Elder Nse Ekefre is a political leader in Nsit Ubium an astute Financial Expert, a former State Director of Budget, a former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, and the Bureau of Labour and productivity in Akwa Ibom. He spoke with Ernest Udoh-Robert, on the political developments in Akwa Ibom State. Excerpts.
A lot is going on politically in Akwa Ibom State and Governor Udom Emmanuel has chosen his preferred aspirant what is your opinion on his choice of a preferred aspirant.?
Ekefre: Well, having a preferred aspirant is never a new thing in the politics of Akwa Ibom State and indeed in Nigeria. In the years gone by, the Governors have always preferred an aspirant. So it is not new. It is left for us to appreciate what the governor has done. We are in a People’s Democratic Party PDP, state and ever since, the governors have always pointed to where their successor would come from. So it’s never new.
In Other words are you saying that the choice of Pastor Umo Eno is alright for the people of Akwa Ibom State?
Ekefre: For me he is the best amongst the lot that are currently gunning for the exalted position of governor, and I think for the generality of the people in the state he is alright. I may not know why he is not alright for some other people.
Who is Umo Eno to you?
Umo Eno is my political leader in Nsit. In Nsit we have a forum called Nsit Caucus and Umo Eno is a leader there. And the Governor chosing him is a very good development
There are aspirants from Nsit-Ubium who are also interested in the office of the Governor in 2023. Is there any way that this can be resolved?
Ekefre: I think the leaders of Nsit-Ubium may be working in that direction. I may not be privy to that information but I believe something is being done about that. This is not the first time this is happening but efforts are being made to stabilize the polity.
So who are these leaders in question?
Ekefre: The political leader of Nsit-Ubium is Distinguish Senator Effiong Bob. I think at that level they might be having talks.
What do you think are the qualities that Pastor Umo Eno has, that other aspirants may not have?
Ekefre: Let me first of all state here that every aspirant is qualified to contest. But for me Umo Eno is a calm, calculated, unassuming gentleman. He is a Pastor, he is a captain of industries and he is versatile in what he does. So I think he is best qualified and we should give him all the necessary support to be the Governor of this State come 2023.
So you are saying that he can translate his enterpreneural capacity into action as Governor?
Ekefre: That is what I am saying.
What do you think about the fact that other aspirants in PDP have refused to back down and support Umo Eno ?
Ekefre: These issues always come up. But I believe that at the end they will be able to manage their differences and work together as a team.
So you think the emergence of Umo Eno can divide PDP in the state?
Ekefre: I am not thinking so. The Governor is on ground. He is the leader of the party and he will be able to manage the situation appropriately.
*What do you think can be done between now and the primaries to bring together those that are aggrieved?
Ekefre: I think a lot will be done depending on who is involved. Obviously we have many groups that are not happy about the choice of Umo Eno. But my question to them is that, assuming it’s their candidate that was chosen, will they still behave the same way? And would they be happy if Umo Eno have done the same to them? That is the question, and we need an answer.
This tradition of having an anointed aspirant, do you think it has effect on internal democracy in the party?
Ekefre: Technically there is no anointed candidate because most aspirants are going to contest at the primaries. That is the way I see it. At the end of the day it is the result of the primaries that will determine who becomes the PDP flag bearer. So if any aspirant does not agree with the decision of the Governor, he or she has the constitutional right to take part in the primaries. In my view I won’t say there has been an anointed aspirant.So it is the primaries that will settle everything. But for me, my candidate is Umo Eno.
There is a report making the rounds that the Governor was stopping people from buying Governorship forms. Are you aware of anything like that?
Ekefre: I don’t know about that, but people are buying forms.
*Do you think PDP will still win the 2023 election in Akwa Ibom State given the fact that the opposition is strong in the state?
Ekefre: Strong how? Have they been able to put their houses in order? Who are the leaders of the parties in the state and who are their aspirants in the coming election?
*So in other words Akwa Ibom State is a one party State?
Ekefre: I am not saying that the other parties don’t appear to be ready for the election. it’s a one party state.
*What is the level of mobilisation going on to ensure that Umo Eno emerges the party’s candidate during the primaries?
Ekefre: Work is being done. Consultations are going on across board. Even beyond Umo Eno other aspirants are consulting. Given Umo Eno’s pedigree and what he stands for I am optimistic that he will emerge.
Do you envisage any kind of rancour or violence ahead of the primaries?
Why do you think so?
Ekefre: Because the party has embraced maintain peace ideology. So I believe that peace will reign. Even now peace is reigning.
What do you think the Governor has done to ensure peaceful primaries and to maintain peace in the state?
Ekefre: I believe that the Governor is leading the process and he is putting every necessary precautionary measures to avert any form of violence in the state.
To a large extent people have applauded the Governor for being able to maintain the peaceful atmosphere in Akwa Ibom State for the past seven years, what is your take on that?
Ekefre: You will agree with me that in Akwa Ibom people stay out at night to socialize. People also drive around freely without fear of being molested. Sometimes from such gatherings business transactions are sealed. The Governor has done his bit and Akwa Ibom State will continue to be safe.
*Everywhere Umo Eno goes there is a large crowd of people there to receive him. Why are people so much attracted to him?
Umo Eno has a gentlemanly disposition. If he talks to you, you will want to listen to him. He calls people sir. And he does it out of respect, not the way other people do. He is matured and we’ll mannered. And it shows in the way he approaches things, and the he approaches his business concerns. It takes maturity and experience to build businesses. Royalty is a household name in Akwa Ibom State. People have been calling him His Excellency long before now because they say he is the Governor in his business empire. I think God must have been preparing him for today.
Ekefre: What is the future of Akwa Ibom State with Umo Eno as Governor? I am optimistic that he will build upon the foundation left behind by other Governors before him like Victor Attah, Godswill Akpabio and Udom Emmanuel. Every Governor comes with an agenda to do better than his predecessor, and with Umo Eno the future is bright
*You are the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Umo Eno Transformation Group, what do you intend to achieve with this group?
* The group will propagate the election of Umo Eno as Governor. So the group is there to campaign for him, like others are doing. The group will project him as the ideal candidate for the office the Governor in Akwa Ibom State.
As we approach the primaries, what is your advice to the delegates? Ekefre: My advice to them is for them to vote Pastor Umo Eno who will bring the best governance to the people of Akwa Ibom State. As for me I believe in Umo Eno.