Mr. Charles Udoh is the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information and Strategy. In this interview, he talks on the efforts of the state government to re-position the oil rich state for sustainable development, the chances of Governor Udom Emmanuel retaining the plum job in 2019, the non existence of All Progressives Congress, APC in the state, among other issues in the polity.
By Harris-Okon Emmanuel
How has the state fared under the watch of Governor Udom Emmanuel?
Well, if you ask me to grade, we have scored an A+ confidently and you weigh that against the challenges of the present economic situation that this administration found itself when it came into office.
But the government in its creativity managed to stabilize the economy by attracting foreign investors who came to drive the processes and that informed why in 2016, Akwa Ibom was listed as the state with the second highest foreign direct investment by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics and the same thing happened in 2017 and only behind Lagos state.
If you look at the companies we are bringing to Akwa Ibom, they are the types that the markets are so huge.
Today, we have the biggest syringe factory in Africa. The other one before ours is in South Africa and it has the capacity of ninety five million syringes per annum and we have four hundred million capacities per annum and that is a huge market. It means that the company can thrive and thrive and it would be able to meet the needs of the Nigerian market. And then there is the electric metering factory.
From the day Nigeria proclaimed that we are moving from post-paid to pre-paid meters, Nigeria has been struggling to implement that decision. We went to town and presented the proposal to investors and today in Akwa Ibom, metering and metering boxes are being produced.
But the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics also found the state to be among states with the highest unemployment rates?
Our dream is not to create jobs within civil service because there is a limit to what you can create. Our dream is to develop the economy and turn it around for the benefit of the people. For the greater part of our thirty years of existence, our economy has been focused on government.
You painted the governor as an expert in corporate governance, but the civil servants are complaining about non payment of promotion arrears, gratuities and pensions?
First, I am surprised to hear that and the reason I am saying this is that, recall in 2015, just a few months after swearing in, Mr Udom Emmanuel, the governor of Akwa Ibom state, without compulsion, paid a backlog of pension dating back 10 years. He had no compulsion to do that, but this only showed that this is a man; this is a governor who has the interest of people at heart. That clearly signposted and laid down the markers. He would have said that he didn’t incur the pension as such he would not pay but he didn’t do that.
Are you saying that this government does not owe workers’ salaries?
Owing who? Let the person come out and say it. Not one person is being owed.
Are you saying that the governor will be able to retain the seat given the political clout of the APC?
My answer is an emphatic yes, he will win. My reason is simple. The President’s midterm report is already out and 60 percent of that report is dedicated to Akwa Ibom. So, where is the political clout of the opposition?
The reality is that between January and now, Akwa Ibom State was recognised by the Federal Ministry of Sports as the state with the best sports infrastructure. The state got three awards from sports. Now, the Federal Ministry of Sports is controlled by the opposition which is the government at the centre which is not aligning with their philosophy.
Not too long ago, the same structure at the centre invited our governor to Aso Rock to receive an integrity and national service award. And what does this tell us? It tells us that there is something we are doing in this part of the world which people are taking note of. And if you have also noticed, our governor will never debase anybody because he is thoroughbred. He is focusing on result. He is focusing on Nigeria and the Akwa Ibom project. He wants to set the pace for development in Akwa Ibom and by extension, Nigeria.
Talking about 2019, first and foremost, we had a local government election; did any of the chieftains from the other party go to their wards to vote? I heard a lot of them saying that the election wasn’t credible and I said you had the opportunity to go to your units and vote, hire camera, or take pictures, but they didn’t do that, instead they hired people, stole uniforms and put the pictures on the web that the election was rigged. Not one of them was in the state to vote to show the world that they are on ground. So, where are they?
They are not here. All you hear from the opposition is all fabricated lies that this government is not doing well. Cast aside political sentiment, this is about us and our generation. What posterity are we leaving for them? This governor is not focusing on abusing anybody. He will never abuse anybody.
He is focusing on rebuilding an Akwa Ibom that everyone will be proud of. And so coming to re-election, I don’t see the opposition. I don’t see the opposition because the world and even the opposition have recognized the giant strides of the governor. Tell me which state in Nigeria is building the number of roads that Akwa Ibom is building or has free and compulsory education or pays 600 million naira for WAEC for their indigenes. I can go on and on.