Mr. Imo Udo, former Member of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly in 1992, was appointed Special Adviser twice by former Governor Victor Attah and was a lead contender for the governorship ticket of the PDP against Senator Godswill Akpabio in 2011. In this interview, he spoke on what the next administration in Akwa Ibom should focus on and caps it will an open endorsement for Barr. Onofiok Luke.
Can we meet you, Sir?
My name is Imo Udo, a former member of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly 1992, during the NRC/SDP regime. I am from Mbiokporo 1, in Nsit Ibom Local Government Area. I was a member of the State Executive Council during the regime of former Governor, Obong Victor Attah. I was in- charge of the Bureau of Youths and Culture and later I was in-charge of the Bureau of Political Affairs. I have also been on the Federal Board of the National Gallery of Arts. In politics, I have been the National Secretary of Victor Attah for President under the campaign organisation called Renewal 2007. Outside politics I am a business man. I’m into mining.
Between when you served as Special Adviser on Political Affairs and now, has there been any changes in the political culture of the State?
Nothing really has changed, except you want to look at the way people emerge into political positions? Possibly, I think we were more democratic then than we are now in the selection of people into offices such as the chairmen of council and councillors. It was a lot more competitive and a lot more democratic than it is now.
Who is responsible for the ‘undemocratic’ selection process?
It is the people. Whatever you allow to be comes to become. When you resist a thing it ceases to be.
In 2011, you caused the PDP to organise a rerun primary for the governorship election. What was the experience like?
It is OK. I had to get up and challenge what was crawling into the political process of selection in Akwa Ibom State. I went through the process of the governorship, I got screened in Port Harcourt, when I came back, on the day of the primary, I was told my name was not on the list of the contestants. And so I had to resist it because I knew it was manipulation. So, I said my name should be on the ballot because I was cleared and I had the full rights to contest the primaries having paid for it, having gone through the process and having come out successful. And so I had to petition the National Screening Appeal Panel headed by our former Military Administrator, Mr. Tunde Ogbeha. So, they cleared me because they saw that all my documents were all correct. After that, I came back to Uyo for the primaries only to be told that my name was not on the ballot. So, when the National Executive Committee of the party heard of it, they looked at their documents and said there is no reason whatsoever that your name wouldn’t be on the ballot and so they cancelled the primaries and ordered a rerun and I participated.
Party primaries and elections are coming up in few months. What are your expectations?
I think that the PDP which has designated itself as a democratic party should make it possible for aspirants to be free to go through due process. I expect the party being an umpire to be fair. The party should cause the process to be free, fair and whosoever emerges legitimately as the winner should be given the flag of the party.
Do you think members of the party can resist the system especially when the toga is that the “party is supreme”?
The party is not supreme when it does illegitimate things. Party is supreme when it does legitimate things. Nobody is supreme to the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. Remember that elections are conducted in line with the provisions of the federal republic of Nigeria, so anybody who does a thing that contradicts the constitution causes such a practice to be illegal.
Do you have confidence in the PDP to allow a free and fair primary election?
It will be wrong to preempt them. However, it is the belief of every party member that the party will be fair.
What is your opinion about the back and forth on how party primaries should be conducted?
It can be direct primary where every card-carrying member of the party is expected to vote for whoever he or she wants in any position. It can be by delegates selection. It can also be through consensus. Remember in this State, Obong Victor Attah emerged through a consensus arrangement in the 1999 PDP governorship candidate’s selection process. Any process that is agreed upon by the people who are contesting for that position is legal. I’m happy that what seemed to be a disagreement between the legislature and executive over the mode of primaries has been sorted out by allowing the party the powers to exercise their democratic right of selection of candidate. I think we are moving forward in the right direction.
Nigerians and indeed Akwa Ibom are divided on what should be the age range of the next President and Governor. Where do you stand on this?
My opinion is in sync with the majority opinion, that a young person should be given opportunity to be the President and the Governor. Because at certain age you can’t go out to inspect projects. At certain age you may not want to cross the river to see what is happening in the other part of the State. There should be age consideration. I’m not advocating for a legislation placing a restriction on the age of attending any office because that would be discriminating and segregating against someone because of age. The issue of age should be allowed to be determined naturally by the people. If someone is aging, he won’t be able to move freely as Governor, there are also certain social things that he will not be able to do. There are certain economic things he will feel are wastage on account of his age. Personally, there should be an age that someone would say, ‘I am older than this thing’.
Are you re-contesting for the governorship in 2023?
No, I won’t contest on reasons personally known to me. But I will team up with any person I feel will run the kind of policies that I wanted to run for Akwa Ibom State.
We have an array of persons who have indicated interests in the governorship, does any of them have your kind of plan for Akwa Ibom State?
Well with due respect to other contenders, Rt Hon. Onofiok Akpan Luke, has the capacity and the wherewithal to govern Akwa Ibom State very, very well.
What are your reasons?
You need to listen to him speak about the development of Akwa Ibom State. The young man knows the needs, dreams and aspirations of Akwa Ibom people. He can tell you from the beginning of democracy in this dispensation of democracy till now how governance has been. He can tell you the challenges those Governors had and can tell you what needs to be done now to ameliorate whatever deficiencies we have in Akwa Ibom State. And he will tell you all of these off hand. He can speak for 2 -3 hours and he is talking substance without referring to any paper. You just need to hear him speak. I will charge you gentlemen of the press to put together a political debate so that it will help Akwa Ibom people to take the right decision on who their Governor should be.
People are saying that leaving the high office of Governor to a young person would mean bringing too many young people into government. It seems you have a different opinion?
When have the elders ever left leadership to a young person? Those who hold such opinion should present their fact not just merely assuming things. Have the elders ever left leader to a young person in this State? The answer is, no. So, why do they assume that this is what will happen even when they have not tried it? When Onofiok Luke was the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, did he allow the issue of legislation to young people? The answer is, no. Somebody who is articulate knows what peg to put in what hole; I see Onofiok Luke in that light. As Governor, he will know what peg to put in what hole and I tell you that Akwa Ibom State will run better with him. How old was Barrack Obama when he was given the responsibility of the President of the United States of America? Everybody acknowledges that Obama did well as President of United States. Remember he came when the American economy had gone into recession, he brought the economy back from recession and put it aright and yet he was 45 years then. So that advocacy that Onofiok Luke might be too young to be governor is completely wrong.
What should be the focus of development in Akwa Ibom State after Governor Emmanuel’s industrialisation agenda?
First, Governor Udom Emmanuel has done very well. He has been able to develop infrastructure and has driven the policy of industrialisation very well. We have built a lot of material things in Akwa Ibom State right from the time of Obong Victor Attah. We have done the airport, we have done the seaport, we have done roads, we’ve connected all the LGAs in Akwa Ibom State, so it is easy for anyone to get to any LGA within one hour plus. We have built hospitals, we have renovated schools, we have done so much concerning material things, so I think the next government should focus on building people. We have taken Akwa Ibom State to a lofty height in terms of physical infrastructure and yet the people in Akwa Ibom are strutting behind economically. The duty of the next government will be to bring Akwa Ibom people closer to development and bridge the gap between infrastructure and the people. That is what I expect the next government to do.
Do you think Barr. Onofiok Luke can do this?
Yes, he has the capacity. He has a good antecedents. Now when he drives pass, people call him a giver. This happens because he used the little he has to empower the people. But if you give him a higher responsibility, it is my belief that he will do more and Akwa Ibom people will be better off.
Governor Emmanuel recently said governance is not about giving money to people?
No, I am not talking about giving or sharing money. The notion of giving doesn’t imply that he shares money but it means meeting people at the point of their needs. Onofiok Luke is sympathetic to the needs of the people. It is not all about sharing money. It is also about developing policies that will address challenges people are facing. For instance we have done much in the health sector but we still have people who cannot access these health facilities, especially those in the riverine communities of the State. For instance if you go to Ibeno and take a boat to a place called Iwuokpum Opolum, you will find no health facilities. When I was doing a tour of the State to be able to develop a work plan for my 2011 governorship, I had a serious challenge going there. When I reached there I met a young boy and I asked how he was, he told me he was fine but when I examined his pulse, I discovered that he was suffering from acute malaria. In that place there was no health center nor pharmacy to buy drugs for him. I think the next Governor should be interested in those micro things will that make Akwa Ibom people feel better. We need a Governor that will fill in these gaps for the interest of Akwa Ibom people. Onofiok has the heart to invest massively to ensure one Akwa Ibom person lives well and happy. We need a Governor who believes development is all about people not only things. Onofiok has the heart and capacity to attend to micro things that will bring happiness to Akwa Ibom people and make them live well.