessment demands that the governor who is the last man standing with the executive powers be present.
From what you have said, it appears the party supremacy is dwindling. Isn’t it?
By the grace of God, I have been in the chapter and state offices of the party. I have been in the executive council of the state and of the PDP. I want to tell you that the party is just there answering name, which is not how the party ought to be. No commissioner in this state respects the party and I can say it anywhere. The reason is that for a commissioner to sit in the congress that produces party leaders is an error. Commissioners are supposed to face the state issues while the party minds its affairs and that will bring more respect to the party. But when a commissioner sits in the committee that screens party officials, some sense of superiority sets in. If a commissioner partakes in a process that produces party officials, he feels that they will be under his control and that has destroyed the party. What business does a serving commissioner has with party congress? Tell me which chapter of the party can summon even a local government chairman to appear before the party? None. Can the party, as presently constituted, even summon a commissioner to appear before it? No way. We must be able to tell ourselves the truth.
Some people have said since all senatorial districts have had a slot of governorship, the 2023 governorship should be open to all. Also, there is agitation for the governorship to be micro-zoned to Itu Federal Constituency, against being open to all from Uyo Senatorial District. What’s your position?
Peace is a derivative. Certain things must be there to create peace. You create peace before maintaining the peace. We created the peace we have in our time. It is the need for peace that took the governorship to Eket in 2015. Definitely you have to talk about zoning and micro-zoning to avoid confusion. It is a deliberate thing. It is not something to leave to chance for peace to reign. You need to manage it to a manageable size. In looking for peace, we must create platforms to bring out the peace and one of the platforms is zoning, and if possible you micro-zone to a manageable size.
Uyo Senatorial District is full of political titans and if you close your eyes and allow them to fight, it could be disastrous to the party. It must be a deliberate thing. The party must dialogue with people across the state and afterwards bring the discussion to the executive for conclusion. When you include the people in decision making process, they follow you blindly and that is the way to go. PDP is for the people and when you return the power to the people, they will tell you where to go.
As a person, I think Etinan Federal Constituency has had its share. Uyo Federal Constituency has had its share and it remains Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency and they deserve to have it. In 2013/2014, some said there was nothing like zoning and the leadership of the state toured the 10 federal constituencies where a firm decision was taken on zoning. Were it not so, PDP would have been in disarray. It was the decision of the people that it should go to Eket Senatorial District. During that time, so many political titans in Uyo stepped down for Eket Senatorial District to take their slot. Elders and leaders asked their sons to step down from the race and that informed the peace at that time. Outside that, the transition would have been disastrous.
One of the most turbulent elections is one that produces a successor. It is more turbulent than the one the incumbent is contesting. Landing well is the most Herculean task in politics. We have to create the platforms for peace and one of them is zoning for addressing injustices and taking care of people who have failed promises. You must create peace before maintaining it. There are faces you don’t use in maintaining peace, especially those who have been around since the days of Obong Victor Attah. It only goes to show the people that they are still in bondage. When particular faces occur all the time, it creates the impression that people are staying in bondage in the next eight years.
Having agreed that the zoning should go in favour of Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency; do you have any body in mind?
I can’t speak for the delegates of the party though I am also a delegate. But there are things to look out for in assessing people from the area after the micro-zoning. You look at their community standing, rating, previous positions held, how they performed and how relevant they are in the politics of Akwa Ibom and Nigeria. Nigeria is a mono economy and the person must understand national politics. How is their family and relationship with family? How do they relate to the welfare of the party? Do they relate to party from unit to state and national and so on? In politics you need that relationship to make the cost of electioneering cheap. If there is relationship, people will naturally follow you. It must be somebody who has participated in enthroning others before. He/She must be God-fearing.
If anybody qualifies for these, he/she is good to go from the zone.