Ekere: PDP no longer ‘religion’ in Akwa Ibom
Akwa Ibom State All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, Obong Nsima Ekere, in this interview bared his mind on why he would emerge victorious at the poll. ADAMU ABUH reports.
Akwa Ibom State is predominantly a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) state, how formidable is the APC in the state?
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom is one united family as we speak, and I tell you that we are fully reconciled and ready for the general election. All the four governorship aspirants, who contested the primary election are all united behind me. In the last two weeks, all other aspirants have individually organised rallies in their various constituencies to endorse my candidature. They have brought their campaign organisations to be collapsed into mine, and we now have one big APC family, and have totally put the primary behind us. We are now looking forward to the general election and we are fully mobilised and ready. You know that after the 2015 general elections, every elected person in the state except one state House of Assembly member were PDP members. We have done a lot of work to deepen the APC family and the APC mantra. I can confirm today that we have built the APC into an election-winning machine, and a machine that is ready to defeat any opposition that comes our way during the election.
Of the three senators in Akwa Ibom State, two of them are today APC members even though the three were originally PDP. Of the 10 members of the House of Representatives who were elected on the PDP platform, three of them are today in APC. Of the 26 members of the state House of Assembly, five of them are now in APC. This is just for the elective offices. You find out that commissioners in the present PDP-led government have resigned from their respective offices, decamped from the party and joined the APC. We have lost count of personal aides of the governor, who have resigned their appointments and are now in the APC.
If you look at the political class, you will discover that the entire political class is lined up behind the APC because we have deepened the APC’s philosophy in the state. The people of the state have bought into the philosophy; they are ready for change being championed by President Muhammadu Buhari, and are willing to support the APC during the next general election.
If you listen to politicians in the other party in the state saying that the PDP is like a religion in Akwa Ibom State, we laugh because they are living in the past. The beauty is that yesterday we were all in the other party. I was deputy governor of the state in the other party. The immediate past governor, deputy governor, secretary to the state government were all in the other party and now, they are in the APC. These are people of note, who use to make the other party strong, and so, when they say PDP is like a religion in the state, we just laugh at them.
Come next general elections, they will wake up from their slumber and they will realise that the state has moved on, and now fully APC because the state has embraced change.
Why was there an attempt to forcefully remove Governor Udom Emmanuel from office?
Any Nigerian that knows President Muhammadu Buhari will know that he is not the kind of person that will use government’s apparatus against any individual, or in favour of a particular political party. As a matter of fact, you are aware that some members of the APC are already complaining that we are in government, but not in power, which is a reference to the fact that ordinarily, the way the ruling party in the past used to employ the apparatus of government to intimidate opposition parties is not happening now.
So, I wonder why anybody would wake up and say that is happening in Akwa Ibom State. That is totally false and there is no truth in such assertion, but just a matter of some people crying wolf. In fact, if there is someone who is intolerant to the opposition, anybody desirous of not allowing the citizens to find their political bearing, it is the intolerant government in Akwa Ibom State. This is a government that does not even allow opposition candidates in the APC to erect billboards in the state. A few weeks ago, when I rolled out my outdoor campaigns all over the state, the following day, the government sent thugs and miscreants to pull down the billboards and that of the President. The next day, the state Ministry of Environment issued a statement that whoever wants to erect billboards across the state must come and get clearance from the governor. You can see the level of intolerance yet they are the people crying wolf. We have facilities of the state government like the stadium that does not belong to anybody, or political party, but we were denied its use when we wanted to use them. When the other party wants to use the same facilities, they would be allowed.
We had a solemn assembly last Sunday to flag-off our campaigns and we wanted to use the stadium, but they came up with flimsy excuses. These are the same people that will be complaining that the Federal Government wants to use the apparatus of office against them. There is absolutely no truth in this claim. It is the PDP-led government in Akwa Ibom State that is using the apparatus of government against the APC, and we shall resist it. We have told them that no amount of intimidation and lies will stop the people from voting out the PDP, and allowing change in the state.
Why did you leave the PDP?
Leaving the party was a decision that was taken after the 2014 primary, and it was as a result of lack of internal democracy, and the party’s lack of respect for its own laws.
After the December 2014 primary, I led 22 other aspirants and formed a group called G-22. All the aspirants except the one that emerged winner, who is the present governor came together to form the G-22, which kicked against the injustice that was meted to the aspirants by the party.
That was how we embraced the change that the APC promised. I am happy that I took that decision and we are justified now. We can turn back now with the benefit of hindsight and say, we took the right decision. If faced with similar circumstance tomorrow, I will still take that decision.
If a political party can come up with its guidelines for the conduct of its primary, and then goes ahead to flout the same guidelines, then there is a problem. You can see there is no internal democracy in the party and you cannot hold them accountable for anything.
We also left after discovering that our interest could not be protected by that party.
You sound so certain that the PDP cannot return to power in the state?
Like I said earlier, we were all PDP members. The governor then, Godswill Akpabio was PDP, the deputy governor and SSG were all PDP and all of them are in the APC today. All the political actors who made things happen in the PDP then, say 90 per cent of them are now in the APC. So, do I need to tell you that there is no way PDP can win in Akwa Ibom State? They don’t even have the men and resources. The only thing they have is the money that the governor is throwing around. That is why you are having defection on a daily basis in the state. Even government officials are resigning from the government, and from the party to join us in the APC. Do I still need to tell you that we will win?
Let me add that the number one responsibility of government is security of lives. Akwa Ibom State is usually a very peaceful state but l can tell you that today, in three local council areas in the state, the people are not able to sleep at night. They have been overtaken by cultists and there is a lot of insecurity and yet the governor is scoring himself 100 per cent in security.
So, you can see that the people of the state have totally lost confidence on this government. Even the basic assets this government inherited it is incapable of maintaining them. From the airport into the town, we used to have streetlights. Those lights don’t even work now. We have one of the best hotels in this country. Go there now and see what is happening. So, many things he inherited are not being maintained and nothing has been added. That is why people are unanimous in rejecting him and his government. That is why APC will soon become a religion in Akwa lbom State.
It is alleged that you do not enjoy Senator Akpabio’s support?
I don’t know where you got your information from, but I resigned from office as deputy governor for very personal reasons. Before the last primary, the former governor you are talking about joined the party at end of August and the primary was in early October, and way before the primary, he was my number one supporter, going round the state campaigning for me to emerge candidate of the party. So, there is absolutely no truth to that.
I can assure you that Chief Godswill Akpabio and his entire political structure are solidly working for the APC and all our candidates in the next general election, not only in Akwa Ibom State, but all over the country.