Any Discussion On 2023 Succession Now Is Highway To Hell

...Ibom Patriots Backed Governor Emmanuel For Re-election Due To His Performance


. . .Where There’s Equity, There’s Peace


…We Shoud Give Gov Emmanuel Support To End Well – Basssey Inuaeyen


Obong Bassey Inuaeyen is the chancellor of Ibom Patriots; a group of progressive-minded Akwa Ibom elite and professionals. He is an elder statesman and an astute politician who is working assiduously to ensure development of the state through his group and through other concerns. The entrepreneur and businessman in this interview with Crystal Express on Saturday, February 29, 2020 speaks on the need to allow Governor Udom Emmanuel concentrate and deliver on his campaign promises rather than overheating the polity with the issue of 2023 politics among other salient issues.

What are your views on the succession politics which is gradually dominating the discourse in our political arena?

My position is clear. I have been part of the politics of Akwa Ibom State since 1991. I became involved actively in supporting aspirants and candidates during late Sani Abacha’s transition programme for democracy. That was 1995/1996 when I supported the aspiration of Obong Ebong Okon. From then on I became more active in 1999. Therefore I have been following Akwa Ibom politics since that time, thus I am in a position to weigh in on some issues like the succession discourse currently making the rounds now given my experience and exposure in politics. I believe strongly that any discussion on succession plan at this time is a highway to hell. It is a major distraction to the government of the day. I say so because Governor Udom Emmanuel was re-elected in March 2019, sworn into office in May 2019 and during his second term campaign, he made promises to Akwa Ibom which he wants to fulfil in his second term in office.

After his swearing-in ceremony in May 2019, the electoral process did not end until December 2019 when the Supreme Court decided the matter. We are aware that the Nigerian electoral system is inclusive of the judiciary. You don’t lay claim on your mandate until the matter is over at the Supreme Court in the case of governorship and presidency and Court of Appeal in the case of state and National Assembly elections.

The recent two major judgments of the Supreme Court in Imo and Bayelsa states can support my position. So if a governor was finally confirmed in December because between May and December 2019 he was still facing electoral processes and had not really settled down, then one can safely say that the governor has just begun in earnest the second term governance in December 2019. It is improper for anybody to start beating the drumbeat of succession at this time. We must give the governor the opportunity to discharge the mandate that was given to him and exercise that mandate via his completion agenda. The governor must be allowed to implant his completion agenda, redeem his pledges and promises to the people of Akwa Ibom without distraction. Succession discourse is a big distraction to governance because once people start taking positions on whom they will support, especially those in government, every action and decision they will take will be skewed towards the person they are supporting. I am dismissing in its entirely any story about succession plan right now. When the time comes, we have a governor who will give direction. The person who will be succeeded must be in the position to be part of the discourse. I have a good relationship with the governor and I will readily oblige him his deserved privileges. Firstly he is the governor of the state and I am an elder statesman. Secondly he is the grandpatron of Ibom Patriots, a group of eminent personalities which I am leading. Thirdly, he has been my friend before politics and I still value that friendship. I believe strongly that at the right time he will call me along with others to tell us his mind and what he wants as far as succession is concerned. It is an honour that he deserves and must be given to him to choose his successor. Of course he will involve the people in the process and may seek our inputs and advice and I hope I will be one of those to be called and I will also give my candid advice on the matter.

So at this point I am appealing to all to allow the government to function without distraction. That is my position as far as succession issue is concerned.

Now, on the issue of Ibom Patriots; on July 11 2017, Ibom Patriots came publicly to declare support for Governor Emmanuel’s administration. We set up three broad-based platforms to support him. Our immediate goal then was the governor’s re-election, thereafter, we will embark on the defense and protection of the interest of Akwa Ibom people with the government at all levels through constructive engagements. We have to ensure that people are given the kind of governance they want. So we have finished with our immediate goal which was the re-election in which we featured prominently. We were accused of supporting the Peoples Democratic Party (PPD) candidate. It may sound small but weighty. But I told them that every child has a father and mother so we are supporting the government of Udom Emmanuel because he is doing well and wouldn’t want any change. We did our best. Ibom Patriots may have been the only group that toured the entire 31 local government areas of the state led by a committee headed by Prof. Comfort Ekpo and other eminent Akwa Ibom people. We toured round, held meetings with traditional institutions and different groups, presented whom we are supporting and why we wanted Governor Emmanuel to continue in office. Our campaign was all over the media space. During this campaign which was self-sponsored, we never approached the governor for funds in this regards and neither did we go to the office of the Divine Mandate for any financial assistance. We achieved our first major goal which we set for ourselves and we want to celebrate it. People should allow us to enjoy the government we have put in place. Ibom Patriots will embark on thanksgiving between March ending and first week of April. We have grandpatron and patrons and have to get a convenient date for the event. The event will also be an avenue to celebrate the governor. We plan to bring in a guest lecturer who will dissect issues that bother Akwa Ibom and Nigeria and also explain to people why they should be patriotic towards what we do. If one is given a position to serve, he must do so with patriotism and see it as an honour to serve his people. It is not an easy feat for one, for instance, to be called out from a population of six million people to be a commissioner. It should be a great motivation to do well. The next move of the Ibom Patriots will be on constructive engagements and we will be talking to the commissioners and also the permanent secretaries to see how they are integrating the vision of the governor. We will also engage heads of departments for we want to be conversant with what they are doing so that if we have advice to give, we give them. Ours is purely constructive engagements. In our next gathering of celebrations, we will consider people also outside public office who have achieved a lot and are under-celebrated. I mean those who have excelled in businesses, farming, teaching, and especially those who committed themselves to service. Committed public servants will also be honoured. In a nutshell, we will be celebrating those who have in one way or the other contributed to the progress of this state. We are compiling names. We have people who started business with nothing but are now reference point in the business sector. There are people who left the shores of this state with nothing to other states and excelled. We must bring them home and celebrate them. It will be a thing of honour for some of us to achieve glory outside and bring the dividends home. This is just the tip of the iceberg on things to come soon.

A prominent son of the state recently said in an interview that there is nothing like zoning of governorship in Akwa Ibom State since at every point people from all senatorial districts struggle for the ticket. What is your reaction to that?

People are entitled to their opinion. But while he is entitled to his opinion, is that the opinion of the majority? We have been doing zoning and has zoning served us well? If zoning has served us well, why do we want to discard it? But if it has not, then there is a reason to do away with it. Let me go back to history. In 1999, Obong Victor Attah contested along with others and there was a very prominent person, Mr. Benji Okoko among them with a lot of weight. He had a clear path to victory, but the leaders of PDP at that time insisted that zoning must apply and that the time was for Uyo Senatorial District. That prevailed and Obong Victor Attah emerged. In 2005 preparatory for 2007, the Attah-led administration zoned the governorship to Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District and the only thing I added to it was anybody from Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District was enlisted to contest and there should be no micro zoning, and it was my position then. I also ran for the governorship then because it was meant for the Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. Of course people from other senatorial districts contested since it was their fundamental right but every sensible person looked at the political barometer to see where it was going and followed. Majority of the opinions then was that Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District should produce the governor and it was done as Chief Godswill Akpabio emerged as the governor. Akpabio then, due to the pressure from people around him, almost derailed the zoning arrangement. Stories that there was nothing like zoning started emerging. The position that I held then fuelled anti Bassey Inuaeyen slogan in the system. I made my position clear that we had started something and must conclude it as far as it was serving us well. I said the zoning also reduced areas of friction among us capable of destabilizing the system. I insisted 2015 was rightly the turn of Eket Senatorial District and the Akpabio left me and started giving me cold shoulders. That was the price I paid for my belief in fairness and equity. However, just to see how God is working for Akwa Ibom State, He touched Akpabio’s heart and notwithstanding the calibre of people in the system from Uyo Senatorial District, the zoning proceeded to Eket Senatorial District and the truth revealed. Therefore the question is: has the zoning served us well? If it has, then we should continue with it. Even in my area of Ikono/Ini, we zone our House of Representatives. We are two local government areas and it was two terms for both areas at a time and whoever tries to derail it fails. Those who tried using federal powers to elongate their tenure beyond eight years failed because the people resisted it. We are like brothers and you know that where there is equity, there is peace. Our zoning has been established and it is working for us and engendering unity among us, so why will someone want to thwart it?

RELATED: Gov. Emmanuel Has Right to be involved in who Succeeds Him

A former deputy governor of the state said the zoning or rotation of governorship should be on the basis of tripod of Ibibio, Annang and Oro ethnic groups, not on senatorial district, and cited injustice against Oro people. Should it?

This is another topical issue. Everybody has a right to hold his or her own opinion but the majority will have their way. That was the arrangement Arc. Obong Victor Attah’s administration wanted. I remember a meeting I attended and I made it clear that nobody is against the tripod arrangement but that there is a natural tripod that has been established which are the geo-political zones or senatorial districts which are a tripod already. If you go into ethnic things of Ibibio, Annang or Oro, the next question will be at what point should we consider the people of Eket, the people of Ibeno, or Eastern Obolo people? At the level of senatorial district we will always be able to find capable and able people that can run the state.

It is feared that if it continues the way it is presently, it may get to a point where the Ibibio who are present in all the three senatorial districts may use their majority number to dominate the politics of the state to the detriment of other ethnic groups. Isn’t it?

I disagree with the person’s postulations. We are growing and getting wiser and maturing in politics. It might get to a point when zoning might be outdated and we then emphasize only on capacity and credible persons, that is someone that can come and develop the state evenly. The state itself is developing with each administration. The thing is a question of mindset. People express fears where there shouldn’t be any. We are brothers. We should not emphasize those things that will disunite us but more on those things that will unite us. There is no way one ethnic group can hijack power in the state beyond eight years. I also want to live and see an Oro man becoming a governor. I believe in equity and fairness. He who goes to equity must do so with clean hands. Those fears may not be unfounded but they are too minor to worry us as a people.

The very essence of government is to bring development and the people to enjoy the benefits of good governance.

Is there another set of agitations for micro zoning when the governorship returns to Uyo Senatorial District?

Agitation is the right of anybody in a democratic setting, but on the issue of 2023 politics, I maintain that it is premature to delve into its discussion. That was my opinion from the outset.

What is your take on Governor Emmanuel’s strides in the last four years plus as it relates to his industrialization efforts?

Governor Udom Emmanuel was massively supported and re-elected on the basis of his performance in bringing industries to the state. Akwa Ibom people used the second term mandate to express their satisfaction and we do expect continuity in his policy of industrialization. Akwa Ibom people are happy and will continue to give him maximum support and encouragement. We still look forward to more roads even though he has done more than 1700km of roads. I also expect him to touch my area with his developmental wand, especially the road construction and maintenance policy. When he visited my area during my mother’s burial, he made promises to my people. I wish and believe he will redeem the promise before the expiration of his tenure, that is the Mbiabang/Nkari Road which he promised to construct. The governor is a man whose words are his bond. I have never doubted him and I know he will keep his promise. There are so many people expecting things from the government but we should bear in mind that beyond the expectation, there is the funding aspect which is vital. The nation’s economy has not been in the best of shape with the dwindling financial fortunes in most states. The state also has debt to service as part of obligations. Again, the governor is not also expected to incur debts which will become a burden to successive administrations. He will do his best and apply resources appropriately. We all know that he is a prudent financial manager, we expect people to allow him to concentrate and deliver democracy dividends to the people. His industrialization policy is a work in progress and continuity. We must encourage him and allow him a serene atmosphere to post positive results. The governor is prioritizing his programmes and projects within the available resources. If resources were unlimited, there would have been no need to apply economics. I believe that the governor is a good and kind-hearted man who will do his best for the state. That is why I appeal for maximum support for him and to allow him at one year and a half to concentrate on governance before the distraction on issues of succession. I am satisfied with his tremendous efforts.

Akwa Ibom has contributed immensely through her oil resources to Nigeria’s purse without anything in return. Why is Ibom Patriots not speaking up against it?

You know I said to you that our first objective was the re-election of the governor which we are done with and we are now going into our medium term objective which includes what we are getting from the national. Ibom Patriots will speak on some of these issues which will come to the fore during our thanksgiving and award night. We will deeply engage in national discourse. We will also admit more knowledgeable members who will add value to our aspirations, and also defend and protect Akwa Ibom interest within the national developmental and political programmes.

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