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We are Working Towards flying Houston, Texas, London from Uyo
16 Mar 2010: Sulaimon Olarenwaju and Akinsete Charles

Mr. Aniekan Umanah is the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information. In this interview with Sulaimon Olarenwaju and Akinsete Charles, of Nigerian Tribune, he speaks on the developmental programmes and achievements of the Governor Godswill Akpabio-led administration in the state, among other issues.

Excerpts:

How has it been managing the image of the Governor Godswill Akpabio-led government?
It has been interesting and also quite challenging. Interesting in the sense that I have been fortunate to work with a performing governor. His Excellency, Governor Goodswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State is a highly rated performer and he is deeply and genuinely committed to the development and transformation of the state. He is a man of vision on a mission and this has been greatly felt through his achievements all over the state. This is reflected in the physical and lasting infrastructure he is putting on ground in the state.

It is only unfortunate that no matter how well you perform, especially in today’s political system, you would find people, one or two elements, who would always be on the other side of the fence, throwing spanners into the wheels of progress. But the greatest asset for us here is that when the government is run on truth which is physical, truth  which people can feel and touch, then, government will be on the winning side.

As the governor would say, that even when Jesus Christ came to earth and performed all miracles, healed the sick and all that, they still decided to kill him, not knowing that it is the will of God that he would die in that manner. Among his people, there was a Judas.

So for me, it is just that one feels bad when certain blatant lies are told. But the joy at the end of the day is that the people are happy and are enjoying the dividends of democracy. The joy is that the people of Akwa Ibom have seen more than ever before what governance should be. That is the joy of today and of the people of Akwa Ibom.

There have been reports that the government of Akwa Ibom is just concentrating on the state capital, Uyo and that the dividends of democracy are not replicated in other areas. How true is that assertion?
That is not true and it is a myopic view of the reality on ground in Akwa Ibom State. Development in the state is replicated across the three major senatorial districts of the state and by implication, across the 31 local government areas or the 329 political wards in the state. For example, in terms of road construction, Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area alone has about 26 urban roads. Eket Senatorial District alone has 49 urban roads. Ikot Abasi, where you have the aluminium plant, has 18 urban roads. Oron has 34 urban roads, while Uyo has 22. The government is even adding more because we are working on the next phase.

So, it is not true that development is being concentrated alone in the state capital. Let me add that there are over 3,000 projects spread across the 31 local government areas in the state, with over 50 projects going on in each local government area. So, no one can claim that development is being restricted to the state capital. But, of course, distinct infrastructure must also be in the state capital. The government must, deliberately, develop the state capital because that is the face of the state, that is the focal part and the rallying point of the state. That is why everywhere else cannot be the state capital; just one place can only be the state capital and it must be developed and given the ambience of the state because that is the seat of government.

If Governor Akpabio is building fly-overs in the city of Uyo, I think it is well placed because that is the state capital. If he has built a new Governor’s Lodge in the state capital, that is where it rightly belongs and that is where it should be. If he is dualising urban roads across the state capital, that development is also right too. I think the right steps are being taken across the three senatorial districts in the state in order to bring dividends of democracy to all parts of the state.

Your governor has been dubbed ‘road construction governor.’ Is that the only area he is concentrating on?
Road construction is just one aspect of infrastructural development. Let me tell you something that people seem not to understand. The governor is, indeed, a man of vision who has the interest of the people at heart. The Akpabio-led administration is currently sinking over N13 billion underground, building a flood-controlled tunnel in the city of Uyo. In that project, there are pipes and tunnels, running over four kilometres to the sea sides, in the bid to control the terrible flooding that occurs in some parts of Uyo and it is evacuated through an underground tunnel in which the main-hole is about 18 metres long, such that it can control the water back into the sea. This project alone cost about N13 billion. This is proper development by United Nations (UN) or any other standard. People may not immediately understand it, but its effect would be very much appreciated later.

Government is building 205 roads and 168 have been completed in different local government areas, including the state capital. But it is not only roads; there is massive rehabilitation of health infrastructure and also the education sector across state. As I speak to you, we have rehabilitated over 1,000 schools by adding new blocks and our schools wear red-roof. In fact, they call His Excellency, ‘the red-roof governor’. These infrastructure are practically there for all to see and judge. The government is, indeed, investing in the interest of the people.

There was a report recently about kidnapping cases recorded in your state. One of the suspects confessed to the police that they were being sponsored by some politicians in the state. What is the government doing to curtail kidnapping?
On behalf of the governor of Akwa Ibom, I must thank the Nigerian Tribune newspapers for being objective, for being clear, concise and articulate in the editorial report. The newspaper put the matter into perspective, with all sides of the stories told and I commend the newspapers for that.

Secondly, whatever you hear, some of these information may be what people are scheming so that other people can hear. But on the matter of kidnapping, the government, of course, has spoken on that and the security agencies would ensure proper investigation into the matter and I believe they are working assiduously on the matter. It is their job; they are professionals and we will allow them to do what they were trained to do, since they understand the terrain more than we do.

But let one add here that the kidnapping saga is a global problem, be it Mexico or Rwanda. It is a foreign ill that crept into this country, particularly in the era of militancy in the Niger Delta region. Sadly, this graduated from militancy to criminality. It is this criminal aspect which is very worrisome. All across the country, we hear of kidnap cases.

I read somewhere that a relation of a senior officer of a national party was kidnapped in Ilorin. Someone else was said to have been kidnapped along Lagos-Benin- Sagamu expressway, who, I believe, was a high official of Ogun State government at a time. I heard of the case of the Secretary to the Government in Kaduna State, as well as another foreigner in the state. I have heard of several cases in Edo State; the case of Personal Assistant or Secretary of Ejigbo Local Government Area in Lagos State, recently. There was also a case of an African journalist with M-Net, which was said to have happened very close to Owerri Airport. I heard of another in Umuahia, Abia State, cases in Port Harcourt and Calabar, the wife of a local government chairman and also cases in Akwa Ibom State.

Look, this issue is not peculiar to a state or region. I took time to run this brief history of cases that I can remember to indicate that this is a national menace. So, it is not a matter of Akwa Ibom State. We must rise up as a people to kick against this menace and the security agencies must also work towards the eradication of this menace. The people must also work things out with security operatives through adequate dissemination of information. No one knows who is next. It can happen to anybody. So, we must rise up and stamp out the menace of kidnapping.

However, Governor Akpabio is leaving no stone unturned in keeping Akwa Ibom State secure and safe for its indigenes and visitors. He has been providing adequate support for the police and other security agencies to ensure that they do their jobs well. Over 95 vehicles were given to the police, with logistics support. He provided about 45 Hilux trucks for efficient operation and these have really helped to ensure security with the state. If he had not done all these, the problem would have indeed escalated and, perhaps, become unbearable. The governor is concerned about the safety and welfare of the people. He called a security stakeholders’ meeting last month and he is determined to bring any culprit to book and he is pursuing this agenda vigorously.

With the governor’s achievements, as stated by you, is he seeking to run for a second term with a view to consolidating on his developmental efforts?
The governor would definitely need time to finish all the projects that are on ground. The answer is yes, because the governor has made it clear that he would put himself forward to be re-elected by the people of Akwa Ibom State in 2011 so that he would serve his two constitutionally- allowed tenure as governor.

Why is he doing this?

There is so much work to be done and there is so much the governor still has to offer. With the zeal and dedication Governor Akpabio is using to transform Akwa Ibom today, by the time he spends eight years, this administration would have delivered a new destination for the state. Can you imagine what Awka Ibom was by the time Governor Akpabio came in? Today, we are flying straight into Akwa-Ibom State. He completed the airport he met at ground zero. From the point the contractors abdicated the site, within nine months, he delivered an airport. There are routes from Lagos to Uyo, from Uyo to Abuja and back and more routes will still come. The intention is to fly to Houston, Texas, London from that airport and we are working towards that.


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