AKPABIO: Akwa Ibom Is Not Owing Above N60 Billion’
He blows his trumpet himself and most times on the roof top. And that seems part of the content of the opposition to his reign. Some people just do not like the guts with which the ebullient Governor of Nigeria’s South-south State of Akwa Ibom, Obong Godswill Akpabio, conducts the business of government. But he is not an empty barrel that produces only noise. His narrative is usually loaded with verifiable statistics of superlative performance which put him in a different leadership class in Nigeria. Often, he presents the details with gusto and because there is seemingly so much to talk about including the 2015 general elections, he runs on, almost becoming impossible to moderate. His engagement with The Guardian team last week was not different.
You were talking about your anger about eight years ago, what has happened to that state of mind now?
The anger has reduced drastically. I look around my state and I am satisfied that with the available resources, we have done a lot to change the landscape of the state. We have also done a lot in the development of our people. Some challenges are still there because we don’t have the resources to do all the things I would have loved to do. I would not really call it anger, but I would say I am disappointed by the state of finances in the country. It is unfortunate we ran into this financial drought and I wasn’t able to end in a way I would have loved to end. Some of the communities are still yearning for the Godswill touch, in terms of the magic wand of the infrastructural renaissance. I can’t do everything, I am a human being and I can only work to the limit of the available resources.
The anger has substantially reduced. I can tell you that anger was necessary for me. If you noticed, in the last eight years, I am not the kind that goes round criticizing leadership. The reason why I don’t do that is because I see myself as a leader. I cannot go round and tell you that government is not working when I know I have the power to make my government work. I have proven that government can work. So, when I hear leaders criticizing leadership, I am pained. That is not how it should be. A leader should correct the ills of the society and take a retrospective look and be in a position to correct the ills for the future. We should lay a foundation of good governance for the future. When a leader criticizes, what happens to the followers? That is why in the last eight years, you have not heard me criticize anyone. The anger propelled me into the revolution you have noticed in Akwa Ibom.
We have seen something different. You seem to have taste for excellence and quality. What is driving that; the depth of your pocket or a state of mind?
My uncle was a Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister of Education in Eastern region many years back. We were privileged to have a road that traversed my community from Ikot Ekpene to Abak; it part of the federal road that goes to Port Harcourt. When I was a child growing up, there was a road and I used to stop taxis and go to Ikot-Ekpene four kilometers away. As time went on, that road disappeared. All we had were gullies and for about 20 to 30 years, we had no road again. Taxis stopped and economic activities came to a standstill.
That was the state of things I found as an adult. I asked myself, what was responsible for this? Two things; number one is lack of maintenance and the second aspect was low quality jobs. People tended to believe that government things should be inferior while things in their homes should be superior, whereas government should actually show example. I believe that government should be next to God and God is quality. I decided to lead by example and I am not boasting, I have done quality infrastructure in everything I have done.
Again, I also took cognizance of the fact that there is a period of harvest and period of planting. There is a time for every season. Oil will not be with us forever. In those days in the 60s, the things in vogue were palm oil, groundnut, cocoa and cotton, until we now had crude oil. Oil is an exhaustible item. It is not something that will last forever. We are even praying that as we continue to drill the oil, we don’t end up with earthquake in the Niger Delta region as a result of oil exploration and exploitation.
The idea is that because this money would not come every time, we should use the oil resources to lay a foundation for industrial growth and economic revival. And that cannot be done by building very cheap infrastructure. There was no sincerity of purpose, so I came into government to put things right and build infrastructure that will last and drive development and industrialization and then set an example that government should be about quality.
Nothing good comes cheap. Can we say for sure that in trying to lay a good foundation for the future, you have also mortgaged future generations in terms of taking so much loan to do all the things on ground?
I am someone who attends to needs according to my resources. People come and notice so much development and they start wondering the governor must have mortgaged the future of Akwa Ibom people through loans. How can one government do so much? It is not true. What has been happening is prudent use of the resources. Even at that, you will still hear some people saying he receives so much. But people forget that allocations from the federation account are published every month by the Federal Ministry of Finance and you can download how much has been collected by Akwa Ibom government. But because of politics, people misuse facts and say ‘oh, he has collected trillions.’
Last month, what we had was about N13 billion and unfortunately, we are almost a totally civil service state. We came from Cross River State, also a civil service state. Most of the few industries were actually built in Cross River not Akwa Ibom. This area was totally rural in nature. The workforce is such that you spend over N5 billion on salaries and emoluments and by the time you had pension and other government expenses, what you have left is not much, because we don’t have Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). We are not like Rivers, where you can have over N10 billion a month from IGR or Lagos State where you can have up to N20 billion a month only from IGR. We depend solely on what we get from the federation account.
The first time we ever took a loan was about 2013 when the financial crisis really started and states could not even pay salaries. Apart from fall in the prices of oil, there was a time we couldn’t even sell our oil. We took a loan of about N30 billion and another tranche of N50 billion as approved by the House of Assembly. Today, as I speak with you, we have been paying the loans on a monthly basis. We are not owing up to N60 billion as at today. We have not mortgaged the future of this state, it is just speculation. People just speculate, ‘oh he has built five brand new hospitals, over 6,000 classroom blocks to supplement compulsory education.’ At the end of the day, they assume that I must be owing so much, but it is not true.
If you look at the Ministry of Finance data on the indebtedness of states, you will see that Akwa Ibom is one of the least indebted states. And even some of the debts were not recorded during my administration. I have tried to ensure that we live within the means of the available resources in the state. I have also put in a lot of economic enablers that will help the state boost its IGR. I would expect that after my tenure, it would double. In the healthcare sector, we are bringing a first-class international hospital that will generate revenue for the state.
In the hospitality industry, we are adding two hotels to the state – Hilton and Sheraton hotel. And by the time they become operational, it would add revenue to the state. We have created the ambience for industrial revolution and a lot of industries have started coming. We were the first state in Nigeria to invest in the gas sector. By 2008, I was able to take a census and I realized that the Federal Government was building a lot of independent power plants and the turbines were coming in. I also realized the gas would be a problem in future. Nobody was looking at gas, they were instead flaring it. So, I looked around the world and I found a company we partnered with to build a gas processing plant here. I made a deposit of $33 million for future supply of gas. In fact, what we agreed then was $66 million. I made the first $33 million and they have been deducting the rest from government purse on a monthly basis to make up for the balance.
They brought in their investment of over $350 million and built a gas processing plant. We assisted them to do 69km of gas pipeline. That has helped so much now because at that time, I took a risk to buy gas at $2 when gas was going for 40 Cents by the Nigerian Gas Company. You will be surprised now that even though we sign our agreement to buy gas from them for 10 years at $2, they are selling their gas now at $2.6. The 60 Cents on top belongs to Akwa Ibom government. That is also going to be another major revenue earner for the state.
As a result of that, we have attracted another industry to that area, a petrol-chemical industry, Quantum Petroleum, which is worth $1.8 billion. They are also involved in methanol production. This is what we call vision. The Bible says people perish for lack vision. That is what leadership is all about, you see beyond what your followers can see. I assure that in future, after me, most of the things we have done, instead of mortgaging the future of the state, would rather generate a lot of revenue for the state.
Sustainability is now a question after leaving office, what is the plan, are you handing over this infrastructure to private sector management or government will still be involved?
It would depend. There are some infrastructures that must care for social services and those ones government can manage them. There are others that will generate revenue in addition to providing social services. Those ones can be concessioned to the private sector to manage them. That was why succession was important in Akwa Ibom. If you do a foundation for a skyscraper and because of time constraints, you are not able to continue and you hand it over to a quack who is not an architect, he will put a bungalow on the foundation. But if you give it to a skilled person he would know this foundation was meant for a skyscraper.
The governor that is coming in is not new to the state and its developmental programme. He is adept at financial engineering. He was Chief Financial Officer for Zenith Bank for 12 years and he has been executive director in various international finance organizations across the world. I believe strongly that in a period like this, we need someone who can find the money and not someone who can it. You can do the spending, but you must find the money. We are going to encourage a lot of private sector participation in the economy of the state.
I know the attitude of people to government. So, what I did was to set up an infrastructure maintenance agency. The reason why that agency is not vibrant today is because the infrastructures are still very new; they do not need maintenance right now. The roads I have done are roads that have a lifespan of 20 years before you see any pothole. This is Niger Delta; it is not like the northern part of Nigeria where you don’t need so much stone base or compaction. There, all you need is just laterite and asphalt. Here, much of the soil is actually clay. For a clay soil, water would sip in from under and in three months, the road is gone. I decided to make sure that our infrastructure is built to last, so maintenance would not be a major problem.
We are also investing in human development. We have over 60 of our students in India in various fields of ICT. When they return, they will man our e-Library facilities. Most of them left in 2013 and they will be coming back with world recognized certifications and skills to help drive Akwa Ibom forward. There won’t be much problem in this aspect for the next administration and I do know we will be available to advise to ensure we sustain what we have done.
You say there is an international hospital that will also make money. We want to know how?
We lose billions of dollars every year to medical trips abroad. We have also lost a lot of people, not because we don’t have the expertise in the country. We needed a hospital that can run at international standard. I decided to build general hospitals in local governments that did not have and in areas that are very populated, even if the local government already had one. I found out that what we have here can go for a teaching hospital.
We also decided to have a hospital that would answer to the needs of Nigerians in terms of advance health management and that was why we built the Ibom Specialist Hospital. It is not like a teaching hospital, it is like a quaternary hospital, it is higher than a teaching hospital. We are starting it with about six modular theatres with equipments, that if for instance you are doing a cardiological investigation on a patient, cardiologists from around the world can hook up to the theatre and see real time what is going on and make their contributions to the examination and operation.
That kind of hospital cannot be run by government; we needed to hand it over to a private sector. That is the one that will be a revenue earner. So, instead of rich and wealthy Nigerians and nationals of other West African countries going abroad, it is easier to come here. Sometimes, people die in the air while being transported abroad for treatment. We wanted to shorten travel time for patients going abroad and at the same time get revenue for the state from health tourism. It is a beautiful concept, it is also very big. It is comfort combined with excellence. We have about 380 suites and so many operating wards. We are starting with 150 expatriates all at once. We are in agreement with a Swiss hospital group and an Arab healthcare group in partnership with Cardio Care in Lagos, which is a group of cardiologists. We are providing a place for a lot of Nigerian skilled personnel abroad to come back home. We are providing a place that is equal to where they are operating from. The MRI system we have installed in that hospital is the best in the whole of West Africa. There is none in Nigeria today. We went for the best because we want to save lives.
Nigerians don’t believe that government can work. Nigerians believe that some of the things we show as uncommon transformation are not true. They believe we took pictures from the internet and did computer simulation on them as our projects. They don’t believe that these things can work, but seeing is believing.
You have talked so much about infrastructure, but the best infrastructure is the human capital. We want to know your testimony in the area of human capital?
As a young child growing up, I lost my father when I was six months old and it was quite difficult for me after the civil war to find even N10 to go to school. Based on my experience, I knew if I could make it today to become a governor it was because of education and so I had to make it one of my legacy projects. I know that education is the key to human development. You have the hard infrastructure and the soft infrastructure. The soft infrastructure is the human development and we have invested a lot in that direction.
That was why we began a compulsory education and made sure it was open to all Nigerian children who are resident in Akwa Ibom. Not because we have the money to educate the whole country but because we believe strongly that if you educate your children and you didn’t care about your neighbour’s children, you are preparing armed robbers to attack your graduate children in future. Today, we have 1.9 million children at the basic education level in a state with a population of roughly five million. We have also sent a lot of our doctors abroad for training. We have sent a lot of our graduates for ICT training. We are continuously upgrading and retraining our people. Even in the civil service, we carry out foreign trainings for civil servants and at the training institute (Administrative Staff College of Nigeria) in Badagry.
Also, we decided there was need to have more tertiary institution that will cater for the large number of those who will be coming out of the compulsory primary and secondary education. That was why we established the Akwa Ibom State University. In 2010, we obtained the license from NUC and we established a multi-campus state-owned university. We were able to graduate the first set of students just 24 hours ago. We are looking at courses that will impact on the economy of the state like Ocean Science, the reason being that we are hoping that Ibom Deep Sea Port will become a reality and you will need a lot of skilled manpower to work in the port. My experience as a growing child has enabled me to provide hope for the hopeless.
We have a home here called Divine Children’s Home, which we set up for children who do not have parents because a lot of orphans who returned from places such as Lagos, Gabon and the north. They heard about the free education and they are now in various boarding schools in the state taken care of by government.
In spite of your efforts, the state still count low in industrialization. Is it that you didn’t consider industrialization as important component of development or what?
First of all, let me say that we have to take things in their strides. Industrialization without the basic infrastructural foundation would fail. I give an example, we have a battery industry in my local government many years ago but the road to that battery industry was muddy. The result was that each time you loaded battery, especially during the rainy season, the vehicles would get stuck. It was impossible to move the goods out of that place and eventually the industry died. I had to lay the foundation first for industrial growth. That was why we attempted to do as many roads as possible to link up all the local governments.
The foundation had to be laid first. If you don’t have access to a place, it would be difficult to build industries there. Akwa Ibom was a pedestrian state where people pass through to Port Harcourt or Calabar, it wasn’t a destination, but now, I have made it a destination. We have tried to create access through the air, land and sea. Once the seaport is completed, then we would have opened up all channels to Akwa Ibom.
Government cannot be investing in the enabling environment for industrial growth and at the same time building industries. We want the private sector to drive industrialization and it has started. The security of the state must be such that investors would not be scared of coming.
You have chosen a successor you say is the best but we have seen real opposition to your choice by the people of Akwa Ibom. If he is really the choice of the state, why is the opposition so strong?
Talking about succession plan, it is true that Akwa Ibom people have produced a successor of their choice in the person of Udom Gabriel Emmanuel. It is also true that some people rose up against him. It is also true that 99 per cent of Akwa Ibom people support Udom. The other one per cent are the people that have the resources to be heard by Nigerians, to put their positions and views across in the traditional and social media. The other 99 per cent do not have the interest or resources to compete with the one per centers in propaganda.
Udom, just like me, is a product of a revolution, not a product of a cabal. In 1999, a few people came together to select someone as governor but in my time, I was elected by delegate votes to emerge as the party’s candidate. He had just a group of 22 people against him; I had 57 people protesting my emergence as governor. You can never have a group where someone will emerge without some resistance unless you are running an autocratic system. In a democracy, you cannot get100 per cent of the people to agree with you.
No market woman who is a real voter would go to Channels Television to say he is challenging the election of Udom Emmanuel. It can only be somebody who is well fed and have the resources to do so. Most of those complaining are those with personal interests. It is either he contested against me and lost or he contested against Udom and lost. It is no longer about the opposition to the governor-elect but how do we convince Nigerians to learn to be good losers.
Look at what has happened to the President-elect. It is a lesson for all Nigerians. Gen. Buhari is now going to be our president but here was a man who contested three times and he couldn’t make it, but on the fourth attempt, he won the election. It means that this is the time God wanted him to be president. This is his own time, but in my state unfortunately, some people are not patient. Once they attempt it and fail, they turn into opposition and sponsor propaganda and falsehood.
We have people who came from abroad to attend birthdays of their friends only to turn into foreign observers during elections. You see them on television reading scripts written for them that the elections were not free and fair in so and so states. A foreign observer who is a friend of the contestant and who was here just last year for the birthday of the contestant became foreign observer on the election-day. Who are they deceiving? When I hear some of these things, I just laugh.
And then you have a young man who contests election and he gets to his polling unit by 9am asking to be shown result sheet when the election personnel are still busy getting set for accreditation. I have never seen anything in the law that says that when you get to a polling booth, you ask for result sheet before you vote. It means that if you have 1,600 people at a centre, each of them must be shown the result sheet before casting their ballot. Meanwhile, the result sheet is blank because the election has not started. At the period of accreditation, some people were already addressing the media, saying ‘gentlemen of the press, you can see that no election is going on here because there is no result sheet. I have asked them for result sheet and nobody showed me.’ They knew they were going to lose.
It is not true that there is opposition to the governor-elect, but it is true that a small cabal which has lost the opportunity to handpick a governor for the people is making noise. I am not bothered about those things.
Do the Ibibios of this State have any problem accepting your high performance because you are Anang?
I don’t think so. I get a lot of applauds from majority of the Ibibios but you really have to understand the foundation to some of these disagreements. When I took over from an Ibibio son, who was a governor, it wasn’t his choice candidate and unfortunately, he has not been able to come to terms with the fact that I am the governor. Naturally, people who are his followers would continue to toe that path. I believe that the state is more united than I met it. I do know that majority of the Ibibios are happy with my performance.
There are things you cannot change really. You can’t change the fact that if you walk into Uyo now, it is not the same Uyo I met in 2007. I make appointments and some people would call me and say ‘oh my God’. We just appointed the chairman of the university governing council board of Akwa Ibom State University. His name is A.S. Udofia, an Ibibio man. Last week, we approved the appointment of the Vice Chancellor, he is also an Ibibio. People asked me if I didn’t know he is an Ibibio, I said that was the most capable hand I could find in the university system. I don’t look at those things; I expect them to work for the general good of the state irrespective of the tribe they come from.
I am totally detribalized. I won’t notice what you as a journalist will ordinarily notice, that certain sections may be thinking that the man is not performing well. They will never say I am not performing well. The problem is that some people want to have their way, eat their cake and still have it. It is either we perform well and some people are not happy or we don’t perform well and some people praise you. If you don’t perform well, you will not hear any noise at all. It is only the mango tree that bears the best fruits that receives the greatest amount of stones. If a mango tree does not have very sweet fruits, it can never be stoned, rather it would be ignored.
When you hear all the propaganda and noise against Godswill Akpabio, look twice, it means something is happening. It means he is doing well. It also means that the money some politicians used to make from government is not getting to them any longer, because the money is now getting to the grassroots through various projects. What matters is the happiness of the people. Go to any part of Akwa Ibom, you need to see the excitement on the faces of the people whenever they see their governor and it’s less than a month for me to go.
Just yesterday, a young boy organized a big event here with thousands of people. What was the music that he released? The song was ‘we shall miss you Godswill’. You need to get a copy of the CD, it is quite emotional. I am also a Christian, if some people are not happy, it is good because the Bible tells me ‘go thou and rule in the midst of your enemies.’ It didn’t say in the midst of your friends. If you want to be a ruler in the midst of your friends, you won’t do well because it means you will continue to compromise.
Does that explain why there are over 70 newspapers in this state all writing what you have not done well?
It is more than that, there are over 120 actually and the reason for that is our degree of tolerance. The governor is very tolerant and patient and they gave me an award last year as the best governor since 1960, even though the headlines are always against me. People see me as a source of employment and again, good news doesn’t sell, it is only bad news that sells. If you can tell lies like ‘Akpabio falls’, ‘Akpabio slums’, ‘Akpabio murders’, ‘Akpabio kidnaps’, people would buy the newspapers. If somebody escapes an accident, they will say ‘Akpabio’s assassination attempt fails.’ They just have to link Akpabio. I am the governor of the state, so my name sells their papers for them. Some of them come out only when there is propaganda against me or my administration, they are not a daily or regular newspaper.
Now that the opposition has gone to the tribunals, the papers will become active again and there is only one narrative, which is that elections never held in Akwa Ibom. The idea is to see whether there will be preponderance of opinion to influence the outcome of the tribunal. But propaganda cannot win a war. Here we have all sorts of newspapers, we have New Guardian, New Horizon, Global Post, Global Express, Accord, The Concord, Spy Net, Spy Post, The Ink, The Projector, The Sermon; so many of them, close to 180 local tabloids.
It is the lack of employment that is leading to the emergence of these mushroom newspapers and the propagation of lies as truths. As tools of the opposition, they have managed to whip up sentiments to the extent that in every election, Akwa Ibom is always a flash point. The 2011 election in this state was the most peaceful and freest in the history of the state, yet you saw the reaction from the losers. This time again, they have managed to whip up the same sentiment but I am yet to see the flashpoint as the Chief Security Officer of this state.
We can’t conclude this interview without talking about the PDP. As the chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, what really happened to PDP?
I am one of the leading lights who would revive the PDP. I have no intention to move elsewhere. I believe strongly in the PDP. I still believe that the PDP is the only truly national party in Nigeria. I also have a responsibility to Nigeria that the country must survive and move forward. Today, the choice of Nigerians is not about party but about President Buhari. Therefore my job as a Senator would be apolitical. I would support the president to succeed because his success is the success of Nigeria but at the same time, I would not lose sight of the fact that my political party must take back power in the next election.
If you are asking me what happened to the PDP, I would think that the PDP is still shell-shocked to realize what happened to it. I still can’t imagine what happened to the PDP but I guess we must have taken a lot of things for granted, particularly public opinion. There were a lot of things we ought to have done, which the public felt we had not done and that resulted in the defeat. But you must also know that what the PDP has done would endear it to Nigerians in future. We are the first political party to lose election of this nature since 1960 and come out publicly to accept defeat, congratulate the winner and decide not to go to court.
You must see that aspect that this is a political party that believes in democracy and wants to deepen it. So, when we lost election, the president came out immediately to accept the loss and resolved not to challenge the victory of Buhari in any tribunal. The normal long-drawn battle that we have witnessed since 1999 up to 2011 would not be there this time around. The only way to deepen democracy is to learn how to lose gallantly and also remain magnanimous in victory. What PDP has done would endear PDP to the heart of many Nigerians.
Fortunately, you can see that at the state level, the PDP is toeing the same line. Like in Lagos State, see how close the votes between Jimi Agbaje and Ambode were, but Jimi said he is not going to court as an individual though the party is seeking to highlight some anomalies in the conduct of the election. It is good for democracy, but there is no state in Nigeria today where the APC lost the election, even for House of Representatives, that is peaceful even when it is glaring like my own state here. The PDP had 422,000 votes, the APC candidate had less than 15,000, yet he has gone to the tribunal to prove that he won the election. It is very clear that we have two political parties with different postures towards democracy. I will like to remain in a party that is magnanimous and listens to Nigerians. For instance, if majority of Nigerians say they want someone else to try it out, we are going to respect that decision, we are not going to harass the person Nigerians have chosen in court because we want to have our way. That is my political party. It is the will of God that I have to be in the Senate at a time when I have to play opposition, but I will try my best shot at it.
Some say the governors contributed more to the downfall of the PDP but the governors are heaping the blame should on the National Working Committee. Accusations are being traded. Where does the blame lie more?
There are a plethora of reasons why PDP lost, you cannot blame anybody. I would say let’s all take collective responsibility for the loss. You can’t blame the governors neither can you blame the NWC. There were so many reasons, one of which was the fact that the economy dwindled and some of the states could not pay salaries and meet the expectations of the people. I can give you a lot of examples of states affected. When you have a civil service state like Akwa Ibom experiencing such with a lot of people disillusioned, how do you expect such people to still vote the PDP? The dwindling oil revenue and fall in the federation allocation, the insecurity in the northeast that led to a lot of displacement are all factors that contributed to the outcome.
In a place like Akwa Ibom, I would think that the good governance and uncommon transformation assisted us to maintain the goodwill and support of our people during the last elections. That is why we could say ‘no shaking!’ There were a lot of reasons, but it is not now that the truth would come out. You will also note that there were deliberate efforts by certain states and certain stakeholders to assist APC even when they were not members of APC. There was also self-implosion in the PDP. You had PDP fighting PDP and PDP winning election for APC.
The PDP canvassed the implementation of the conference report and restructuring of Nigeria during the campaigns. Regarding this, what will be your position as a Senator when you get to the 8th National Assembly?
Frankly speaking, the report of the National Conference was a good report. Some aspects of it would still have to be tinkered with in order to make it a perfect document. If the party that would be the ruling party APC does not believe in the document, it is going to be difficult to implement it, because the party did not only win the presidency, the party maintains majority in both houses.
Where does that leave Nigeria going forward?
There is need for us to discuss Nigeria as it is now. There is need to unbundle a lot of things even at the federal level. We have too much duplication of duties. In some ministries, you have up to 20 director-generals, who are all earning the same salaries as the ministers and ministers of state. The government has become too heavy. We need to run a light government and reduce wastages. Some of the so-called federal items like federal roads can be taken up by the states.
Certain things that should be carried out by states which are on the exclusive list in the constitution need to be readdressed. For instance, you can’t hand over primary education to the local governments to run when we know they are not doing so well across the country. We can’t let them take charge of the foundation, which is the primary education. That is why we are having defects our graduates today. Many of them don’t speak well and write well. It is traceable to the foundation.
Those are the areas that will concern me in the Senate; that is, tinkering with our present realities so that government can meet the yearnings of most Nigerians. In terms of the report of the National Confab, I believe the decision of the National Assembly would be crucial. Right now, that Assembly is controlled by the APC, who are themselves not interested in the report. And so, I fear for the report of that conference.
Are you comfortable with the emerging power equation, the way they are distributing political offices, they are not even mentioning the South-South or the South-East?
As one of the believers in the Nigerian project, I want to maintain what K.O. Mbadiwe of blessed memory said. He said he is now in a state of icavoism. It means Siddon Look. I am in a state of Siddon Look. I don’t want to comment because they have the cake and also the knife. I would think that everything must be done to maintain the peace and unity of the country, to give each part a sense of belonging.
In the last eight years, can you remember for the record, the most exciting moment and the one you will not like to remember; any regrets whatsoever?
No regrets at all, except the fact that I had wished we had money to finish some of the lofty programmes we had. For instance, I wanted to give the state one of the most beautiful international terminals and start international flights from the state, apart from the ones that lift pilgrims from here to Israel and Rome. We had done the foundation but when resources constrained us, we couldn’t complete it.
One of my happiest moments, I will say, was when I went to commission one-kilometer road, Queens Street, in Ikot Ekpene in December 2008. Along that road, they had a home for physically challenged children, mostly deaf and dumb and they came out on the road the day of the commissioning to welcome me with sign language. Tears came out of my eyes. That road has been like that for 39 years, no one could pass from one end to the other. On that road, people could not access that centre to give help to those children, which was run by a Reverend Father. Out of excitement, the children came out to use sign language to tell me that I brought uncommon blessings to their lives and community.
That was the same day I commissioned a market road in Ikot where no truck has been able to access for over 20 years. A woman came out displaying like a mad woman. She stood naked on the road and struggled with my security detail. People were trying to restrain her but she kept shouting I am not mad. She was breathing very fast, so I asked them to put a wrapper on her and asked her what was the problem, she said I want you to walk on this wrapper because I am going to keep it for my grandchildren.