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People Defect To APC Because They Want Federal Appointments—Elder Udobia

By Essien Ndueso
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Elder Benji Udobia is a political icon from Eket federal constituency of Akwa Ibom State and as Deputy DG of the Divine Mandate Campaign Organisation, was able to work assiduously with other stakeholders to galvanize support for Governor Udom Emmanuel in the 2015 elections. In this interview, he speaks on the seven months leadership of the governor and the issues in the political atmosphere of the state.

Excerpts:


What I can say about our son, Governor
Udobia: His Excellency Governor Udom Emmanuel’s performance for the past 7 months has been very impressive and you are aware of what he has done; especially in the area of trying to create job opportunities for the youths of this State; a lot of ground breaking ceremony has been going on and a whole lot of projects are coming up across the state. His achievements have surpassed what is obtainable in other parts of the country. You know I am a businessman and I travel widely, in the face of the economic downturn, I can say that Governor Emmanuel has wielded a magic wand and has done what other governors will not do in a year.

Elder recently, the senior aide to the President; precisely a man who is from Ibiono Ibom, Ita Enang said that the Governor is recruiting Akwa Ibom youths into Cultism. How do you react to this?

That’s false; Governor Udom Emmanuel is one man I have seen that is very close to God. I have moved around with him throughout the campaign period, sat with him one on one in the car and each time he sits, he talks about God. He makes God the center of his discussions at all times. That is a real born again Christian to the core, is not in doubt.

For Udom to be able to bring in youths and make them relevant in his government, shows that he places premium on the role of youths as leaders of tomorrow. It is not worth mis-interpreting as breeding cultism. It is unfortunate if Senator Ita Enang actually described the gesture as cultism. That is false as the Governor is breeding youths in the act of governance and equipping them to take their destiny in their hands.

Sir the opposition has described the groundbreaking for industries as nothing, but a mirage. Are you disappointed by such comments?


Well, all the APC members who are saying that are saying so out of ignorance.

The Governor is not using State Government funds to build Industries. What the Governor is trying to do is to locate an enabling environment for Investors to come in. And most of these Investors have known the capacity and credibility of Udom, that is why you are seeing them. Right now, I am sure you might have been aware that after the next few months, 3 refineries are going to spring up in Akwa Ibom State, and government is not putting any money in the refinery at all. They should accuse him of diverting government money into a mirage; but that is not so.

The government is inviting the investors and so many of them are coming in everyday to partner with the state government for the development of the state. So for APC to come now, and begin to say ground breaking is a mirage, it’s a lie.

Sir, I don’t know if you have also heard or whether you have been told people are complaining that there so much hunger in the land. What is your Governor doing to ensure that the hullabulo about the hunger is reduced to its barest minimum?

Well, I don’t know what you mean by hunger in the land because even though it is the job of government to produce food for its citizens of the State like every other government, you are aware that government ensured that there was something for everybody to eat. A lot of people benefited from government largesse (the bags of rice and other food items) were shared across the state.

Asides that, the Governor is also trying to train and equip some youths to ensure that they are empowered for the industries that will soon come up. The Governor is providing opportunities for our youths to work. You should also understand that the government that has just come in for six months now, there is no magic that it would perform to give jobs to everybody at the same time, it is not possible. You can’t see it anywhere.

Sir, before the Governor actually decided to throw his hat into the ring, it took so much persuasion from you and a few others to convince him to join the race. The question people would ask at that time he was SSG to former Governor Akpabio, was what did you really see in him?

We were in the vanguard for power shift to Eket Senatorial District, but in doing so, we sought for a man who will make us proud. We sought for a man who will take the state to another level after the impactful leadership of Chief Godswill Akpabio. We sought for a man who has the panacea to bring about economic emancipation and wealth for our people. This attributes we saw in Udom, we saw in him a man that can take us to the destination that this state will be proud of. Of course, he has been outside government; he has worked in the bank. It took a rare heart of courage for Zenith bank to even release him. And it took the love he has for his people to come down from the level a helmsman on top of several multi-national corporations to serve his people.

When people were saying that Eket Senatorial District doesn’t have a credible person that can sit on the seat of governor, of course that threw a great challenge on us. We went to him and pleaded with him to come and be the Governor of this State, so that is why we went for him. As you can see, he has not disappointed us.

So far, are you satisfied with the Governor Udom’s leadership vis-à-vis- his projects Secondly, Sir, there are some groups that point accusing fingers on you that you are sponsoring APC campaign and that you funded them with N5 billion in your area.

I’m not surprised what people or any paper can write about me. I still remember that during the campaigns some newspapers wrote here that, Chief Godswill Akpabio gave me N5 million to share to all the elders in Eket Senatorial Districts; there were such publications in the paper which is completely false.

I was just the Deputy Director General of the of the Divine Mandate Campaign Council. I’m like a father to His Excellency Governor Udom Emmanuel. I’m like a political father to Udom and you can understand what it means for a father to have a son who is a Governor. For anybody here to dare think that I Benjamin Udobia can think of parting one kobo to anybody for the purpose of betraying my son, then that person is kidding, that is blackmail.

They wrote another one on the paper that the recent Eket reception rally, we held for our Governor, that I, Benjamin Udobia accused Udom of spending money for the rally. Let me tell you, Governor Udom Emmanuel did not put one naira in the reception rally we held. It was a collective effort from stakeholders in that Senatorial District. The people put their heads together and came out with the decision that we should honoour our Governor. Whosoever that is saying that is pure blackmail.

Are you satisfied with Udom’s leadership?

I am hundred percent satisfied with the performance of Governor Udom Emmanuel. He has performed very well; he has been able to carry everyone along in his government. He does a lot of consultation everyday before he takes any major decision. He does not sit down to take a decision without consulting the elders of the state.


Recently, big wigs of your party the PDP ranging from Otu Ita Toyo, as a one time chairman of PDP, Eseme Eyibo and others defected to APC.


People are pointing fingers at the Udom Emmanuel’s administration alleging that he is not taking care of the elders. What is your take on the defection of this number of people from the PDP to APC?

Well, we are in a democracy and everybody has a choice to join any Political Party he may wish. It is so unfortunate for those who have decided to dump PDP to APC. Maybe Ita Toyo has his own reasons; most of them are defecting to APC because they know that it is the Party at the centre and they are hoping to have one political appointment or the other, like Federal board appointment, Federal Minister, and the rest… everybody has his own choice, but as far as I know, PDP is intact. If election is conducted in this State 20 times, PDP will win 20 times.

As someone who is close to the Governor, how does the governor feel about the ongoing litigation against his mandate?


Our Governor, our own son is not discouraged at all because WE ALL HAVE CONFIDENCE IN THE COURT. What we believe is that the right thing will be done at the right time. Supreme Court will do the right thing. The Governor is not distracted, so we are not moved at all.


Sir, the worst case scenario is the Supreme Court upholding the decision of the appeal. If the worst case happens, what are the chances of PDP?


If anything happens, this is a PDP State. PDP has been in the State for the past 16 years. All the people moving to APC are PDP. PDP is a house hold name in Akwa Ibom. If we are asked to go for rerun election 21 times and we will run 21 times. Lagos State had been in opposition when PDP was controlling the government at the centre and nothing happened. Lagos still survived.

Akwa Ibom will survive; all the allocation that were meant for this State will be given again to this State.

You are a Political Leader in Esit-Eket, a former House of Representatives member, former dean of the initiative and one time Chairman of EARCOM has defected to APC. Our son Dan Abia who recently came back from NDDC has returned, what efforts are you making to make sure that these one’s that are here are not allowed to feel left out so that they will not also defect?

Concerning some of our sons, especially in Esit Eket, what we need in Esit Eket is what we need in every other Local government area in this State; we are not looking for hundred percent vote. APC will have their own votes, but I am saying is that we are more in number than them. Eseme has been a member of the Federal House of Representatives for about 4 years or so before Dan Abia just came in. He might have felt that Position was meant for him because he (Eyibo) didn’t win the re-election.

When he failed the second election, he felt bad and of course that was the wish of the people. When someone fails election and he leaves to another party, we let him go of course we cannot bring him back. As for our son, Barr Bassey Dan Abia whom APC has removed from that position, I sill believe he is a member of our party (PDP).

As a follow up to that question, apart from Sir Bassey Dan Abia, former NDDC boss that was sacked, we also have a former NDDC Chairman, Amb. Sam Edem who was sacked and not allowed to complete his tenure. What is the position of elders?

We have condemned it. We wrote a letter to the Governor and sent our protest to the President from our position letter.

They should appoint an Akwa Ibom person to replace Dan Abia. We reported to the Governor because he is the leader of the State and he will convey our message to the President.

What strategy is your party adopting to prevent further defection of PDP members to other parties.


All these figures you are seeing in the paper about people defecting do not make meaning. Is it today you know that people like Ita Toyo, Nsima Ekere had left the party? They had all left PDP long ago since they contested and lost election. Some of them wanted to be Governor and they couldn’t scale through the primary, and they left the party.


So far, what is your take on the 7 months administration of the APC government at the centre?

I am not on APC member, but all what I can tell you is that so many things have gone wrong. The one that affects us most as a Federal Constituency and Senatorial District and as a State is the removal of our own son from the NDDC position. That seat for now was constitutionally meant for Akwa Ibom and the President came and removed him that is why we are not happy with the Federal Government.