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Chief OtuIta-Toyo, an architect, a scion of First Republic member of the Eastern House of Assembly and former Treasurer of the Dr Egbert Udo Udoma led C-O-R State Movement, Barrister O.O.Ita, is a thoroughbred professional and politician. He is also a public affairs commentator and a social analyst. He has paid his dues in politics right from being the Personal Assistant to the late Senator Victor Akan, to becoming a much celebrated State Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) earning the nickname ‘Total Chair’ for his dexterity and later on, availing his wealth of knowledge and experience to the growth of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State, as a party chieftain. He is an exemplary family man, married to former Member of the House of Representatives and Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo. Today, the alumnus of the Hope Waddell Training Institution, Calabar and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, who cut his professional teeth at Obong Victor Attah’s InterDesign, shares his thoughts on a wide range of developmental issues with Ibom Telegraph, a day after his 69th birthday. Excerpts:

You have just turned 69 and you do not look it. How has the journey been?

I have been a very lucky subject. I was born into an enlightened environment. I have, throughout my life, received a certain level of coverage by very developed people. I grew up in an environment of enquiry, in an environment of stability, in an environment of truth and the capacity to accommodate the resultant consequences on decisions taken on a particular subject. And that basically shaped my life. So, 69 years is like yesterday and I am eternally grateful to God.

The story surrounding your exit from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has not really been told clearly. Would you mind telling us what really happened?

I had no problem with the PDP. I built the PDP in the state to the largest party in the sub-Sahara with unbroken unity and I left the party with N120million in its account. If anybody should be held as the man responsible for the fortune of the PDP, I think, that one name is me. And so why would I want to leave the PDP? I left it because the PDP under Chief Godswill Akpabio was unkind to the arrangement that we had in the succession plan. That affected me as a person.

As a matter of fact, when people asked to know the reason why I left PDP, my favourite answer had always been: I did not leave the PDP. The PDP actually left me. If they needed to have me, they should have done the things which we all agreed on. But they started telling lies about the tripod, telling lied about the Senatorial Districts, telling lies about continuity and the young people lapped it up. You see, when you are fraudulent, you can never balance history.

History is sacrosanct. When you tell lies to help your own agenda, history looks at you in the face and spit at you. How could you, a beneficiary of the tripod deny the existence of the tripod? History cannot take kindly to that. People may not want the argument because they are afraid of the outcomes. I left the PDP in protest, not in anger. I built that party and my heart still bleeds for it. I look at what is happening to it and I know that if I had not left, it would be in better shape.

Do you have any regret leaving the PDP?

Frankly speaking, I went the PDP way because of my master, Senator Victor Akan, who was more of a conservative and he impacted a lot on me. But from my family tree and natural inclination, I am a progressive. I am a diehard Awoist. I am a diehard left-of-centre politician. I am a diehard mass mobilization disciple. I am a man who thinks from the bottom. But I happened to be in the conservative because of my Boss, which was not bad. And when I came to the All Progressive Congress (APC), I was quite happy because I thought I was finally home in the progressive. But I don’t quite see the difference between the two parties. It is really a sad thing because there should be a difference.

Putting the PDP and the APC on the scale, which is better?

For me, I wonder which Akwa Ibom person is truly a PDP person and which one is an APC person. What we need now is a pan-Akwa Ibom answer. If the PDP is bringing out somebody for the 2023 Governorship, he must be a pan-Akwa Ibom man, who believes in the future and in the wellbeing of the ordinary Akwa Ibom man. The same applies to the APC.

The APC is recuperating and getting back to its feet. Things are becoming normal. The party Chairman, Dr Ita Udosen, is a fantastic guy, well-educated and disciplined. He is a man that reads the party’s Constitution. He has the capacity to become a great party Chairman. The perceived happening in the APC is the handiwork of ignorance. The party has organs. The APC is reorganizing itself and it has its problems and for the first time in the six years that I have been there, it is beginning to tackle those problems. And you cannot believe what the problems of the APC are. The perceived leadership issues are being pushed by mischief makers.

What is your assessment of the Udom Emmanuel-led administration?

The first thing you must do when you are judging another man is to put that man in your shoes. I don’t have a clear picture of what is making Governor Udom Emmanuel not perform as I thought he should have, because he is not. I know that he is a smart young man, but even smart people have their off moments. I am quite worried that if Governor Udom Emmanuel does not re-engage himself, he probably would leave Akwa Ibom in one and a half year without substantial legacies. But he is a smart young man, a man of excellence and he still has one and a half year to go.

Udom Emmanuel was completely uprooted from where he had depth and put where he does not. He had absolutely no clue what politics and governance was, never voted his entire life but for himself. But being a smart young man, he is trying to put things together. In all seriousness, Governor Udom Emmanuel has the capacity to deliver. He has shown a little bit of flare for that. He has put a few industries in ONNA and I know he will put some elsewhere. The road networks in ONNA are unbeatable. The problem is that he should go back to ONNA and read the scripts from Clement Isong’s library.

What should be the focus and the expectation of the people of Akwa Ibom State regarding the 2023 Governorship?

The focus of the 2023 Governorship should be re-engaging Akwa Ibom State into a moving train of the future, which is the knowledge-based future. We need another dreamer in the mould of Obong Victor Attah. We need a performer. We need humility. We need track record. We need experience. We need patriotism. We need a man who can blur the lines. We need a man whose only religion is Akwa Ibom and not a sectional-inclined man. We need a man who has the fear of God. We need a man whose exposure is vast but who is not alien to our root, a man with the state at heart.

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