Former Secretary to Akwa Ibom State Government and current gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Umana Okon Umana has come out to say that he is not desperate to assume the office of Governor.
Umana who recently decamped from the Peoples Democratic Party in stated that he would take a different approach in tackling the issue of governance in the state if elected into office.
He stated as much while granting an interview to Charles Kumolu of Vanguard in which he talks about several topical issues bordering on the state of affairs in Akwa Ibom.
Read excerpts from the interview below:
When did you get the inspiration to become governor?
I gave it some thoughts four years ago after which I quietly started consulting. I consulted with the political leaders in the state. Then I was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. I consulted with the major political leaders and stakeholders. I have been around in the state for sometime. I also extended my consultation even to those who are not directly involved in politics. These people include the paramount rulers, labour groups and other interest groups in the state. They all conceded that they knew me as a civil servant who rose to the pinnacle of his career. They all acknowledged knowing me as the director of Budget, commissioner for finance, before being appointed as the Secretary to the State Government, SSG. I must say that the response I got from the consultations was very positive. They urged me to run.
Did you consult with the governor?
Incidentally, the governor was the one who asked me to consider running. He said to me that we were colleagues in the administration of Victor Attah. He said he had watched me closely and believed that I have what it takes to lead the state at the level of governor. The governor encouraged me at that time. But it was not only the governor who did so.
When did he encourage you to run and when did you part ways?
It was immediately after his re-election in 2011. I will say that we had certain fundamental differences as to how the affairs of the party could be conducted. This basically had to do with whether we should abide by democratic principles or whether we should undermine democratic principles in the running of the party. At some point in 2013, he decided for reasons best to him, that he would be the only one who would decide whether I will be governor.
I never thought so. If he supported me that was okay, but then I will still have to go through the process of presenting myself for the primaries. I looked at it from the point that the delegates would elect me at the primaries. One day he decided that he had other ideas as to who the governor would be.
But what is wrong with zoning?
Zoning issue was very contentious. There was no consensus on zoning. All the principal leaders in the state also affirmed that we have never had zoning. In 2006 there were 58 contestants from the three senatorial districts.
This new arrangement against open contest was unacceptable. But the national leadership of the party supported the subversion of the will of the majority. By the virtue of that letter from the national leadership of the party, I was excluded from participating in the primaries. The only option for me was to go to court. I did that by challenging my exclusion. The PDP has always made people to believe that Akwa Ibom is a one party state. I consulted widely and my people said that since the party cannot accommodate us, we should go to an alternative platform. Of course we had to move to the APC. I have been vindicated because our fight that the primaries should be open was on the basis of principles. People thought that all of us, who maintained that position were being driven by interests. But the outcome of the PDP primaries has vindicated us. The other aspirants who go by the name G-22 are aggrieved about the outcome.
You were reputed to be the power behind Akpabio making some to think that most of the things you complained about were orchestrated by you?
That is not true. That belief cannot fly because the governor is the one in charge. I was not the power behind anybody. I served as Secretary to the State Government which is lower than the position of the governor. The governor is so powerful with the power to hire and fire. Everything financial was approved by the governor and that is why people say that the buck stops on his table. When I win in a few weeks time, you can talk about the Umana administration and I will accept the responsibility.
What is your agenda for Akwa Ibom?
Many of us talk of the fact that we have to rescue Akwa Ibom. That suggests that we are poised to reposition the state. We want to bring about a leadership that would respect the people. Our leadership will show that we have respect for the people. Respect is a core ingredient of leadership. We want to attract serious investment in the state. Every serious investor, wants a leadership that carries the people along. If we fail to achieve that in Akwa Ibom, investors will go to Cross River which is the closest alternative. We need reorientation many directions. If God gives me the opportunity to govern the state, I will do that.
We must put in place economic structures that can bring about sustainable development with or without oil. That is the focal point of my agenda. To achieve that, I will focus on job and wealth creation. We have never been so divided like now, so we must unite so that we can have that sense of purpose. I have a blue print which captures all I intend to do.
We want to bring the Dangotes to Akwa Ibom by providing the right incentives. We will consciously do that on a PPP basis. As a major plank of our strategy to industrialise the state, we will support, small and medium scale enterprises and in doing that we will support our people so that they can develop entrepreneurial capacity. I believe that is lacking in our state. There is no economy in the world that can develop without strong entrepreneurs. We will even arrange partnership where possible within and outside Nigeria.
There are also some key projects like the sea port which the Federal Government is already working on. We will partner with the Federal Government so that it can become a reality.
We will also set up large farm ventures. It has been done in two states in Nigeria, so we will look at those templates and see how we can create job for our people in the areas where we have comparative advantage. The airport in its present state, is a structure that we will have to spend money to maintain. And that is not the way to go. We will ensure that we make it an income generating facility.
Of course we will build cargo terminal. That will give the South East zone an alternative place to get their goods. We also believe that tourism is a veritable platform to create jobs and grow our economy, we will harness our potentialities. Akwa Ibom is blessed with structures that will generate money through tourism.
What is your relationship with the 22 aggrieved PDP governorship aspirants?
I welcomed them back from Abuja in Uyo. Of course they commended me as the front runner in the struggle for the enthronement of transparent leadership. They said they would not support the PDP candidate because the process that produced him was flawed.
The process that produced you as the APC candidate was also allegedly fraught with irregularities, what is your view on that?
On the day of the primaries, the venue was invaded by one of the aspirants. He invaded the venue with thugs and made away with ballot boxes, ballot papers and result sheets. The panel authorised to conduct the primaries had to announce that the APC national executive council had been notified about the incident.
They told everyone that the national body had directed them to read out the names of the aspirants so that delegates will file behind their preferred aspirants. That was how I emerged as the winner of the primaries.