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Gov Emmanuel Has Proven That God is Sufficient In All Things

. . .Ikot Ekpene People Knew That Gov Udom Was The Right Man For The State


Encountering Sunday Ekanem Ibuot offers an expository on his apostolic zeal for service and truth. With a rich background as a cleric, banker, accountant, and administrator, Ibuot, Special Adviser to Akwa Ibom State Governor on Political and Legislative Affairs, plays politics of integrity and selflessness.
Before his present portfolio, he has served as Chairman of Ikot Ekpene Local Government Council; Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscals Commission; and Secretary, Technical Committee on Agriculture and Food Sufficiency, Akwa Ibom State.
Ibuot is a Fellow, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (FCIB), Tax Consultant, (CITN), Fellow, Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (FCTI), a management consultant, certified national accountant, who had worked at Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, and other firms.

With a clear understanding of his duty and the programmes encapsulated in the Completion Agenda of the present administration in Akwa Ibom, Pastor Ibuot in an exclusive interview with Crystal Express editors on Monday, November 11, 2019 says Governor Udom Emmanuel is a very big asset to the State. He also spoke on a number of other issues. Excerpts:

Let us meet, sir


Let me first congratulate your team on the debut of Crystal Express newspaper. I have seen your editions so far and they are very objective and I commend the editorial crew for a job well done. They should keep up the tempo. You people have filled the enormous gap of objectivity lacking in today’s journalism. If other newspapers should toe your style of balance reportage and objective analysis, there will be no need to control or gag the press. So, congratulations.
I am Pastor Sunny Ibout from Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area and earlier served as the elected chairman of Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area. I have also served as the chairman, Akwa Ibom Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission at a time. Before my appointment as Special Adviser, Political and Legislative Affairs to the Governor, I also served as secretary of a Technical Committee on Food Sufficiency in the state. Formerly the present office I am occupying used to be Bureau of Political Affairs and Water Resources but alignment and re –alignments have taken away water resources to a different ministry.

Your job involves interfacing with other political organisations, parties and the state legislature. How challenging is it?

I came into the office during the beehive of political activities around July and August last year. My office became the melting pot of every political activities and strategies. But with my experience in politics I was able to handle the situation. It was very challenging because most political parties that registered with the Bureau wanted recognition and prominence and we had limited at our disposal to meet up the demand from these political groups even though they worked hard for the political development of the state.

For the legislature, we have been enjoying close and cordial relationship with both the 6th and 7th Assemblies. We are working in a very robust way to develop the State. The most challenging aspect of this office is that after elections, the foot soldiers do come to ask for their democracy dividends and you know that human needs are very enormous and government is not in the position considering the economic circumstances we found ourselves to meet the demands that we have on our table. Therefore it is also a challenge because you must see how to marry and assuage all these interest groups. We equally counsel them on things they can still do to benefit from government without necessarily waiting for political appointments. All these put together make the office very challenging.


Governor Emmanuel is reported to have said publicly that politics should be a second address to the citizens. Is it normal for all these groups to hang around and depend solely on government for their survival?

I wouldn’t say that all the citizens are relying on politics for survival because before politics some were doing well and they were well to do before they came to add value to politics. Some are just looking for a kind of encouragement to enhance what they already have on ground. Some are looking for loans, grants to boost their trade and other things. Yes, the Governor said so and I agree with him, because it is the right thing to do. People should not rely on government for everything. In most developed climes, working in government is purely for service because it is not a system that you should expect patronage or compensation. There it is not what people look up to make a living or survive. However, in Nigeria, people want to make a living out of politics. We have three committees in the state which are the technical committee on Agriculture, food Sufficiency; committee on Ibom Deep Seaport and other on Foreign Direct Investment.

Those three committees were an assemblage of people who have made marks in their chosen careers and were brought together to contribute their quota to the development of the state and I was appointed a Secretary of the Committee on Agriculture and Food Sufficiency for the purpose of service without any pecuniary benefit which is okay. We should be able to tell the younger ones that the first point of call is self development before offering yourself to serve your community, state or country.

Before the removal of water resources department from your ministry, what impact did you record in that sector because clean water is still a major issue here?

Yes, you are right. I came into this office at a time politics and elections have taken the centre stage and we have to set our priorities right. The major issue was to return the governor to office for the second term so that he can settle down to tackle other challenges and to that extent, water was not yet given the priority it deserves. But within that short period, we attended national seminars/conferences on water and discovered that a lot of other states in the federation are benefiting not only from federal allocations provisions but from donor agencies within and outside the country who are very concerned about having portable water for Nigerians. You know that not every water is consumable. We declared a state of emergency as far as water is concerned in the state and there was this challenge of open defecation that is still prevalent in Nigeria. It got to the State Executive Council where an approval was given for water laws to be reviewed in line with the requirements of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources. But because of the politics involved we are yet to get to our target which is to show them at the national level of our preparedness to participate in the programme. We couldn’t get the preliminary issues together believing that after the elections, we will give water the priority it deserves. However, within that short time we commissioned some water projects that was sponsored by European Union and other foreign bodies in the state under my supervision.

There are many water dispensing points across the state established by this government which are not longer functioning. Why?

We can’t say none of them is functioning but safely say some of them are not functioning now.

The reasoning is that the state is a work in progress as far as infrastructural development and road construction are concerned. Most of the water lines have been affected by road construction. We cannot stop the Governor’s drive to enhance the road infrastructure and network in the state even though it has tampered with the free flow of the water. The plan is that by the time we finish with the road construction, we will come back to the water map and re-lay the pipes. That is what has affected most of the water dispensing facilities out there fixed for the public by this government early in the life of this administration. Water will soon start flowing again any moments there will be no further disruptions owing to road construction.

Political inclusion is one of the key agenda of this government.
How has the government fared in this regard by carrying all sections of the state along in government business?

We had Five-Point Agenda in the Governor’s first term one of which was political inclusion. It entails that as far as the government is concerned all parts of the state will benefit from the development plan. By the special grace of God, the governor has spread projects across the three senatorial districts. The 10 federal constituencies in the state have all benefited. It is safe to say that above 90 per cent of the local government areas in the state have government presence one way or the other through provision of water, schools, hospitals and other life enhancing facilities equitably distributed. The governor is a man of God who believes in equity and fairness and one who ignores ethnic sentiments. The governor is widely traveled and a good mixer who has overgrown ethnic sentiment. Politically, he has carried everybody along; every local government has one principal person or two in this government. So the issue of political inclusion has been taken care of without sentiment.

The governor reported to have said that all is not well with a society where over 20,000 youths can be mobilized within a few minutes at the peak of working hours for political rallies. How is the state striving to tackle youth unemployment?

Let me correct this statement since I was there when the governor made the statement. He said 5,000 youths not 20,000 by 2pm in a society for rally means all is not well and that shows the unemployment level of that society, which is true. That is what you get from people who are very straight forward. The governor is not a professional politician but a professional in politics. The man does not know how to paint words but calls spade by its name. He has not minced words to say that all is not well with the employment situation in the state. But unemployment is not peculiar to the state but a national matter. The economy of Nigeria is centralized in such a way that state depends on the Federal Government. Nigeria’s money and resources are shared centrally in Abuja and it is what a state gets that they plan with. Most polices about the economy are made by the Federal Government’s institutions and agencies and trickle down and affect the states and even local communities. The unemployment situation in Akwa Ibom State is not a product of negligence of government of the state. The governor upon noting the challenges approached industrialization with optimism. He invested massively in agriculture which is expected to employ more than 80 per cent of the population if well harnessed and funded in the country. The engagement in this sector alone has taken a large chunk of our unemployed youths out of the street. There must be orientation among our youths especially the graduates who believe that the white collar job should be their birth right once they leave the higher institutions without any entrepreneurial mentality. People should be able to see how they can start small and build an empire. Every big organisation or conglomerate we see today started small especially the Asian Tigers which were mere little enterprises before becoming global brand. However, in Nigeria, there is this belief of a national cake which you must partake in sharing through government job or you are not a Nigerian. Governor Emmanuel who discovered this problem has ensured massive investment in both agriculture and industrialization. The feats in these sectors are open and visible for all to see in Akwa Ibom State. Government has absorbed so many even though we are yet to achieve our target. The problem of unemployment has accumulated over the years and cannot be wished away overnight. Governor Emmanuel is desirous of addressing the challenges of unemployment before the end of his administration. However, by the end of the administration, most people will be employed as most of the companies that came through public private partnership (PPP) or foreign direct investment would have taken deep roots. People have come to accept his Dakadaa (Rise to greatness) philosophy which reminds us of our enormous potentials and challenges to bring out the best in us and even turn us to employers of labour instead of waiting for government employment. So if people can stand up and harness their God-given potentials, the issue of unemployment we have today will be greatly reduced. These efforts put together will culminate into developing our economy. Dakkadaa philosophy is designed to raise a generation of youths who will start from little to become great. The Bible says that greater and better is the end than the beginning. So we must preach the Dakkadaa vision to our youths and must let them know that all the big conglomerates we have today started with mostly one or two persons. The governor is doing his best to sell this to the people of Akwa Ibom State.

Outside APC the presence of opposition parties is very minimal or lacking in the state is it that the state government hardly tolerates opposition or what?

We have close to 90 political parties in Akwa Ibom State and I have documents in this office to back up this fact. We have Inter Party Advisory Council in the state which is a constitutional body we are aware there are political conflicts in other states between parities which is as a result of leadership of that state.

The reigning peaceful atmosphere here does not mean that there are no other parties in the state but I must tell you that as the political adviser to the governor, I periodically assemble political parties for interaction because once a government is in place; it is for both the ruling party and other parties. Of course, members of other parties are indigenes or residents of the state and government should be able to cater for all. So the calm witnessed in Akwa Ibom State is because the state Governor knows how to manage these diverse political interests.


Can you unveil the Completion Agenda of the governor and the expectations from him before his exit in 2023?

The Bible says that without a vision the people perish. Governor Emmanuel came with a vision to develop and make Akwa Ibom a destination so that any foreign investor that visits the country without coming to Akwa Ibom will feel unfulfilled and it is happening now.
Look at the Ibom Deep Seaport; this is one project that will turn around the economic fortunes of the state. The project will open the state to the world and this government will leave no stone unturned to ensure its success. The stringent stop gaps put by the regulatory agencies have slowed down its pace of delivery. Waterways and port management is in the exclusive list and the final lap for Akwa Ibom state government to bring in foreign partners will start the proper construction of the port.
Secondly, the state so far is next to Lagos in terms of foreign direct investment. The governor has provided enabling environment for investors in the state. There have been so much interest in the state from foreign investors and we have about 16 companies here on ground. There is nothing like doubt on the issue of industrialization of this government because the commissioning of these factories was done in full public glare and live on national television. So industrialization as far as this state is concerned will be one of the legacies Governor Emmanuel will leave behind. The commissioning of the electricity sub-station in Mkpat Enin recently by theVice President, Prof Yemi Osibanjo, is to show how desirous this government is about ensuring power base for the industrial clusters. This is one government that walks its talks. There are several road networks currently in various stages of completion. Akwa Ibom is next to Federal Government in the quantum of road infrastructure under construction in the country. If you go though the state today you will either be driving on dualized or well paved roads. This is one of the legacies the government will leave behind. Another legacy will be a population that has been re-oriented in line with the Dakkadaa philosophy. Some people believe that you can achieve something in life when you work with government or civil service which is not true. I was a successful banker but I discovered that I haven’t fully utilized my potentials and opted out of the system. Then I saw need to offer services to my local government and was elected into office as executive chairman of Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area. My tenure left landmark achievements and I was about the only chairman then living in my community among my people. Time will be when the products moulded from the Dakkadaa philosophy will do exploits outside the shores of Akwa Ibom State.

The Appeal Court has just nullified the election of Senator Chris Ekpenyong in Essien Udim Local Government Area calling for a re-run. What is your take?

Well this is democracy in motion. Democracy comes with human rights and rule of law and this is the rule of law. The judgment will only deepen the democratic credentials of Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria. Out of 10 local government areas that made up the senatorial district, election is annulled in one leaving the other nine where it was upheld. People are playing down on the nine. PDP as a party had already complained that the election in the local government area was not free and fair. In several areas the decision of the appeal court is in order. We have the constitutional provision of going for re-run under 90 days and PDP is ready for a re-run because PDP is a religion in Akwa Ibom State. We are not frightened. We only pray for a level-playing ground for every party election to further prove that Akwa Ibom State is PDP and PDP is Akwa Ibom State.

You said you left a legacy and enduring landmark achievements as chairman of Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area. Are you satisfied with what your successors have done so far?

A good leader does not criticize his successors or predecessors. What he does is to give advice because everybody does not have same capacity when it comes to leadership. That is why we are talking of good leadership recruitment exercise. Politics is not all comers’ affairs. If you don’t have the calling for leadership, if you venture into it, you fail no matter how successful you have been in other endeavours. So I can’t compare or criticize those before or after me because they can only perform according to their capacities and leadership acumen.

Having served at that level, how do you think that the local government can be better managed to serve the people?

The challenges of local government include under funding which means that most local governments are not properly funded. For instance, you know that payments of teachers, nurses and traditional rulers are under the payroll of council areas. Uyo and Ikot Ekpene being the major urban cities have them in larger numbers. The numbers keep increasing without any review of funds coming into the councils. So you discover that the statistics of 10 or 15 years ago is what is still been used to allocate funds to local government till now. Uyo and Ikot Ekpene local governments are under pressure because most of the teachers want to live in urban areas. Even when posted to rural areas, they work their way back to urban areas and this puts financial pressure on these council areas. That is the number one challenge of council areas because if you don’t have the funds to take care of salaries which is the first line charge, there is no way you will succeed. It was a little different in my time because I wasn’t going there for self aggrandizement since I was already well to do before going to council. Therefore, I was conscious of writing my name on the sands of time; one that can stand a test of time through generations. But a lot of people don’t have such philosophy of selfless service in mind.

How will you score the performance of the present crop of local government chairmen in the state?

I think the council chairmen in Akwa Ibom State are doing very well because the payment of teachers and nurses’ salaries have been partially subsidised by the state government which is why we are having this central payment system in the state removing the burden from individual council areas. If the old system is allowed to operate then you will find situations where some local government areas will still owe salaries of up to two years by now. The central payment arrangement has taken the burden away, leaving the local government councils to perform other duties and functions depending on the funds that are available to them.

Barely six months into the life of this administration, the discourse on 2023 is already in the public domain. Is it healthy to the polity?

It is normal because you cannot control the thinking of the people. Officially the government has advised the stakeholders to steer clear of 2023 politics for now and concentrate on governance and delivering democratic dividends to the people. We have just finished elections and the people are looking forward to enhanced social amenities and welfare which is the focus of the government now. However, if a person outside direct control of government decides to pre-occupy themselves with 2023, it is part of the freedom that is enshrined in the constitution which is freedom to express their opinions and which nobody can stop them from doing.

It is still worrisome that some mega government projects are lying waste without completion, such as Tropicana, Science Park, Four Point by Sheraton among others. Any hope of completion?

Yes there is hope. But you see Governor Emmanuel is not playing to the gallery. Important projects for social works like roads are being done daily and there is no abandoned road project. But when you talk about projects like the Ibom Tropicana that is supposed to be a commercial project which should be self sponsored over time, the governor who came from the private sector believes that it should be self funding which should attract investors who will complete and manage the facility. Government is not a good manager of business. The governor who is very exposed knows that even if the state funds are dumped in that project it may not be able to be recouped. Therefore, government is shopping for investors who will come and discuss its completion and management which will be to the benefit of Akwa Ibom State and her people. The project is not abandoned. The Four Point commissioning is delayed by the road linking Uyo to Ikot Ekpene which runs across that area. There is no point commissioning such a big project without access road to the place. We have discovered that our sports sectors have been developed at a fast pace with international matches being hosted here. The Four Point By Sheraton project will be vital to our visitors and tourists. So far I can say the road project is 95 per cent complete and soonest the Four Point by Sheraton Hotel will be commissioned.

What impact will that road make in the lives of the people of Ikot Ekpene and other road users?

I will not like to go into detail of that road but will express our gratitude to the governor for its completion. That is one of the reasons the people of Ikot Ekpene decided to vote enmasse for him in his second term in spite of the predictions of doomsday prophets. The Ikot Ekpene people made a promise to the governor and kept it because we knew the governor was sincere and straight forward which has been demonstrated by the completion of the road project. That is not the only project there. We have international market project in Ikot Ekpene and foreign partners are been scrutinised to help realize that project. As we speak the governor has awarded a road contract in Amayam Community neglected by previous government and the Road is about to start. The Uyo-Ikot Ekpene road is just one of the many projects currently being undertaken by the state government in Ikot Ekpene and the people are very happy with the governor.

Don’t you see the people’s action as a political betrayal of their son, the immediate past governor?

No it wasn’t any betrayal. Ikot Ekpene was the first place in the country to experiment local government administration in the then British-West Africa. So the people of this area are politically well educated. We know when to separate politics from deceit and it wasn’t anything like betrayal. We know that Governor Udom Emmanuel was the right man for the state and we all supported him.

How would you describe the person of Governor Udom Emmanuel who you have shared the banking career with?

Governor Emmanuel is an asset for Akwa Ibom State. Secondly he is a blessing to Akwa Ibom State as far as the reinvention of the state is concerned. This is one governor who trusts so much in God and God alone. Before his coming I didn’t believe that one can climb such heights in life without worshipping other gods. But he has come to prove that God is sufficient in all things. I have seen the governor to be father of all; never an ethnic bigot. He carries everybody along including every segment of the state. He is a true version of a statesman who sees the collective interests of the state as paramount. Therefore he will be remembered in the annals of history of the state as one who came and did the impossible as far as they state is concerned.

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