Obong (Barr.) Bassey Archibong Ekerete is a grassroots politician from Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
A former state secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) between 2000 and 2002 and a lawyer by profession, Ekerete in this interview, speaks on a wide range of issues trending in the state.
Can we meet you?
I am Obong (Barr.) Bassey Archibong Ekerete from Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area; a politician and one-time state secretary of the PDP in Akwa Ibom State between 2000 and 2002. I contested elections in the past and I’m very much conscious of the political terrain of Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria. I am in a better position to discuss politics if it is the reason you are here.
How would you explain your journey in politics so far?
I was there from the beginning and actively involved from 2000. I was one person among others, who took PDP to Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area from day one. I love being a party man from the onset.
What is the staying power of the party since 1999 and why has Akwa Ibom remained PDP since 1999?
Akwa Ibom State has remained PDP because the governors we have had from Obong Victor Attah to Chief Godswill Akpabio and now His Excellency, Mr Udom Emmanuel have been leading the state so well that during elections, people continue to vote for PDP. Maybe it could have been different if the people had been disappointed with the leadership before now. You may also add that the South-South is a PDP zone and the bandwagon effect may also be considered. I believe that Akwa Ibom people have been satisfied with the way PDP has managed the state from inception.
Some people tend to see 2023 as open for all as the three senatorial districts have had their shots at governorship. What is your take?
It can’t be an open race. It has to rotate. We have done the macro zoning within the three senatorial districts and must not leave it at that. There must be other considerations like marginalization, contributions, voting strength and development.
It is not enough to do macro zoning but must move a little further to do micro zoning to a federal constituency. Therefore, we must talk about the federal constituency that is yet to have a taste of the Hilltop Mansion, which is Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency.
Are you saying it because you are from there or because you are a dedicated party man?
I am saying so for fairness and equity. Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency has been the vote basket of Uyo Senatorial District.
What has the federal constituency received in return from the party and government as the acclaimed vote basket?
It is a sad story. We thought when much is given, much is given back in return. But we have a situation where we are so marginalized that we are actually out of the picture. The federal constituency has nothing to show for its contributions.
That federal constituency has just two local government areas which ordinarily we should have gotten more. It is more or less a riverine area. Ibiono Ibom has no good road for 24 years of PDP in Akwa Ibom State, no bank, no hospital, no federal presence and no industry. We know that the development of an area is a direct function of the number of people you have in government from that area, particularly the number one citizen of the state. Onna Local Government Area and Ukana in Essien Udim Local Government Areas are good examples.
Therefore, if you have a commissioner from a particular village, the impact of government to that village is felt more than when there is nobody at all. So, the federal constituency should be given the opportunity to produce a governor come 2023.
There are a lot of political titans from the zone. Are you looking at a particular person?
It is too early to be looking at a particular person. What we are saying for now is that in fairness the Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency should be allowed to produce the next governor. Akwa Ibom people should look towards the direction of the federal constituency led by our listening, amiable and understanding governor who is a product of zoning. The governor, who is a beneficiary of zoning, should show us direction. The time has come for that equity to Itu/Ibiono Ibom. Etinan Federal Constituency had Obong Akpan Isemin as governor. Idongesit Nkanga was also from there even though he wore a military uniform and in politics we cannot leave him out. So Etinan Federal Constituency has had two turns. Uyo Federal Constituency had had Obong Victor Attah as governor. But Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency has not gotten a fair deal as far as the stuff is concerned.
I am aware that our governor is on the mountain presently and will soon come down and chances are that one of the things he will come down with is that the voices of the people is the voice of God. I am not suspecting that he will impose a candidate on the people of Akwa Ibom State.
Of all the rumoured names, Obong Bassey Albert stands out due to his pedigree. He has served in various capacities and presently a senator. He is a good politician and an outstanding leader who has touched lives positively.
He is the only individual who has used his hard earned money to do a tarred road in Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency.
The mountain experience here is uncommon in our democratic lexicon. What does it mean?
It is not uncommon, because it is good to seek the face of God, but for what purpose? You must have something in mind to ask for God’s intervention.
He may approach God to say that he has somebody in mind, will the people accept it? Or he might say ‘God do I allow the people to choose their next governor?’ Which one will be convenient and most likely? God will tell him to go and allow the people to choose their governor. Our governor who told us, he has nothing to hide since he is transparent in the management of the affairs of the state will not have anything to cover. He is coming down from the mountain soonest with the message to go and allow people to choose their governor and that is my candid prayer.
It is a known fact that the voice of the people is the voice of God. Imposition is only possible when your policies are very agreeable with the people you have carried along and everybody is happy with you. A situation where there are lots of discontentment, it won’t be easy to push any personal interest on the people.
Again, another thing that can make imposition possible is when the people are very gullible to accept anything pushed on them and Akwa Ibom is not such a place. My honest advice is that His Excellency should return from the mountain to support both the macro and the micro zoning which is in favour of Itu/ Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency.
Related: The Akwa Ibom Zoning Conversation
In all this what is the position of the PDP, and where is the party’s supremacy?
The party is in favour of zoning and rotation. The party will follow its constitution which has zoning and rotation entrenched in it.
Looking at the party as it is today, how influential is the party on the chief executives and their activities?
As time flies, so many things have been watered down. There was a time the party used to summon a governor and he will abandon everything and run down to meet them. That was when the hen that laid the golden eggs was respected. But with time, the party’s supremacy has been watered down principally because the governors have been made the leader of the party which was not so at the beginning. In those days, power emanated from the people; from the bottom to the top but today power descends from the top to the bottom. Another problem is sycophancy which has eaten deep into our bone marrows because of immediate benefits and the people suffer the effects later. It’s not been the same for the party anymore and it is not even for good but for the worst.
What is your take on the activities of your senator, Obong Bassey Albert, in Uyo Senatorial District in the last six years?
He has done very well in the areas of representation, advocacy, and the exploits for Uyo Senatorial District and the country. You are aware he was the man who brokered the NNPC/Chevron Escravos Gas to Liquids (EGTL) deal which brought so much money to the national treasury.
His carriage and contributions are immense and we in Uyo Senatorial District are very proud of him. I am aware he is interested to serve Akwa Ibom State in a different capacity having severed two terms as senator. I pray he nurses the ambition to the fullest because he would be the best bet for Akwa Ibom State if he opts for the governorship.
What is your take on Governor Emmanuel’s Completion Agenda?
He is doing his best and he must land well which is my prayer. The way he is going, he is likely to land well.