The recently elected Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in Akwa Ibom State, Comrade Ini Ememobong is a total reflection of what the great philosopher Aristotle had in mind when he postulated that “we are what we repeatedly do, excellence therefore is not an act but a habit”
As the President of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Comrade Ememobong added exceptional brilliance to students’ activism. As a law student after having begged an initial degree in linguistics from the University of Uyo, he was quite diplomatic, so that before an uprising could even begin in the students community, he would have found a way of resolving it.
In the literary world and journalism he was exceptional, working as Editor and Columnist in various newspapers and magazines. His rise in politics was not surprising to a lot of people because he showed signs of a good follower. This is why as Chief Press Secretary to the then Speaker of the Youth Parliament, Barr. Onofiok Luke, he discharged his duties efficiently.
He became more visible in politics when Governor Godswill Akpabio appointed him Special Adviser on Students Matters and then Governor Udom Emmanuel appointed him Special Assistant on Political Matters; a position he held until the recent state congress of the People Democratic Party elected him as Publicity Secretary.
In this interview with Managing Editor, Henry Nkom, Comrade (Barr) Ini Ememobong speaks on the incredible strides of Governor Udom Emmanuel one year on the saddle, the state of the nation and other sundry issues.
The Publicity Secretary of PDP in Akwa Ibom State is an Office full of high expectations. Are you prepared for the challenges?
Nature prepares you if you want it to prepare you. I have a philosophy, which was penned by Abraham Licoln. He said I will learn, prepare and wait and someday my time will come. So I have been in the art of learning, I have been waiting. Every opportunity that comes, for me is an opportunity given by God to man to exercise his God given talents, which must have passed through some human touch. No matter what happens, human beings have a role to play. This is why God has kept some human beings as ladders for others to climb, manna will not drop from above. A man must have to prepare food for another man. Therefore, for me I am a product of grace. God’s grace met me and in this march towards my own destiny, God has kept on my path men and women who have been there for me. They have provided various rungs of the ladder for me to climb. These people helped make me to be who I am today. For example, in journalism, Michael Bush has played a huge role in my life. Someone like Paul Okokon, a Lagos based lawyer has played a big role in my life. Itoro Columba, Obong Emmanuel Effiong, all made impact in my life. I was once upon a time a Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker, Youth Parliament. If he didn’t give me that chance, I would not have come in so much contact with the media. If you look through my journey in life, you will see people like Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio who appointed me his Special Assistant on Students Matters; also Deacon Udom Emmanuel appointed me his Special Assistant on Political Matters. These people were instruments in the hands of God to bring me to today.
Therefore, the motto of Boys Scout says be prepared. It didn’t say be prepared for war or peace or a race. So, immediately you are prepared; anything that comes your way, you take it. As the heavens is higher than the earth so are the thoughts of God higher than that of man. So for me, by reason of grace upon my life, and by reason that I realize my anchor is in Christ and He qualifies those that he called and since he is the one that called me to this assignment, I am more than certain that he will qualify me enough to execute the functions of that office effectively, so that at the end I will leave shoulders high.
A lot of people must be surprised at your election because we’ve always known party people to be advanced in age. But what do you think was in the minds of party people who supported you?
Well, I have always been confronted by the fact that people believe I am a small boy, so I have become used to it. But the Bible admonishes us to behave well so that someone does not despise our youth. The same thing happened when I was appointed Special Assistant to the Governor on Political Matters, people said I was too young and that the position is meant for people who are very old politicians and understand the political scene.
However, few months into that job, the same people who called me small boy earlier on, came back to the Governor and said he made a good choice in Ini. And the Governor made it very easy working with him, I must say that; the Governor is a very patient person; he makes you realize his expectations early after giving you an assignment. If we conquered the challenge of being SA on Political Affairs to the Governor, I am sure we will be able to expand ourselves into this new office and after a while we will be needing space. I can’t say what was on the mind of those who supported me to be PDP Publicity Secretary but after the election and I got on to Facebook, I discovered the position of Akwa Ibom people. I discovered that Akwa Ibom is PDP and PDP is Akwa Ibom. I read over 130 posts commenting that I am fit for the job. For me what comes to mind is that the party needs a Publicity Secretary that can give it a voice. Voice for what? You can have a voice to abuse people, to disseminate information and to shout but I think the voice Akwa Ibom PDP needs at this point is a voice that clearly distinguishes issues from persons. We are not chasing persons, we are chasing issues. You see, yesterday, it was the PDP led government at the federal level and they thought deregulation and oil subsidy was a PDP problem but today it is facing them. So what matters is not the person in power but what matters are the issues and ideologies. Therefore, we must have a person who is able to clearly distinguish the issues and proffer solutions. There are three parts to this; you must be able to convey information regarding what the party is doing for the populace, you must be able to convey what the party is doing at the federal, state and local government levels to our members and the third is that such a person must be able to answer to ideological issues that are between us and the opposition party. Therefore, because we are the party in government we also have an auxiliary duty to protect our government. In doing these three and a half duties, I will ensure that none of these faculties is lacking. I will work hard to disseminate information because where there is a gap in information flow, rumours and blackmail will certainly thrive.
Furthermore, information should not be uni-directional, it must be bi-directional. We must have a way of sending information to the people and getting information back because power belongs to the people, therefore, when we, who are their representatives act on their behalf we must intermittently check to be sure we are truly acting for them. The level of information a leader has may not be readily available to the follower, however, the leader takes his decision on the basis of information he has. But because he derives his power from the people, he must constantly be in touch with the people to be sure that he communicates the reasons for his decision, so that both of them can come to a concensus.
Therefore, in disseminating information internally which is for our own people, disseminating information about the party to outsiders, confronting ideological controversies especially as touted by the opposition party and the half is defending the government, remember that in this other three things the half has come in but because governments is distinct, we must also keep that small one separately.
This interview really is about the first 365 days of Deacon Udom Emmanuel as Governor of Akwa Ibom State. So I would like your thoughts on how one of the major planks of his campaign, industrialization is going on.
Critically, I am excited that there are young people who have been trained on solar power installation. We have trained them for six to seven months. We are not making noise about it. As we speak, two hundred people have been empowered to be solar power entrepreneurs. This skill is scarce and our people now have it. One of this persons can set up an entire solar infrastructure. They are ready to do one for the Ministry of Science and Technology. Beside this one, there is oracle training to help our youths get skills either to find lucrative jobs or become self employed.
The problem is not just creating jobs, but you must create jobs and you must have people to fill the jobs. Also there is photography training going on. We are more tilted to training programmes that will immediately get the people started without recourse to searching for employment.
It is for that purpose that we are making these trainings available. Let me say that we do not have the entire keys to creating an industry and making it run. For example, the refinery that the present administration has conceived needs other government agencies to do their part. The Directorate for Petroleum Resources (DPR) is supposed to issue license. There is foreign exchange needs. We have people that have money and they want to bring it in. But the regulation by the present federal administration is making it take longer than necessary for this to be achieved. This is why we keep praying that the federal government should have an economic blueprint, so that we can key into it and understand how we can run. Currently, the APC led government at the federal level has no economic blue print as far as I am concerned. This is why when they talk about palliatives and you look at them, they are very incongruent and disjointed. So as a government, job creation has been key to us. This is why the Governor had to work on the peacock paint industries to make sure it is revamped. The staff of the company have been re-absorbed. On road construction, indigenous contractors have been very well empowered in this administration.
So, when we are talking about job creation, don’t just look at the white collar jobs only. Don’t look at the formal sector, look at the informal sector more. What this process of engaging competent local contractors to build roads has done is that a lot of jobs have been created. Therefore, so much has been done in one year. And by the time the companies and industries begin to run, you are going to discover that we would have lifted innumerable people out of redundancy of unemployment and under-employment.
What is the level of training going on at Akwa Ibom Enterprises Employment Scheme (AKEES)?
AKEES is under the due process office and it has a template designed to give jobs to people who have been trained. It is a programme that provides for facility model and equity participation. In their recent exhibition, you would have noticed that they gave a good testimony of themselves. I can assure you that by the time AKEES runs full blast for the twelve months, the results will be wonderful. The results will be a pointer and sign post to other states.
In fact, it will become a reference point to other states. Remember that AKEES hasn’t been in existence for up to one year and there is always a maturation period for every idea and concept. But let me point out some challenges very quickly. At the point of conceptualization of AKEES programme, the Dollar rate to the Naira was not as high as we have now. Beside machineries to be sourced locally, we spend more on machineries that will be imported because of the Dollar rate and the difficulty in getting forex. Right now that the dollar is so high and the Naira weak, what was budgeted last year cannot buy the number of machines we will need and this will bring about a little hitch. However, if it is about delivering on their mandate, they are doing it very, very well.
Also, remember the cocoa scheme, you will see that youths have been absorbed into that scheme and trained on how to dress and prune the cocoa, so that it can yield well. The Governor launched the programme in Ikono and Ini. If we just plant and leave them they will not yield well. So you will see that there will be increase in our cocoa yield because government’s attention has been directed to it. A lot of manpower has been directed to cocoa production to ensure the state records a bumper harvest. So, a lot is happening in that sector.
Everyone is talking, about diversification and Akwa Ibom needs to do a lot to become self sufficient in food production what are the other areas of agriculture that this government is working on?
Agriculture is very close to the heart of the Governor. This is why one of the projects he has kick- started is the coconut factory. The Songhai farm project is a huge agricultural programme that will totally transform the face of agriculture in Akwa Ibom state. If Akwa Ibom people knew about this farm, they will be very grateful to Governor Emmanuel for bringing it to Akwa Ibom State. When the farm commences, it will not only lead to food sufficiency in the state but will make Akwa Ibom state a major exporter of food and agricultural products. There are so many things going on in this sector but we want them to birth so that Akwa Ibom people can also see them when we are talking. We have been low on publicity not because we cannot say but the Governor believes in results. He believes in the facts speaking for themselves. You must realize that before agriculture, industries and all the other investments come to fruition; a lot of paper work must be done. So before the coconut refinery and the ethanol which will be extracted from palm wine come on stream, a lot of ground work and paper work will be done. So, agriculture in the state is receiving full attention.
The Ministry of Agriculture has also been empowered to acquire improved seedlings and fertilizer distribution is more efficient than it used to be. So to that extent agriculture is enjoying the attention of the present administration.
In terms of industrializing the state, what are the other things the government is doing?
Clearly, the Governor is continuing with infrastructural development which is a key component of any plan to industrialize the state. Major economic roads are under construction. But first, let us even consider the building of the 2nd runaway at Ibom International Airport. This is a deliberate move to expand the airport and drive more traffic to Akwa Ibom in terms of investments.
More roads are being built to make movement of goods and services easy. The Government is working on the Eket-Ibeno road dualization project with bridges, the Uyo-Etinan road dualization, Ikot Udom raod and many others; all these are to increase the already existing infrastructure and boost business activities in the state.
Power supply is very key to industrialization and the state Governor is working hard to ensure there is regular power supply in the state to enhance industrialization. Let me tell you the truth; you can diversify the economy but without power not much can be achieved. People in the state have testified that since the Governor assumed office, we have seen improvement in power supply. These are as a result of the deliberate steps he has taken. The Ibom power plant is fully supported by the government and it is generating power which is first sent to the national grid before it is redistributed and this in no small way is a boost to power supply.
The training of our people and the N2 billion loans made available to all prospective small scale business people answers the questions about what government is doing to ensure industrialization takes root in the state.
What are your wishes for Akwa Ibom state as Governor Emmanuel marks one year in office and Nigeria experiences seventeen years of uninterrupted democracy?
My wishes for Akwa Ibom and Nigeria are that we continue to see ourselves as one indivisible people. We should allow patriotism to overshadow nepotism. We must allow merit to take the front burner and front seat. We must not allow mundane considerations of ethnicity, tribalism to overshadow our sense of reasoning. We should support His Excellency, the Governor of Akwa Ibom state, Mr. Udom Emmanuel who has shown determined efforts to change the fortune of Akwa Ibom state.
We must rise as a people to defend our own. We must rise to greatness by doing the best we can do individually knowing that the totality of our successes will make the state greater. We must take full responsibility for our actions and try to be the very best we can be, so that our success can be the success of the state and when we amalgamate it, people will say indeed this is a great state. I will like to remind us that Akwa Ibom is sitting on a hill and the eyes of the entire nation is on us.
My wish for His Excellency is that as a manager of resources he will put his creative abilities to work in a higher dimension for the development of this state. When you look at the way he has managed resources of the state you will know that it takes only someone like him to keep Akwa Ibom going.
The federal allocation has dropped and generally income of states have really gone down but look at the way he has managed it. Akwa Ibom is not on the list of states owing salaries. Therefore, I pray for more of God’s grace upon his life, so that he can continue to work for Akwa Ibom people. Governor Emmanuel sees the state as his constituency, not bothering about which local government people come from. He works tirelessly; He sleeps for less three hours every day, working tirelessly. Other Governors have gone on state visits outside the country but the only time Governor Emmanuel travels, is when he is going in search of investors. So we must applaud this man for his hardwork. I know of Governors that go to Switzerland and sleep for days or months but the Governor of Akwa Ibom, even if he has a meeting, he won’t even sleep there; he will return the next day; that is a man that loves his people. We need to pray to God to continue giving him the strength and energy to serve Akwa Ibom people.
The ward, chapter and local government congresses have taken place across the state, there seem to be members of your party who are dissatisfied with the outcome, what would you say to this?
It is very simple. The first thing is that you cannot satisfy everybody. Secondly, life is stratified. When you look at the theory of social stratification, everyone is not the same, but the party wants to carry the majority along because you cannot possibly satisfy everybody. Everyone who has been following election and congress, in this state will agree that the congresses recently organised by the PDP were the most peaceful and transparent ever in the history of Akwa Ibom. These same congresses, we held here without problems, in some other places it has created factions. But the truth is that the party galvanized Elders. We have Elders Council per ward, we have Elders Council per local government, we have Elder council in the Senatorial District and the state level. Beside Elders we have stakeholder, which now include, Elders, Women, Youths and other interested parties. So when these stakeholder acknowledge to the fact that they met accoss the state, THAT is the 329 wards and decided to choose the zoning pattern, how can anyone fault the process. They met to either adopt the zoning process or update an existing one. You either adopt or update, why is that so? If in my ward as it is, the House of Assembly member is from the next village to mine, and I am Publicity secretary from my village and the Ward Chairman has been zoned to the House member’s village for example. Now in my area we had eighteen villages and sixteen offices, later we had seventeen and now eighteen. But if we were to work on the first sixteen offices and eighteen villages, of it behoves, the House member and I to show good example and ask the people to allow the village that had no officer get something. But you see no matter how well you do it people from my village will complain and insist that they must get because in their thinking it is their time. But good leadership calls for sacrifice; in this scenario of my village, to show good example no matter the pressure the House member and I must decline.
So when such zoning system existed before this election it is left for reasonable people to amend, so that current day reality will be reflected in the politics of the area.
The congresses are results of stakeholders consultation. The key stakeholders in the ward sat down and deliberated before the election. The moment after the decisions were taken, people stood for the elections and lost. People who lust will go about and say there was a gang-up against them. But why did you lose? It is because the people took a decision to ensure cohesion. The congresses were fair, peaceful, transparent. It is the first primaries in Akwa Ibom state, whether elective or non elective that someone did not die and materials were not hijacked. Elections were going on and people went to vote and went about their normal businesses.