Hon. Ita Awak, a former Commissioner of Information under Governor of Akwa – Ibom Gov. Victor Attah, was recently in the FCT Abuja. In an encounter with the National WAVES, Editor, Tola Bakare, he said he contributed to the resource control struggle that has made Akwa – Ibom State one of the richest states in Nigeria. He said Gov. Godswills Obot Akpabio was trying to play the Ibori System in the state. Hon Awak from Oron lamented the level of poverty in the state.
He said Akwa – Ibom is reputed to be the richest state in Nigeria today.
He spoke about massive hunger in Akwa – Ibom state.
Hon Awak also spoke about the annual revenue profile of Akwa – Ibom State equals that of Lagos State. As a matter of fact, from 2007 till date, it will be interesting to know that Akwa – Ibom State is one of the states that has grossed up to about 2 trillion naira.
He said such vast volume of money has never entered the state, since the creation of the state in 1987.
Can we meet you?
I am Ita Awak, a former Commissioner for Information.
Akwa Ibom State is reputed to be the richest state in Nigeria today. Considering the massive cash inflow into the State, how would you assess the performance of the state government so far? Is this figure commensurate with the level of development in the state?
You may not believe it, but I tell you that there is massive hunger in Akwa Ibom State. Like everybody knows, the annual revenue profile of Akwa Ibom State equals that of Lagos State. As a matter of fact, from 2007 till date, it will be interesting to know that Akwa Ibom State is one of the states that has grossed up to or about 2 trillion naira. Such vast volume of money has never entered this state since the creation of this state in 1987. It may also interest you further that what Akwa Ibom state grosses annually from the Federation Account equals the total amount of money that accrues to all the Igbo-speaking states of the South Eastern zone. It does appear also that it is equal to the total amount of money received by all the Hausa-Fulani North Eastern states put together. As a matter of fact, in this year’s budget, what we have is about 500 billion, which is about 4 times the total amount of money that Cross River State is budgeting for this year. So what are we trying to say? In terms of the revenue we have received compared to our recorded development, there is a wide gap. As it is, Akwa Ibom State is known to be one of the richest states in the country, but the vast majority of the people of Akwa State are pauperized, the economic class in Akwa Ibom state has been reduced to executive beggars. Put differently, we have a political and business class in Akwa Ibom State that have been “almagirized” by the policies of government, completely isolated and excluded from benefitting from government patronage in terms of contracts etc. Put bluntly, we have grossed massive volumes of money over the last 7 years or so, yet we have marginal evidence of it in Akwa Ibom State. We don’t see them in the quality of life and living of the vast majority of Akwa Ibom people. It is not reflected in the economic profile of our state nor in the turn- over of indigenous Akwa Ibom businessmen. It is a tragedy, a supreme tragedy that we can have this huge amount of money, yet it is not reflected in an improved standard of living of Akwa Ibom people. It will be interesting to know what the current poverty index of Akwa Ibom State is, but I know for sure that there is hunger in this state. Very, very saddening, indeed. Thank you very much.
But the Governor keeps talking of “Uncommon Transformation” of Akwa Ibom State. He said that he has changed Akwa Ibom people, and that Akwa Ibom will never be the same again. How then do you justify this statement with what you have just said?
Thank you very much. In all fairness to my good friend, the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Godswill Obot Akpabio, he has to all intents and purposes, recorded some measurable structural development within the Uyo metropolis. Please note that Uyo metropolis only constitutes just one local government of the 9 Local Governments that make up Uyo Senatorial District. This hyperbolized claim about uncommon transformation can also be seen in a section of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District where my dear governor hails from. That is where you see this so-called uncommon transformation. But, have you taken a ride through Eket Senatorial District? It may interest you to know that the petrodollar that drives the economy of Akwa Ibom State all come from Eket Senatorial District. When you get into Eket Senatorial District, what accosts your sight is the glaring and soulful evidence of uncommon neglect. Then, when you now go to the Oron nation, where I come from, you will see stark reality of criminal marginalization of both the natives and the communities. Further, when you get into the 31 LGAs of Akwa Ibom State, all you see is evidence of neglect, plunder and uncommon roguery. That is what is going on in Akwa Ibom State. So, like I said, this talk about uncommon transformation is a media hype and an obscene glamourization of under achievement. My friend, let me emphasize that the uncommon transformation is restricted to only a section of Uyo Senatorial District, predominantly the Uyo metropolis, and also a section of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District where the governor hails from. We see the dualization of some federal roads in the Uyo and Ikot Ekpene Senatorial Districts, but that is the end of the story. The federal roads in Eket Senatorial District and particularly, the roads in the Oron nation section of Eket Senatorial District have been completely abandoned by the state government. Is this what you call uncommon transformation of a state? We are not having uncommon transformation in Akwa Ibom State. For you to honestly claim that the so-called transformation taking place in Akwa Ibom State is uncommon, it must be that this transformation equals four times the recorded achievements of Cross River State within the same time period in terms of infrastructural, human, educational and industrial development. It is important we make these comparisons, considering the indisputable fact that our annual resources from the Federation Account is about four times that of Cross River State. Similarly, for you to honestly claim that we have uncommon transformation there must be evidence to show that what we have achieved so far equals four times what the whole of the south eastern states have done for the same period of time, because what we have grossed in terms of revenue within the past six years equals what all the South Eastern states have received within the same period. If it does not equal, then there is a very serious contradiction which exposes the lie of this talk of uncommon transformation. We do not have uncommon transformation in Akwa Ibom State. What we have in Akwa Ibom State is a bloated exaggeration of the small achievements we have recorded over time. It is a glamourization and celebration of mediocrity. That’s what we have here.
Let’s get into the politics of transition or politics of succession. Very soon, we will have party primaries and in one year, we will have general elections in the country. Akwa Ibom State is getting prepared to elect a successor to Governor Akpabio. The most current situation is that the Executive Council of Akwa Ibom State has recently nominated three persons…..
(Interjects)…Is it the duty of the Executive Council of Akwa Ibom State to tell Akwa Ibom people whom to vote for? When has it become the function of the Executive Council of any state in this country to decide those that are to go for election? For me, this is the height of absurdity. This is very absurd and unfortunate. The business of the state executive council of any rational, honest government is to articulate, execute and evaluate government policies in such a way and manner that the greater majority of the people of that state benefit from the activities of government. When we were privileged to serve in the executive council of this state, it was not our business to deliberate or even go to the absurd level of shortlisting those who were to contest as Governor Attah’s successor. It was chiefly our business to struggle for resource control and join our Governor, Obong Victor Attah in articulating such enduring developmental projects such as the Akwa Ibom International Airport, the Ibom Independent Power Plant, Ibaka Deep Sea Port, and the Science and Industrial Incubation Center. Indeed, I am proud to be a part of those who contributed to the resource control struggle that has today made us one of the richest states in Nigeria.
Concerning the so called endorsement you asked earlier. For me, what is playing out if I am to psychologically analyse the mind of my governor is that he appears to be trying the Ibori experiment in Akwa Ibom State. I’ll tell you the Ibori experiment. When Ibori was getting to the end of his tenure, and you know that back then, Delta state was the richest in the country. What Ibori did was to hide from the people his own preferred candidate who was his cousin, the present Governor of Delta State, Uduaghan. So, from his cabinet, Ibori threw money to some of his cabinet members encouraging them to posture as gubernatorial aspirants. Just at the critical time, when those people needed more money and resources to see through their aspirations, the pipe went dry. It was here that Ibori now came up with his joker, unveiling his preferred candidate, Uduaghan, leaving those people napping like fish out of the water. I think that is what my good friend, Akpabio is trying to do in Akwa Ibom State. Infact, we have not heard the last of this twists and turns about a successor. Trust me, he is still tinkering with it, and at the appropriate time, I’m sure he will come up with another person. I can assure you that we have not heard the last of it. And any Oron person who thinks that Governor Akpabio is supporting him should remember that Godswill Obot Akpabio as Governor of this state in 2011 when we were going for the second term election, called the whole of Mbo LGA and other traditional and political leaders of Oron Nation and asked us to go and return Mrs Alice Ekpeyong for a second term as member of the State House of Assembly, assuring us that he was going to correct the injustice and imbalance by using his political influence to make Mrs Alice Ekpeyong, an Oron woman, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly. The governor lied to us because he did not make good his promise. I think that any Oron person who believes that Governor Akpabio is going to support him to succeed him in 2015 is living in a fool’s paradise and is in for a very rough ride. They will be deceived eventually. It is for this reason that I implore them to be very circumspect with whatever encouraging whisperings they may be getting from my good friend, Governor Akpabio.
You are from the Oron nation and recently, a former commissioner of the State which is also from Oron said in an interview that the former Secretary to the state government, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, is the stumbling block preventing an Oron man from becoming governor in 2015. Do you share this sentiment?
(Chuckles). I assure you that Umana Okon Umana is not, has never been and will never be a stumbling block to the gubernatorial aspiration of Oron people as far as 2015 is concerned. The truth of the matter is that any honest and averagely intelligent person, I repeat, any honest and averagely intelligent person would not fail to recognize the simple fact that the only stumbling block between the Oron indigenes and the Hilltop mansion in 2015 is my good friend, Obong Godswill Obot Akpabio. I repeat, and very strongly so, that the only person who has invoked himself as the apparition that stands between the Oron people and the Hilltop mansion in 2015 is the present Governor, Obong Godswill Obot Akpabio. Let me explain what I mean. Obong Godswill Akpabio was inaugurated into power in the year 2007. I was one of the ex-Governor Attah’s commissioners who went to congratulate him as one of us. At that meeting, I recall very sadly that Governor Akpabio embarrassed us when he announced that Oron people did not support him. But this was a blatant lie because I know the very pivotal and critical role that Arc. Otu Ita Toyo, the then State Chairman of the PDP, singularly played in the emergence of Chief Godswill Akpabio as Governor of Akwa Ibom State in 2007. Chief Otu Ita Toyo is an illustrious son of Oron. I also know the important role played by the late Pastor Oyong Asuquo during the primaries that threw up Godswill Obot Akpabio as one of the top contenders in the primaries. Oyong Asuquo was also one of the illustrious young men of Oron Nation. In spite of these critical contributions of Oron sons to his success, Governor Akpabio keeps entertaining himself with the falsehood that Oron did not support him. By way of justification, Governor Akpabio, right from day one of his administration, determinedly excluded Oron sons and daughters from participating and contributing at the leadership level in his government. Look at it; you can see it for yourself. There is no Oron man or woman in any position of leadership either in the executive, judicial, and legislative arm of government; neither do we head the ruling party. No Oron person is included in the decision making body of government, the place where decisions are taken as to who enjoys government privileges and patronage, when and how. This is a far cry from what the Oron people had when the Ibibios of Uyo Senatorial District were at the helm of affairs. So, like I earlier said, Governor Akpabio ensured that Oron was completely excluded from the leadership of his government. For six good years, Governor Akpabio told everybody who cared to listen, that he was not a product of zoning. He claimed that there was nothing like zoning in Akwa Ibom State; and that he did not emerge as a governor based on the zoning principle. This is unfortunate. And for these six years, Obong Godswill Obot Akpabio went to every length to tell everybody that his successor is going to be Umana Okon Umana, the engine room of his administration, and a formidable structure was set up. Go and ask the traditional rulers of Uyo senatorial district and even traditional rulers of Annang land. They will honestly tell you that Governor Godswill Akpabio pledged to them that he would return power to the Ibibios of Uyo at the end of his 8-year tenure and that his successor will be Umana Okon Umana. Now for whatever reasons best known to the governor, he decided to use a very shabby and Gestapo manner to remove Umana Okon Umana from government. Immediately he did that, he replaced Umana Okon Umana with another Ibibio son, but this time from Eket Senatorial District, a man who has distinguished himself in the banking sector, as his new SSG. If he loved Oron so much, why didn’t he pick an Oron man as the new SSG? And from the day he came with the Onna-Ibibio man, he set up a structure to canvass for Udom Emmanuel as his successor. Now, it may interest you to know, that as I speak, the Chairman of my own Local Government, Mbo, is one of those that have been directed by Governor Akpabio to mobilize Mbo to support the new SSG’s gubernatorial ambition. As a matter of fact, while some prominent Oron people have been asked to work for Udom Emmanuel, there is the disturbing evidence that the Governor has also encouraged two Oron men in his government to flex gubernatorial muscles. Is this not a recipe for confusion and anarchy? In the meantime, there is a somersault. Our dear Governor Akpabio is a born-again apostle of zoning. He now wants an arrangee and dubious zoning to Eket Senatorial district. I tell you, from my point of view, it is patently anti-Oron and very dishonest. You see, you cannot talk about equity, you cannot talk about fairness, you cannot talk about unity in Akwa Ibom State if you insist that an Ibibio man from Eket senatorial district must be the governor in 2015 instead of an Oron person who is from the third largest ethnic group. It was because of fairness and justice that Obong Victor Attah encouraged the Ibibios to support the Annangs of the Ikot Ekpene Senatorial district in 2007 and this is how Chief Godswill Akpabio emerged. You see, Governor Akpabio has betrayed the Oron people, completely betrayed the Oron people. When Obong Victor Attah , God bless this great man and the father of new Akwa Ibom, sat down with members of his own Ibibio ethnic group, who constitute 65% of our population in this state, to cede power to the minority, he ensured that it went to the second largest ethnic group, the Annang ethnic group. That is how Governor Akpabio benefited. Governor Akpabio has not followed the example of Obong Victor Attah. If Governor Akpabio had followed the glorious example of Obong Victor Attah, what he would have done from day one would have been to properly position an Oron man, just like Obong Attah positioned him. Obong Attah made him the Director of Contacts and Mobilization of his reelection in 2003, thereby exposing Chief Akpabio, who was then a Commissioner, to the cream de la cream of the Akwa Ibom political class. Not only that, he also assigned him to a strategic Ministry and gave him all the necessary resources and empowerment to contest the governorship elections. This crucial gesture Governor Akpabio has not duplicated in favour of any Oron person. It is because of all these that I say that the only person who stands between Oron and the Hilltop mansion in 2015 is no other person than Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio. If Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio had wanted an Oron person to succeed him, right from the first day of his administration, he would have positioned and given Oron people access to political power. This he did not do and has not done. Also, he would have cultivated the support and blessings of the political leadership of the majority ethnic group that facilitated his ascension to power. That is, the predominant Uyo Senatorial District Ibibios. He would have done exactly what Obong Attah did, by going to them and persuading them to support the Oron man. Mark you, no minority person in this state can be governor without the support and blessing of the predominant Uyo Senatorial District Ibibios. By alienating, marginalizing and excluding the political leaders especially of Uyo Senatorial District from his government, my dear Governor, has unleashed the kind of atavistic ethnic sentiments that is making it very difficult for an Oron man to succeed him.
So what then do you propose for the Oron people? Or do you have a particular Oron man you are supporting for this 2015 Governorship race?
Listen, in Akwa Ibom State, the Ibibios constitute 65% of the population and they have 14 LGAs spread across the three Senatorial Districts and they are predominantly in Uyo Senatorial District with 9 LGAs. Governor Akpabio, who is from the Annang ethnic group, could not have become the governor of this state without the support, blessing and encouragement of chiefly, the predominant Uyo Senatorial district. It also follows that, for the Oron man to become governor of this state, the Ibibios must bless that venture, they must support it. Without their support, we cannot unilaterally make ourselves governor of this state. Now, because of the current style of government, the Ibibios feel alienated. Right now, we have a big crisis on our hands. All the ethnic groups in Akwa Ibom State are at daggers drawn with each other. The Ibibios of Uyo Senatorial district are strongly of the view that since they have been so marginalized, humiliated and embarrassed, they want the governorship they gave to the Annangs back. On the other hand, the Ibibios of the Eket Senatorial district are curiously asking for equity, when they know that they are of the same ethnic strand with the Ibibios of the Uyo Senatorial district. The Ibenos, the Eastern Obolos, and the Ekid of Eket Senatorial district are also asking that this is their turn to produce the governor. So what we have now is an ethnic crisis that must be managed with a lot of political brinksmanship. So, for my Oron people, considering the colours of the time, I think that it is politically pragmatic for us to forge a political alliance with the predominant Ibibios of the Uyo Senatorial District. It is in the existential and political interest of my Oron people to do so. That is what I advocate and that is what I want my Oron brethren to realize. I think, and nothing has made me to doubt the uncomfortable feeling that I am having. That it is the determined intention of Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio, to amputate the Oron ethnic group as the third leg of the tripod. His decision to completely isolate and exclude the Oron natives from his government is a part of that ploy to incapacitate us and render us totally irrelevant in the political arithmetic of Akwa Ibom State. Therefore, the only way we can scuttle and frustrate this plan and triumph over this insidious design is to be pragmatic enough to forge a new political alliance with the Ibibios of Uyo so that they can form the government in 2015, with the understanding that they would shift political power to Oron people in 2023. This is what I advocate. I know that this view is radical; I know that it is painful, but we must stoop to conquer. That is my view as far as your question is concerned.
Who then do you think should be held accountable for the underdevelopment of the Oron?
I have said so. The underdevelopment of Oron is the handiwork of the Governor. Remember, he said that Oron did not support him. Second, our Governor has seen the need to use state funds to dualize federal roads in his own senatorial district; and he gives no regard at all to the state of complete disrepair of the federal roads in Oron federal constituency. It is a tragedy. Never in the history of Akwa Ibom State, since the creation of this state in 1987, has any government so completely marginalized the Oron people, so pauperized the Oron political class, and so criminally disenfranchised us. Never!