Two-time Governor of Akwa Ibom State and former Senate Minority leader, now a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress party, Dr. Godswill Akpabio, in this explosive interview takes on his critics, why they are after him and his numerous achievements as a Governor. He dares anyone to come forward who knows of any of his properties in Dubai, UK, or anywhere in the world. He says I’m the most investigated Governor.
Gov. Emmanuel and Hon. Luke have severally applauded you as their leader. If you have this magic charm on them, why were you not able to win them over when you changed camp?
It is simply because our visions are personal and no matter how close you are to your brother you can only do your best to convince them. If you are a Muslim you follow the age-long teachings of Prophet Mohammed, and of course, as a Muslim, your end will be paradise and as a Christian, your end will be heaven. Really, political affairs should be voluntary, there should not be a compulsion and a leader should not force a subject to follow his own line of thought. What a leader sees in the followers sometimes still baffles a lot of people, not just in Akwa Ibom, but in Nigeria. I was spiritually birthed into a political family and our age-long tradition in the South-South has always been with the North politically. If you cast your mind back, to even the days of the recently buried Shehu Shagari, may his soul rest in peace, you will notice that. For the first time, there was a son of South-South in 2015, our former President Goodluck Jonathan, who contested, but lost the opportunity to midwife the zone into the central politics of Nigeria. So you have the South-West working together with the North, and there was need for someone to think of how to integrate the South-South into the mainstream politics of the nation, particularly as the zone produces 90% of the wealth of the country. That is the thinking of a leader. This does not mean that if you are comfortable in your current state, say you have a state you are running, for instance, if you are a state governor, you are a senator, you are this or that in your zone and you are comfortable, you don’t have to follow your leader. But a leader sees further more than you and so I don’t think there was a need for me to talk to anybody, not even my family members, it was just an inspiration that I had, very spiritual in nature that there was a need for me to re-ignite that age long unity that has existed between the South-South people of Nigeria and the North, and now particularly with the coming on board from 2015 of the South-West into the central politics. The South-West you know predominantly used to be in the opposition, even during the days of Action Group and the days of ACN and all that, so now under the APC, the South Wes ist at the centre of Nigerian politics. I don’t think it will be a good idea for the South-South to be left in the lurch. We have been left out for four years because we had a son of the soil contesting. So it will be foolhardy of any leader not to carry his people into the centre of politics in Nigeria. That was the reason why I made up my mind, for national interest, to join and stabilize the polity and that was the reason I felt it was not necessary to attempt to make it a compulsory thing for either of my followers, my brothers or my relations to follow me. However, in the course of things evolving, almost 85% of those who believe in me have joined the APC. At the outset I did not really talk to anybody. I thought I saw up to five members of House of Assembly and four House of Reps members declaring for APC. I turned around and saw a lot of elders, in fact, one of them managed to climb the stage, by name Shugoto Iroro, a political titan, somebody who has been doing politics from the days of South Eastern State and Cross River, I saw him on the stage and he said you are a leader you can’t go alone, we are many here, give me the microphone, give me the opportunity to let them know that you are not alone. I started laughing and said Chief, I never said I was alone; I only said I was moving, I did not say I had defected, because that is when I will need other defectors to come. I have only walked away. I am like a woman politically that has a generation behind her. So when I said I have moved it means that a generational group of young leaders in the North and particularly in the South-South have moved and that has created a void.
Some people think one of the good things your movement from the PDP to the APC will do for Akwa Ibom is that for the first time there would be a proper election in the state. A previous elections, results were just written, as opposition was weak, so maybe in the upcoming election in the state APC and PDP will be equally matched. Do you agree?
As a journalist, if they say there was no election in Akwa Ibom, that results were just written, it means you have never voted here and you are not from here, that is the first thing. Secondly, you mean there was dereliction of duty and you never reported it, that elections did not hold, names are just written or results written? You can see the fallacy of that. Of course, go back and look at the results of the elections, you will see some instances results were so close. We did primaries at a time in Eket, the man that defeated the incumbent, a sitting member of House of Assembly, Ayan O Ayan, the incumbent sitting member of House of Assembly defeated him with only one vote and when I undertook local government election, the first local government election I did, a local government fell into the hands of ANPP. So you can’t say elections in Akwa Ibom are always written. There was another altercation and parties in the state struggled. Other parties even went to the tribunal. So that assertion that election results are always written is wrong. Ome thing you need to know is that if you are in a good politician you will know that you cannot rig election where you are not popular. Such results cannot stand. If the people are in agreement that the NPN was the party they wanted and there was rigging because no election, it is perfect, you will see that it will pass smoothly, but if for instance, if the results are always written, how come somebody cannot come from APGA and come and write results and take it and go and announce APGA in a place like Akwa Ibom? Do you understand what I am saying? If a political party like APGA is very popular in Anambra State, PDP cannot go and write results and announce and I will say that is why if you noticed, the governorship election in Anambra state has never really been won by PDP, are you saying PDP does not have the power, even when we have the incumbency? The presidential incumbency and Anambra that was in opposition was still winning an election. How come in Lagos, when President Obasanjo was struggling to see whether he could take South West and turn them to PDP, he could not take Lagos State under our leader, Ahmed Bola Tinubu. It is not true that election results in Nigeria are always written, there is no proper election. Anyone who is saying that is saying that because the person wants to underrate the prowess and political sagacity of Senator Godswill Akpabio, his ability to annex and work closely with the people in 2002 as chairman of mobilization to ensure the re-election of Obong Victor Attah as the second governor of Akwa Ibom State. You want to underrate that effort, if you want to underrate that effort, it is when you will say there was no election, but it was through mobilization of youths and women through strategic campaigns to ensure the re-election of Obong Victor Attah in 2003 and in 2007. Fifty nine people contested and the exercise lasted five good days, some people slept on the streets. So if there was no election in Akwa Ibom, why would there be such a very prolonged primary to the point that even the governor preferred another candidate, Dr Mike, who despite all the intrigues still lost. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation at that time preferred another candidate but lost, even when he was at the federal level; and the governor of the state came in person to lobby delegates to ensure election of his anointed candidate and he lost, then I emerged as the governorship candidate of PDP out of 57 aspirants. By that time in 2007, between December and January, it became so hot that I ended up in the hospital many times. I could not go home because I was afraid those powerful people who lost the election may attack me, but the populace was on the street sitting on the floor. I appreciated the people of Akwa Ibom across the state and my acceptability across the state. So if I won that election. How come you now tell me that election result was written, because even the incumbent did not support my election in 2007 and yet I won the election in 2011. Didn’t you hear about the struggle between the PzDP and the then ACN, when there was a lot of tension in the state? At the end of the election we won, we only lost in one LG and even in the LG we had almost 48 to 49%; we won in 30 of the 31 LGs. Who told you there was no election in Akwa Ibom? In 2015, PDP lost the presidential election 11 days before governorship election, it was not an easy task for PDP at state level. I can tell you that many states failed like Jigawa and many other PDP states; they could not withstand the tornado of President Buhari in 2015 but Akwa Ibom PDP won, we stood our ground and we voted for the current governor of the state, Udom Gabriel Emmanuel and I was also restored the senator against my brother, Chief Chekwas Okorie, I pollled 472,000 votes because of card reader and he had 14,000 votes or there about. I would have had more than that because normally we had over 700,000 registered voters in my senatorial district, which has the highest number of polling units in terms of population, even more than Eket and Uyo senatorial districts and Uyo has about 900 polling units, we have about one thousand two hundred and twenty-four and Eket has about 800. I know these statistics as a politician. The reason I am mentioning this to you, under normal circumstances as a former governor and someone that is looked at as the son of the soil, there is no way my people would have given me lesser votes than they gave my predecessor who had a lot of votes when he was going for the Senate. Former President Jonathan had a little over one million votes in 2015, the total registered number of voters is about 1.7million. So if you are writing why can you say let me give the president 1.6million or 1.7million votes? There is no system that is perfect, even in America, you can’t have a perfect election, there will be slight issues here and there, even in any operation you try to give room to 5 to 10% mistake, but on the whole, you will be insulting INEC, FEDECO or NEC, insulting the current INEC Chairman and Professor Attahiru Jega if you say elections in Akwa Ibom were not fair enough. What kind of propaganda is that? It is the defeatist tendencies of those who say they will make an impact when the whole state has moved you did not hear what I said? I did not say I had defected, politicians use the word defect, I only moved in the national interest to join the current President to stabilize the party. When I say I moved, it is pregnant with meaning. It means that the entirety of those you might call the political class, those who vote, not the elite who enjoy the government because government gives them monthly allocation and the masses who know what it means for their lives to be touched when a good government is in place have moved with me. If you thought I was alone, then why did you have such man with the crowd that you have never seen in the history of defection in Nigeria? So are you saying those thousands of people that turned up are not with me. It took 17 minutes to get to the venue because of the sea of heads.If you are saying those who are holding positions in government, you talk about the Speaker the Senator, like I will always say salvation is personal, they are in a position to access what may be their interest that will be best served by staying with the current government of the state. Therefore there is no need for me to tell the people to leave the government. Stay in the government, so that we will still have a government in place between now and May 28, when they are going to hand over to the APC governor on May 2019. So don’t leave.
Did you leave any debt in Akwa Ibom as governor?
There is no government without debt, even the current administration of President Buhari inherited debt, the colonial masters left debt for Tafawa Balewa but when it comes to what they are speculating is balderdash and I am happy you asked that question. Some people said Akpabio left behind a whopping N500bn indebtedness, which is not true. What happened was that the total amount I collected as a loan from banks was N80bn. It was the first N50bn and later N30bn and the reasons were very simple. We were struggling to get Paris Club money of over $100bn and $365m or so, if we had received that, we would have offset the N80bn loan. During my first term, I did not borrow one naira. It was when we started having dwindling revenue from oil; we were having zero allocation from NNPC. So when you hear Akpabio promised 31 industries but did not build any, it was because the money was no longer there and I was not going to build those sites, I was going to make available N20bn through the investment arm of the state every year for those four years so that people can access the money with conditions and then set up the industries, so that we can ensure that at least one person per local government was able to set up one industry, that was the way we wanted to do it and so we budgeted M20bn, but we never touched N20bn because the money was not there and part of what confuses people is that they don’t know that budget is even an estimate, it is not realistic, it when the incomes come, whether through IGR or FAAC, that you have the right to budget and project, it does not mean you have spent the money. Lack of funds also slowed us down in completing few of the projects we initiated, we had over 3,000 projects completed at a time in one year. We commissioned about a thousand six hundred, when people started arguing, we put it out on the internet for people to see and name the communities. We laid underground pipes to bring the menacing issue of flooding in some part of the state to an end, we built flyovers, the kind of project we had was to turn Uyo to a small Dubai. We were even planning to work with masses energy to have a fuel depot in Uyo at the airport so that we can start flying with Emirate, that was why I started the Taxi way so that when the plane, because of the large wing the 777 could have a free ride, that was why I expanded the runway from 3.6KM to 4.2KM and brought in the best lighting system and we made sure it was in the same categories with airports in London and other advanced countries. We did underground pipe drainage system, 10.8 kilometres from the stadium; it is this available for everyone to see in order for the road to last and that is the secret why some of the roads we commissioned in 2009, nine years after you will not see a single porthole, that is the secret of the survival of Itame junction that was flooded for 39 years and vehicles could not pass, that is the secret to make sure that area by the mega filling station that used to be permanently flooded during rainy season. So the debt you are talking about, I was privileged to see a paper from the Debt Management Office, (DMO) in 2016. The current administration when that bit of economic rush came in, when the current government started insisting that the states should comply with the government because it had just been in office for one and half years, they had also incurred their own debt. So they added that to contractual indebtedness and outstanding obligation of my government and they brought it out and what they submitted to the debt management office was about N147bn in December 2016, one and half years into Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration. The total debt profile of the state contractual and otherwise was submitted as N157bn. That is not what they said I left behind.
But what did you leave behind?
I don’t think the debt profile that we left behind was anything up to N60bn and don’t forget that except payment for contractors, you know you pay them on milestones as they work, so there must have been some outstanding IPCs also but what happens is that as money comes in you settle contractors and the state used to sometimes receive up to N15 to 30bn, so it is not as if these things can cripple a state. Even if you don’t do any other thing at all you can pay all the debts in four months. Government is about being able to move the people forward not as if government cannot owe and whatever was owed by the governor was taken and brought over by the Federal Government and spread over 25 years by the Federal Government including Akwa-Ibom, so that whatever the government will pay on a monthly basis will be reduced so that the government can move forward. So that is what they did and the state government was not paying anything above N500m a month. So, the N147bn was brought over by the Federal Government. You can get the record from the debt management office; they will give you the real details. Because of all these stories people were saying he left behind N500bn debt, that was why I went to find out what was submitted as total indebtedness of Akwa-Ibom state by Udom Emmanuel government in December 2016 to DMO and I have the record for all the states in the federation. What I saw there I can’t remember off hand was M143 or 147bn that is all. We were even among the least indebted states. Some states are owing as much as 600,300,400 billion nairs and for Akwa Ibom, with the level of economic income, we should be saluted. I also left behind economic enablers, that if you were able to take one of them and then privatize or sell off 50% you will pay off the entire debt. For instance, I built Obon Power Plant, I completed Obon Power Plant people were offering me as much as $190m to sell sixty per cent or 70% but I refused. I said if we expand it, it will bring in a lot of revenue to the state. I also built a gas plant in conjunction with a company from the United Kingdom, I brought in a gas processing plant built it in Isereke and this is 69km of gas pipeline and I made sure the state holds significant stake that will by the gas by 2 dollars by the time they completed the plant. It was going for 2.8 so that is also another income to the state and then we did fifty kilometres of gas pipeline from Eserege all the way to NNPP in Calabar, we are the one supplying NNPP in Calabar. I left behind economic enablers like hospitals, I built hospitals in Obolo and other places and these places are generating revenue, I built state of the art international hospital in Utame Junction. We invested over N250bn on federal roads but the government told us they are going to pay in one way and all that and what the Federal Government accepted to pay at my time was N145bn and before I left office, President Jonathan said part of it should be paid, I told the government after I handed over to pursue it. A month ago, they brought it to parliament because they wanted to use part of the borrowed money from China to offset some of the domestic debts. What was put in for Akwa Ibom was N178bn and now from the N175bn to be refunded to Akwa Ibom and the Paris club money that I did not collect. So you can see that from the Paris Club refund alone whatever I might have left as debt has been wiped off. We left a lot of economic enablers. So when they talk about debt, I laugh. When a government of that nature, for a government that completed over 3,000 projects, and was able to carry out such quantum of developments that were applauded even by the United States conference, talking about N145bn debt, when the state is expecting N175bn from the Federal road refund, talk about the international prison that we built, over N3.7bn is going to be refunded to the state. The airport itself is an economic enabler. We were able to carry out free and compulsory education not to talk of N100 to 300bn Paris club refund left behind. I left the state far richer than I met it.
What was really the issue then with the EFCC trying to get the state government to open its books to investigate you?
Those were baseless and unfounded stories. The job of EFCC was to investigate petition, so there was a young boy, a lawyer, who had a personal disagreement with me then, I met him and I assisted them in the law school, I paid his law school fees. Somehow, he had a personal disagreement with some of my staff and he has also come up to say he was also used by people I relieved of their appointment. He said so in an affidavit in the court of appeal voluntarily. So the EFCC has the right to look at that petition. But when I came back, I had an accident in 2015 I still said I must go because I was not around when I was invited. So I went to the EFCC personally to ensure that I answered to the petition and I answered them. I am the most investigated former governor in Nigeria. Go to anywhere in the world; I don’t have a single house that I could sell, whether in the United Kingdom or Dubai. So, forget about the contrived negative story that you heard about Godswill Akpabio.
Many of these people may not have this privilege that I have to speak with you, so how do they know your position on these issues?
That is the job of you journalists and the media in general. It is about the investigation; you think the world is stupid that one person will receive over 13 PhDs across from the University of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe University to University of Calabar to Uyo everywhere one individual could be so honoured. I am the only governor, past or present ever honoured with a PhD by the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA, whether military or civilian. I am the only governor in my tenure, 2007–2015, who received commendation from the United State Congress for infrastructural development. Some people are fugitives from reality. You cannot take all these away out of either envy or petty jealousy. You will try to give the wrong impression about me in my time. There were kidnapping and a lot of killings all over the Niger Delta. If one person was kidnapped in Akwa Ibom, 10 were kidnapped in Bayelsa, 15 were kidnapped in Abia, 20 or 50 were kidnapped in Rivers. In my own case, people use whatever happened as a weapon of campaign for them to unseat the governor. I understand what was going on and so would you believe stories that a sitting governor will kidnap a teacher or his brother. They even brought an ethnic angle to it. When someone is kidnapped they will write a petition and indicate that a person is an Ibibio man, but I thank God for the Police nay RRS, there is no single case of kidnapping that was not resolved, not only that, all the people that were killed, the people that killed them were all brought to book. They are well documented. They documented their efforts very clearly and the people they arrested, many of them are at various stages of prosecution. So when people are talking, my works speak for me. When you come to Akwa Ibom, you see the works of Godswill Akpabio, once you land in the airport, you see my work, you enter into the hotel, you see my work, you walk to the stadium and you see my work, you go to the banquet hall, you see my work, you go to Government House, you see my work. You go to the streets of Lagos or you read newspapers that a house girl that had been brutalized during my tenure and then the person is no longer Akwa Ibom because we handed that industry to other Nigerians and West African countries because I introduced free and compulsory education. I brought my children from everywhere, the ones that are orphans, we set up a home in Uyo and called it the Divine Children Home and put them there, over 1,400 of them, and made sure that they went to school. Those children are still meeting me till today at the airport, at everywhere. When I am travelling to Kaduna by rail from Abuja, they still come and hug me and say, Sir I am what I am today courtesy of your forced and compulsory education programme, I never thought I could go to school. That is the joy I derive. Meanwhile, I used to send at least 500 Akwa Ibom people on compassionate ground to different places in India for training, for medical treatments. One of them solved a mathematics problem in India and got the first class and he came back and solved a 62-year-old mathematical problem. It is only that if you are a fugitive from reality, you can never acknowledge all these feats. You cannot run away from my transformation of Akwa Ibom, you can run away from the fact that yes indeed, there was a governor and if you’re trying to run away from it you are running away from your shadow which will continue to follow you. We are talking about the issue of debt, we had the least debt in the state but don’t talk about debt in government alone, also talk about the economic enablers and the income, the expected income to pay off those debst, the Paris club money, the refunds on federal roads, even the refund on the prison we built, the international prison that we built and donated to the Nigeria Prison Service.
One of the things you have been severally criticized for was when you had an accident, a lot of people complained that you did not go to the hospital that you built. How come?
At that time, we had not received the expatriate quota for the expatriates that were supposed to man the hospital. Though that hospital has been commissioned, we have not fully commenced operation of the hospital. Even the current governor of the state, when he had a medical problem, he was at the hospital and the result that he was given at the hospital was amazing. The hospital was meant to cater for all medical problems of West Africa but we need experts who can handle the hospital. That was the reason I signed an agreement with Arabian management group who are also working with the Swiss management group at that time. Don’t forget that it was barely three months after I left the office, and they have not yet received the expatriate quota to finance the hospital. Some of them came for the commissioning of the hospital edifice but they have to wait for the funds to come in before they can start operating the hospital. If not, by the time I had the accident, why should I go abroad when I had a very good hospital of that magnitude. Don’t forget also that I was first taken to that National hospital first after that accident, and when I was discharged, I went for further medical observation to escape sympathizers who were trooping into the hospital every day, I couldn’t have rested. I also went to London hospital to do some further checks, even when Mr. President phoned to find out how I was doing, I spoke to him myself and I give glory to God that I did not die. I was in a coma when I was taken away from the accident site because the car somersaulted about five times. Don’t also believe the rumour that the driver was trying to escape traffic gridlock. That morning there was a federal road traffic officer who stopped us, and we were standing in one location on top of the bridge, I even took off my safety seat belt and I bent down to take my drugs from the bag, it was at that stage that somebody bang the car and said move, and I replied, what is it. It was after that I saw a car coming towards us and I said God ‘take care of my children’. It was after that I noticed that I have a swollen chest and fuel was pouring by the side of my car. The car that hit me was a bulletproof American car. Eventually, when they brought me out, they all thought I was dead. Even the way I was dragged out the car affected my neck because they use my jacket to drag me out, thinking that I was already dead. I thank God because he saved me when I was taken to the National Hospital. It was an experience that I will not wish for my enemy. All the stories you hear that the hospital is not okay were not true because the only problem we had after the commissioning of the hospital is just the expatriate quota that will keep the hospital staffs on.
When we were talking earlier, you mentioned the current governor in Akwa Ibom state; you said he is not experience?
How can I say that? He has been in government for three and a half years, how can I say that he is not experience.
Okay, do you really think he is doing well?
History will judge him, not me
What I am trying to get is that you are the person that gave this governor to Akwa Ibom?
No, the Akwa Ibom people voted for him
Yes, they voted for him, but you facilitated his emergence?
There is something that you need to know, I met the governor in a church in Surulere, Qua Ibom Church and I was told that he is a deacon in the church and also a Deputy Director in Zenith Bank. For me, I believe in getting the best person for my people, there were almost 28 people who wanted to be governor of the state, but later 23 of them bought the governorship forms. One left to APC and 22 aspirants were left. We have some of my commissioners and lots of people who have worked with me. It was not an easy task for me then, but I concluded that I will see my people if they will accept a peacemaker in form of a neutral person that they don’t know, that was how His Excellency Governor Emmanuel name was chosen. When he came, the people love him, and I love him too but the other 22 candidates formed an association against him. Even some elders went to court to testify against him then. I thank him because later he reconciles with all of them, he invited them one after the other, and he also honored those elders that testify against him before in the court of law. I think in my own way that it is Godly for him to have forgiven them.
What is the disagreement you have with the governor now?
I don’t have any disagreement with him, just that we are in the different parties now. The only disagreement I had with him is that he said I came in a night bus to become a commissioner in 2001/2002 which is not true. I actually came in through Port Harcourt before my cousin took me up. Then again he said I came with a chartered plane to become the governor but he has forgotten that it is the state governor plane that he is still using that brought him. I carried him with state plane he mentioned, which is Gulf Stream 450 and that was what he is still using till now. The disagreement is on the mode of transport and not on his performance.
Is it true that you heard that the governor was going to move to APC, and you told him to wait for a while before you now made your own move?
It is not true; there is still room for defection, even till today.
Many people think that Akwa Ibom state will bill a battleground because of your defection to APC. Are you comfortable with the insinuation?
The APC have taken over Akwa Ibom even before I join them. Do you know why a leader should move with his people? A leader should always look back and see if his people are following him. Even if they are running away from him, he will still hear footsteps, and if they are not following, you will definitely hear footsteps too. By the time I decided that I was going to APC, by the time I landed at the airport, the whole airport was APC. The whole of the airport to the town was APC. The whole of the plaza in Uyo was APC, the jubilation was too much. Women and men were bringing their brooms from under their bed, which means they have been hiding them because of me and they were sweeping the roads. A distance of twenty minutes took us over two hours to cover because of the jubilation of Akwa Ibom people that came for the jubilation. I was now saying that so all these people belong to APC. When I asked them they said sir, after you left office, it wasn’t the same again. We have moved to APC, and I asked them when, and they said since 2015. Normally, every family has a civil servant, and in Akwa Ibom, the head of civil service command about sixty-four thousand workforces not to talk about the local government service in the thirty-one local government of the state. In some local government, we have up to six hundred or seven hundred staffs, so you should be looking at twenty-four thousand people in the local government workforce. When you add that to the state civil service workforce, you will be looking at close to one hundred thousand people. Because you will also add the state assembly staffs, the NUT etc. Those people too have adult children who live on them. What really plays a major role in Akwa Ibom is that when the civil servants are happy, it reflects in their homes, in the churches. When a civil servant says there have never been a pay slip to even show what he collects on a monthly bases. Many people have died without collecting their gratuities. Eighty per cent of the people in the civil service are now in APC. By the time they got to know that the leader who kept them together have decided to share their own view, the result was amazing. A woman while struggling to get registered had her hand cut off. She brought out hand in a coaster bus, and her hand was chopped up by the gate, and the hand fell on the floor. Up till today my wife and I have been taking good care of the woman. It was an incident that makes me weep. If you ask the APC headquarters, they will tell you that we have over three hundred thousand card-carrying members within six weeks. When I hear that Akwa Ibom is going to be a battleground, I laugh because there is no battleground in a state that has already shown direction. The Akwa Ibom PDP members in the state know that they will not be given money at the headquarters in Abuja to share if they are not talking as they are doing now. I can confidently confirm to you that the first state President Buhari will win within three hours of voting is Akwa Ibom. It is not because of me but because of the change that the federal government has started. The reason I am being attacked is just because I am a leader here and a lot of people came out to boldly associate with APC when I joined, but people have rejected PDP before I declared for APC.
Who is the leader then in Akwa Ibom?
We have a leader in the person of Don Etiebet but they don’t probably know the numbers of followers they had then until when I joined. I was in London on Monday, and I joined on Wednesday. I couldn’t even move with my car and I have to trek. Even when I was coming from Enugu from the burial of my wife grandmother I was called on the phone that the youths from my senatorial constituency want to hear from me directly about my defection to APC, and the reason I move to APC. They actually applied to the local government chairman to get a hall for the reception, but they were refused to use the hall by the chairman. The forcefully find their way into the hall but the chairman did not on the generating set for them. I was shocked when I saw the crowd because it was raining on that day, and there were about 45,000 youths. You need to do your independent investigation about what I am telling you in Akwa Ibom. They said they will go anywhere I move to and I promise to take my people to the centre.
Can you throw more light on the statement credited to you that what money cannot do, more money will do it?
I don’t know where you got that from. There was a youth corper who work with me as a personal assistant who now works with the present governor of Akwa Ibom. He has been writing all sorts of things about me. He even calls me a comedian for moving into APC. He formed a team of writers online to be writing all sorts of things about me. He has been going around churches telling people that I want to form a cattle colony in Akwa Ibom state. There is no government that will like to kill his people that he is ruling. That was what people said during President Jonathan time to when people were saying different things about him. Don’t let us mix religion with politics. I never said what money cannot do; more money can do it, because for example; money cannot buy life. Money cannot cure cancer right now. So if it your time to die, you will use the money to escape it. Please help me to inform Nigerians that I didn’t say that.
It was alleged that at your first appearance at the National Assembly, you gave so much money to members to become a principal officer of the Senate?
People don’t like to give credit to who it is due. There are people who shy away from the truth. The people of the South-South are very proud of me because I changed the story of the South-South. A lot of people say that lots of money goes to the South-South, but there is little to show for it but for the first time I became a governor, that insult vanished because of what I achieved. Because if come to Akwa Ibom; you will see some of my achievements. There is nowhere you come from this world and you come into the Godswill Akpabio stadium in Akwa Ibom and you walk into the VIP stand with two hundred and fifty bulletproof seats that you will not commend me. When you walk into the Governor office constructed under my regime that you will not marvel. It was constructed with ICT compliance. When the position was zone to the South-South, the people from the South-South in the house said as their leader I should be the best person for the post. When they approached me, I refused and told them that I have never been on leave for eight years, and I need to rest. They insisted, and I have to honour them by taking the post. Don’t forget that I have been the chairman of PDP governors forum in Nigeria. I also owe the South-South senators an apology for going to APC without informing them, because, after my meeting with the president, the story was already everywhere in the world, so I believe that even if I call them then, they will be looking at me as an APC person. I owe them an apology for not informing them. Some people were saying that I left without any followers but what about the forty-five thousand people at the stadium. When the president came and you saw over seventy thousand people at the stadium, some people don’t even have seats to seat in the stadium in a South-South state. It is only God that can enthrone kings so I don’t want to brag. I have done over seventy-eight jobs in the states in Akwa Ibom. I have been a governor of the state for eight years, and I will always serve them till I die. I am collecting the pension as a former governor of the state.
Some of you in the Senate are receiving pensions as former governors and also receiving your salaries as senators, people are saying that you should leave one of those allowances?
Nothing like two salaries, because we are collecting pensions as former governors and as a serving senator, we must be paid our allowance when due. At least we must maintain our office and as a former governor, we must get the pension for working as a former governor of a state. People don’t understand because you can only receive only one pension as a former governor, and a serving senator, you must get your allowance.
The issue of security vote to governors, people believes that the security funds should be given to the police force to make them more effective in their operations.
Whether you like it or not, security vote should always be available for governors uto keep the state crime free. There are things that you must make provision for; welfare of the people and secondly the security of the people. We are operating a democracy and the constitution says in section two, subsection 2b that the primary duty of government is to provide security for life and property, and the welfare of the people. If anybody tells you that security vote should be stopped, that means the person doesn’t know what he is saying except if there is a misuse of the funds by the state governor.
So if there is a vote, you will vote for state police?
I have always voted for the state police, and I am always an advocate of state police. If a security man is from another state, he may not know the terrain like a person who have lived all his life in that particular environment. During the time of our fathers, they know the bad guys in the village, so if a goat gets missing in the village they know where to check it and who to hold responsible for it. There is a need to compliment the efforts of the federal government by providing for the state police. Any governors who misuse it also should be held responsible for the action. During my growing up days, you cannot just acquire wealth without doing anything. In the United Kingdom, you see police without a gun because they are the metropolitan police. There can also be National state police commission that will be recruited by the state but will be trained at the national level but they will be deployed to the state where you are from and they can also advance to federal police level if needed.