Hon. Ekperikpe Luke Ekpo, a former member of the House of Representatives, is the Director General of the Akwa Ibom Democratic Forum, a socio-political organisation. In this interview with TONY ANICHEBE, he speaks on the vision and ideals of the group
The Akwa Ibom Democratic Forum (ADF) is fast spreading across the state what informed the formation of the group?
We decided as like minds to come together not just to form a sociopolitical group but to assemble people who love good governance to ensure that the people of Akwa Ibom State continue to benefit from government policies, programme and projects. ADF has its motto as dependable leadership and Akwa Ibom State has produced a very dependable leader who served the state in the capacity of governor for eight years, senator for four years and currently a minister, providing credible leadership at the Niger Delta Ministry and Niger Delta region as a whole. The group’s major interest as I stated earlier is good governance and dependable leadership. So, we all have to put aside personal interests and follow the dictates of our grand leader, who will give direction from time to time and it is open to those who have interest in credible governance and dependable leadership.
Why do you opt for the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, as your leader and the face of the group?
Today in Akwa Ibom State or even in Nigeria as a whole, when you talk of good governance, Senator Akpabio readily stands out. He started active politics in Akwa Ibom State as commissioner for Petroleum and later Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. He showed class, determination and commitment to governance. He went further to distinguish himself as a selfless leader who is more concerned about the predicament of others. He practically gave his all to assist people. He built bridge of friendships, showed love and care for the less privileged and assisted council chairmen to make their jobs less stressful. Even traditional institutions under his supervision saw a man with a heart of Gold. Before 2007, Akwa Ibom people were already asking him to contest as their governor which he did and won and another chapter unfolded as the state witnessed uncommon transformation in all sectors, The Akwa Ibom Airport became a reality, Ibom Le Meridien Hotel was actualized, several double carriage roads were constructed, impassable Ikot Ekpene-Abak road became a super highway, Uyo -Ikot Ekpene road was dualised, Ikot Ekpene town got remodeled, Ibom Tropicana, Ibom E-library, Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, several internal roads, election tricity, water projects, schools and several projects came to fruition, some though inter-ministerial direct labour. In Abak, we got the Abak-Uyo road with a suspended bridge, the Independent Hall, several road projects. The same goes to Ukanafun, Etim Ekpo up to Ika which hitherto had no motorable roads. As council chairman, I do drive up to Abia State before connecting to the road to come to Uyo for meetings. It was that bad but Akpabio brought the uncommon transformation, which opened up the state to investors. His era also witnessed unprecedented progress and prosperity for several youths whom he turned from boys to men. He gave youths reasonable slots in governance with most of them serving as commissioners, council chairmen, board chairmen and special assistants. Others got jobs which turned around their lives for good. Akpabio removed the stigma of other Nigerians seeing Akwa Ibom State as a depot for house helps. Today, Akwa Ibom people walk with dignity and sense of pride because the state has far developed more than older states with the citizens faring well. His era brought about credible and prosperous governance and that is the dependable leadership Akwa Ibom people all over the world are celebrating today.
Do you think that he has fared well as a minister in the Nigeria Delta Affairs Ministry?
He has not just fared well but has performed beyond expectation. This is the first time, the Niger Delta Minister doubles as the supervising minister of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and check out the turnaround in the fortunes of the interventionist agency. Outside the restoration of order in its activities, the agency now has a permanent headquarters in Port Harcourt. Before now, over N300 mil-lion was paid annually on rent but the story has changed. The forensic audit is ongoing and will help put the agency back on sound footing. The East-West road and other projects under his supervision are moving at incredible speed and chances are that they will soon be commissioned. He has also galvanized various interest groups in the Niger Delta with the purpose of working together for the interest of the region. He has perfectly interpreted the vision of Mr. President for the Niger Delta region and also continued to canvass for support and solidarity for Mr. President in the region. We are proud to have him not just as the grand leader of the ADF but as a son, father and brother.
Talking about the Muhammadu Buhari administration, how would you rate his anti-corruption war?
The anti-corruption war is succeeding gradually but the question is how would it be now in Nigeria without Buhari as president? Nigeria is a very big and complex country. Buhari’s administration has pursued the anti-corruption war beyond partisan lines and even those in his party are presently undergoing trials. We also have it on record that several looted funds were recovered and property worth billions also recovered. The truth is that the anti-corruption war should start with all of us at different levels. Corruption is not just stealing of funds and property but failing to do what we ought to do rightly. We have a duty to ensure that we don’t abuse any office or privilege conferred on us no matter how small. It is also important to understand that we are in democracy, where every issue relating to corruption and human rights goes through trials in the open court, and we understand how slow the judicial process is at times in the country. There are also instances of corruption fighting back and struggling to frustrate the good job the President is doing. We must all join hands to kill the monster called corruption which is the bane of our progress and prosperity. Nigeria will fare better when we join hands to crush corruption from our nation.
How do you rate the chances of your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming 2023 elections in both Akwa Ibom and Nigeria?
APC has done very well amidst challenges confronting Nigeria. The party has only spent six years out of the 22 years of our democracy and return to civil rule. The President is doing his best in spreading developmental projects across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. One of the ugly trends we do witness in the country from time to time is fuel scarcity but it is a thing of the past. We are getting our due as Niger Deltans even though we need more. Nigeria has had her own challenges but the President is doing his best to put the country on a continuous path to progress and prosperity. So, I strongly believe that Nigerians will stick to APC come 2023. In Akwa Ibom State, we are taking over from the PDP government. We are mobilizing and more people are joining the party. The registration and revalidation exercise was a huge success. Akwa Ibom people will also want to be linked to the developmental strides at the centre and will genuinely vote APC in 2023. ADF is also not resting on its oars in mobilising across the councils areas for more support base, educating and enlightening people on the need to join APC to rescue the state in 2023.
How has the response been since you started inaugurating the chapters of the ADF?
The response has been overwhelming and intimidating with thousands of people trooping out to join us in each council area visited. Politicians artisans, workers, farmers, traders, students, name it; they all queue to join the group in order to bring back the good old days in Akwa Ibom State. They want to see the era of good governance and transformation once again in Akwa Ibom State. Several people outside party lines, including clergies are joining because of the person of Senator Akpabio. They have not forgotten his glorious era in the state and what he is currently doing as minister of Niger Delta Affairs. The inauguration we held at Essien Udim, the country home of Senator Akpabio saw mammoth crowd giving me total confidence that the group is here to stay. We already have contact people in other senatorial districts and will soon official inaugurate the chapters there.
Having served as council chairman and a member of the House of Representatives, do you have any ambition come 2023?
Recall also that I once made attempt to go to Senate, which didn’t work. I still believe that I will have another opportunity subject to the support and solidarity of our people. I am still interested in making it to Senate but it is subject to the decision of our people to avail me their support. It will not be a personal or selfish decision. In ADF for instance, we put aside personal interest for collective interest.