Adopting Emmanuel’s successor by Akwa Ibom Assembly is irresponsible – Aniete Okon
A former senator and pioneer National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Anietie Okon, tells PATRICK ODEY his position on the recent announcement by Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, of a successor ahead of the 2023 governorship election and other issues
You’re one of the few Nigerians agitating for restructuring of this country. What is your fear if Nigeria is not restructured?
At the moment, the entire country is hanging there, not even sure there will be elections. The trouble in the All Progressives Congress is pointing towards that possibility. If there is restructuring, we may not have the agitations coming up in different parts of the country. The other time, we had someone saying that the resources of the Niger Delta belong to the entire country. That was why I expressed a deep-seated anger when Governor (Emmanuel) Udom called him (former President, Olusegun Obasanjo) to inaugurate a flyover project. He (Obasanjo) gladly came, forgetting that the resources used in building the project are from what a host of others and I fought to get at the national conference, which earned me the sobriquet, ‘Mr Derivation’. After much controversy, it came down to 12.5%. They said if they gave us 50%, there won’t be anything left for the country.
Insecurity is one of the greatest challenges confronting this country. What should be done to tackle this kidnapping, armed robbery and killings in the country?
Let the government be truthful about insecurity. They are not telling the truth about insecurity; they know the sponsors and they don’t want to open up. They only make statements without any action.
What is your candid assessment of APC administration as it winds down in 2023?
Does that worth the dignity of my response? Do we have any government?
There is no need to comment on whatever the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government is claiming to have achieved in the area of transportation, because the transportation is at its dead end. That is all I can say, otherwise why should the Senate be talking about setting up the highways, finance and calling for a state of emergency in the some sectors. There is no government as we speak.
Some people are in support of a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in 2023. What is your take on it?
I was among the first people that said Igbo should not allow selfish or personal interest deny them this opportunity. Edwin Clarke and I have been advocating that. This is why when we heard of sudden rivalry in Ohanaeze Ndigbo, we say Igbo are at it again. If Igbo are given the opportunity to rule this country, this country will be returned to normalcy. As of now, Nigeria is not a normal place; no benefit of any kind from government of any kind. They are dishing out figures that are entirely confusing. The exploitation is much. The level of looting in this administration is unprecedented. When the PDP takes over, we have to define and design the method of controlling the resources. At this point, the people of this country do not need a government of any kind. When you take a look at the debt and the processes of getting them, you will understand what I’m saying
Among the Igbo aspirants, who do you think has the capacity to rule Nigeria?
It should be somebody that has a proven record of integrity; Peter Obi of Anambra State. Check his antecedents; he has the pedigree to redeem Nigeria. But it’s left for the PDP to get its candidate.
The Nigeria Delta Development Commission was established to speed up development in the Niger Delta region? Do you think the commission has lived up to expectations?
Do you agree it should be scrapped?
Yes, it should and whatever funds available should be given to states. Let the governors be held accountable.
What is your take on the recent announcement by the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, when he made the Commissioner for Lands and Water Resources, Pastor Umo Eno, as his successor?
The governor just deliberately or maybe unwittingly created tension and division in the party. That may have gone a long way; he is also a beneficiary of the same principles he has gone against. Even when he was nominated by the former governor, Godswill Akpabio, and I was given a responsibility to market him, it was done before the entire caucus of the party, and everybody agreed. But now, he selected some people and defied the constitution of the party.
Let him first check the constitution of the party before taking certain steps. Things are not done that way.
We believe that the governor made consultations before announcing his preferred candidate. Were you consulted as one of the chieftains of the party?
I am the number one chieftain of the party, but I was not consulted. Check the list; you will not see my name there. They knew that meeting would have been grounded if I was invited. I wouldn’t have allowed that. You cannot go against the party constitution. What they did there (anointing a successor) was a charade.
There is perceived animosity among members of your party following the governor’s pronouncement. What is your effort to salvage the situation?
Who will be happy over what happened? People normally declare interest in elective positions and get prepared to win votes, but not to be upset and to dash their hopes. Each person has the hope of persons in the country, state, community reposed in them. We are not happy about that, we have gone past this level of banana state. For you to come out and carry out a coup is not acceptable; we will ensure that the issue is addressed
The House of Assembly at the plenary adopted Umo Eno as governorship aspirant. What is your take on that?
Does that make him a candidate of the party? The governor is just spending money that should be used in providing services to the people. The people in the House are protecting their interest. Some of them are interested in second term. Such action shows that the governor must have dangled them some money. That’s total rubbish! Have you heard of a place where a candidate goes before a House, and adopted in a House, in a plenary? That’s the height of irresponsibility, When have you seen that written in the constitution? The governor has corrupted the various organs to no end and I challenge them to come out and say they were not bribed or given inducements. Where else have you seen a plenary session discuss the issue of succession? Is this England?
The last governor did something, he pursued policy of infrastructural development and put in a lot of money and resources of the state into it. We thought that he was doing us well by getting someone from a banking background, an economist, therefore the exposure in the process of gathering resources for investment in industry, I’ve not seen so much of it.
I am happy that someone in this state wanted to have his son -n-law installed, but he failed. His son in-law could have won the nomination easily but because he was sponsored by the father-in-law, the then governor, the state came up against the issue of turning a position into hereditary arrangement, and the governor’s son in-law lost. So what happened that time is going to happen again.
That is what we are working hard to avoid.
What steps are you taking to ensure the endorsement does not affect your party’s fortune?
The party has rejected the endorsement of Pastor Umo Eno. It is a clear case of introducing an undemocratic element into the party which the party, in its principles and formations, has been against. The governor has said he dreamt or whatever but we have found out that there are leakages and breaks to that sincerity.
But the leadership of the PDP in the state has endorsed PST Umo Eno?
When did you hear that they have endorsed him? It is not true that the PDP leadership in the state has endorsed him. There was an underreporting of that event at the party secretariat. What I heard happened was that the Chairman of the Maintain Peace Movement, Mr Emmanuel Enoidem, tried to introduce the pastor but it did not go down well with party members. So, we are still waiting. The governor presented an unpopular person, things are not done that way. The governor has just lost direction
Many have continued to talk about the gains of restructuring. What is your position on it?
If there is no restructuring in this country, there will be no Nigeria; we are on the brink of collapse. We need men of quality and experience like the post-war generals; they are all in this country; men who are gifted at managing issues are to salvage this country. Look at the way the Federal Government is handling the demands of the Academic Staff Unions of Universities. Anyone who does not have education cannot see the benefits of restructuring. The way forward is for Nigerians is to vote for the right people. Right now, we are watching, if they did not address the issue of federalism in the amendment, it will fail.