Insecurity: Nigerians Have Judged Buhari Unfairly

2023 Guber: There Is Nothing Like Rotation In Akwa Ibom



Encountering Hon Eseme Sunday Eyiboh, Chairman, Cross River Basin Development Authority, is meeting a personality of immeasurable charm and candour.

He comes off easily as an interviewer’s delight, taking even probing questions with eerie and sagacity.
Eyiboh, is a former member of the House of Representatives, who represented Eket/ONNA/Ibeno/Esit Eket Federal Constituency and served as the spokesperson of the House from 2007-2011.

Earlier he served as the Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Agency for Ethical and Attitudinal Re-orientation Agency, EARCOM, and posted an incredible performance.

In this exclusive interview with Crystal Express, Eyiboh, a top flight politician and member of the All Progressive Congress, APC, speaks on wide ranging issues covering state, regional and national. Excerpts:

Since your assumption of office as the chairman Cross River Basin Development Authority, what value have your board added to the benefiting states?

First the core mandate of the River Basin Development Authority is the management of underground and surface portland resources, agricultural and infrastructural services. If you now check the core mandate then you will be able to match it with the milestones we have achieved so far. If you go to Nung Andem in Onna, Akwa Ibom State you will know that we have provided keyboard agricultural system where infrastructure for irrigation programme is also in place, and if you go to Abak, you see massive acquisition of land preparation and keyboard irrigation system. You will also see an integrated value chain infrastructural management structure. For example, the industrial garri processing facilities, the one for oil palm and also the one you can use in doing cassava and yam flour. If you go to Itu council area, we are already there for the dyke so that it will aid us in irrigation matters. Nkari dam which was abandoned so many years ago, the federal government at the end of last year put in N5.6 billion for its reactivation. Now if you go to Esit Eket we have acquired an infrastructure sustainable green village programme where you have migration of various auxiliary services in agriculture, like poultry, fish pond, piggery and others. If you go to Ekpene Obom in Esit\Eket, the young people there have been put together as co-operative and the hitherto abandoned agric equipment handed over to them and they are making progress. All I mentioned so far are in Akwa Ibom/ Cross River we are making progress in various communities.

How many states are covered by your activities? How do you get your funding and what are your challenges in delivering on your mandate as chairman?

Cross River Basin covers majorly Akwa Ibom and Cross River States. When you talk about the management of watersurface and underground resources the nexus between this, is the asset management, whether human or material asset management. Before we have had challenges of recruitment which initially had been very problematic. What the government is grappling with now is the issue of institutional integrity and proper fund management which has culminated in ease of doing business. I must also tell you that before now, contractors were seeing the river basin as a contract awarding centre where people come, pick contracts and the resources and disappear. In the same vein we also have hardworking and honest contractors who do execute their jobs according to specification with integrity. But unfortunately we are being owed and we have liabilities. Sometimes we have our budget but the releases for the year may not be enough to pay off these liabilities and that also is a big challenge to us.

Do you see the recent ordered forensic audit of the NDDC restoring the interventionist agency to the path of progress?

Well, the President did not say that the forensic audit exercise will bring the agency back to the path of fulfilling its core objectives. Beyond the forensic exercise is the issue of recruitment leadership to the place which is the very key. The person or people handling its affairs are also important. The vision transferred must be well planned and marshaled out so that those people who will take up from there should be able to interpret the vision. Bureaucracy has also been a major problem in NDDC. In some cases the political appointees there are at the mercy of the bureaucracy. There are people who have stayed there for over 30 years and are now institutions. Sabotage, red tapeism and bureaucratic bigotry are also a big nightmare that must be overcome in NDDC; otherwise the present forensic audit may be an exercise in futility. The human assets at the NDDC formed 80 per cent of the problem, they facilitated the corruption and manipulations there especially in handling and execution of contracts anomaly from the agency.

As an indigene of Niger Delta, are you impressed with the NDDC achievements over the years considering the level of funds that has accrued to the agency?

We have agreed that the reason for the creation of the NDDC was to be an interventionist agency that will bring about the spiral and unfitted developmental agenda in the Niger Delta. But we have realized that there is a vision loss occasioned by the poor leadership recruitment process. The immediate past leadership however tried to bring about the 4Rs which centered around restructuring the agency’s operations. Those were measures put in place to reorganize the place and the vision in which it was founded, but the NDDC has not been fortunate to have people who could really transform its funding visions into reality; it has been a case of right people in wrong places or wrong people in right places. The impact of NDDC in Niger Delta has not been as envisaged.

Nigeria is under siege as insecurity pervades the atmosphere. Banditry has forced the South West geo-political zone to form a security network called “Amotekun” to check their activities. Do you endorse state regional or community policing of the country at this stage?

The setting up of Amotekun by the governors of the South-West is in order if the operations will be carried out within the armbit of the law without metamorphosing into another militant group like we earlier had of Bakassi Boys. There should be a clear design to monitor the implementation of that programme. There should be an administrative structure to manage the activities of the group so that people will not use it against perceived enemies. Secondly the issue of insecurity in Nigeria, I doubt if we can contain it as it has nothing to do with security chiefs, army, navy, airforce or police and all of that. It has more to do with us as a people. Let’s be fair to President Buhari. He has tried immensely. Let’s not judged him unfairly. Nigeria is a country populated by people who are not security conscious. When you don’t care about what is happens to your neighbiour then how will you worry about what happens to us as a country? You realize that the so called criminals and bandits are living in our communities across the country. We know them and some traditional rulers, community leaders and others even benefit from the people. They provide accommodation for them because of money. You lost it all the moment our value system took a nose-dive. We lost it all immediately we begin to introduce the issue of affluence into our national life.

If there is any way we can re-institute the value re-orientation and indicate self-belief into our system, the better. So far we continue to have the imbecility of the ungodly society. This people will continue to exist and thrive. During elections, it is the same people that form the bulk of people used by some politicians and abandoned after elections without care. So if the minority elites are unable to ensure adequate provision of the societal patrimony to the majority which are commoners, I think we will contribute to have insecurity. There is no reason the majority should not have access to public health facilities, education and other life enhancing facilities.

Today if a rich man wants to organize his birthday, he goes to the orphanage. But the children in the orphanage homes are not looking for the indomie, rice and toiletries taken down there. What they need is education, access to health facilities, and other social securities. The security challenges has nothing to do with President Buhari or security chiefs but rather we need to develop new consciousness which will be able to take care of the majority which have been deprived. Democracy as we are aware is the government of the people by the people and for the people, but today democracy in Nigeria is the betterment of the tyranny of minority against the majority.

Are you impressed with the level of development witnessed by AkwaIbom/Cross River State under APC government? You are from AkwaIbom State with office in Cross River State. Do you have any access road to travel between both states?

My take here was nothing to do with partisan politics. First development is a process that encapsulates so many things. The Calabar-Itu highway connecting Akwa Ibom and Cross River serves as one of the major economic infrastructure between both states. The road has gone decayed, dilapidated and requiring urgent attention. At some point I recalled especially during former governor Akpabio’s time that government did intervene using states funds to fix federal roads and get refunds. I am thinking that Akwa Ibom and Cross River states government should collaborate with other multinationals to fix the road which is largely used by their people. They can involve several other companies especially those dealing in gravels and stones in Akamkpa among others, to fix the road. We have had such instances even in Apapa, Lagos, which road was handled that way. Things like that will be done by developing a template and collaboration and embark on resource mobilization and address these challenges.

The road in good shape will impact positively on the economy of Akwa Ibom and Cross River State. They can even seek the approval of the Federal Government and install a toll gate and recover their money, this is one issue that requires proactive measures without sentiments. It is not possible for the Federal Government to work on it now. There should be a quick win which is for the states involved to intervene and also see to the improvement of their internally generated revenue. As I said, a sad majority of people plying the road are indigenes or people doing businesses between Cross River and Akwa Ibom State, if the intention of the government is to see the welfare and security of her people, they should be proactive at this level.

You are a former House of Representative member and the social media and hate speech bill have elicited mixed reactions among Nigerians. Do you think such bills should be considered by the National Assembly?

Well it is not the long or the short title of the bill that is the issue but the content – what does the bill seek to achieve? Who is it targeted at? What we do is to wait for public hearing where people are expected to come out and participate in the public discussion on the bill where those in support and those against it will articulate their opinion. That is all democracy is all about. From there you will see if the bill is meant to come or curb the exceses of the social media outburst or if it intends to gag the freedom of speech which individuals are entitled to as specified by the constitution.

What is your take on the closure of border by the administration of Buhari against importation of rice and others when the nation has not grown enough to feed itself?

You know Japan has 80 per cent mountains and only 20 per cent arable lands. But meanwhile Japan is exporting rice. So with six clear months of dry and six months of rainy seasons with fertile soil that grows tomatoes in Kebbi, Sokoto and any part of the country Nigeria is endowed and blessed. Why don’t we start it without looking back? The way we start is the way we are starting now. The price of local rice has appreciated because of demand and supply and a lot of people are opting for it. The simple economics here is that when we have more supply than demand, the price will come down. We have so much relied on foreign rice which is no longer available putting pressure on the supply chain and the price goes up. We must start to grow our economy. Instances you enter even our local flights and get served with apples and other fruits made and imported from other countries is shameful because we have better ones here. I support the closure of the boundary against all these goods. We too should have enough and even be exporting too.

Putting aside partisan politics do you thing the Supreme Court judgment in the Imo guber election is justified?

Those criticizing that judgment have nervous reasoning. The case of Zamfara State was where the same supreme court handed over the entire elective political structures to PDP and they were celebrating, describing the Supreme Court as the hope of the common man, but not in Imo State. The hope of the common man is our legal system. The Supreme Court is the final arbitration court in the country. So if you are democrat who believes in the rule of law you must subject yourself to it.

Uzodimma said he has votes which INEC unlawfully cancelled. INEC has no power to cancel votes already announced at units and chapters except the tribunals or court and the man is saying look at my votes, they have no power to do what they did. We must be very rationale and look at the two sides and the issue before the Supreme Court is what they ruled on. If PDP and Ihediora felt there were issues they need to contest, they would have filled a cross appeal countering what the man brought. But they never did it; so that one is gone and they should allow it go.

What is your take on the last election in Akwa Ibom State in which your party lost?

I cannot speak anywhere on that election as the Supreme Court has taken its decision concerning the election and our party made its position known. I will not comment on it again because no matter what you and I will say, it won’t change anything.

2023 is the turn of Uyo Senatorial District to produce a governor. Is it the position of your party too?

You have been in the state for a long time and know there is nothing like rotation in Akwa Ibom governorship slot. When Obong Attah contested in 1998 from Uyo Senatorial District, Benji Okoko from Eket Senatorial District also contested in that race. In 2007, when Akpabio contested and won people from every senatorial district contested in that election. Again, when Nsima Ekere contested under APC, John Akpan Udoedghe contested too from Uyo and others from everywhere contested too. There has never been zoning when it comes to governorship of Akwa Ibom State and there will never be zoning. 2023 is open to all. If you want to follow the tradition, the precedent, follow equity because what is good for the goose, is also good for the gander. At every point everybody contested. It is wrong to talk of zoning. Rather what we should be talking is the kind of people we want now to take over the states.

The idea of INEC handling subsequent local government elections against SIECS appears to be a big burden to the electoral commission. Do you think so too?

It is not a burden in any way. It can never undermine the merit of that election conducted by state electoral commission anywhere in the 774 local governments in the country. They sit down and just announce results as they like. So if you are giving autonomy to the local government and wants it to work, those should be elements of independence in the conduct of the electoral process that ushers in leaders to that tier of government.

Related Articles

Back to top button