Hon. Victor Antai, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and a former two-term elected Chairman of Mbo Local Government Area, shares the Udom Emmanuel’s vision with Ibom Telegraph. Excerpts:
Udom Emmanuel is one year in office as Governor of Akwa Ibom State. How will you appraise his administration?
Governor Udom Emmanuel is just the right man for Akwa Ibom State. His long standing experience in financial management has been put to use perfectly and I can tell you he is leading the state well. If in just one year he has achieved these much, I can imagine what the remaining years will be like. He is, indeed, God sent for Akwa Ibom. He has made his campaign promises seen and felt by the people. To start with, my boss, the Governor had no problem hitting the ground running because he came into governance with a clear vision of how to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people.
If you can recall his promise during the thanksgiving service after the inauguration of his administration that he would serve and be ready to work for the good of the people of the State, to ensure the fulfillment of this promise and others which came during the campaigning days, he has indeed taken concrete steps to move Akwa Ibom forward. If you have seen the programme outline of activities marking the Governor’s first 365 days in office, you will agree with me that with the list of projects ready to be commissioned by the governor for public use, he has shown so much commitment and zeal in justifying the divine mandate that was given to him freely by Akwa Ibom people on April 11, 2015.
In fact, myself and my ministry are one of those to benefit from the governor’s first year projects. This, I am talking about the moribund 10th anniversary hotel which was previously abandoned and occupied by hoodlums. You are free to visit the site, if you have not done so yet and see for yourself that the building which has been wasting all these years has now been converted to wealth. Wealth in the sense that those agencies of government that are occupying private buildings at very high rent rates at the government’s expenses will soon relocate to the new secretariat complex. This will help the government save funds that would have gone for the rent and use same for other developmental purposes.
This idea of turning waste to wealth has been one of the Governor’s main interests. In the face of a dwindling economy, the Governor has refused to just sit back to hope and pray, but rather making efforts to diversify and create more revenue generating avenues that will make the state less dependent on statutory allocations to run. He has shown so much interest in those areas that were left unexploited in the past, those areas which venturing into them were regarded as mere waste of effort and time.
There have been serious questions about the progress of the Governor’s industrialization drive in the state. The questions are about why this drive has not progressed beyond the level of ground breaking. How would you respond to this?
Aside the much demanded funds and efforts, the actualization of our industrialization dream requires so much time. This is due to the processes involved in achieving the vision of a fully industrialized state. From the laid down plan, the governor’s aim is to attract private investors most of which will be coming from outside the country. Now, you must understand that before you talk about Akwa Ibom State as a specific base, these investors have the mindset of Nigeria as the country they are to establish in. There are basic requirements in terms of securing operating license from the federal government among other things to be done, before the final establishment.
These are the processes that are time demanding; hence, the seeming slow pace of the industrialization process. However, I am using this opportunity to appeal to Akwa Ibom people to be patient with the government and allow it more time to fix things in places. I am telling you this with all amount of responsibility that the governor and his team are working tirelessly around the clock to ensure that things take shape soonest, and I can assure you that before the end of the governor’s current tenure, their expectations shall be met to a satisfactory extent. These are my assuring words to the people, and you can take it to the bank anytime.
Unlike other Ministries, the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs seems to be up and doing, what is the driving force?
The success story is just because you have a round peg in a round hole. I am a grassroots’ man and I have been in the local government system for a while. I know the nooks and crannies and also know where it pinches. The Governor has been very supportive. Wherever and whenever we have hitches, he takes over and helped out. The oversight function of the ministry is not just the affairs of the local government areas but also that of the traditional rulers. Handling the issues of village heads, clan heads and all that could be very challenging and only an experience person and a supportive Governor can handle that.
Talking about support, I have enjoyed a tremendous support from the governor in handling issues concerning the local government and the traditional institution in the state. Running through the records when I assumed office, there were series of complicated issues of conflict and disagreement among village chiefs. Some of these issues were in court and undecided for a long period of time. Even some villages, as I got to discover, were not having village heads as a result of an existing fight over who takes the position. To be honest, I was not happy with these developments, so I had to take several steps to resolve them. First, I took up a deep investigation on these issues. Since I did not consider it very wise to rely on the reports I got from the parties involved, I sometimes took a personal trip to the affected villages to make enquiries and get random reports on the issue. With these reports, I was able to find out the real truth and true situation of things. And I am glad to tell you that in just one year, the government of Mr. Udom Emmanuel through my ministry has been able to resolve diplomatically, most of those issues and peace has been restored to the villages and they are now enjoying the benefits of one recognized leadership. We have issued certificates of recognition to the traditional rulers and their welfare is being treated with importance.
How do you envisage Akwa Ibom by the ending days of the current administration?
I envisage an Akwa Ibom that will be a destination for all. I foresee an Akwa Ibom that will hold lots of opportunities to be utilized. I foresee an Akwa Ibom where there will so much competition among entrepreneurs due to presence of serious and healthy rivalry who will all be aiming at giving maximum satisfaction to the masses who patronize their products and services. Above all, I see an Akwa Ibom full of smiling citizens and residents who will have more than enough reasons to repose confidence in the government of day and even the succeeding ones. That is the Akwa Ibom I envisage.