Friday, 14 March 2014


In this interview with select journalists in Akwa Ibom State, the state governor, Godswill Akpabio speaks on the centenary celebration, his experiences as the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Governors Forum (PDPGF), among other issues. 

Despite the role Akwa Ibom played in the Amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914, the state appears not to be listed as part of the places the celebration will be observed. How do you feel about this?
I have seen that we have Amalgamation House in Ikot Abasi, which was built by Lord Lugard and his residential building is there too. It is clearly written there - the Amalgamation House built in 1914. Well, I wasn’t there in 1914 so I wouldn’t know if the amalgamation agreement was actually signed there. I think historians have to do a lot of work. I don’t know whether it was signed in Lokoja or in Ikot Abasi. I will invite the Office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation to visit the Amalgamation House and try to include it so that we can have a complete history.

We should celebrate Nigeria for being together for 100 years and not necessarily where the structures of amalgamation are located. I don’t want us to reduce the issue to where it was signed. If you look at it very well, there are people who even argued that Lugard made a mistake by calling us Nigeria. People ask questions such as: why must he bring us together? Why didn’t he allow us to be two countries? The important thing is that we should celebrate the fact that 100 years after, we are still together.

After sticking together for a century as a country, how would you assess the journey so far?
It has been a chequered history. We should learn from Egypt and the Nile River. People from all over the world came together and lived there because the land was fertile and the first civilisation in the world was born from there.  So, Nigerians - in spite of our large size and differences, since we are together - have come together. We can make it work.  My impression of Nigeria is that of a chequered history, in the sense that if we had had democracy all along without military intervention in the country, we would have been better. We have achieved a lot in the last 14 years than we did in 35 years of military rule. That is my opinion and now we have opportunity to build. We should look forward to the next 50 to 100 years and think about what will happen to the country. We should start that today. If we look backwards, we will have regrets. We must go back to the basis; we must love one another, and every Nigerian must feel free in any part of this nation. We must de-emphasise tribe and religion, emphasise our Nigerian-ness and give everybody equal opportunity from 2014 onward.

Just one year ago, you were elected chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Governors’ Forum (PDP-GF). How relevant has this body been one year on?
You cannot talk about achievements as such because the forum has no budget and therefore cannot embark on capital projects. But the intention of the forum is to reposition our party, to ensure peer review mechanism so that the PDP governors can learn from one another, compare notes and ensure full implementation of the manifesto of the PDP. Of course, we should guarantee food on the tables of Nigerians, dividends of democracy, infrastructure to all and sundry; give better education, better health-care and general enhancement of the lives of Nigerians.

I want to say that one year after, the forum has lived up to its responsibilities. We have been able to create a synergy between the members of our great party and National Assembly and then the governors of the PDP. We have been able to get a better understanding, a working relationship with Mr President who is the leader of the PDP. We have managed to work and understand each other now better. We held a meeting with National Assembly members of our party, something that has never happened before. You have seen that we have worked together to ensure a mini-convention that repositioned our party and brought in new hands to ensure the vibrancy of the PDP and reposition the party to win in 2015 general elections.

Despite the crack in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), the PDP Governors’ Forum has remained steadfast together and stable and is a major stabilising factor, even for Nigerian governors in general. We are very happy that that Forum has come to be. I have enjoyed robust cooperation from my colleagues, the governors of the PDP, and I thank them so much for reposing confidence in me and for always standing by me. A leader without followership cannot claim to be a leader. I am so happy that my colleagues are supporting me. Mr President has stood behind me and PDP NWC party has been wonderful.

With the loss of some key PDP members, including governors and national Assembly members, there are fears in the party that it may not win in 2015.
There is no fear about how are we going to perform in 2015. So far, we have sent jitters and shivers to even the opposition party. They try to change names but that couldn’t work. The next thing they could do was to attempt a merger to see if they could rival the PDP. It is not in the change of name, it is in the content. PDP is the only national party in Nigeria. It does not belong to anybody; it belongs to all Nigerians. Nobody can lay claim to the PDP. We are very happy with the party and Nigerians because this is the only party that has confidence in giving all Nigerians a sense of belonging. That is why they could come to the South-South of Nigeria, a minority part, to pick a president in the person of President Goodluck Jonathan. This shows that the PDP is detribalised in nature. The idea of division only comes from political leaders who want to corner the wealth of the country. There is no division in the minds of Nigerians. Every Nigerian craves for infrastructure and good governance and the PDP is providing that.

In spite of the challenges, you can see that he is still focused on ensuring that the power sector works. Now we are seeing the privatisation of the power sector, we have seen a revolution in the agricultural sector, a lot of roads have been constructed and the railways have been revitalised. The president understands what is going on and that is why Nigerians are behind him and the PDP. Governors elected on the PDP platform are winning awards on a daily basis: man of the year, best governor of the year and all that. We need to support the President; we need to focus on transforming this country, not on ethnic and divisive things that the opposition is dwelling on. Propaganda can only sustain the opposition for a few months. When the nitty-gritty of the nation comes, you will know that PDP governors are behind their president and the PDP will deliver in all elections in 2015.

What have been your greatest challenge and regrets since you started as governor?
I don’t have regrets. You can talk about challenges. The challenge is the idea of people thinking that the only way they can aspire is through the opposition. The loss of some of my colleagues, who decided to defect to opposition could be something that posed a lot of challenges because no party would like to lose a state governor. But then, what has happened is democracy in action. The reality is that the deputies of most of them did not go with them and over 90 per cent of their supporters said ‘No, we are not going there.’

Look at the rally the party is doing everywhere. Supporters have come out in large numbers to say we are not going anywhere because this is the only national political party.  Every person in this country craves for a sense of belonging and it is only the PDP that can give Nigerians that sense of belonging. So, the joy of it is ‘Yes, the followers are still intact.’ The main challenge for the Forum has been the issue of defection of those few governors. You know doors are still open and we are hoping in the next few months, some of them will see the need to come back and join their kith and kin because it is not easy to go and line up in another political party when you had attained the level of a governor.

The PDP is winning not because we have a magic wand; the party is winning because of its programmes. If you come to my state, you will see what PDP administration in has done and I have seen it in many other states of the federation too not just in Akwa Ibom. Compare what the PDP governors are doing in their various states with what the opposition governors are doing, and you will be amazed that the PDP will win a landslide in 2015.

The PDP Governors’ Forum is rotating its meeting. The last time we were at Katsina State and next month we should be going to Niger State and after Niger, we will go to another PDP State. We want to go round so that we compare notes and look at what the PDP governors are doing and look at areas of improvement.

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