He is a cerebral politician, a grassroots/ youth mobilizer and one that has been lucky to head a local government area in AkwaIbom state on four different occasions between 2007 and 2016 both in an appointive and elected capacity. The man is Rt.Hon. Anthony Jude Akan, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Political Matters and Grassroots Mobilization. In this interview with some journalists recently in Uyo, he bared his mind on a number of issues including the recent resignation of Senator Nelson Effiong from the PDP, the Local Government system in AkwaIbom State, the administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel and the 2019 general elections. Happy reading
What is your reaction on the recent resignation of Senator Nelson Effiong from the PDP?
It is not a new thing and I don’t see a reason why people should panic. The only thing that is constant in life is change, if someone sees that the platform he is operating from does not suit him today, he has the right to move to another platform.
What then is your party doing to curtail the incessant defection to another party?
I am not a spokesman of the PDP in AkwaIbom State, but I am aware the party is following the due process of law to retrieve the mandate that was given to Senator Nelson Effiong by the PDP. Since this does not fall within the purview of my office, I cannot speak authoritatively on it but I know that PDP has taken steps in the right direction. To the best of my knowledge, it is only Senator Nelson Effiong that has left the PDP officially and I have not heard of any other person. To be sincere with you, he has not given a cogent reason for his defection.The rumour mill has it that he was sidelined in the party, not given any slot in the appointment of Transition Committeemembers; he was not taken along in the formation of party structure from the ward up to the chapter level. I don’t think that is true because we are all aware that in the formation of the present executives of the party, the state governor gave specific instruction that we should all go back to our respective units and allow the people to elect their representatives in the party executive and that was how it was done in all the local government areas. All stakeholders were involved and I am sure if you go to state office of PDP, it will shock you that the list which came from Oron local government had the endorsement of Senator Nelson Effiong.I don’t want to believe what he said on radio because the governor in the few months in office has not portrayed such character. The governor does not have an attitude to show that he is ready to sideline or look down on the office of the senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not just an individual. Senator Nelson Effiong should be upright by telling us that he is no longer comfortable with the platform of PDP and wants to be in the party at the federal level.
Don’t you think his defection can affect the fortune of the party?
The party does not belong to any single individual.
But he has supporters?
There is no politician without supporters even if it is one person. For him, you cannot say his wife and children are not his supporters but we should realize that the party is not owned by an individual but a lot of people who have stake in it. It is left for those who are still in PDP in Oron local government to prove to us that Senator Effiong is just a little chip of the cake or the Senator should prove to us that he was the brain behind the party.
Are you aware of any single term agreement between the governor and Oro nation?
I don’t know where they had that agreement, only heard from Senator Nelson Effiong that GovernorUdom was to serve for only one term. This is the man that was not even in the picture. To the best of my knowledge, Rt. Hon Victor Antai was the popular aspirant for the senate seat from Oron Federal Constituency but at the dying minute, during a visit of Oro people to the former governor Godswill Akpabio on an issue as it affects Oro, that Victor Antai was asked to forget the race. His credential as a two term state lawmaker and former Speaker made him the choice of the former governor just as he said on radio. I don’t know where he sat down to bargain a single term for Mr. Udom Emmanuel, someone who just came and was given ticket, where did you have the opportunity to say Udom must go for a single term, he came in when Udom issue had been concluded. I don’t like being part of too much public fighting in words but the truth must be told; if Obong Victor Attah from Uyo senatorial district went for two terms, Ikot Ekpene went for two term with the same candidate and it is now the first term of Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel and the second term for Eket senatorial district will also have the governor as candidate. It has been said two terms each with the same person, it is God’s divine will, even if it will be with just one vote, Governor Udom Emmanuel will beat whoever comes out. It is wrong to liken Governor Udom Emmanuel to late Dr. Clement Isong, we are talking about the 21st century now not 1980s. If Clement Isong had failed in his second term bid, Udom will not fail. I am of Uyo senatorial district, I cannot wait for 12 years for the governorship seat to return to Uyo, it will be a mistake to field someone else who is not Udom Emmanuel because he has the right to go for a second term which means Eket senatorial district will then take 12 years and we are not ready to wait. I don’t intend to play the kind of politics where at 70 I am still active in the field when I should be an elder statesman or an adviser, there was no agreement for a single term. Any attempt to stop Governor Udom Emmanuel from going for a second term will amount to failure and I can assure you that this generation of AkwaIbom politicians who made his victory in 2015 possible is not ready for such failure. Whatever is written on the pages of newspaper is not new to us, we have heard it before but when the time comes, Udom will go for a second term.
What is the difference between being a Local Government chairman and a Governor’s aide?
Yes I was the chairman of Uruan for four consecutive times and now I am the Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Political Matters and Grassroots Mobilization, they are two different offices. The fact that as chairman there is an allocation where you presides over its disbursement but as a governor’s aide there is nothing like that. Politically, being the governor’s aide has broadened my scope; I am now on a wider horizon covering the 31 LGAs in the state. I am no longer constrained to Uruan LGA alone, it is more demanding and I pray God for the strength to succeed because I am expected to mobilize the grassroots to ensure that victory is guaranteed in 2019.
Have you started mobilizing the grassroots ahead of 2019 general elections?
Preparations are of different stages from the drawing board to meetings and strategizing, we are on it. We have plans on ground which is been looked into and what is left is to make a presentation to the party and the governor for them to give us the go ahead to start. Very soon what is on paper now which we are meeting to fine tune will be seen physically on ground to ensure that His Excellency wins convincingly in 2019.
Do you align yourself with the argument that Uyo federal constituency should produce the next senator for uyo senatorial district?
Speaking politically, the last time Uyo Federal Constituency produced a senator was between 1999 and 2003 and it was for just one term. By internal arrangement which comes with rotation and zoning, it is believed that Itu/Ibiono Federal Constituency has done two terms with Senator Ita Enang taking one term and Senator Bassey Albert is doing another term at the moment. By in-house arrangement, it should return to Uyo Federal Constituency but let us not be carried away by the internal arrangement but also be guided by the constitution which guarantees reelection for a legislator for as many times as possible. Coming back home there is always an arrangement among the Federal Constituencies so that the impact of the office is felt by all but politics has a lot of indices that come to play and I am very sure that by 2018 we will know where the pendulum will swing.
What is your view over the non-conduct of Local Government Elections in the state?
Speaking as someone who has tasted the two there is no different between a democratically elected government and transition committeesat the local government level. What an elected chairman can do, a transition committee chairman can also do, the only difference that comes with this elected and appointed transition committee is that there are more beneficiaries in the elected system where you will have at least 10 elected councilors, eight supervisors, the vice chairman and the secretary and in some cases one or two special advisers thereby having not fewer than 20 families directly benefitting from the local government. Apart from this, the same allocation comes to the local government whether as an elected or appointed government, the same mode of disbursement, the same budget. It is the person who is sitting on that seat that is the issue; you could be an elected chairman without the spirit to perform or the spirit to carry your people along same with an appointed chairman of council.
But as an appointed chairman you can be sacked at any time?
None is secured. Even as an elected chairman you can also be sacked once you go against the norm or do any unconstitutional thing not permitted by your office you will be removed. There are laws and procedures to follow and once the governor reports your problem to the state house of assembly and if the House of Assembly passes a resolution that you should be removed you will be removed but as an appointed chairman the governor can remove you without recourse to the House of Assembly.
The fact that elected system accommodates more people not enough reason for the conduct of election?
It is not enough reason considering the lean resources in the state. Poor financial resources have also affected local government areas in the state. I was a transition chairman up till July 2016 and I can tell you that we could not pay salaries from what came to us from the federal government. The governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel always borrow money from the internally generated revenue and till date there is no improvement. There has been a sharp fall, gone are the days when allocation used to be above a billion naira and now where a paltry N300m is received by the 31 LGAs. Don’t forget this is what is used in the payment of nurses, primary school teachers, paramount rulers and village heads and staff under NULGE. When these statutory things have been removed is what the chairman takes back to do the general administration of the local government. Don’t also forget that not all the local government gets equal allocation; the money MkpatEnin receives is not what Uruan gets. There are indices that are considered like the number of political wards, the number of primary schools. It is not conducting the election that is the problem but howdo we sustain the system is the big issue that is under consideration. If you bring a councilor who knows he is supposed to be given constituency money and when the money is not there immediately he will plot how to impeach the chairman because he doesn’t want to believe there is no money. The 21 people earlier mentioned are entitled to furniture allowance and they believe that the money should come in the first one or two months in office. This can breed crisis in the system and at the end of the day the aim is defeated. Today, all political appointees of the government only receivesalaries;will the councilors also accept that? People must come to terms that things are no longer the way it used to be and until there is an improvement, we have to manage it that way. The only thing I advise the party is that if we are going to do local government election, let us give the party ticket to the area that is zoned to and not because of relationship. Every local government has its own zoning and rotation system, if we want to avoid defeat at the general elections, let the proper thing be done.
How would you asses the Governor in the last 20 months?
He has performed creditably not minding the lean financial status of the state at the moment. He has kept the state afloat without industrial crisis side by side with his industrialization policy which is very obvious in the running of the hatchery in Uruan, the reactivation of the paint industry in Etinan, the pencil and toothpick factory and the massive investment in the agricultural sector under AKEES scheme. He deserves our support considering the difficult times that we are living today. We are always fortunate to have God fearing governors, people who rely on God in ruling the state. Deacon Udom Emmanuel came from the corporate world into the political arena but I can tell you that he has merged the two worlds together for the good of AkwaIbom people.
What is your advice to the political class as we approach 2019?
Politicians should know that they cannot always win all the time. As we approach 2019 there will be a test of loyalty especially when tickets are not won by those who felt they should have been the winner. They should stay back in the Party; we should learn to sacrifice for the interest of the party by supporting those the Party has chosen to fly their flags. There is always another opportunity and if this is done, we will have a unified party to face the opposition especially now that the PDP is no longer the Party at the centre.