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Sen. Akpabio doesn’t believe in Umo Eno’s bipartisanship – Enoidem

Sen. Akpabio doesn’t believe in Umo Eno’s bipartisanship – Enoidem

In this interview with the Conference of Online Publishers in Akwa Ibom (COOPA), Emmanuel Enoidem, SAN, a former National Legal Adviser of PDP who was the senatorial candidate of the party for Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District in the 2023 general election bares his mind on Pastor Umo Eno’s performance in one year as governor, the resistance Umo Eno’s campaigners faced in marketing him during the elections, the governor’s bipartisan posture and romance with senate president Akpabio, and the political crisis between Governor of Rivers State, Sim Fubara and his predecessor, Nyesom Wike. TheMail’s correspondent was there and presents EXCERPTS…

Umo Eno has clocked one year in office as Governor, are you satisfied with his performance so far?

I think I am more than satisfied because Umo Eno has done a whole lot for Akwa Ibom people; the politicians, the non-politicians, the party members and non-party members, the traders, the farmers, the students, Persons Living with Disabilities, everybody within the ranks and files of Akwa Ibom State are satisfied that indeed this was a good choice. We cannot forget the history. When Umo Eno’s name was touted as the next governor of Akwa Ibom State, the resistance was huge. A particular newspaper banner headline carried “Dead on Arrival”. That was the most intriguing banner headline. I remember the first time when the then Governor, Udom Emmanuel had in 30th of January 2022 unveiled Umo Eno as his preferred successor, later in February or March of same year, we had a meeting with the party at the party’s secretariat, a normal New Year meeting that the governor used to have with officers of the party, and as the Chairman of Maintain Peace Movement (MPM), I had the singular honour of speaking at that event. When I mentioned Umo Eno’s name as the next governor of Akwa Ibom State, the entire arena went wild against me by the mere mention of that name. It was not easy.

Umo Eno was a major no-no for a lot of politicians. What I mean by politicians; those who are career politicians, people who were holding political positions in the party. And this was a gathering of PDP. A gathering of the ward chairmen, the chapter chairmen, the state officers of the party, so it wasn’t a gathering of people outside PDP. We were talking PDP matter and we said this was going to be the candidate of our party and then we had that level of resistance. Umo Eno was a good choice. Like Udom Emmanuel said, he was a choice from God and we can only link this to the leadership history of Akwa Ibom because we have been very fortunate to have leaderships that are very focused, committed, dedicated. We have had Attah, Akpabio, Udom, and of course, Umo Eno now. So, we are lucky as a State.

Umo Eno came as one of the best things to happen to Akwa Ibom and we are very happy with what we are seeing today.

In retrospect, what do you think was responsible for such level of resistance to his candidature? And what did you do as one of his chief campaigners to ease the resistance while selling his candidature to Akwa Ibom people?

The reason for the resistance is that, number one, he was unknown. Nobody knew his antecedents, nobody knew his content, nobody knew his preferences. There were not many politicians that were connected to Umo Eno at that time because he wasn’t politically inclined. He wasn’t a politician in that context. He was stranger in the midst of the kingmakers and there is no kingmaker who wants to bring a stranger to become king. Every kingmaker wants to bring someone that is close to him, someone he understands, someone he knows his history, antecedents and preferences. But this was one king that was virtually unknown in the political circles. So, that resistance was natural. But we’ve been in the game a little bit long, so we also know the intrigues of the game. The good thing about Umo Eno is that he didn’t have any baggage; there was no real baggage around him. What I mean by baggage is limitations, shortcomings, things that were not palatable to the human society. Nobody knew such dent on his person. So, it was easy for us as managers of the process to now put him on the table and begin to do analysis of what are his strengths. Two things came out at that point; number one was that Umo Eno has lived in Akwa Ibom State from 1995 as a grown up person, as a mature person, as a businessman. So, he has cultivated relationship with Akwa Ibom people in the business community. So, he is an indigenous (homegrown) governor. The yearning before this time was ‘we don’t want anybody to be imported from outside the state’. We have come to a point in our history as a state where we need someone who is economically inclined; someone who can manage our economic resources because we need to broaden the base of our economy, increase IGR, create jobs for our people, and stimulate the business environment. So, we knew Umo Eno fits the bill having been a business man for more 25 years. He understands the nuances of economics. So, we used these two points to market him to Akwa Ibom people. Before the unveiling of Umo Eno, we had already gone round all the Local Governments to sell the agenda of the next governor of Akwa Ibom which is peace. The third point was that Umo Eno is a peaceful man being a man from the temple. In the first round of the LG tour, the message was that we were waiting for the man that will be unveiled by the then governor as his successor. That was the essence of the Maintain Peace Movement. After Udom announced his choice, we now went back, and said the person has been unveiled and that person is Pastor Umo Eno. By that time we had started gaining ground because it was now the local government indigenes we were addressing not just the politicians. It was a mixed crowd of politicians, businessmen, leaders of the LGAs. At that point, we started having some level of acceptability because nobody could actually point at one particular fault or dent on Umo Eno. So, by the time we finished the entire 31 LGAs with Umo Eno being physically introduced to the people and he spoke to the people, it was obvious that the man had content, there was something we knew in this man, there was something that could be tried in this man. The rest is history.

When God is on a mission of making somebody anything, He will stop at nothing to make sure that the intention is accomplished. When we were ready for the primary of the party, a few very logical things happened. The legislators themselves, members of the National Assembly who wanted to be governor legislated themselves out of the process. In other words, they removed what is normally known as statutory delegates. They removed them from the process. Because, at this point, the ‘Mbiam’ syndrome had taken over the entirety of the statutory structure content. A lot of people had taken the traditional oath known as ‘mbiam’. People had committed themselves traditionally to the established politicians who were also aspiring. It is a very negative practice that should be discouraged by anybody. Anybody who wants to be a leader and cannot on the strength of his integrity get the vote of anybody doesn’t deserve your vote. Somebody that must coerce you by threat of an oath or because he has given you some money to sell your vote, that person does not deserve your vote, does not deserve to be your leader. Leadership must be chosen willingly, voluntarily, and without any coercion. We were faced with that challenge when the majority of the statutory delegates had committed themselves to other aspirants. The only choice we had at that time was the adhoc delegates. We had 3 delegates per ward multiplied by 368 wards was the result we had at Stadium, venue of the primary.

In specific terms, what and what has changed for good since Umo Eno came on board as governor of Akwa Ibom?

When we were campaigning on the ARISE Agenda, how many people could have believed that the ARISE could be implemented the way it has been implemented. If you look at the implementation of the ARISE Agenda, it is a total return to the local areas because this is an aspect that has been neglected. It is not a very popular area, it is not a very forceful area, it is not a competitive area, it is not an area that a typical politician would want to devote his attention to but that is where bulk of our people reside. That is where our people are making their living. So, for one to reconnect himself back to the rural people, it is a major paradigm shift. Connecting to the people who are in need, people who are in need of the presence of government. If all of us concentrate in Uyo, Abak, Ikot Ekpene, Eket as it were, to deal with the population in those areas, that is about ¼ of the total population of Akwa Ibom State which has been estimated to be about 7.2 million. What the ARISE Agenda has done is to take governance back to the people, take development back to the people. For me, that is very unusual. Now, the second thing is that Umo Eno has given hope to our people who before now didn’t expect any patronage from government on account that they don’t have any connection or someone that can link them to government. So many people who are beneficiaries of this government don’t have connection to politicians, most of them are not politicians, most of them don’t know anybody in politics but they are benefitting from government. Nothing could be better than that. This is what we call a government of the people for the people. This government is for the people, not for the elite. Not for people who are living in Uyo, Eket, Ikot Ekpene, Abak or any other urban area of Akwa Ibom State. This government is for the people who are living in villages that were unknown, places that the presence of government has never touched. That is what this government represents. For me, it is a major shift in governance. This brings Umo Eno to the system that is called bottom-top approach in governance whereas it used to be top to bottom, which is the best way to develop the people. Otherwise, government used to concentrate power in the hands of people. This is the first time in the history of Akwa Ibom State that every ward must have a representative in government and these people live in their wards. It is not just for you to be from Etim Ekpo Ward 1 which is my ward and you are living in Uyo and then you are PA (Personal Assistant to Governor) because you know Enoidem. You must live in your ward. To fulfil the condition that the PAs must live in their wards, it took it us almost 3 months to be able to meet the condition because it was resisted. The resistance was to be expected but the governor insisted on it. At the end of the day, we didn’t have less than 90 percent success in meeting the requirement that you must live in your village, you must live in your ward. So, that is taking the government back to the people. When they did the food support to the people, these guys (Ward PAs) have tablets in their hands and the database for the food distribution is in their hands. The tablet connects them down to Uyo and they have direct communication with the system in Uyo. That is governance in the 21st century. For me, Umo Eno has exceeded expectations in his first one year.

For a good part of your adult life, you have been a party man and a loyal one at that, there haven’t been any history of you cross-carpeting from one party to another…

It will never happen. Even if everybody in Akwa Ibom leaves PDP today, I will be here to give the party a burial.

The Governor, your candidate whom you adopted and sold to the people of Akwa Ibom State in the last election has adopted a bi-partisan approach to governance. Most times, he is quoted as saying that the time for politics is over, that now is time for governance and that he is governor for the entire Akwa Ibom State. Is it a good thing for you or for the party? Is the governor being a good statesman but not a good party man?

It is unusual but I like it. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have gone out to receive Godswill Akpabio; even though Godswill Akpabio doesn’t appreciate what the governor is doing. I went out (to receive Akpabio) because I believe in what the governor is doing, that there should be time for politics and there should be time for governance. As a statesman, I believe in that; that was why I went out to receive Godswill Obot Akpabio. I even went outside to receive him when he arrived the Governor’s office, but he doesn’t believe in what the governor is doing. I was inside the exco chambers, he (Godswill Akpabio) didn’t recognize me because I contested election against him. Meanwhile, he was the one who contested election against me because he wanted to contest for presidency. I got ticket 5 months before Godswill Akpabio became a candidate of the APC. If he appreciates what the governor is doing, he should recognize me in that hall by saying someone who contested election with him is in this hall to receive him. He doesn’t appreciate what the governor is doing but I like what the governor is doing. The governor is a statesman, he is a good governor for Akwa Ibom State and he has said so loud and clear and I believe that a governor should be a governor for everybody. I believe in that; not because Umo Eno is doing it but I believed in it before Umo Eno practiced it. I will encourage him to do that but there will be a time that the bell of politics will be rang and at that time, everybody will know where they belong, which platform you want to contest election in. For now, let’s govern Akwa Ibom State, let’s develop Akwa Ibom State, let’s use all we can and what we have to make sure Akwa Ibom is developed. I think that’s the strategy Umo Eno is adopting. He is a good statesman, he is a good politician, he is a good party man because he doesn’t forget his party.

See Also

Peradventure the governor is unable to actualize his mission for the state through ARISE Agenda in 4 years, will you support him for second term?

It is not possible for him to achieve that, except it is not ARISE. He said he wants to develop the rural areas, you can’t develop the rural areas in 4 years. He has started the process.  As far as I’m concerned, if elections were to be conducted today, Umo Eno will win on account of what he has done. Seems you don’t understand the changes that are taking place in politics, economy, in the social area, a lot of changes are taking place that you cannot deny that they are unprecedented in the governance of Akwa Ibom State. It is not going to be possible for him to achieve all the ARISE agenda items in the first four years. It is not going to be possible. That is why he has a second term. Even when the last day of the second term ends, he would not be able to complete the ARISE Agenda. The next government will come and continue because the ARISE Agenda encompasses everything development in Akwa Ibom State and there is no way Akwa Ibom State can developed to the extent we want it, the eldorado of Akwa Ibom State cannot be achieved in 8 years. It is not possible. Even if we have the money, the time is not there. 8 years is not long enough to develop the entirety of Akwa Ibom State and make it one town which is our target. We want to make Akwa Ibom State one town, a mega city across board. From the North to South, East to West, we want to make it one town; that is the target of the PDP government in Akwa Ibom State.

As a former national officer of the PDP, and as someone who is equally interested in national politics, what is your reaction to the development in Rivers between a PDP Governor in that state, Sim Fubara and someone who has singlehandedly declared himself as the National Leader of the party, Nyesom Wike.

Wike cannot be the National Leader of the PDP.

 …But he is still a member of your party

I don’t know about that because a member of our party, or a member of any political party not just PDP, cannot sit down in the platform of the party and advocate for support for an opposing candidate from another political party. For me, that is highest level of insult to a political party. It is highest level of insult to a party arrangement, highest insult to partisanship which party politics represents. It is the highest level of insult to political culture anywhere in the world. It is an insult to the integrity of people. It is an insult to conscience. It is an insult to honesty and truth for someone to sit down here and say I want to support the candidate of another political party and doesn’t have the guts to go to that other party and stay. It is an insult to himself as a person. It is a contradiction that no human being that has risen to that position should pass through. What is happening in Rivers State is not a surprise to me because I know Wike does not entertain an opposing voice. Wike is looking for houseboys, he is not looking for leaders. He is looking for slaves to drive, he is looking for people in servitude who don’t have opinions, he is looking for nincompoops. Because every human that is worth his salt must have some things to contribute to the human society in terms of ideas. Even if you bring someone as your child in position of governor, leave the person to operate. A governor is not supposed to be someone’s houseboy. You can’t move a governor about. What is happening in Rivers State shows the contradiction in the man called Wike. He is a complete contradiction. Social media is very good. It helps in reminding us of who we are. When you make a statement yesterday and then you come today to make another statement, social media will remind you that you have said something different. If you check all the statements that our brother Wike made in the past, he will not leave PDP. Has he left PDP? 25 Members of the House of Assembly of Rivers State who are loyal to him are in APC but Wike has not left PDP. ‘I will support Tinubu in 2027’, says Wike but he has not left PDP. Wike made Sen. Dave Umahi to leave PDP and he went to the Television and castigated him for carrying PDP votes to APC. Wike made Ben Ayade, the then Governor of Cross River State to leave PDP. He went to TV to castigate him for carrying PDP votes to APC. He (Wike) had said he can never go to APC, that if he goes to APC is he going to look for stage 4 cancer when he is having a mere headache? Is he going to eat his words? Is he going to leave where he is having headache (PDP) to where he will have stage 4 cancer which is APC? He said he wants to support Tinubu to continue with what Buhari did. What Tinubu has done is worse than what Buhari did. We are suffering more under Tinubu than under Buhari. Under Buhari we bought 50kg bag of rice at N50,000 a bag, today, how much is 50kg? I don’t even know if anybody knows the price. There is no way any sane person will fit into that bill as a governor. That is why you are seeing the seeming conflict. It is not caused by Fubara. Every well-meaning leader in Rivers State, past and present, in business sector, in politics, in church is with Fubara. Because as far as they are concerned, they are emancipated from a slave trader. They are emancipated from someone who was driving them as slaves. I describe Wike as a despot with civilian clothing. He is one of the worst despots under civilian clothing; he is worse than Idi Amin (of Uganda). You can’t have a contrary opinion when Wike is on the table. He won’t entertain it no matter how sane the opinion is. That is not allowed in Democracy, in fact even in military, because you know even in military they do politics too. In Supreme Military Council they used to argue but under Wike you don’t argue. Whatever the leader says that is what you will do. There is no way Fubara would have survived that level of tension without a conflict. The conflict is very natural, everything will find its course. You know when Wike was there he showed the people how to use power.

But Wike is developing Abuja. Go to Abuja you will see the level of development there. He is good at that but his weak points are too many for you to see his strengths.

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