Mr. Common Man. He is well known for his Philanthropic gesture anywhere he goes…he has been a youth president, a council vice-chairman, and chairman, Uyo Metropolis. His entire life, on and out of office is service. A strictly Community man and a lover of the poor. His name is Hon. Ukai Udeme Emmanuel, the immediate past vice chairman of Uyo Local Government Area.
In this interview with the duo of Samuel Odungide and Edet Ikotidem of StarWitness Newspapers, he spoke on supposed philosophy in governance, his political aspiration, and youth matters…Excerpts
Sir, seemingly interesting, from nowhere, you have migrated from being a Youth President to Vice Chairman, Uyo L.G.A. and a brief stint as Chairman of the Council, tell us about this rise in such a relatively short period?
Ukai: The aspect of “from nowhere” is not true. I was born and raised in Rivers State. I have worked with different establishments. Apart from Lagos, we have a lot of companies in Port Harcourt. I have worked with about 8 giants in the oil and service industries and construction companies including products distribution outlets. The last one that brought me to Uyo is Alvac. A third party to Diamond Bank. They deal with cash flow. Working with all these companies gives me a better background. So that anything I go into, succeeding becomes an understatement, success is the statement. It is not enough to say I have been to school, you have to come out and mix with people and acquire an experience outside the classroom environment. As it is, I can work in almost any capacity without supervision. That experience constitute the background that took me to become the Youth President in my community.
From nowhere is not a proper statement. There was a process, a preparation in the complex community as Rivers State. I was prepared already.
In Akwa Ibom, we must identify and separate cultism from Core-Youth value, otherwise, we can’t get it right. When I came into youth activities as a youth, I know that my youths must learn skills, they must go to school. They must be of good and upright behaviour. I get involved even in the family relationship to sometimes settle disputes and misunderstandings. That was why I succeeded. I also pioneered the establishment of village youth leadership in the state. At a point, I speak on their behalf. On behalf of the Village Youth Presidents in Akwa Ibom State, I was the one that moved the motion for endorsement of Udom Gabriel Emmanuel in the year 2015, 28 February to be specific, at the Banquet Hall. At the expiration of my 4-year tenure, my people said I must continue my good work so, I did a 5 years term as Youth President in my community. Until we have the right people who can say what is white is white and what is black is black, we will keep on seeing youths behaving in so many ways because they feel they should manipulate their lives to give them food. I was thereafter, saddled with the responsibility of being the Vice Chairman of Uyo Metropolis through the mandate of the people of Uyo and the benevolence of His Excellency. You can’t rule out leadership in any political foray. When the people say “Go” you still need the certification of His Excellency, so, he gave me that opportunity to serve just because I was prepared. Those challenges I met when I got there met me prepared.
You were the Vice Chairman of Uyo LGA as we know. But when the chips were down, that is, when the Chairman was impeached you became the Council Chairman. What did you do differently from what your impeached boss did?
Ukai: The truth of the matter is before someone aspires for any office, you should look and see what that office requires from you. When we talk about Local Government, it’s for local people-the grassroots it is for the people that may not know the difference between their right and left.
It is for you to redirect their mindset. I went there, I saw and I conquered. What stood me out from others is that I want there as Ambassador Ukai Udeme Emmanuel, prepared. Not as Hon. Udeme Emmanuel. I went there with the sensibility that there is an expiry date and i should need to go back to the people I left for the office. So, I should not become somebody else because I hold political office. This makes me be more focused on my essence in the office as Vice Chairman.
During our off-record chat, you had said that Akwa Ibom State must be liberated. Since the State was created in 1987, we have come so far. What are those things that you think we must be liberated from?
Ukai: Our mindset must be taken care of very important. The mindset of me looking for something and if I don’t get what I want. I should be able to say “Oh, this my brother has gotten it, let me support him”.
The mindset that even if we are a thousand seeking for a seat or any position, we should go there and with an open mind that it is a contest, first, like in sports, one person only will emerge a winner, in a football match, we may seem to be enemies. But, immediately the match is over and a winner declared, we become friends, we become as one. We should have this kind of mindset in politics. Sometimes, in this state, I organized a football competition and tagged it. “Politics like Football” it simply means, it’s a contest. Nobody should kill or be killed for it. Nobody should blackmail for it. Whatever may have made you to contest also had made Mr. B contest. Have it at the back of your mind that you either win or you lose, but Akwa Ibom remains. Secondly, we must say the truth as it is. The electorate should be able and bold to tell an aspirant that he has not done well in previous assignments or that he is not capable, they should say it that the aspirant is not a good one to his face.
We should start sending such signals so that the next person would realize the need to be of good character if he intends to aspire. Those are the liberation I was talking about.
Talking about liberation, what kind of mindset are you going to take to the Senate considering that you are aspiring to represent Uyo North-East Senatorial District at the Red Chamber in 2023?
Ukai: My Senate ambition is passion-driven. I will be opportune by the grace of God to be there. Senate seat is not supposed to be a retirement journey for politicians. When you go there, you retire from there. It must not be because you were a governor, you must have humongous political influence or you must be extremely rich to be able to become a Senator. That is the challenge. I am going there to change the narrative. I want to prove that someone who can go to the Senate and work hand-in-hand with the governor can fulfill the mandate of his people that sent him there.
Also read: Akwa Ibom State Must Be Liberated- Ukai
I should not do things for my people because I want to go for the second term. I should work with the knowledge that my tenure is 4-years. If I cannot do what I promised or mandated to do in 4 years, then, I have failed my people.
Are you favoured by zoning in your area?
That being the case, there are other aspirants very intimidating ones. What do you think are your chances of becoming a Senator?
Ukai: Like I said, if we are sincere, from the internal democracy that has to do with our party. Delegates are fair and want to be fair at the primaries, all aspirants should keep their money away and come to the field like me as Ambassador. Ukai Udeme Emmanuel, let them also come with their names to the field, I will win them. That is if internal democracy is advanced. Let our manifestos speak for us. However, I am not contesting a do-or-die election. My prayer is and has always been. God, if I will fail my people let me not win.
I will not go there to live a flamboyant lifestyle and junketing around the world but, I will bring charity into governance, development and be very smart in the Red Chambers by being very active and involved.
I really want to give it to Senator Bassey Albert. He is doing very well as a young man.
I should not be considered based on what I have or don’t have but I should be considered based on my antecedence in previous representations if after I leave office, my people don’t rejoice.
I dare say that if after 2 years, I have not made a tangible impact, is should be recalled.
The Governor recently disclosed his successor in the person of Pst. Umo Eno. This has generated a lot of comments from various parts of the state. What is your take on this development?
Ukai: The problem is that my governor is not even done. He still has a year plus. I, Hon, Ambassador Ukai Udeme Emmanuel, want to see the governor succeed in his completion Agenda. I don’t talk about a successor now. However, he has a right to favor anyone that will succeed him. But, for us, we will reason with him, if it is not favorable, we engage him in dialogue rather than insults and abuses. For me, I am supporting someone from Itu/Ibiono.Federal Constituency. I am looking at Itu/ Ibiono because Itu/ Ibiono can also accommodate Ikono/Ini Local Government. We call that Eastern Ibiono. That four local government has something to do in common. Put something in that axis engaged rather than attack. I have a friend that is aspiring to be the governor of the state in 2023, I am still with him. The governor did not say you should forget your friend because he has brought a favoured aspirant-No, he did not say so. I am still supporting my friend, Mr. Akan Okon. He is my friend.
Sir, is Mr. Akan Okon still in the race?
Ukai: Yes! It is just that he is not a noisemaker
Do you think the governor will complete the scattered and uncompleted projects about the state within the short period of time he has left to be Governor?
Ukai: He must! He had been promising us that he will not abandon any project. Have you not heard him say that before? A governor cannot speak from both sides of his mouth. He is going to complete it. And what I am doing is praying for him. I would advise communities to assist and corporate with contractors handling projects in their area and give them the opportunity to complete all projects.
The only project which he is not supposed to finish is Ibom Deep Sea Port. Every other project that he has involved his hand, I think he will finish it.
Regarding the interferences of Fathers of Faith in Akwa Ibom politics, what’s your take on this Sir?
Ukai: It’s so unfortunate that we allow things like this to permeate our society. As far as I know, men of God are to pray to help hold our State together. Also, pray to God to give us a leader that will be for all. The issue of Fathers of Faith and politics is making a mockery of God. I don’t discuss it. God knows who is good for us.
I find it very dirty. If you say God reveals to you that Ukai is governor, how will you convince others that, that is what God revealed to you? Supposing God reveals differently to another man of God? It’s confusing. We have allowed sentiments to take a better part of our conscience of reasoning, it’s very bad. Let’s allow politics to politicians. Men of God should know their boundaries.