Feb. 20 (THEWILL) – Cross River State gubernatorial aspirant James Iniama speaks with UDEME UTIP about his ambition to run in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) primary in the state and what he plans to accomplish if he ends up winning the gubernatorial election in 2023. Excerpts:
How well do you know Akwa Ibom State? What areas of attention do you plan to prioritize when you become state governor?
Akwa Ibom State was created in 1987. And we have learned that “Rome was not built in a day”. Remember that Uyo was the seat of local government. I came to Uyo on February 21, 1985. And I can say with confidence that Uyo; although a seat of local government, was still an urban village. Most of what we see in Uyo today was not there. So if you take from the day when Governor Tunde Ogbeha (the first military governor of the state) was received from the Okpokom River border between Cross River and Akwa Ibom State, until today , when you come to Uyo, you are faced with the challenge of suddenly transforming the urban village into the state capital. At one time we had Cross River State University, now there is Uyo University. Thank goodness we had the Cross River TV station. We now have Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation (AKBC). We also had Champion Breweries, Plasto Crown, Auto Park and Qua Steel Company in Eket. Other companies in the state were: Quality Ceramics at Itu, Sunshine Batteries, Ikot Ekpene, Biscuit, Cement Factory, Asbestonit and Palm Oil Mill Industries in Abak Local Government Area. But these were just basic industries that could help us evolve. Since then, the administrative headquarters of the State has acquired suitable buildings. Tunde Ogbeha, Godwin Abbe, Obong Akpan Isemin found themselves in this area of development. And then came Obong Victor Attah. Attah said, come on, we must have order in the state through a master plan. Then he presented a master plan that defined the nature of development in the state. This is the model on which I believe that every state administration can rely. But you see, if you’re talking about a master plan, it’s dynamic. We have come to a point where this master plan for the development of our dear state should be revised. Now comes Governor Udom Emmanuel. Udom came and initiated the industrial development of the cluster. I thank God that we are now going to have the free trade zone, the high seas port, etc. Obong Victor Attah launched the airport; Governor Udom Emmanuel brought Ibom Air. We are still in the development stage of our state.
Whenever it rains, step out into any local government area in this state and you will see that the immediate challenge we face is flooding. We still need to develop the infrastructure of this state. So what are we going to do? We will meet this immediate need by preparing an automatic state photo card. The map will just show us the exact layout of the whole state to ensure an integrated development plan. With the rate at which this state is growing, we will have a one-city state very soon. Everything will be well planned and established in such a way that there will be no chaos when we start the development of the state. There is more to do. We must therefore prepare to take the place of our former leaders who laid these foundations with commitment and patriotism towards the people.
How would you improve the state’s unemployment status?
Thank goodness Governor Udom Emmanuel has developed a policy of industrialization. I worry about the sustainability of these industries. Why am I worried? A former governor of Cross River State, Dr. Clement Isong, built nine industries within four years of his tenure, but none of those companies are producing today. They are dying. I can count them on my fingertips. These are Quality Ceramics, Peacock Paints, Sunshine Batteries, Qua Steel and International Biscuit Factory, etc. Reactivation of Ailing Industries in the state. We would privatize these companies to employ the large population of Akwa Ibom.
The Commissioner of Lands and Water Resources was last Sunday endorsed by Governor Udom Emmanuel as his preferred successor in 2023. What is your reaction to this development, given your aspiration to become Governor in 2023?
I told you that I have been a private person all my life. As a young man, I sold peanuts, palm oil and cigarettes during the Nigerian Civil War. I have never seen a child carrying peanuts or bananas and you told the child to call another peanut seller for you. The child obviously wants to trade in his own goods. What I am saying is that I am focusing on my belief which aspires to be the Governor of Akwa Ibom State. We look forward to the party primaries and when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announces the schedule. For now, I’m staying focused. I am deaf to destruction. I pursue the cause for which I consulted the members of my family and they approved without reserve my ambition and declared their support to me. I consulted my friends, my professional colleagues, my political supporters as well. So I want to appeal for us to stay focused and avoid distractions under the guise of approval.
I have my own schedule. Don’t tell me to quit my own game and join another person. So, let’s stay focused on what James Iniama is running towards 2023. I’m preparing for the gubernatorial primaries in Akwa Ibom, waiting for when INEC announces the timeline and we should be guided by that. I think we should have consultations, which should take place at a very calm level and in accordance with the rules and regulations. I stay focused on my own agenda. I am not pursuing anyone else’s program in the name of endorsement.
What will you bring to the table that will meet the needs of the abundant people of Akwa Ibom?
I said that I aspire to serve the agenda of about 8 million people. It is my aspiration. Therefore, I bring to the table the questions that I know will meet their needs. If you ask me what is essential to me, I would say that what concerns me the most today is the education of the people. There are so many things that are not being done in our education sector. We want to build an Akwa Ibom state of educated sons and daughters, not a state for illiterate or half-educated people. We plan to introduce the kind of education that would make our sons and daughters as competitive as possible. We are looking at 2023. The world is moving and it is completely digitized. We must seek to improve the men and women who teach and influence the knowledge of our children.
We will need quality teachers to teach our children, specialized teachers because there are schools where Physics graduates teach Mathematics without specialization. We need to train our teachers. We used to have teachers whose main task was to teach crafts where we learned to weave baskets, make brooms, etc., but today such specialist teachers are no longer part of of our school system.
I also seek to build infrastructure and create a healthy learning environment in schools.
I’m not talking about paying lip service to this state. I come from a village. Sometimes I clean the primary school in my village. We are therefore going to improve the school infrastructure. When we talk, we don’t base our discussion on information. We would undertake a database of the facilities available in our educational institutions. We call it in my profession “Asset Inventory”. This will give us what we call the repair and obsolescence schedule.
Apart from education, we will venture into agriculture to cope with the insufficient food supply in the state. I plan to plan a good agricultural policy. We will encourage subsistence farming so that every family has enough to eat. In 2007, when I contested the governorship of this state, we had enough documents that would have served as a model for the implementation of agricultural programs. Let’s make farming commercial despite its challenges, such as access to land, lack of modern farming tools and lack of access to modern farming methods.