Barr. Ini. Ememobong, the immediate-past state publicity secretary of People’s Democratic Party, Akwa Ibom State, is the honourable commissioner for information and strategy. Ememobong a very energetic, vibrant and outspoken spokesman of the state gives kudos to the progenitors, forebears and people of Akwa Ibom as the state moves closer towards the realization of its full potentials. He describes Akwa Ibom ex-leaders and the incumbent governor as guest leaders who all came at their time and season in this exclusive interview with Crystal Express.
As Akwa Ibom celebrates 33 years of statehood, in your view, has the state fared well or failed?
Akwa Ibom is a sample of state development in Nigeria. It is God’s own state and we have shown that state governance can work. Akwa Ibom is one state where state governance is working optimally. It has to do with good leadership that God has made available to the state. Even in the military era we had Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga who did very well and his legacies still stand out. An example is the magnificent state secretariat which compares with even the federal secretariat in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. We have had good governance even in democratic era from Obong Akpan Isemin to Obong Victor Attah to Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio and now to Deacon Udom Emmanuel. These are excellent gentlemen who contributed their quotas at various times to develop the state. Akwa Ibom has been blessed by God with both material and human resources. Akwa Ibom has no business in the list of failed states. We rather top the chart in the list of progressive states. Look at what is happening in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic with its economic devastation, yet we are still increasing the aircraft in our fleet of Ibom Air. When others are saying that it is a casting down, in Akwa Ibom we say it is a lifting up. Excellent leadership in these past years has put Akwa Ibom State in an enviable position.
We have just observed that in celebrating the state anniversary, some Akwa Ibomites who excelled in their various chosen fields are being honoured. How did you conceive this?
At every given period, we must take time, look back and show gratitude. Humanity calls us to gratitude. Mark Angelo said people will not know how much you love until they know how much you care. The Ministry of Information and Strategy felt compelled to do this. 33 years is very important. Jesus Christ came and died at 33 years and became the saviour of the world. 33 is a significant period, a period of God’s blessing. Every time people come together to celebrate Akwa Ibom, this time we felt Akwa Ibom should celebrate people because they are our citizens and the process has been very revealing. We simply created a platform and asked for nominations and we discovered that there are several Akwa Ibom people who have contributed immensely in lifting the world not just Nigeria. You go to Harvard, you will see the imprints of an Akwa Ibom man. We have had great achievers in virtually every sector of our national life and beyond. It is instructive to look back and pick out those who have brought fame and glory to our dear state and honour them. In showcasing them it will also motivate the younger people who are looking for mentors. A lot of youths are looking for mentors to follow their footsteps.
Those that we are celebrating are Akwa Ibomites who are still alive. Imagine if we were also giving posthumous to our great pathfinders who are no more here; people like Udo Akpan, Philip Effiong and many others, 16 volumes of a book cannot contain the exploits of Akwa Ibom people who have distinguished themselves in various fields of endavour. The fact that Nigeria is still together today is that Akwa Ibom soon decided to surrender for peace and reconciliation during the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War. There are several Akwa Ibom people in the Diaspora doing great. We have an Akwa Ibom son as an education chief in one of the states in the United States of America.
Our people are in the U.S marine and other areas doing fantastically well. We are planning to make it a yearly affair. The nomination is going up daily. The last time I checked we had over 10,000 nominations of Akwa Ibom people with very solid profile difficult to abridge, until we sit back and put things in the right perspectives, we can never tell Nigeria and Nigerians that we have given to you more than you can ever give to us.
Will you also say that Akwa Ibom has had a fair share of leaders, both military and civilian, in her 33 years of statehood?
Absolutely, we have had excellent people clearly selected by God to lead at different times they led. God has always had an interest on who leads Akwa Ibom, not just a passing but a strong interest on who governs Akwa Ibom State. We have had leaders who functioned in their time and if they were displaced, they wouldn’t have functioned maximally. Obong Victor Attah was very superb in his time. Chief Godswill Akpabio was very superb in his time and Deacon Udom Emmanuel excellent in his time. We have been blessed by God with good leadership.
At 33, Akwa Ibom has given so much of its natural resources (oil) for Nigeria’s progress. Do you think the state has gotten a fair share for its own development?
I have said it before that Akwa Ibom is cheated by Nigeria but we have decided to take our fate in our hands rather than complaining and that is why the governor has started diversifying our economy so that we don’t wait for the Federal Government allocation anymore some years from now. In few years to come we won’t be talking about how well we have distributed our resources among ourselves, as we create additional sources of income against the mono-economy of the oil.
By the time the governor’s vision in Ibom Deep Seaport materialises and the ever expanding Ibom Air becomes a regional flight, when our airport becomes a hub and we have our international fruit and food market and the world arrives here to buy fresh food and fruit and the coconut refinery functioning at full capacity, nobody will remember where the oil is. At that point we won’t be asking what Nigeria has done for us but what we have done for ourselves. However, at the moment Nigeria has not been fair to Akwa Ibom State.
At what point will this administration celebrate the principal actors, our forebears who championed the creation of Akwa Ibom State?
You can recall that at the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the state, the incumbent administration honoured people who contributed immensely to the creation of the state. Additionally Akwa Ibom has appreciated our forbears as you said who laboured to see the creation of this state.
Currently, some Akwa Ibom leaders have asked for the increment of the 13 per cent derivation to 50 per cent and threatening court action. Is government in support of this move?
I think Senator Anietie Okon and other leaders are fighting a just cause. You don’t instigate people to go to bed at night because it is a natural cause of action. You don’t need to instigate people who are mature enough to marry from getting married because it is a natural action. In true federalism, should the federal be sharing to the states or the other way round? They are patriots pushing for the enthronement of true federalism. Their action is in order.
You have just acknowledged that God has provided the state with good leaders. Please could you throw more light on Governor Emmanuel’s style of administration?
Our governor is a great manager of human and material resources, a gentleman who optimizes our human and natural resources for the development of our dear state. Whatever he touches turns to gold. He is a value creator and has created so much value even in the midst of scarcity. He set up Ibom Air, the best airline today in our clime, when people least expected it. Take a look at our hospitals and see the difference today. Look at the way he handled Covid-19 pandemic here with the building of a world-class disease control centre against the advice in some quarters that he should hire tents to manage the pandemic. He has saved Akwa Ibom much money to build such edifice which is permanent. Governor Emmanuel is very visionary and effective.
One project that will change the fortunes of the people is the Ibom Deep Seaport. Do you see its realization within the lifespan of this government?
Yes. We are at the very last stage of documentation awaiting final approvals. This is one project that will help Nigeria. Ibom Deep Seaport is Akwa Ibom’s gift to Nigerians. It is a home grown solution to port decongestion in Nigeria which has been a problem for decades. Immediately the final approval comes, things will happen at the speed of light.
Outside the purchase of aircraft, what has the government done to improve the Victor Attah International Airport?
The international terminal building is ongoing which will be one of the best in the continent. The taxiway is getting more attention, the same with the MRO. I am sure you are aware that this is one of the few airports that have been described as category two. Others are Lagos and Abuja. Akwa Ibom Airport can take many aircraft, no matter the size.
With over 1000 identified erosion sites and a recent landslide in Uyo that nearly claimed an entire family, how prepared is the state for natural disasters?
No one prepares and wait for natural disasters to occur. What people should do is to stay away from habits and actions that encourage such disasters. They should stop dumping refuse in water channels and drainages and stop building in unapproved areas. Town planners must rise to the task by being stringent in their supervision and control of building. Drainages must be desilted because water must always find its level. We must do everything to protect the environment, especially the soil, through planting of tress and other environmental-friendly practices; the future generation must also inherit a better earth.
The State Executive Council announced that work will commence on the long awaited IBB Avenue pillaged by flood. Could you please throw more light on it?
Contracts have been awarded and the project will be financed by the state government in partnership with the World Bank. The governor is so concerned about the state of that road. The area is the lowest point of Uyo and a lot will be done to handle the drainage and flood control component of the project before the construction of the road.
With the devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy, is the completion agenda of the governor still on course?
Times and seasons are in the hands of God. Even during the height of the pandemic, the governor was focused and still focuses on his completion agenda. We still see more investment in aviation, in agriculture and security has been topnotch. Human capital development is ongoing with the recent conclusion of a five-day retreat for permanent secretaries. Rural areas are still getting basic facilities and industrialization is ongoing. Everything is on track. Covid-19 has not distracted the focus of the governor in realizing the completion agenda.
Akwa Ibom State is one of the three states listed as the highest debtor states. What is your take on this?
If you look at the debt chart, you will discover that it is the states that are working that have the biggest debt. The debt profile is an accumulated debt profile not what Governor Emmanuel incurred during his administration alone. All the outstanding financial obligations are there. There is no way states won’t borrow. Even businesses borrow to remain afloat.
How will you juxtapose a situation Akwa Ibom is named the second state with the highest direct foreign investment traffic by the National Bureau of Statistics which also said it has the second highest unemployment rate?
The statistics did not seem to tally. The report of unemployment by the NBC did not align with reality. The state is a construction site and many job opportunities provided by the emerging industries. The truth of the matter too is that unemployment is a global problem worsened by the pandemic. We must rather be conscious of the fact that a lot more people have been thrown into the labour market by the Covid-19 pandemic all over the world.
States and regions are beginning to thinker with their own security outsider federal security forces to protect themselves. Is Akwa Ibom State having such arrangement in the near future?
When security issues are discussed, community policing is top on the chart. However, the governor is partnering security agencies for now to ensure adequate protection of the state.
There is a report that the 13 per cent derivation no longer comes to oil producing states. Could you please confirm and explain?
What happened is that there are times the compilation of the figures from derivation was contentiously or skewed against the state. What we are asking for is rectification and reimbursement of the funds to all affected oil producing states.
After five years, has the DAKKADA creed brought by the governor helped youths rise to their greatness as he envisaged?
It is working well. You can now see the desire in youths working to make a difference, so many putting more energy to achieve their goals while others strive to go the extra mile in pursuit of their goals. The wordings in the creed are very touchy and people have heeded that call.
In the coming local government elections, it appears the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is the only party in the race with the withdrawal of the major opposition parties. Is it healthy for democracy and how do you see the legitimacy of the poll?
The Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC) did not disqualify any political party. The parties withdrew because they don’t want to suffer humiliation at the poll. The PDP is the only party that embarks on aggressive campaign. I think the Labour Party has few candidates. We expect other parties to field their candidates and try their strength during the election.