Cerebral and witty, Sir Emem Akpabio stands out as a man with a good conscience, who believes in justice, fairness and equity. As a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he has constantly demonstrated immeasurable tenacity and sacrifice in growing the party and ensuring its electoral successes.
What’s more, Akpabio, a top-notch in the oil sector where he had served as management staff of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Port Harcourt, Rivers State, connects with his people as a visionary leader and philanthropist within Akwa Ibom and beyond.
Recently, he emerged as the chairman of the Campaign Council of Akwa Ubok Abasi Campaign Organization, which is concerned with the actualization of Senator Bassey Albert Akpan’s governorship aspiration for 2023.
In this interview with Crystal Express, Sir Akpabio sheds light on the mission and vision of Senator Bassey Albert; stating unequivocally that he is the best to govern Akwa Ibom in 2023. Hear him: “Among all the aspirants so far, Bassey Albert Akpan remains most outstanding. He has the best credentials and résumé.” Excerpts:
You have remained a dedicated PDP member even when people thought you would have defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) along with your brother, the former governor, Senator Godwill Akpabio, in 2018, but you stayed back with the party. Why?
I play principled politics. I have been a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for decades because I believe in the principles and ideals of the party. I don’t believe in jumping from one party to another. It is a better option to belong to a group you believe in their philosophy. I believe in the ideals of PDP and believe strongly that the future of this country lies with PDP. The party will rescue Nigeria and restore her hopes and further return her to the path of greatness.
What informed your decision to take up the position of chairman of Akwa UbokAbasi Campaign Organisation? Could it be your relationship with Senator Bassey Albert?
When I was approached to take over the chairmanship of the campaign council, I didn’t just accept because I have had a long time relationship with Obong Bassey Albert, I sat with him for him to tell me his mission and his vision for Akwa Ibom State and the people. After having an exhaustive discussion with him and knowing his antecedents, I believed him, because he has done it before. My acceptance was the right thing to do because I know he is on the right track. I am fully convinced that he means well for the state and the people. He has very good antecedents and has the pedigree and capacity to govern Akwa Ibom State. Sincerely Bassey has the vision and focuses to lead Akwa Ibom State to greater heights.
Your recent remark on Akwa Ibom not deserving the least qualified aspirant to be given the state to govern is trending. Is the remark pointed to the aspirant endorsed recently by the governor?
One of the aspirants said recently that he is the least qualified to be chosen as the next governor and I made it clear that Akwa Ibom does not need the least qualified at this moment. Akwa Ibom is a seven-star state and we don’t want the least qualified as the governor. We should opt for the best qualified. If I am in a position to hire for an organization that needs growth, development and progress, I don’t see myself recruiting someone who openly asked to be taken even though he is the least qualified. Every one of you here must have sold out better credentials to your organization to get hired and not saying that they are the least qualified. Your credentials speak for you. When you come from the position that you are the least qualified, then we won’t abandon the most qualified and competent persons for you. Among all the aspirants so far, Bassey Albert Akpan remains the most outstanding. He has the best credentials and résumé. Bassey Akpan is the next governor that Akwa Ibom people need. Obong Victor Attah is an outstanding architect with a pedigree. Akpabio is an outstanding lawyer with a pedigree and Udom Emmanuel is a good banker with a pedigree. These are seven-star people leading a seven-star state. We cannot settle for a one-star general who confessed to being the least qualified to lead Akwa Ibom State when we have a seven-star general to lead our state.
Do you see Senator Bassey Akpan as the much-desired new face of leadership from 2023?
Leadership is a continuum, from Obong Attah through Godswill Akpabio and now Udom Emmanuel, they all did well and contributed their quotas. We need someone who can take us to the next level and it should be a very experienced leader. Obong Bassey Albert, as a commissioner did very well and handled the inter-ministerial direct labour projects excellently. He delivered excellent jobs across the entirety of the state. He stood out as one of the most outstanding bankers in this country at a very young age. He rose to the position of vice president of one of the leading banks in the country, a very meticulous sector.
As a senator, Bassey is doing excellently well and is one of the best in the Red Chamber today. He is not only representing Uyo Senatorial District but the entire Akwa Ibom State and he is delivering both nationally and internationally. He has made the country proud through his services in the Senate. He is at home with the masses and feels the pulse of the people. The teeming youths of Akwa Ibom State are at home with him. He is the only young man that knows what the youth want at all times. Bassey has a good blueprint that will engage youths and take them off the street. He has a programme that will help the elders, the women and all sectors of the economy. He has an industrial blueprint and that is the kind of man that Akwa Ibom State needs at the moment. Bassey has been here with the people and knows their challenges. He remains the best option for Akwa Ibom State now.
Youths of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District presented a N21 million cheque to Bassey Albert to purchase a gubernatorial form. This must have been borne out of conviction on his capacity to deliver. What is your take?
The youths of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District made me proud with the action they took to purchase his gubernatorial form and pointedly they convey the message that Bassey is the best. They have seen the future and on their own came out in unison to appeal to Bassey Albert to stand the next election and win the Office of the Governor. The youth have seen great potential in him and contributed their money for him to buy a gubernatorial form. Thousands of them came together to contribute and it clearly shows that this is a people-driven mandate.
You sound so convinced that once Bassey Albert gets the PDP tickets, he is the next governor without minding that we have opposition parties like APC which will contest the next general elections. Aren’t you?
Akwa Ibom is a PDP state and Bassey Albert’s governorship is a mass movement, it is the people’s movement and involves the youth, elders, women and cuts across political platforms. It involves every facet of society. Akwa Ibom is a PDP state and will remain so. I am so convinced that that same God that brought Obong Attah, Godswill Akpabio and Udom Emmanuel will do it for Bassey Albert Akpan. We are standing on that pedestal, believing that Bassey Albert will win the primaries and the general election and will on May 29, 2023, be sworn in as the next governor of Akwa Ibom State.
You are at the forefront of championing the creation of Itai State from the present Akwa Ibom State. Do you see it as a project that will come to fruition?
If you go back to the history of Nigeria, you will see that the country was once governed by a province. Today, some of them have been broken into three or four states. State creation brings development to the hinterlands. If we were still in the old Cross River State, we won’t witness what we have today. If you again look at history, you will understand that it is only where we call the Annang Province and the Ogoja Province that are yet to be created into states. Port Harcourt Province has two states and so the Calabar Province. It is only the Annang Province that is yet to become a state of its own. We are calling for justice and fairness in this direction so that development can go deeper into the hinterlands. Imagine the level of development we will witness if we are two states from the current Akwa Ibom State. I believe that one day, through the instrumentality of the National Assembly and the President, it will come to pass.
How would you describe the representation of your senator in the Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District in the last four years?
The representation has been fair. His Excellency, Senator Chris Ekpenyong, is doing his best and we are happy with him. Peace has been maintained in Akwa Ibom State majorly because of rotation of power. It gives room for fairness and justice. In Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District; Ikot Ekpene Federal Constituency has taken its turn. Ikono/Ini Federal Constituency has also taken its turn likewise Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency. It is only fair and just that the fourth federal constituency in the senatorial district which is the Abak Federal Constituency takes its turn and that is why we are all concentrating there for equity, justice and fairness.
It is still on that same platform of equity, fairness, justice and rotation that we are also saying in Uyo Senatorial District when it comes to the governorship, the proper thing should be done. Remember that when it came to Uyo, Obong Akpan Isemin from Etinan Federal Constituency had taken its turn and when it came back to Uyo, Obong Victor Attah from Uyo Federal Constituency had taken their turn. Therefore, if you have three brothers, two have gone, it is just and fair for the third brother to also taste it.
So the third brother, in this case, is Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency. That was the understanding until recent development. But I know the people of Akwa Ibom know the truth and I know the people of Akwa Ibom State stand for justice. I know that the people of Akwa Ibom State stand for fairness and they will see that it is this rotation that brings peace and they will stand by it for Itu/Ibiono Ibom to produce a candidate going into 2023 elections. And the people will stand with Obong Bassey Albert Akpan who is the most popular and acceptable candidate in this election.
The incumbent governor openly endorsed an aspirant for the race? Is this right?
The governor is just one person and he has his fundamental right to choose. He has his choices and preferences but we are 7million Akwa Ibomites and at the end of the day, it is the 7million people who will choose who governs them. So the governor is just an individual and everybody has their choice. God will direct the people on whom He wants and please note that God is a God of justice and Fairplay. Akwa Ibom people, at the appropriate time, will choose their governor and my candid prayer is that they should choose Obong Bassey Albert.
Are you worried about a circulating video of some people in government threatening to unleash mayhem in the coming primaries and election?
I think that is left for the government of the day to address. The governor I know is a peaceful man. In Akwa Ubok Abasi Campaign Organization, we believe in peace and we go around preaching the peace mantra to the people while selling our manifestoes and candidates. We impress on the conscience of the people to do the right thing. We have heard about the intimidation of delegates and threats to their lives. We have heard about those who threaten to sack and stop from voting but we know there is a government in Nigeria and when the time comes, there will be law and order and we will have a very peaceful election and peaceful transition to the next government. Akwa Ubok Abasi Campaign Organization has nothing to do with violence and will not condone it. We have told our people to avoid character assassinations and deal with issues while selling our programmes to the Akwa Ibom people. We are focused and organised and will never want to be distracted.
What is your message to the delegates who will vote in the coming primaries?
We have been going around meeting them. We have consulted the party and local government chapters with delegates in attendance. At each meeting, we sell our programmes and they are buying them. We are waiting for the ad-hoc delegates to emerge and we know that they will also buy into our good programmes for Akwa Ibom State’s progress and prosperity.
What are the chances of the party in 2023 at the national level and do you see the PDP taking over the Presidency again considering the experience of the last seven years?
The Peoples Democratic Party naturally is on a rescue mission. I believe that PDP is the right party to rescue the country. Nigerians have seen the ‘changes’ APC brought. For instance, the Naira used to be 189 to a dollar but today it is 596 to a dollar. Nigerians have seen how Naira has depreciated today and how hunger has become part of us. PDP is on the mission to rescue Nigeria and restore hope and confidence in the nation. PDP is here to salvage the battered economy and I know that Nigerians won’t repeat the mistake they did seven years ago by electing APC at the centre. Their change mantra is too bitter for people to swallow.
Nigerian economy should be number one in Africa but unfortunately, we are trailing behind others and PDP is coming to rescue the country from the economic crisis.
What is your advice to PDP delegates as the primaries approach?
We must put our act together and never allow the coming election to divide us. It is only one person that can emerge as the presidential candidate and one person each as governorship candidate in states. We must not allow people’s aspirations to tear the party. I must commend the national chairman, Chief Iyorcha Ayu, who is doing a great job by uniting the party and repositioning it for greatness and taking back Nigeria from APC.
Your non-defection to APC along with your brother, the former Governor Godswill Akpabio, says a lot about your principled lifestyle. In a nutshell who is Emem Akpabio?
Emem Akpabio is a simple Nigerian who wishes to grow and wishes others to grow too with him. I believe in seeing people make progress in life and doing charity services to humanity as the greatest virtue. I believe in standing by the truth no matter the consequences. I am someone who believes in my principles. I believe in the programmes and principles of the PDP and that is why I’m sticking with them. I don’t believe that people should jump from one party to another, it is not so in advanced climes. In Akwa Ibom, PDP remains dear to the people because of its good programmes. I also see PDP rescuing Nigeria after seven painful years in the hands of APC. Emem Akpabio is one man who believes in service to humanity. So I am one man who believes in service to humanity to the best of my ability.