While in the service of Akwa Ibom State government as the honourable commissioner for works and later as chief of staff to Governor Udom Emmanuel, Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-eyen was generally regarded as the engine-room of the administration and as a catalyst for practically everything that gave the government the steam and focus it needed at the time.
A workaholic and a man of focus and principled lifestyle, Ephraim Inyang-eyen has the knack for high-quality results which are sometimes tempestuously driven. This trait saw him accomplish for the Ministry of Works nay the Governor Udom Emmanuel administration, stunning performances in the road sector and other assigned responsibilities. At the raging stage of the Covid-19 pandemic, he had the mandate to deliver a world-class medical facility, the Centre for Disease Control in Ituk Mbang, Uruan, Akwa Ibom State, and in just 47 days, he got the job done perfectly which was commissioned in May 2020 within the fifth year of the Emmanuel-led administration amidst commendations from the World Health Organization and the Federal Government.
He exited the government recently and is currently vying for the Akwa Ibom South (Eket) Senatorial District ticket to represent his people in the Senate in 2023. In this interview with Crystal Express, he speaks on politics in Akwa Ibom State and other issues. It is a must-read. Excerpts:
You served the Akwa Ibom State government for seven years. What is your experience after those years and what is your next destination?
I served Akwa Ibom Government from June 2015 as commissioner for works and while in the Ministry of Works, I did my honest best to bring changes that were initially not there and in the process stepped on very powerful toes and it was a good experience because the changes it brought kept the ministry in its present glorious state. From there, I left to serve as chief of staff which is a completely different experience but in all of those, I will say three things. I thank God for the privilege to serve the Akwa Ibom people in those capacities as all power belongs to God.
I thank God for using Governor Udom Emmanuel, my friend and brother whom God used to give me those opportunities to serve and I don’t take it for granted. Therefore, I am grateful that I was given that opportunity to serve the public. The judgment of what I did is left for God and the people. I have said it in many fora that when we have an opportunity to serve, we owe three people account. We owe account to God Almighty whom all of us, whether we like it or not, must give account to. I owe account to Governor Udom Emmanuel who appointed me and the people of Akwa Ibom State.
I want to tell you that no amount of blackmail or hatred can suppress the truth forever. I will leave the judgment of what I did or did not do to God Almighty, Governor Emmanuel and Akwa Ibom people that I served. I feel much fulfilled while my experience in government is a mixed multitude. I asked that our people should, at all times, pray for our leaders because when you step into the shoes of the government, so many things come to play – power, both seen and unseen, come to play. But for me, it was a good experience that I came out unscathed, alive, healthy, well, strong and more knowledgeable.
I want to say that if given another opportunity by God Almighty, I may not change my approach because I believe that when you follow the dictates of God you may not be popular with people but time and posterity will always vindicate you. Leaders see ahead, unlike others and do hear different drumbeats that others too don’t hear. Generally, it was a good experience, a good opportunity and I am grateful to God, Governor Udom Emmanuel and Akwa Ibom people.
My relieving letter, which some people call sack, was more of an appreciation letter for a job well done. I left good precedence in the Ministry of Works and it is there for all to see. The Office of the Chief of Staff is new here and for me to create and make it functional is another grace of God. It is not easy to start from scratch and make what is not in existence functional. Giving birth to a new thing is not easy but my gratitude goes to Almighty God, Governor Emmanuel and Akwa Ibom people.
And on your new destination, we heard you are heading to contest the Senate seat. How true?
You are not just hearing. I don’t hide things. One of the reasons I left government the way I did was that I was convinced in my spirit that I will offer services to my people in Eket Senatorial District in the Senate, having reviewed the history of the senatorial district’s representation starting from Udo Udoma in 1999 and persuaded that all the three federal constituencies have taken their turns. I felt that in 1999, Udo Udoma got the ticket because of the name he has and the competencies he brought to the table. It was not zoned to Ikot Abasi, rather it was given to him to begin the rotational process of the senatorial district.
After all, an Eket man contested against him and Udo Udoma won. In his second term bid, Nelson Effiong contested against him but Udoma won again. When it was the Eket turn, Nelson Effiong contested against Mrs Eme Ufot Ekaette, meaning that if Nelson had won, the rotation would have left Ikot Abasi to Oron, meaning that Oron would have done before Eket. Rotation is not a documented thing but just a way to make it go round. We are saying now that since the three federal constituencies have had their turns, let us return to pre-1999, let everybody come out and contest and whoever wins from any of the three federal constituencies, kick-starts the process.
I am in the race to represent the people of Eket Senatorial District at the Red Chamber of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and I have the passion, network, mental capacity, strength and all that it takes to serve well in the Senate. My years in Nigeria Customs Service exposed me to Nigerians from diverse backgrounds. I have done things with virtually all Nigerians from different ethnic backgrounds. I know that I will be given the opportunity to change their narratives. My people have been yearning for quality representation as found today in Uyo Senatorial District or what was found in the days of Senator Godswill Akpabio in the Senate.
If given the opportunity, I will replicate it better for my people by the grace of God. I am inviting aspirants from the three federal constituencies to come out for an open, free and fair contest and if anybody from any of the constituencies wins, the rotation starts from that point, not sitting down and waiting for an anointment from somebody. It is much better when a man has a passion to serve than one who was dragged into a race he never intended going into. A man who has a passion to serve you will be accountable to the people. It is obvious in the state that the initial anointing done is not working, so they don’t need any more anointing.
One unique thing you have done is your open support for the completion agenda but against the succession agenda of the governor. Why?
I am driven by what I hear God say not man’s word. God has not revealed the succession agenda of Governor Emmanuel to me. I refused to follow him. When I followed him in 2014, God told me he would be the next governor as a born-again Christian who has not soiled his hands. I followed the dictates of God. I have refused to follow his succession agenda because God has not mentioned to me the name of the man his succession agenda is promoting. As for the completion agenda, I will always support it. Let me make it clear to you that I will not follow any direction God has not asked me to go. I came from Lagos in 2014 to support my brother and friend to win the governorship but today, detractors said I was a pauper when I came, forgetting that I came and formed Transformation Agenda with chapters almost in major countries of the world and states of the federation funded single-handedly by me. I stick with Udom Emmanuel because God told me he would be the next governor then.
In 2019 when the turmoil started and some people left him, I went on the radio and said he will win and he won. In the present dispensation, I am driven by the same passion that what I have heard God say is that Senator Bassey Albert is His choice for this season. For succession agenda of Emmanuel, I am not a part of it and I will not be but for the completion agenda, if he gives me an assignment outside government to help it go smoothly, I will gladly do that because I am an Akwa Ibomite and if there is development in my state, it will rub off on me and my people.
You said that Senator Bassey Albert is the man God chooses, and whom you will support; what other qualities have you seen in Bassey?
Let me take you to the scriptures. The Bible says that all power belongs to God and He gives to whomsoever He chooses. If I will tell you here that God has chosen Bassey Albert beyond what mortal see, the God who has chosen him will qualify him. Bassey is a known giver with a very large heart; a man who works for others’ interests and goes to extra lengths to help others. He has invested his energy in the growth of the state. People that don’t listen to history are normally cut off by history. In 2015 before His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel showed up; let me tell you what happened.
There was no zoning to Eket. The area was almost swallowed up. Umana Okon Umana was contesting and Bassey Albert was also contesting. The story then was that there is no good candidate from Eket. In the course of persuasion, Umana had to leave the party to the All Progressives Congress (APC) while Bassey Albert stayed back, conceded the position and joined what was right and supported Udom Emmanuel. And His Excellency, Udom Emmanuel became governor.
I was at the meeting where Bassey Albert was asked to be patient that when the governorship position rotates back to Uyo Senatorial District, he would be given the first right of refusal. In 2019 what endeared Bassey Albert to my heart was that our two other senators left and Bassey was given mouthwatering offers to join suit but he refused and defended the PDP mandate in Akwa Ibom. What else do you want me to say than that a man who had that integrity – the sincerity of purpose, the honesty to stand with his home in the face of danger is not a man who should be sacrificed? Why is it in our system to reward those who don’t work and those who work are not rewarded? The present succession agenda has come, why is there no reward system?
The man who is today being branded as the candidate; where was he? Where was his contribution to the party? Why is there no reward system? Where was he in 2014? Where was he in 2019? And suddenly emerging, I may not know the norms and intricacies of how this system runs. For me, I stand by the truth and stand by justice. It may not look good to people but what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. We shouldn’t ask for justice when we don’t practise one. I stand with Bassey Albert in the physical realm for a payback time for him in this season and most importantly God has told me in my open vision and through other men of God I pray with that Bassey Albert is the anointed and my job is to obey God. When I said the other time that there was no revelation about Umo Eno, nobody has challenged me and I’m waiting to be challenged.
People in government are worried that you may out of anger divulge government secrets in the cause of this politicking since you had been an insider. Shouldn’t they?
Governor Udom Emmanuel and I, including our families, are very close. I can tell you that when he leaves office on May 29, 2023, he may reconsider his opinion about me, if I was wrong or right. The reconsideration is in his hands because he is the one sitting on the throne today. But if it is the aspect of speaking the truth, why didn’t they challenge me when I spoke to Senator Godswill Akpabio to leave the governor on the throne to do the job and be accountable to the people of Akwa Ibom State? So then I was not a bad person when I spoke that truth? The idea of standing on truth is my lifestyle and Governor Udom Emmanuel knows it. When he brought me back to Akwa Ibom, he gave me many responsibilities behind the scenes and I stood on truth and it worked.
When it comes to the secret of governance, I have no reason to discuss it with anybody because that will be belittling of myself; except in a circumstance where people ignorantly push my back to the wall. But then, if you go out and say Ephraim stole money, Ephraim will be forced to defend himself and might be in the course of his defence for his integrity sake, other things that shouldn’t be discussed are brought up, but that will not be my fault. What I am saying is that I have a right to react if I am wrongly accused and in a bid to clear my name and hard-earned reputation, such information that ought not to have been discussed surfaces. However, let me state that I have no plans any day to divulge government secrets but must appeal to those children bathing like fowls in the water that they know not what they are doing. They should better refrain from their ill activities.
One of the things trending is that you single-handedly demolished structures without approvals from your boss. Is that true?
The money that was saved from those exercises did it go to Ephraim Inyang-eyen’s pocket or it went back to the government purse? If they didn’t send me, why was I not apprehended and punished as commissioner for works then? Why wait till political discussions are taken before saying all these? I became commissioner for works and refused to play ball over exorbitant valuation reports. In 2015-2019, there was no person in government, including the governor, who asked me to stop. Is it now in 2022 because I have taken a different political position that they are playing up the issue? Does it make sense to you?
Why didn’t they complain when I was saving the billions of Naira for them? For example, when we started the Etinan-Ndon Eyo Road, there was a report of N5.4billion for compensation after the measurement but overnight it jumped to N11.6billion because of buildings that emerged overnight and the governor said the money alone can finish the road project. We were forced to demolish all those illegal structures in 2016 and no punishment was meted out to me then. Now six years after, people are shopping for information to smear me. The same case has gone to EFCC and they investigated me. When they failed in EFCC they ran to ICPC. Then I was the chief of staff. The payment consultant was arrested and detained for 21 days. He later took ICPC to court and won with a cost of N25million awarded against them and they have appealed it at the Court of Appeal. Now, why will the case in the Court of Appeal in a sane society surface in social media to smear Ephraim Inyang?
What I did benefitted the government and gave them value. Those smearing people are not sent by the governor, they are working to see if they will impress their boss. The job of a media aide is to promote the achievements of the governor, not selecting those with divergent views with the governor to hack them down. A man God has blessed, no man can curse. I give you my word that those who are doing this will return to beg when Obong Bassey Albert would have emerged the governor and myself in the Senate. Go and write it down.
We witnessed your passion for this government when as the Commissioner of Work you took the editors of national newspapers around to witness what you were doing with road infrastructure in the state. What is the fate of those projects now?
I am happy you people were there when I brought the 12 editors of national newspapers to go round and see that Governor Udom Emmanuel has done well to turn around the infrastructure of the state. Sadly, since I left he has not commissioned any road. Before then he used to commission over 42 and he called them direct-labour jobs. I worked passionately for the state governor and was determined to see the governor excel and then you can’t please everybody but God will give me my due for what I did to help the state. We should be more bothered about God’s opinion about us than the opinions of men.