In a special live-radio programme, Special Adviser in the Bureau of Political, Legislative Affairs and Water Resources, Barrister Ekong Sampson, says the recent meeting of the Eket Senatorial District Stakeholders was a handshake across borders. Excerpts:
What precipitated the recent stakeholders meeting of Eket Senatorial District?
We converged on Eket recently to deepen our bonds, to appreciate the goodwill that was demonstrated by our brothers across borders. We felt that Ikot Ekpene and Uyo Senatorial Districts and said some very good things about the Governor of Akwa Ibom State. So, we felt that we should meet to appreciate what they did. They spoke very well; they noted the giant strides of Governor Udom Emmanuel. They spoke across borders. We had to come together as a people to cement that bonds and fundamentally too, that we should encourage our son to run for a second term. So what we did in Eket principally was to appreciate, as I said earlier, a handshake across borders, a handshake across the ethnic matrix; Uyo you’ve done very well to have endorsed our son, Ikot Ekpene you’ve done so well to have endorsed our son. Thank you very much. Your goodwill is important to cement the bonds of unity, to cement the fabric that holds us together. And, if you watched the event, it was massive, it was symbolic. Eket Senatorial District came together as a family and said yes, on Udom we stand for eight years. When you have a good product, you must advertise the product well, you must appreciate that you have a good product. In Udom, we in Akwa Ibom South have a good product and we met in Eket to say we are grateful, we appreciate and fundamentally we are going to stand by you to run for a second term. The attendance was very impressive, cutting across the broadest strata of Akwa Ibom South. Everybody came together and said we are one family. We appreciate the interest that the larger Akwa Ibom has in our son. We stand by him we appreciate his good works; we are for one Akwa Ibom.
But this same Eket that is reciprocating the gesture from these senatorial districts is causing problems for Governor Udom Emmanuel.
We just had a Senator from Eket, who defected to APC. Let me go through the interview I had with the Senator in December:
“Let’s start by saying that I am very very happy and thankful to God that he brought a person in the calibre of Governor Udom Emmanuel to lead Akwa Ibom after his Excellency Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio had left…. There were some doubting Thomases who felt that because he has just come into politics that he would not be able to perform, but…. Today we have been justified that our assertion has come true….”
“Actually, by my orientation, I seem to lay emphasis on where a person comes from. Agreed that Oro has not held the position of the governorship of Akwa Ibom State, unfortunately zoning in this country has been done on Senatorial bases and with the Ekid Senatorial District, Oro is still a minority…. I am very happy that the matter was resolved with the ceding of the Senate slot to Oro. For now, it is still my believe that an Oron man will be a Governor sooner or later, but there is a need for us to walk in harmony, to cooperate with Governor Udom Emmanuel so that we would get more dividend of democracy…. From what he has done so far, I have been proven right because if you go to Oron, the first project Udom actually executed in Ekid Senatorial District was in Oron. He has done more than I thought.”
Nelson Effiong said this, the Senator. Where did the relationship get sour, because he said he has not been given the opportunity to appoint a transition Chairman, nominate a Commissioner and so on and so forth?
I think in looking at the saga that involves our Senator, we can look at it from some perspectives. Call it part 1, part 2, part 3. I think we are on Nelson Effiong’s part 2 now. I think the view you captured was from Nelson Effiong’s part 1, wherein he showered encomiums on the strides of the Governor of Akwa Ibom State. (This’ just December. Not up to a month now). He spoke so well of the Governor and the system was full of praises that the Governor is doing so well, mentioned what the Governor has done for Oro Nation, mention in clear terms the footprints of his Excellency on Akwa Ibom State. I think that will be part 1 of the saga. Now we are on part 2. But principally, it calls to question, the sensibilities of our political space. You say one thing today, may be by 10am, by 1pm you say something else, then by 5pm you deny ever saying anything.
And this brings us to what I’ve always articulated, that we just have to re-examine the components of policy and politics. When I was here last time, I threw a challenge that the time has come for us as a people to really look at, how do we play politics? Why should we allow politics to drive policy? Because that is where the disconnect comes in. In one breath you are saying that your Governor is doing very well, that he has even intervened in your community, that he’s the best thing that can happen to Akwa Ibom State and you’re very proud to be part of the system. A few hours later, few days, few months you turn full circle, that the Governor is something else. I just don’t understand.
I think principally, if we allow policy to drive politics it will be easier for us to locate the motivations behind such somersault as it were. We all know that Governor Udom Emmanuel is doing very well in the circumstance. The economy is on a tailspin, the Governor is working very hard to diversify the flanks of the economy and this has worn the respect of Nigeria.
I can say that Nigeria respects Akwa Ibom because of the vision of His Excellency the Governor of Akwa Ibom State. So, if Nigeria can respect Akwa Ibom State because of our Governor, why can’t our Senator, who a few hours earlier, few months earlier was full of praises for the same Governor, but turn full circle and somersault.
You mentioned that our Senator was saying that he was not allowed to nominate Ward executive, Officers, ex-Officio of the party (PDP). The duty of a lawmaker is principally lawmaking and policy, not to appoint ex-officio in his ward.
I worked with Senator Udo Udoma in the Senate, and till date, he remains amongst the best that Nigeria ever produced for the Senate. Udoma was much focused. I shudder to even contemplate that Udoma could be more concerned with who would emerge as ex-officio in Ikpa Ibekwe rather than talking about how to bring back ALSCON, how to fight for resource control, how to make life better for Akwa Ibom State. It is not the business of a law maker to be concerned with who is the youth leader in your ward. The larger compass of your responsibility has to do with law and policy. What we should be hearing from our Senator is how many investors am I bringing to Akwa Ibom State to complement the effort of the Governor? Not who is my youth leader or woman leader in my ward. As a Senator, you are for everybody in your ward and in your senatorial district. So whoever emerges as your ward officer is going to work with you. You should be concerned more with investment, with how you can reduce poverty, with how you can create a handshake across borders.
Are we saying that if a Senator is not given ex-officio in his ward he should defect to another party? And in defecting, what is the manner? What is the approach you are taking?
When you are elected, you are subject to your people; you are answerable to the electorate, you are answerable to constituent. Before you defect, have you consulted them? Have you sought their opinion? Have you aligned politics to policies? You may also ask; have you been connecting? Politics is so much about connecting. You have to connect with your people. You have to gauge their feelings. You cannot just act on your own because you are not appointed. You are elected and being elected, you are subject to the undercurrents that flow from your constituents. That has not been done.
I want to know; where has the Governor gone wrong? Initially when he was elected as the Governor, there was this much-talked-about that he was going to be influenced; that even the appointments and the rest was going to be influenced by the Senate Minority Leader. And here comes a Governor that said, come on, I need to select my team. Is that where the Governor has gone wrong with the Senators?
When I was here last time I made it clear that the Governor is like a team manager. He decides who plays for his team. (but now that he has decided who plays for his team he seems to have problems with some politician)
I’m not sure that there is any problem. If one person feels that he couldn’t nominate his ward ex-officio or youth leader in his ward. That does not translate into a major issue. For all I know, that is a distraction, because a lawmaker should be concerned principally with lawmaking and policy. It’s a very high office. I worked in the Senate for 4 years and I was close to the mental stars of the time: Idris Kuta, Chuba Okadigbo, Mike Ajebo and of course our own Udo Udoma. These were very cerebral and focused minds that spoke from the floor of the Senate. In fact I owe my modest achievements to the guide I got when I worked with these great Nigerians. They were very focused. If they were concerned with who becomes ex-officio in their wards they would have been so distracted. They were concerned with investments; how can I influence my people positively.
Principally now we are working with a Government that is so much concerned with investment. One would have thought that our Senator would have been more concerned with that how many investors he can attract to Akwa Ibom State. Rather than who becomes the youth leader of PDP in his own ward.
(From a caller) There was a time you were here on this programme and people called in, and specifically Senator Ita Enang said, Akpabio fikke Udom. Now that the Governor has decided to be the coach, just like the Special Adviser has said, there seems to be some issues. What do you make out of this?
Ekong Sampson [responding to a caller]: My brother, I’ve looked at this issue from 3 parts. We’ve had part 1, part, part 2 and part 3 may well be coming. You see, it the message. It’s not just about Effiong. Left for him, I totally agree we should not give this issue undue amplification, because it is not an issue that should bother us. But then, there is a message and this message is about what really should drive politics and policy. What are the rules of engagement because there has to be rules of engagement? Is it proper that someone is elected to a high office, immediately he is sworn-in, disconnects completely from his constituent. Nobody hears from him; he doesn’t pick calls, the next thing you hear is that he has defected, without recalls to his constituent. So it’s not about Nelson Effiong as a person, it’s about a message. Shouldn’t we have basic rules of engagement, so that we can have a happier space? We can have a livelier polity; we can have more civilized tenets of democracy, which has to do with government of the people, by the people and for the people. Well, admittedly so, that a lawmaker should naturally have some concern in who drives the party at his ward level, but then, there’s a larger challenge that he should be concerned with, like issues of investment, walking closely with his Governor so that governance can be enhanced where he comes from. I was privileged to work in the Senate when Governor Attah was the Governor and I can say I was very proud of Senator Udo Udoma who worked closely with Obong Attah to develop this State. I recall those tensed days of the offshore-onshore battle; Senator Udoma stood solidly behind Obong Attah.
Sir, you are from Eket?
Yes, I am from Mkpat Enin and proudly so.
What has the Senator brought so far?
I’ve not seen any. Indeed my people are thoroughly embarrassed. Mkpat Enin has 14 wards, making us the largest in Akwa Ibom State, and if there’s a community my Senator should have touched first it should have been Mkpat Enin, because of the massive votes that he got from Mkpat Enin. I am one of his constituents. He disconnected, that’s why we are totally embarrassed. The next thing we heard was that he has left for another party and not just leaving for another party but he began to say thing that he shouldn’t be saying.
Your final word sir
My Senator should know that nobody can be fooled in this case. We have to bring decency into politics; we have to allow policy to drive politics. It is not just fair for people to elect you to a high office; going there you disconnect from your constituent and then turn around to play some tricks. You can’t fool anybody.