Obong Emem Ekperikpe Luke Ekpo, a former member of House of Representatives, is the director-general of the Akwa Ibom Democratic Forum, a socio-political organisation with Senator Godswill Akpabio, minister of Niger Delta Affairs as the grand leader.
Ekpo, a grassroots politician who also served as chairman, Ika Local Government Council between 2004-2007, speaks on the vision and ideals of the group in this interview with Crystal Express. Excerpts:
The Akwa Ibom Democratic Forum (ADF) is fast spreading across the state. What informed the formation of the group?
We decided with like minds to come together not just to form a political group but to assemble people who love good governance and dependable leadership to ensure that Akwa Ibom State and her people continue to benefit from government policies, programmes and projects. ADF has its motto as dependable leadership and Akwa Ibom State has produced a very dependable leader who served the state in the capacity of governor for eight years, senator for four years and currently a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, providing credible leadership at the Niger Delta Ministry and Niger Delta region as a whole.
The Akwa Ibom Democratic Forum’s major interest as stated earlier is good governance and dependable leadership. So we all have to put aside personal interests and follow the dictates of our grand leader who will give direction from time to time. We are already grounded in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District with the inauguration of the senatorial and chapter executives and will quickly move to Uyo and Eket senatorial districts before going beyond the shores of the state. It is open to all Nigerians who have interest in credible governance and dependable leadership.
Why do you opt for the minister of Niger Delta Affairs as your grand leader and the major face of the group?
Today in Akwa Ibom State or even in Nigeria as a whole, when you talk of good governance, Senator Godswill Akpabio readily stands out. Akpabio started active politics in Akwa Ibom State as commissioner for petroleum and later local government and chieftaincy affairs. He showed class, determination and commitment to governance. He went further to distinguish himself as a selfless leader who is more concerned for the predicament of others. He practically gave his all to assist people, he built budget of friendship, showed love and care for the less-privileged and assisted the councils chairmen to make their jobs less-stressful. Even the traditional institutions under his supervision saw a man with a heart of gold. Before 2007, Akwa Ibom people were already asking him to contest as their governor which he did and won and another chapter unfolded.
Akwa Ibom witnessed uncommon transformation in all sectors. Akwa Ibom Airport became a reality; Ibom Le Meridien Hotel and Golf Resort (as it was called then) got actualized. Several double carriage ways erupted, impassable Ikot Ekpene-Abak Road became a superhighway, Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road dualised; Ikot Ekpene town got remodeled; Ibom Tropicana, Ibom e-Library, Four Points by Sheraton, several internal roads, electricity, water projects, schools and several projects came to fruition, some through inter-ministerial direct labour. In Abak, we have Abak-Uyo Road with a suspended bridge, the Independence Hall, several road projects and the same story goes for Ukanafun, Etim Ekpo up to Ika local government areas which hitherto had no motorable roads. Before the Akpabio era, as council chairman, I used to drive up to Abia State before connecting to the road to come to Uyo for meetings. It was that bad but Akpabio brought the uncommon transformation which opened up the state to investors from all over the world by land, air and even sea with the advancement of the Ibom Deep Seaport.
His era also witnessed unprecedented progress and prosperity for many youths whom he turned from boys to men. He gave youths reasonable slots in governance with most of them serving as commissioners, council chairmen, board chairmen and special assistants. Others got jobs which turned around their lives for good. Akpabio removed the stigma of other Nigerians seeing Akwa Ibom State as depot for house-helps. Today, the Akwa Ibom man walks with dignity and sense of pride because the state has far developed more than some older states with her citizens faring well. His era brought about credible and prosperous governance and that is the dependable leadership Akwa Ibom people all over the world are celebrating today.
Do you think that he has fared well as minister in the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry?
He has not just fared well but has performed beyond expectations. This is the first time the Niger Delta minister doubles as the supervising minister of Niger Delta Development Commission and check out the turnaround in the fortunes of the intervention agency. Outside the restoration of order in her activities, the agency now has a permanent headquarters in Port Harcourt. Before now over N300 million was paid annually on rent but their story has changed. The forensic audit is ongoing and will help put the agency back on sound footing. The East-West Road and other projects under his supervision are moving at incredible speed and chances are that they will soon be commissioned. He has also galvanised various interest groups in the region with the purpose of working together for the interest of the region. He has perfectly interpreted the vision of Mr. President for the Niger Delta region and also canvassed continuous support and solidarity for Mr. President in the region. We are proud to have him not just as the grand leader of the Akwa Ibom Democratic Forum but as a son, father and brother.
Talking about the Buhari administration, how would you rate his anti-corruption war?
The anti-corruption war is succeeding gradually, the question is, how would it be now in Nigeria without Buhari as President? Nigeria is a very big and complex country. Buhari’s administration has pursued the anti-corruption war beyond partisan lines and even those in this party are presently undergoing trials. We also have it on record that several looted funds were recovered and property worth billions also recovered. The truth is that anti-corruption war should start with all of us at different levels. Corruption is not just stealing of funds and property but failing to do what we ought to do rightly. We have a duty to ensure that we don’t abuse any office or privilege conferred on us no matter how small. It is also important to understand that we are in a democracy where every issue relating to corruption and human rights goes through trials in the open court and we understand how slow the judicial process do grind atimes in the country. There are also instances of corruption fighting back and struggling to frustrate the good jobs our President is doing. We must all join hands to kill the monster called corruption, which is the major bane of our progress and prosperity. Nigeria will fare better when we join hands to crush corruption from our nation.
How do you rate the chances of your party APC in the coming 2023 elections in both Akwa Ibom and Nigeria?
APC has done very well amidst challenges confronting Nigeria. The party has only spent six years out of the 22 years of our democracy and return to civil rule. The President is doing his best in spreading developmental projects across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. One of the ugly trends we do witness in the country from time to time is fuel scarcity but it is now a thing of the past. We are getting our due as Niger Deltans even though we need more. Nigeria has had her own challenges but the President is doing his best to put the country on a continued part of progress and prosperity. So I strongly believe that Nigerians will stick to APC come 2023. In Akwa Ibom State we are taking over from the PDP government. Here we are mobilizing and more people are joining the party. The ongoing registration and revalidation exercise is a huge success. Akwa Ibom people will also want to be linked to the developmental strides in the centre and will genuinely vote APC in 2023. The Akwa Ibom Democratic Forum is also not resting on her oars in mobilising across the state and creating more support base, educating and enlightening people on the need to join APC to rescue the state in 2023.
Still speaking on Akwa Ibom Democratic Forum, how has the response been since you started inaugurating the chapters of the body in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District?
The responses have been overwhelming and intimidating with thousands of people trooping out to join us in each council area visited. Politicians artisans, workers, farmers, traders, students name it; they all queue to join the group and bring back the good old days in Akwa Ibom State. They want to see the era of good governance and transformation once again in Akwa Ibom State. Several people outside party lines including clergies join because of the person of Senator Godswill Akpabio. They have not forgotten his glorious era in the state and what he is currently doing as minister of Niger Delta Affairs. The last inauguration we held at Essien Udim, the country home of Senator Akpabio, saw mammoth crowd giving me total confidence that the group is here to stay. We already had contact people in other senatorial districts and will soon officially inaugurate the chapters there.
Having served as council chairman, and member, House of Representatives, do you have any ambition for 2023?
Recall also that I have once made attempt to go to the Senate which didn’t work out. I still believe that I will have another opportunity subject to the support and solidarity of our people. I am still interested in making it to the Senate but it is subject to the decision of our people to avail me their support. It will not be a personal or selfish decision. In ADF for instance we put aside personal interest for collective interest.