At almost 80 years and having been a two term governor of Akwa Ibom State, and later an aspirant to the position of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the platform of the PDP in 2006, by all accounts, Obong Victor Attah should earn the title of an elder statesman. But since 2006 after his failed bid to become President or install his son-in-law, Dr. Udoma Bob Ekarika as his successor, Obong Attah has remained a very troubled man. Failed attempts to produce Governors in 2011 and 2015 have compounded his political woes.
With a corresponding and self-inflicted loss of political relevance at home and in the country, the former Governor Attah has preoccupied himself with the pastime of hurling vitriolic attacks on his successor, Senator Godswill Akpabio. In a press statement he released on October 27, 2015, in what was tagged a world press conference to announce that he was quitting partisan politics to become an elder statesman, Obong Attah had described the tenure of his successor as “eight wasted years.” He followed it up with an interview in THE NATION NEWSPAPER ON SUNDAY, November 1, 2015, with the headline: “Akpabio’s tenure as Governor monumental waste.”
In fairness to Obong Attah, his attack on his successor did not start recently. It started in 2006 after a failed bid to foist his son-in-law on Akwa Ibom State as a successor. Akwa Ibom people had risen in unison to reject the idea of the then Governor Attah establishing a family dynasty by imposing his son-in-law who had served in his cabinet for eight years as a commissioner.
Through a bloodless revolution, the people had resisted cash (in local and foreign currencies) every form of coercion and intimidation and in an unprecedented party primary that lasted three days, the people overwhelmingly, pitched their tent with the then little known, Chief Godswill Akpabio. Apart from Obong Attah’s son-in-law, Chief Akpabio, in a contest he was adjudged a David, had defeated other Goliaths who had been ex-this, ex-that totaling 57. Since then, these elites who feel only they or their off springs and in-laws have divine right to rule over others, have unleashed the worst form of elitist conspiracy against Chief Akpabio, even after his stellar performance as Governor and many months after leaving office as Governor of Akwa Ibom State.
It must rank as the greatest irony of all times that Obong Attah, who, as Governor was fixated with a clueless delusion of planning and everything being on the “drawing board” for eight years with no completed project to show for it, would turn round to describe Chief Akpabio’s eight years of unprecedented infrastructural renaissance as “monumental waste”. If Obong Attah is now a statesman as he claims, he should know that there should be a limit to mischief, falsehood and mudslinging.
Apart from uncompleted and failed projects, what legacy did Obong Attah leave in Akwa Ibom State as Governor for eight years? Akwa Ibom people will not forget in a haste the ignominy the state suffered when the then President Olusegun Obasanjo on August 7, 2004, while on a three-day official visit to the state adopted a 13-year old Udo from Ikot Ebekpo in Onna Local Government Area, who could not communicate in simple English with Chief Obasanjo, because according to the parents, they could not afford to send him to school. The then President had berated Attah for running a state that was embarking on producing vagabonds and illiterates for future Nigeria.
Remarkably, one of the significant milestones of the tenure of Chief Akpabio remains the declaration of free and compulsory education from primary to senior secondary schools for all Nigerian children living in Akwa Ibom State and a total eradication of the Udo syndrome, a sobering metaphor for ignorance and illiteracy. On this score, between the Attah and Akpabio years, whose tenure was a “monumental waste”?
Instead of undue vilification, Obong Attah, as a statesman, has every reason to be grateful that he had a successor in the mould of Akpabio. As Governor, not only did Chief Akpabio complete most of his failed and abandoned projects, but quite unlike a typical Nigerian politician, he graciously constructed a brand new dualised road from Uyo to Obong Attah’s village complete with street lights – a road that Attah could not do for himself and his people throughout the eight years of his government. And the statesman says Akpabio’s tenure was “monumental waste.”
It must be a medical condition that could make Statesmen like Attah to claim to have built infrastructure during their tenure when they did not. Take the case of Akwa Ibom International Airport. it is a known fact that the airport Obong Attah claimed to have built was an acquired land that Chief Akpabio met at site clearing level, even though his predecessor had paid millions of dollars to a company from United States of America(USA) called Dycorp, a company of questionable reputation which had never been engaged in airport construction anywhere in the world. It was not until over two years after Attah had left office that the first commercial plane landed at the Ibom International Airport on September 23, 2009, courtesy of the ingenuity of Chief Akpabio, after the said Dycorp had abandoned the project and escaped from the country for fear of probe. No amount of revisionism can change facts!
For Akwa Ibom people, Obong Attah’s legacy of waste is well known. On the so-called Science Park Obong Attah had paid upfront a whopping N5.3 billion out of a contract sum of N5.6 billion to a South African company, S B Jules, yet work done according to valuers is not up to N400 million or 10 percent by the time Attah left office and till date. The Science Park stands as a testimonial of “monumental waste” if Attah needed to be shown one.
On the Ibom Power Plant, Akpabio had to inject funds to complete the plant started by Attah, yet two out of the three turbines Obong Attah had purchased were used turbines ( tokunbo) but passed off as brand new. It took over one year to realize that Attah obtained a loan from AFREXIM of Egypt through Diamond Bank, with a debilitating debt burden of over 29 million USD for Ibom Power Company. The plant remained uncompleted by the time Attah left office, despite Attah’s purported commissioning of the Plant. Hence, Attah left office without contributing a single megawatt to the national grid.
Today, the Plant, through Akpabio’s hard work is producing 110 megawatts of power. Even the Le Meridien Hotel Attah continues to boast of, was completed by Governor Godswill Akpabio. If Akpabio had left the 17 rooms Attah furnished down stairs and the ceiling-less upstairs, that hotel would also have remained a “monumental waste” of Akwa Ibom resources.
Has former Governor Attah ever driven on the four concentric flyovers constructed by his successor and which have changed the landscape of the state capital? What impression does he come off with each time he drives on them and the over 400 brand new urban roads spread across the state, talk less of the over 200 km dualised highways across the state, one of which leads to Obong Attah’s village and various Federal roads? Is it “monumental waste” that Chief Akpabio deployed the pipe-jacking drainage technology to curb flood menace in some parts of the state? In fact, the flood situation was so bad during Attah’s tenure that some flooded areas were named Inyang Attah, (meaning, Victor Attah’s rivers) within Uyo metropolis.
It is noteworthy that during the tenure of Obong Attah when his son-in-law Dr. Udoma Ekarika held sway as the Commissioner for health, the sector was in ruins, complimented by prolonged strike by medical workers. Many died as a result of the dearth of health facilities and strikes by health personnel. On the contrary, Chief Akpabio delivered to Akwa Ibom State many health centres, five General Hospitals and a most modern and largest International Specialist Hospital in West Africa. This was also complimented with free medicare to children, pregnant women and the aged. The sustained investment in the health sector led to reduced infant and maternal mortality and total elimination of polio cases in the state.
Is it “monumental waste” that as Governor, Chief Akpabio from what we know, constructed a brand new International Stadium, adjudged the best in West Africa? To secure Attah’s newly dualized Aka/Nnung Udoe road that leads to his village, Governor Akpabio constructed a 10.8 km underground drainage system using Julius Berger Construction Company with billions of Naira. This construction condemned two village streams in Attah’s Local Government Area, and the government had to provide boreholes as alternative sources of drinking water, since the only source of water for the people were the streams.
Could these be described as “ monumental waste”?
In his interview in THE NATION NEWSPAPER ON SUNDAY, November 1, 2015, ‘Statesman’ Attah lied when he said: “the total amount of money we got in my entire eight years in office was N542 billion and yet, I did not leave any debt by the time I left office…The immediate past government received well over three trillion naira and yet, left a debt of over N500 billion.” We don’t know how Obong Attah arrived at three trillion Naira as revenue received by the state during the tenure of Chief Akpabio. He need not deceive the public about this as the correct figures of the state earnings are available at the Federal Ministry of Finance and even online for any earnest seeker of truth. On the indebtedness of the state, the fact is that at the Akwa Ibom State stakeholders meeting held in August 2015, Governor Udom Emmanuel briefed the state that together with accrued interests the state was indebted to the tune of N64 billion only.
The incumbent governor further explained that the Akpabio administration undertook a lot of federal projects approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria. That just before his Akpabio’s exit, out of N145 billion owed the state on federal roads and erosion control alone, part refund of the sum of N45 billion was approved by the then President in 2015. The approved N45billion was NEVER released by the Federal Government at the time Akpabio left office. Governor Udom Emmanuel commended President Muhamadu Buhari for agreeing to assist the state recover part of this federal debts when the economic situation improves. One wonders where “Statesman” Attah got his figure of N500 billion debt. Can N64 billion debt used for infrastructure seen everywhere grow overnight to be N500 billion?
Most shocking is Obong Attah’s falsehood that despite collecting almost N600 billion in eight years, he left no debt behind. But we know as a fact that total cash debt of N46 billion was left behind by Attah, including the sum of N17 billion collected from FCMB as overdraft in one month, just before his exit. Attah equally left a debt of $30 million for Ibom Power Company at the time, yet the project was uncompleted. These sums had nothing to do with outstanding Interim Payment Certificates which the Akpabio administration had to bear. In fact, when the then Governor Akpabio dared to brief stakeholders that cash debt of N46 billion was left behind by Victor Attah in banks, he got so miffed that he bought full pages in almost all Nigerian newspapers to explain why governments owe and why government debts should not be seen by the then inexperienced government as a big deal.
Is it loss of memory or political mischief by our new “Statesman”?
Obong Attah and his cohorts can continue with their mischievous interviews and petitions, but the legacies of Chief Akpabio can never be erased. If Attah thinks that the eight glorious years of the administration of Chief Godswill Akpabio were wasted, Akwa Ibom children who were beneficiaries of the free and compulsory education introduced by Akpabio will disagree with Attah.
If Akpabio’s years were wasted according to Attah, the numerous youths that the Tropicana Entertainment Centre engaged during construction, those rendering support services within and outside the Centre, tourists and fun seekers enjoying the Cinemas will disagree with Attah.
The benefitting communities of five brand new general hospitals in Akwa Ibom State will disagree with Attah. The beneficiaries of 37 newly constructed bridges will disagree with Attah. The Akwa Ibom youths employed in the new Gas Plant at Esit Eket, and those who have earned a living through employment by the E-Library and the brand new modern Prison constructed by Governor Akpabio will disagree with Attah. The workers at the Beko industries in Ikot Ekpene, the ongoing construction of the $1.8 billion Methanol Plant at Ibeno, hundreds of villages now linked to the National grid by Akpabio’s government will also vehemently disagree with Attah.
The benefiting communities of over 6000 completed projects through the IMDLCC under Governor Akpabio will definitely disagree with “Statesman Attah”.
Those who will undergo kidney transplant and open heart surgery in the new world class International Hospital at Itam with state-of-the-arts equipment constructed by the administration of Godswill Akpabio; the users of the many flyovers constructed by Akpabio; the budding stars that will be produced at the Nest of Champions adjudged the best stadium in West Africa; the beneficiaries of over 2000 km of brand new roads done by Akpabio administration particularly Enen-Nsit with four bridges covering 44km, Etim Ekpo road with a bridge covering 60km and Use Ikot Amama in Ibiono local government area, will question his statesmanship, if indeed, he described Akpabio’s years as wasted.
The revolution in the agricultural sector under Akpabio years with various programs will mock Attah’s diatribes. For instance, the over 4000 beneficiaries of the Women in Agricultural Development Programme (WADEP); the graduates in Agriculture Programme; the Integrated Farmers Scheme; the women who participated in the Green Brigade Program will certainly disagree with Obong Attah that the most glorious era since the creation of the state could be described as wasted years.
Attah must be angry that no potholes adorn the Government House environs he stayed for eight years without renovating.
Imagine the POP that fell on former First Lady Stella Obasanjo (may her soul rest in peace), due to dilapidated and rat infested Guest House Governor Attah gave her and her entourage. While guests waited for a gala night with former Governor Attah, the late first lady had left the state to sleep in Calabar.
Today, Akpabio built state of the arts Governor’s Lodge, demolished Attah’s dilapidated government house residence; constructed a new Deputy Governor’s Lodge- a delight to behold. Constructed a brand new Governor’s office (with modern gadgets and complete ICT compliancy), constructed a brand new Banquet Hall with numerous guest houses that give pride to Akwa Ibom people.
NEVER AGAIN SHALL CEILING COLLAPSE ON ANY VISITING GUEST ON A STATE VISIT TO AKWA IBOM STATE- LIKE THE DAYS OF GOVERNOR ATTAH
Attah’s Uyo has changed with Akpabio’s urban renewal program with well-designed round-abouts with water fountains in some locations. Under Attah, he had to travel to Ikot Ekpene to join Calabar-Itu road on his way to Calabar Airport. This was because Idoro/ flooded Itam junction through Itu was not motorable. Akpabio reconstructed, and dualized Idoro to Itu end of Calabar-Itu road complete with a new bridge and street lights with flyovers at Itam. Uyo residents no longer travel to Ikot Ekpene to join Calabar-Itu road. Under Attah, Itam junction was an eyesore, today, it is a tourist attraction with fountains, dualized thoroughfares, beautiful landscaping and flyovers with almost four km of underground drainage system.
Did Attah really describe Akpabio’s uncommon transformation of Akwa Ibom State as “monumental waste”?
In Attah’s Akwa Ibom State, armed robbers used to operate less than a kilometre to Attah’s house at Cooperative Development Bank (Oron road) for three hours without even Attah being able to get out of the dilapidated government house. Kidnappers tormented Mobil workers and residents in the state. Ika local government area was deserted due to insecurity and indigenes became refugees for years in nearby states and local governments. What politics of hate can drive a man like Attah to remind us of his administration that Barrister Assam Assam SAN, and Senator Anietie Okon described as “the locust years of Akwa Ibom history.”
Obong Attah paid hundreds of millions of naira as salaries/ allowances to a phantom University of Science and Technology Management that existed in one office building at Ewet Residential Housing Estate, without a known location nor student for years. This was recently confirmed at the Senate Chambers by the newly appointed Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmud Yakubu, who was then the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC). Attah enacted a law and located his phantom university in a swamp called University town near Eastern Obolo.
Akpabio repealed the said law, with its inherent abnormalities, re-enacted a new one and obtained NUC approval in 2010 to relocate a state university at Ikot Akpaden in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area. Thereafter, Akpabio started a multi-campus state university and turned out the first set of graduands in April, 2015 before leaving office.
The staff and students of the University of Uyo, though a federal institution, who are beneficiaries of a 3.7 km of roads in the school constructed by the administration of Chief Akpabio, accreditation of 28 courses, which had hitherto been lost, after putting in place laboratories, classroom blocks, pediatrics building and wards etc, will definitely disagree with Attah that the tenure of Akpabio were wasted years. Imagine the completed prison with skills acquisition centre, warders’ houses and the completed Sheraton Hotel (14 floors) where the prison used to be. So, all these were also “monumental waste” according to ‘Statesman’ Attah?
Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Until Victor Attah explains what he did with the $80 million given to his administration by former President Olusegun Obasanjo from the NIPP money for Ibom Power and the proceeds of Akwa Ibom shares in Econet amounting to over $204 million and why he evades going to the United Kingdom to defend the charges of money laundering in a suit filed at the Southwark Crown Court in London against him, he should stop mudslinging and character assassination.
One of the charges that beckons on Victor Attah for explanation is charge No. 16 brought against him and it reads: “… that on or about the 22nd day of June 2006 ….. Victor Attah… conspired with others to defraud Akwa Ibom State, of sums representing part of the sale price resulting from the sale of shares owned by Akwa Ibom state in Vee Networks (Nigeria) Limited (trading as V Mobile) to Celtel (Nigeria) BV, and held in the names of their respective authorised ministries or agencies the said sums being paid to a company named African Development Finance Limited or its predecessors under an Exclusive Arranger Agreement to a total invoiced value in excess of $37,000,000 USD.”
Another charge that beckons on him is charge No. 20 which reads: “….on or about the 22nd day of June 2006 … Victor Attah … and others concealed, disguised, converted and transferred criminal property, namely the sum of $11,400,000 United States dollars being a purported loan from African Development Finance Limited or its predecessors to a company named Brookes Aviation Limited, they knowing or suspecting that that sum constituted the benefit from criminal conduct himself and / or another person, or that it represented such benefit in whole or in part and whether directly or indirectly.”
In yet another instance of money laundering and contrary to section 327 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 of Britain, charge No. 21 reads: ‘’…on or about the 19th day of September 2006 … Victor Attah …. and others concealed, disguised, converted and transferred criminal property, namely the sum of $3,780,000 United States dollars being a purported loan from African Development Finance Limited to a company named FE Samuels, they knowing or suspecting that that sum constituted the benefit from criminal conduct of himself and / or another person, or that it represented such benefit in whole or in part and whether directly or indirectly ‘’
The Statement of offence in charge No. 22 reads: “…. on or about the 18th day of December 2006 … Victor Attah,.. and others concealed, disguised, converted and transferred criminal property, namely the sum of $10,000,000 United States dollars being a purported loan from African Development Finance Limited to a company named Ascot Offshore (Nigeria) Limited, they knowing or suspecting that that sum constituted the benefit from criminal conduct of himself and / or another person, or that it represented such benefit in whole or in part and whether directly or indirectly.”
Instead of remaining a fugitive from the law, Obong Attah owes it to himself and other Nigerians to go to London and clear his name of these charges. As an NGO working to ensure justice, transparency and accountability in our state, The Akwa Ibom Forum for Justice and Transparency hereby, offers to pay a business class round trip ticket and accommodation in any hotel of his choice for our elder statesman Obong Attah to go to London and clear his name of all these charges. Until this is done Obong Attah should stop granting mischievous interviews aimed at laundering his tainted image and mudslinging others.
Or need we mention the shame he brought upon the state when he allegedly bribed Election Petition Tribunal judges in 2003 and the scandal led to the dismissal of three Judges, two of whom died of heartbreak within a month? Attah should please retire and be quiet. A man with integrity will not climb the dock to testify against his party because government has changed hands at the federal level. He even shamelessly introduced himself as a Board of Trustees member of PDP testifying in favour of APC at the Justice Sadiq Umar Panel in October 2015 in support of his former Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Umana Okon Umana whose village is a kilometer away from his.
We would like to ask Obong Attah what has happened to his sense of justice if power moved from him to Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District and returns to him through his then Commissioner for Finance (the same Senatorial District). Yet he once granted an interview claiming to be a statesman and urging the state to give Eket Senatorial district the chance to produce the next Governor for the first time since the state was created in 1987. Need we remind Obong Attah that the entire oil money he could not account for in eight years through one single completed project came from the 12 LGAs of Eket Senatorial District which he now conspires with others to deny the opportunity of producing a Governor? God is a God of justice. No amount of jaundiced interview by a political retiree shall change the resolve of Akwa Ibom people to keep 2015 governorship in Eket Senatorial District.
Having followed Attah’s attacks on Chief Akpabio right from 2007 till date, there is no doubt that he is angry and frustrated that Akpabio had raised the bar of governance beyond what he could have imagined. But he should be proud of the achievements of the young man. If he is suffering from regret of not being able to complete his projects during his eight year tenure, he should remember that Akwa Ibom State did not elect Saint Victor as the Governor. He should not heap his political frustration on Godswill Akpabio. For us and millions of Nigerians at home and in the diaspora Akpabio’s tenure 2007-2015 remains the glorious years of excellent governance in Akwa Ibom State nay Nigeria.
Without love in the heart of a governor, no amount of money can complete a single project for his people-whether N10billion, N600 billion or as falsely alleged N3trillion- Period!
Dr Iniabasi Ukpong Ph.D
Apostle Ken Udoabia