The Special Adviser in the Akwa Ibom State Bureau of Political, Legislative Affairs and Water Resources, Ekong Sampson, a lawyer and two-term member of the Akwa State Ibom State House of Assembly, x-rays the defection of Senator Nelson Effiong and other sundry issues in the state. Excerpts:
How do you see the defection of Senator Nelson Effiong from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressive Congress (APC)?
The exit of Nelson Effiong from PDP will not affect the fortune of the party in Akwa Ibom State neither will it distract Governor Udom Emmanuel from pursuing his set agenda. Our Governor is a very focused person and will not allow the defection to distract him. But then, some basic issues are raised one of which is the approximation of duties and obligations. The correlation between the electorate and the lawmakers, where are the boundaries? How answerable is a lawmaker to his constituents? How do we differentiate the texture of appointment from elections? One would have thought that Senator Nelson Effiong would have consulted his constituents routinely before he took such weighty decision and then be prepared to answer some questions from his constituents. I am one of his constituents. He never consulted me and I know a lot of others that he did not consult. So, who did he consult? Questions have been asked, questions will continue to be asked but I think this should be a fundamental challenge to all of us. Those who are elected into office should be challenged by the demands of their office. My Senator should rather work with the State Governor to deepen democracy in the state, ensure that his constituents enjoy the dividends of democracy.
Senator Nelson Effiong had alleged that the Governor is alienated from the people of the state. As someone that understands politics from the grassroots, what do you think is the situation?
The Governor connects very well with the people. He connects with the people through his projects and his interpersonal relationship with his people. The Governor is a humble person and someone who says very well about what he should do for his people and that is why it is easier for him to address the problems that confront his people. If you drive around the state, you will see that road construction is going on, the industries are coming, and the bonds of unity are being cemented. Udom Emmanuel is one Governor who works with passion. He wants to develop Akwa Ibom Sate and he is doing that because he connects. So, my Senator went wide the mark, he should ask himself how well does he (Senator Nelson Effiong) connect with his people, the people of Eket Senator District, since he was sworn-in as Senator. And it is time we start asking ourselves some basic questions; the philosophy of governance must be redefined.
We must move from policies to politics. Valid questions can be asked: how has Senator Nelson Effiong connected with his constituents? This is a very valid question that we the people of Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District must ask and Senator Nelson Effiong must answer that question first. He has to do a proper soul-search and answer: how have I connected with my constituents since I was sworn-in as Senator? It is important, so that people don’t feel that he is trying to use them or trying to dodge basic issues. When that question has been answered, then we can start lookING at other dimensions and it is critical because he was elected. And when you are elected, you are answerable to the people who elected you.
Shortly after Senator Nelson Effiong made his defection known, some people from the PDP came out to say how unpopular he was and that he was imposed on the people of Eket Senatorial District. Is that not an indictment on the PDP? Again, he likened himself to ‘John the Baptist’ by saying he is going to prepare the way for others to come. How is the PDP going about this?
The PDP is a behemoth. It is a very strong family and the party is firmly on ground. It has an inbuilt mechanism that drives it. My Senator is in a better position to name those he says are going to follow him or those who sent him as ‘John the Baptist’. The PDP is firmly on ground in Akwa Ibom State and it is ably led by a visionary Governor who works very hard to strengthen the party and give direction to his people. The Governor carries everybody along. He is a very accommodating Governor with a large heart. Part of our objectives has been to open up the space for as many people as possible. But then, one had expected Senator Nelson Effiong to drive his Senatorial District. If you do not drive your Senatorial District, why should you blame another? You are the Senator elected, why don’t you call meetings?
So, it was left for him to drive the Senatorial District. He cannot turnaround to say that he was not being carried along. He is occupying a high office; he should drive the Senatorial District. I wouldn’t want to go into the detail of how he emerged. The fact remains that he was elected and sworn-in as a Senator and right from day one he should have connected with his constituents. I am shocked to read some of the things he said about Governor Udom Emmanuel because here he was some months ago pouring praises on the Governor. And this takes us back to what I keep saying that we just have to really examine the correlation between policy and politics. You are praising someone on Thursday to the high heavens and on Sunday you are saying something else simply because you are being put under pressure by some people.
As someone that interfaces with the legislature and executive and as someone who is supposed to take the message of what the government is doing to the grassroots, what strategy have you put in place to ensure that?
It is very simple. The programmes of government are the best advertisers, the roads are opened up; industries are coming; employments are stirred; the state is looking beyond oil. By the time these opportunities are utilized; by the time infrastructure is available, these are drivers of government. So, for me, government programmes and achievements are the best advertisers and advertisements of government and this applies to Governor Udom Emmanuel. His achievements in office speak eloquently of his Master Plan for the state. You do not need to go to the rooftop to shout about what Governor Udom Emmanuel is doing; those things are speaking for themselves. From Ini Local Government where we have the proposed Rice Mill to Mkpat Enin Local Government where we have the ongoing Coconut Refinery, Deep Seaport, Rehabilitation of schools, remodeling of Eket Town and constructions of new roads like the Etinan-ONNA Road etc and you will find out that morale is rising. Nigeria is going through tough time, the economy is on the tailspin, you need someone who has managerial ability and that is our Governor. Salaries are being paid as at when due and infrastructural challenges are being addressed. These are activities that advertised government. Let me add, this state belongs to all of us. We should join hands with Governor Udom Emmanuel to build Akwa Ibom State and this is a major responsibility rather than engaging in distractive antics that will compromise the unity of the state.
Using your Policy-Drive-Politics initiative, how do you intend to seal the seeming ‘loopholes in government’ that does not allow good programmes of government get to the grassroots?
One way is through political education. We have to get our people to key into the larger picture of governance; seeing government as theirs and that they have a high stake in government. We, as a collective, have to do a lot and that is where the media come into play in respect to political education, getting people to appreciate the bounds of duties and responsibilities. Once people understand their obligations as well, that government is not a one-way traffic; that there are duties and obligations, rights and privileges. We have to properly sensitize the people to appreciate their responsibilities as well. It is not enough to expect government to do everything. The government belongs to all of us and we all are stakeholders in the system. So, we have to come together to protect the system; preserve infrastructure and invest into the future. Once people stop seeing government as one distant construct, that government property is nobody’s property, but as part of government, it becomes easier for us to protect the larger picture and work together.
Recently, elders and stakeholders from Eket Senatorial District gathered and endorsed Governor Udom Emmanuel for a second term the same way the other two senatorial districts had done. How has the public reception to that endorsement been?
What happened in Eket recently was a show of appreciation. We, the people of Eket Senatorial District, met and appreciated the two Senatorial Districts of Uyo and Ikot Ekpene for their earlier endorsement of Governor Udom Emmanuel for a second term. That was just what happened. We converged to appreciate Uyo and Ikot Ekpene for their wisdom and love in endorsing our Governor, who is our very proud son, for second term. It was well received. Our people showed clear love. We demonstrated clearly that we support Governor Udom Emmanuel. In short, the Eket meeting was a handshake across borders. People that spoke, spoke well and the mood was ecstatic; the affection was real; hopes were high and at the end of the day, it was easy to see the unity in Eket Senatorial District. It was resolved that Governor Udom Emmanuel should stay in office for eight years so that he can consolidate upon his achievements. We looked at the state picture; his predecessors did eight years each and it is only just and equitable that Governor Udom Emmanuel also does eight years, more so as he is doing well in office. It is not just a sentiment that he should do eight years in office, it is because he is doing well, which was the general opinion. The people that came were leaders who spoke the minds of their people. I was the Chairman of the Communiqué drafting Committee and the Communiqué clearly reflected the innermost feelings of our people. Finally, for me, governance is about result. The moment you are elected, hit the ground running. This is what Governor Udom Emmanuel did from the very first day he was sworn-in and now his achievements speak for him.