Sunday, September 28, 2014

Adoption of Jonathan Was a Product of Sacrifice — Gov. Akpabio
Nigerian Gov. Chief Godswill Akpabio of Akwa
Ibom state.
September 28, 2014
Nigerian Vanguard

’Our action will shake the opposition’
•Speaks on fake churches and kid witches


In this interview, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State  bares his mind on why the PDP governors endorsed President Goodluck Jonathan for 2015 ahead of the December 6 National Convention of the party, the achievements of the PDP-led Federal Government, his state, his massive support for Jonathan,  and his next political move, that is, his senatorial ambition, among other issues.

Akpabio spoke after the PDP performance tour team, anchored by the Chief Olisa Metuh-led National Publicity Secretariat department of the PDP, visited his state.

Do you think the PDP has done enough to enhance the nation’s democracy?

I think considering the time frame when PDP took over power in 1999, PDP has done very well. There is stability in the polity and there is steady progress. And in spite of challenges faced by the party, challenges which are global in nature, such as insecurity,particularly the recent insurgency in some zones in the country, PDP has been able to give hope to future generation of Nigeria.

So many things have been done in the country that were hitherto not even contemplated. And PDP has been able to grow the economy to a point that today one  can say that Nigeria has the largest economy in the whole of Africa and the 24th largest economy in the world. Infrastructures that had decayed have now been rehabilitated.

And I am excited that today we now have a second Niger bridge under construction. We have the railway that  is working. We can travel now from Lagos to Kano. We can move all the way from Lagos thorough Ore going to Onitsha.

If you get to a place like Onitsha for instance, you will be  amazed. The dump that we used to have as a central location in Onitsha is gone. This, I believe,  is evidence of action. The improvement in education is legendary. The PDP administration, particularly under President Goodluck Jonathan, has established up to 12 universities, an unprecedented record, with  many polytechnics and colleges of education.  And I think as Nigeria population grows, PDP is rising to the occasion.

And if you go  to the states, you will be amazed at what is going on, particularly in the PDP states. Yes, there is a splinter group in one state in  an opposition party like Lagos. But if you compare what Lagos State is doing with what Akwa Ibom  is doing, it is so insignificant. Based on the kind of resources available to Lagos, then you will know that the PDP administration in Akwa Ibom and other states of the federation are doing exceedingly well. So I am sure that at the rate the PDP is going, Nigerians will never cease placing their hope and mandate with the PDP.

As the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, how has the forum and you as the leader helped in stabilizing the party?

What we have done is to give the opposition a big challenge and something for them to ponder about. For instance, in the history of democracy in Nigeria since 1960, the PDP family came together through the engineering of the PDP Governors’ Forum and then accepted by the National Working Committee, NWC ,of our great party, the BoT and our NEC, which is the final decision making organ  of our party. We endorsed Mr President. We say we want to follow the democratic example of a democratic party in America, where a sitting President does not have to go through the hurdles of spending a lot of money in order to get nominated for  second term in office.

Particularly when that President is a sitting President, it is evidence of capability and shown some strides to move forward the America economy, which is the same in Nigeria today. So we have done something remarkable, something that is first of its kind in Africa when we came together and said, ‘look, let’s bury our ambition and line behind our party leader, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for a second term in office’ and this has been applauded by all organs of the party.

So I think, to a large extent, our efforts in the PDP Governors’ Forum have helped to stabilize the polity helped to assist the Working Committee to be more effective and even reunited the party across board.

In the entire country, the PDP states are no longer looking forward to a fractured party as a result of inconclusive presidential primaries. Rather, they have lined up behind their leader and they are waiting for the opposition to scatter, come and join us, so that we can win easily.

The issue of adoption of the President as the sole candidate at the last NEC was championed by you as the leader of the PDP  Governors’ Forum. What is your take on criticisms from the opposition that the action was not only  undemocratic, but  also lacking in what they termed internal democracy?

Well, you can answer that for me by explaining to them that, that was democracy in action. In America that we are copying, the incumbent President does not go through primaries. We are not saying that the President will not face general election, he will but the incumbent does not go through primaries.

So the idea of going to spend presidential time instead of facing insurgency, food insufficiency and other things and then you start travelling around the country first to win primaries when you are already the sitting President within your political party does not make sense.

I think it is a very fantastic new model of internal democracy that we started from a point of saying ‘look, let’s sacrifice our personal ambition and support Mr President to have a second term’. We are not saying that other people should not come and contest.

But we are saying as governors,  we are not going to contest against our sitting President. That we want to put hands and support him to go for second term so that there will be stability in our party. It does not mean that any person who feels like contesting cannot contest. So we have not affected democracy in any way, instead, we have deepened democracy by suppressing our own personal ambition. That is the first thing.

And then we wanted to create stability for our party and allow our party to focus on other positions in terms of primaries instead of having a fractured party at the end of the convention. So we are going to move as one family to the  convention to elect our President.

A fantastic way of putting the question and everybody will say yes and then we go back and then face the opposition that is democracy at work. So I don’t think anybody should criticize it, rather we should be commended for not behaving like past governors who, by now, nine or 15 of them would have declared for Presidency and then confusion will start in the party.

Should people who said no, we don’t want to go for Presidency, we want to support our President to have a second term, should they be castigated or should they be praised? Rather people should say yes, for people to suppress their personal ambition and sacrifice their own longing for power and then move forward to support another, is evidence that Nigeria is changing.

So I think the opposition is rattled. Any time you do something and the opposition criticizes it, know that that thing is biting them. But if they praise it, then you should be worried. Now that they are against what we have done, that shows that they have a big challenge because they know they are not going to be able to do same. So I am not worried about the opposition, rather I am excited that the opposition is feeling the impact of what we have done.

One major problem on Nigeria is that of continuity and lack of maintenance culture, and having done a lot, are you thinking of how these projects will outlive Akpabio. Who succeeds you and, after leaving  office as governor, where are you going?

First, I thought of what have always been the bane of Nigerian development which has always been maintenance culture. So I submitted  a bill to the House of Assembly  to set up Akwa Ibom State Infrastructure Maintenance Agency. The bill has been passed and we have signed it into law. We are hoping that through that agency, we can employ hundreds of our youths to assist in the maintenance of the infrastructure that we have built.

The second one is that I did not emerge as a governor on my own. I didn’t come through my own volition, it wasn’t through my power, not because I was rich.  I came through the benevolence of God and I said  ‘let God’s will be done’. When I was campaigning,  I went to a particular local government to address some elders and I told them that my prayer is that the best candidate should be chosen by God and they said  ‘no, always pray that God should choose you’.

If God chooses the best, that best will develop the state and I will benefit from it and my children will benefit from it. I don’t have to be a governor to serve my people. But when it fell on me, I knew that God had sent me on a mission.


You will be amazed at what my colleagues have learnt from my state. So many of them who have visited here have taken one thing or the other away. Look  at the way we have been able to handle the issue of the Akwa Ibom child and Akwa Ibom as an industry for house helps. We  realised that the root cause of it was illiteracy. So we declared  free and compulsory education and made it possible for every child to have access to education from primary school to senior secondary school level.

And we opened it up to all Nigerian children who are resident in Akwa Ibom. And ask me why? The answer is simple,  if you educate your children and you don’t educate your neighbour, you are preparing armed robbers to attack your graduate children.

Today, we have 1.9 million children at the basic education level in the state in a population of  4million. And we brought certain innovations because some of the kids might not be able to pay for chalk, to pay for broom and all those things. So we started paying subvention, N100 per child, per term in the primary school to the head master and N300 per child in a term in the secondary school to the principal to provide logistics so that things like chalks, dusters and diesel where they have generator, they will not go and place the burden on those children and that will stop them from having free education.

We now signed a bill into law, the child right law and then enshrined a provision that made it compulsory to ensure that every child resident in Akwa Ibom  has access to education. We have tripled school enrolment; now appointed education monitors. We appointed a senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Education Monitoring and a Special Assistant for Education Monitoring for the three senatorial districts.

The law also gives us the power to destroy fake churches using the belief to make money. They stigmatise the child and say the child has big eyes and therefore she  is into witchcraft and therefore, for exorcism, the parents should bring N300,000. Where the parents have no money, the child is thrown out of the house. So the law allows us to demolish those houses, those  churches and  addresses  those fake pastors and we have charged some of them to court. Today many of them are facing conviction and that has brought the practice totally to an end.

In the health sector, we have built  a lot of primary health centres, renovation of  existing hospitals and equipping them and building five brand new hospitals and a state-of-the-art hospital at the federal centre in Uyo that can cater for over 357 beds that would be doing open heart surgery, kidney transplant and all that, one of the biggest hospitals in Nigeria. Yet we are able to declare free medical treatment for all our children and I can tell you that in six years we will not have a single incidence of polio.

We declared free medical treatment for all pregnant women across the state. What has happened is that we have reduced maternal mortality to its barest minimum  if not totally eliminated. We also declared free medical treatment for retirees and pensioners so that our elderly people can also enjoy the benefits of their labour after they have retired.

Why the massive support for your party and the President?

First, the PDP is Nigeria and Nigeria is PDP. The only true national party today in the country is the PDP, all other parties are either owned by one individual or the other, or owned by one ethnic group or the other. PDP is the only political party that cuts across ethnic lines, cuts across religious lines and it is not owned by any symbol. That is number one, so saving the PDP is saving the nation.

Two, yes I support President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan with everything that I have. I was not happy in the past when governors were fighting Presidents, Nigeria has so many problems and so when you become a leader in Nigeria, you  have enormous load in your head. And to get distracted by your commanders who are supposed to ease the load from you, to me was something I felt should not be tolerated and it was all because of personal ambition.

I believe that power comes from God and God gives it to who he pleases. Nigerian having learnt a lesson that all those who clamour for power never really get the power.

Those who really go out to search for power in Nigeria never get the power, that is the history of our country.

So I am a good student of history, I don’t go looking for power. Rather I look for a way for my country to survive. And I know that the success of the President of that country is the success of that country. If President Goodluck Jonathan does not succeed, it means that Nigeria has failed. And I look at my six-year- old son and I ask myself a question, what do I want to bequeath to that child? A fractured country where he will not be sure of stepping out to go and visit his friends  just across Abia State?  A country where criminals and hoodlums will take over and you cannot stroll or even take a ride?

I have also made a point clear. It is not only President Goodluck Jonathan that I am supporting. When his excellency of blessed memory, President Yar’Adua was in power, I did not fight him, I did not organize insurgency against him and thank God there was no bomb blast. I never organized a newspaper write ups to insult even when he had his own challenges. With President  Goodluck Jonathan now  in power, why should I go and start insulting him or  try to bring him down? I never did that and I supported him.

What would be your legacy and what would you like to be remembered for?

In Akwa Ibom, for instance, I would like you to remember that it was that PDP governor that brought his people closest to God. What I have done in the last seven years had always been guided by God. I put God first in everything that I do.

I hold a solemn assembly every year to pray for the benefit of my people and for God’s mercy and then God’s guidance for the administration. And then every month, I gather all strata of the Christian faith and then I bring in bishops,  clergy from across board and they gather in the Government House and pray for the peace of the state and for the progress of the state and for the intentions of the government.

And at the end of the year, we give glory to God in a major coral festival, never seen before in Africa. We assemble 9,999 choristers and they sing to the glory. Something extremely remarkable that has broken the Guinness book of world record, that state has a serious covenant with God.

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