A former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Victor Attah, speaks with journalists in Lagos on the crisis in the state All Progressives Congress, Senate tussle among other issues. GBENGA ADENIJI was there
You are an elder statesman and identified to be with the APC…
(Laughs) Identified in what manner?
Many of you who were unhappy with happenings in Akwa Ibom in the years after you left office left the PDP. Are you still interested in the party since the man many left the PDP for has also joined the APC?
As an elder statesman and the leader of the Ibibios, I remain completely neutral. I have told you what I suspect is going to happen to the APC and it is from a dispassionate observation. I said and I repeat, there was a time you could have asked me, ‘In your observation, what do you think?’ And I would have told you, ‘the way things are going, I think this state have moved at least, 80 per cent over to the APC.’ But since the coming in of (Godswill) Akpabio, believe me, the APC will have to struggle, if they want to win. I think it’s something like 50/50 now already, because of the people going back to the PDP. Because these were the people that left the PDP because of this man, he comes in here and they are going back to where they left, just to avoid being with him. So that does not mean that I have sentiment towards any particular group, I’m just telling you what I know is on the ground.
Akpabio has apologised to those in the state who left the PDP for the APC. Now that he has also joined the APC, is he not forgiven?
Are we talking about forgiveness here? We are talking about the ability to lead or not to lead and how people are following your ideology or not following your ideology. Having said that, he pronounced that Akwa Ibom is going to witness what happened in Warsaw. Please, explain that to me.
Akpabio’s defection to the APC is making the Ibibios, who constitute more than two-thirds of the state population, to complain that he is planning to shift governance to the minority ethnic groups in the state. What is your position on this?
That sentiment cannot be allowed to hold because we cannot reduce governance to any sentiment. As far as I’m concerned, in Akwa Ibom, we should get the position where we would pick somebody that will provide the state with good governance, responsible governance and governance with morality. Look at the statement published by the Akwa Ibom chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria.
It is the same CAN that, more than any other organisation, promoted Akpabio. They anointed him. All I am concerned with is that people should be consistent; people should base their judgments on what is right and what is wrong and look at the morality of the situation. The onus is on the political parties to allow the people to pick those they freely feel can govern them properly. I read something the other day, this question just reminded me. One of the reasons that some people are resisting direct primaries is because of bargain.
The formation of these bargains from Abuja is one of the things that have really destroyed this country. Abuja will sit down and make a bargain, without consultations with the electorate. Yet, these are the people they are going to govern. They will thereafter pick quarrels when the people resisted. They will give automatic ticket and tell the local party leaders that there’s no vacancy here or there.
If there’s no vacancy, why are you conducting elections at all? These are the people that are going to be governors and then they quarrel when the people say ‘give me N10, 000 and I’ll vote for you.’ Because the people don’t feel they are in any way involved in what is going on.
We have to find a way of making this democracy democratic because it’s supposed to be the government of the people, by the people and for the people. But where you skip the people entirely and a small group of people sit in Abuja and make all the arrangements, you don’t have democracy. But I’ll resist any such sentiments.
You fought for your state especially in the area of resource control for the Niger Delta. If your succession plan has succeeded, would Akwa Ibom have remained the same or improved?
There is no way Akwa Ibom would have remained the same. I am publishing a book on my 80th birthday titled “It is well with my soul” you’ will read my manifesto. How many people go to elections with manifestoes? They come with automatic ticket and with an arrangement, they are so not committed to the people. I went with a manifesto and at the end of it, I wrote my report card and was able to show people. And then, I did more than that. I showed what the next step must be for Akwa Ibom to get to where it was supposed to be.
I saw Akwa Ibom as the first state to have 24 hours constant power. I saw Akwa Ibom as a place where all the aircraft in the entire West Africa sub-region will be maintained. I saw Akwa Ibom as having the best deep-water port. I saw Akwa Ibom as an industrialised state. This was what I was working for. I saw Akwa Ibom as one of the ICT centres. We in Akwa Ibom State got an ICT policy, three months before the Federal Government, from the same North Carolina. That was where we went to get our ICT policy and the Federal Government came three months behind us to get the same ICT policy. But immediately we left, we started hearing ‘uncommon noise’, ‘uncommon things’, and ‘uncommon destruction.’
A governor can come out and say they have been protecting all these from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Why can’t we allow these institutions to function as they were established to function? Whoever is guilty will be fired, whoever is not guilty, nothing will happen to him. When I first read that story that the governor has gone to court, seven times to stop the EFCC, I didn’t want to believe. Does he expect Akwa Ibom people to applaud him with that kind of declaration?
As a leader of the Ibibios and as an elder statesman, do you think you owe the incumbent governor a duty to direct him?
Yes, I was prepared to do so. But as I always say, I said it in time of Akpabio and in the time of Udom Emmanuel, I am out of office but not out of ideas. I am available for consultations but when nobody approached me, what do I do? He never wanted to consult me. He never wanted to, if may I say, use me.
I have offered myself to serve but if nobody is ready to consult me because I have not openly come out to say that I want to support you, so be it. I am not going to openly support or condemn anybody.
What do you have to say regarding the defections in the country?
Various ambitions are what we have been witnessing and the worst of it is happening in the National Assembly. If we are not careful, we may be witnessing the worst ever National Assembly in this country. I have my reasons for saying so. Look at the kind of election held in the Senate. Some people were locked out and before you knew it, the Senate President was announced. That is not democracy and then the issue with the stolen mace. The President sent a bill to the National Assembly to set up special courts to try corrupt persons. They didn’t do anything. The President is very passionate about corruption and he said if we didn’t kill corruption, corruption would kill us. Look at the delays in passing the INEC budget. What a kind of National Assembly do we have? Is it in the interest of the country or the one determined to fight corruption like the President is doing?
We accuse the Presidency of a cabal but there is a more vicious and destructive cabal in the National Assembly than it is in the Presidency. We blamed the President for not restructuring the country but the problem was with the National Assembly. What I expect is that the National Assembly will see a need for restructuring and call on the President to convoke an assembly that will write a new constitution. There is no way the National Assembly will call on the President to convoke such an assembly and the President will say no.
Nigeria is in a severe distress. This distress is caused by politicians who have lost every sense of morality, integrity and honour. I found that very distressing. Having observed what is going on for some time, I felt people like us have to speak up.
Even the political parties, if they ever had, have lost every kind of ideology or philosophy. They are just platforms and that is why people are jumping about. A country without a sense of direction or purpose will end with the dogs. The press must not allow that to happen.
Some people think the defections in the country are in defence of democracy. Let me disagree. I don’t see it as such. I have looked at the reasons why some of these things are happening. They are all selfish and individualistic reasons for ‘I didn’t get all I wanted and I am going where I believe I would get them.’
For some of these defectors, whether they realise it or not, they are going to face a bleak, cold and dreary winter politically. That is my prediction and I don’t think I am going to be wrong. Nigeria cannot continue without restructuring. I say Nigeria is doomed if we do not restructure. Those are my positions. The National Assembly has to buckle up and then stop thinking that because we have a president that isn’t popular enough, so, you have to make him look like even less popular and has failed. So that people will vote him out. We say give us the alternative; you can’t give us.
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