As retired Professor of Fisheries and Aquaculture from the University of Uy, he had some good time with the immediate-past administration in Nigeria led by his close friend, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. He left the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) according to him, because of impunity.
Today, Professor Richard King, is not only a State Caucus Member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, he is also seeking to govern his state, Akwa Ibom, on the party’s platform. Currently, he is the only Board of Trustee (BOT) member in Buhari’s Campaign Organization from Akwa Ibom state.
The erudite Professor is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Unity Book Launch as well as Editor-In-Chief of ‘Who Is Who in APC’, among other assignments close to the ‘Abuja Kitchen cabinet’.
In this interview with IME SILAS, the Eket-born governorship hopeful bares his mind on the crisis in his party, his plans for the state if elected and other issues. Excerpts:
After joining the APC some years ago; what is your status and what has been your contribution so far towards the growth of the party in the state?
Thank you very much. I am currently a caucus member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Akwa Ibom State. As an elder of the Party, when I came in, I observed something very critical and that is love of others for the sake of the party. I recall that my first assignment was to pay for office accommodation for the party that had expired at that time. I paid for it and upon expiration, I paid again. The next thing was the unity of in-house members of the party in the state. I took that again as another task to ensure that we remain united so as to win the forthcoming election.
These and many more others have been my preoccupation since I joined the APC in the state and I am happy to inform you that to a large extent, I have been able to achieve those objectives.
What is your take on the seeming crises rocking your party, the APC in the state?
First of all, we must understand the situation that brought about the crises. We had three congresses; that is the Ward, the Chapter and the State congresses. The first two had no problems at all and the results were released. But at the last one being the State Congress, a handful of people gathered somewhere in the night and said that was their congress and came up with what they called consensus candidates and consensus list. Their action was entirely against the guidelines and APC constitutional stipulations regarding congresses.
And that so-called consensus list was submitted to the national headquarters of the party three weeks after the party’s congresses were concluded. They went to Abuja and tried to deceive the National Headquarters that those were the people elected during the state congress. So with this, the original executive members who had also participated in the congress were not happy with such arrangement. So after all efforts to get the matter settled failed, they went to court for redress. So with this, people believe that there is crisis in the APC. Personally, I don’t believe there is any crisis.
Let me also inform you that with entry of the former governor of the state, His Excellency, Sen. Godswill Akpabio into the APC, there would be much sanity because as an experienced politician with good sense of judgment, he knows how to handle such situation to achieve the needed peace in the party.
But your Party is blessed with prominent members most of whom are appointees of the federal government. What have been their roles in the whole of this?
Unfortunately, most of them are the perpetrators of the seeming splitting or crisis in the party. By my personal calculation, if those who started from the wards through the local government chapters to the state to write lists are allowed to succeed, then about eight thousand five hundred original and legitimate officials of the party would be displaced. Don’t forget that they were given waivers to contest the congresses and also, the exercise was to be a special one where only those who had left the party, or had died and so on, were to be replaced…(cuts in)
Are you saying they are the ones masterminding the problems?
My answer is yes. They masterminded it and we the members of the party in the state know all of them and their roles.
Based on what is obtained in the media, a section of your party men seem to glamour for what they call ‘2014 list’ to be maintained as exco of the party at Wards and Chapters levels…?
As at 2014, APC was in existence and had officials handling the affairs of the party and this is 2018. Most of those officials are still in existence till today. It is not right to just disregard the roles played by those diligent and faithful officials of the party. On the other hand, it is not correct to say ‘2014 list is what should stand’. No, that is wrong and it amounts to impunity. Don’t forget it was because of impunity that most of us left the PDP and I, as a stakeholder of the party, will never support the introduction of impunity into the APC.
By insisting on ‘2014 list’ after the wards and chapter congresses conducted on 5th and 12th of May this year respectively, is your party going to ignore the result of those congresses?
Unfortunately, that is their plan. They want to abandon the results of the congresses and just pick up anything that a handful of people must have produced and publish as ‘exco list’. That cannot stand. Not in APC that is led by a law-abiding National Chairman in the person of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
But we hear that some of the exco members who were in the party in 2014 had defected to other parties while some were suspended due to anti party activities. It is also said to be on print that some of them allegedly congratulated the incumbent PDP government immediately after the 2015 governorship election as winner, even when the APC was preparing to go to court…
You see, that is what I am saying. After 2014, some members have died; some have defected to PDP and other parties. So if you want to rely on the 2014 exco list, it means that all those who have died would be resurrected to come and play their roles in 2018 and those that defected, we will get them back from their new parties and get them re-registered in APC. Can you see the issues? This is why I said it is wrong.
Okay, Sir. Is it true as being rumored that you are contesting the forth-coming election?
I am contesting. And you know I contested in 2015 then under the PDP but there was so much impunity that even when I was at the stadium; venue of the primary, I was not allowed to vote even an aspirant. There was no primary at all. Someone was just hand-picked and named as the winner and was made the flag bearer of the party.
So I am contesting because I believe I still have a lot to offer towards the development of my state. I was at the presidency for more than eight years. I have learnt enough that I feel I should bring to the state in order to deliver it from this age of darkness. Truly, every state, every nation has its period of darkness and a period of light. In recent years, Akwa Ibom state has been under serious darkness. So I believe it is time to bring light into the state and I see myself as the one to do that job.
For example, in the area of the commonwealth of this state, I will make sure that it touches every citizen of this state. What God has given to us – the oil – can be managed in such a way that its proceeds touch the lives of every citizen. So this is one area I will focus on.
Number two is local government financial autonomy. When I am voted as governor, my government will make it in such a way that whatever money comes in from the federal allocation goes straight to the local government councils and they would use it to develop these areas. Why I want to make this a point in my administration is that if you look at what is happening now in the state, local government councils cannot even drill bore holes.
This is because they have been economically strangulated. They can’t do anything. So I am coming to give them autonomy for them to manage their resources. What we would do as a state government is to carry out oversight functions. This is one promise I did not make during my 2015 campaigns. But now, with the Buhari administration that believes in total development of every facet of Nigeria, I am sure I will have the federal government’s encouragement to actualize this in 2019 when I take over.
The third one is unemployment. This is very alarming and it remains a major issue in this state. I am coming up with what I call ‘YES’ programme. It’s an acronym for Youths, Employment and Security. You see, in my days before you come out of the University, you are sure of employment. Cross River state as at that time was not as rich as Akwa Ibom State now.
Why should our youths be roaming the streets now, some of them with Masters Degrees and Ph.Ds? So I have put things in place to ensure that our youths are gainfully employed.
In your assessment, what is that area that you believe the current govrenmrnt in the state has not done enough which you will improve if elected?
I would say a few things without necessarily running down this government because that is basically not my style. Number one is telling the truth to the people. When you make promises, implement those promises. There is a very bad situation here where electioneering promises are never kept. You deceive the people that you want to industrialize the state but till today, we have not seen the industries.
The youths are still unemployed and there is so much poverty in this state. These are some of the situations I am coming to address. There is no reason an average Akwa Ibomite should not have three square meals a day whereas we have so much money coming into this state. These are just few among the areas I wish to talk about for now.
There are concerns that some of the federal government social intervention programmes like the school feeding have not been enjoyed maximally by the people of the state. What do you think is responsible for this?
I think it is mainly because we don’t have a proactive government. School feeding is a UNESCO programme and if our federal government has decided to key into that programme, all the Primary schools in Akwa Ibom state should benefit from it. So I believe it is a question of having a proactive government in place with an effective Commissioner for Education to be able to know the facts and work on it for the benefit f Akwa Ibom children.
A good state government should always look beyond the state up to the federal government to nose and know what are available for the people and take our own share. We are not moving enough that is why so many federal government programmes are eluding the state. We should be more proactive.
We must know that the school feeding programme has nothing to do with political party; whether it is APC or PDP. So if the children in Akwa Ibom are not benefitting as they should, then the state government have failed. The government should be able to differentiate between the interest of the people of state and political party interest.
Considering its pivotal nature, its impact spanning across various facets of the economy; what is your plan on the School Feeding programme?
Let me answer it this way; I have a similar programme called Children and Women Alive Programme. The idea behind this is to ensure that women and children have the best form of nutritional nourishment. So I will not only key into the federal government school feeding programme but I will also enhance it and ensure that it goes beyond this current stage. I will ensure that even the food so served is nourishing enough to enhance the development of their brains for academic productivity.
It is held in some quarters that your former party, the PDP, is regrouping with the aim of taking over power in 2019. What is your take on this?
Nigerians are very intelligent people. They know the difference between good and evil. Nigerians experienced 16 uninterrupted years of PDP administration. That administration did not go down well with Nigeria as a nation and with Nigerians as individuals. But for now, we have experienced another era under the APC and I can say that people are really enjoying this few years of the current administration of APC and are wishing it to continue. I don’t think that anybody will want to go back to the evil days of PDP.
So as you have noted, they will try to regroup but APC will still win everywhere both at the national and state levels. We are sure we are taking over Akwa Ibom state’s administration come 2019.
But people may wish to ask that you were in the presidency of the PDP government. Didn’t you offer pieces of advice to make it succeed?
I was not in a position to advise that administration. Yes, it is true that the former President Goodluck Jonathan is my friend. We were friends right from the school days but my position and relationship with him was merely friendly than political.
I used to make my personal contribution as a friend but you know, if you are a political appointee, your contribution will carry more weight and of more significance than a mere friend. My suggestions to him were friendly and it was possible to ignore advice from political associates than friends.
What is your advice to Akwa Ibom people regarding the forthcoming elections?
They should vote the APC. That is the party with agenda that will transform this state from its current status. The people should rise and throw the proverbial Jonah to the sea in order to bring peace. You will recall that immediately Jonah was thrown into the sea, there was peace. And you know if you don’t an administration, you will never know that the best was yet to be seen.
In other countries and states, you see the citizens changing government. Even in this country, some states change their government so there is no reason why it shouldn’t happen here in Akwa Ibom state. When another government comes in, you experience what another party can offer which in the case of the APC, it’s going to be the best for the people. Thank you.
With The Profile Newspapers