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INTERVIEW: I wouldn’t have contested against Akpabio – DIG Ekpoudom

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Mr Udom Ekpoudom, chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Akwa Ibom State is a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police and former senatorial aspirant for Ikot Ekpene senatorial district in the 2023 elections. He gives insight on his relationship with Senate President, Godswill Akpabio. He opens up on why he later supported Akpabio after his failed bid to go to the Senate. Excerpts!

When you stepped down for Akpabio during the elections, did you envisage that he will later become the Senate president?

Well I’m not God, I didn’t know that he would become the senate president, everything is for our good. The only thing was that I knew he would win the senate seat since I joined up with him. My supporters are very loyal. I knew that with the supporters he had plus my own he would succeed. Also, my aim was to ensure that the candidate of the PDP which is the ruling party in this state did not win; of course he may not be a match to Akpabio but we needed to work hard to ensure that our party won the election.

We saw the level of horse-trading and political maneuvering during the elections. Later, we saw you in Akpabio’s camp despite all odds, do you expect any form of compensation?

See, I wouldn’t have contested any election against Godswill Akpabio in the first instance; you know he was contesting for president and later came back to contest for senate. I didn’t just come out, my people approached me to go and they truly supported me. I’m still glad that APC still won the senate.

Akpabio is my younger brother and during the elections you never heard me attacking or abusing him in the name of politics. He also never did. Even when Akpabio came for a reconciliation in my house, they said the mistake they made was that they didn’t tell me he was contesting for senate. So I told them that I didn’t want any money, they should not pay me back the money I spent. I spent a lot of money, is it the purchase of the forms alone or the consultations or what? Is it the money spent in the High Court, Appeal Court, Supreme Court? I said let the money I spent be a part of my support to you. I may not be very rich but I’m contented with what I have.

Nevertheless, I don’t think if he gives me something as a reward, it will be a misplaced gift but the most important thing is that I made sure that we didn’t lose that seat to someone else. If he decides to compensate me, it’s not a bad thing.

But my character is that I don’t expect things from people or a reward, even when I was in police force, I never for one day lobbied for posting, people will like to go to Rivers, Abuja or any other state they felt was juicy but I never bothered myself over that, rather they will check my records and post me to a good place. That is the same life I’m living while in politics. I am not a professional politician. What I mean by professional is that some people cannot survive without money from politics.

Now that Akpabio has become the senate president, what are the expectations of the people of Niger Delta?

We thank God for helping us to have a senate president from this part of the country in the person of Akpabio. You remember the election was tough, the opposition was out to frustrate him, but by the grace of God, we teamed up with him and he won massively. His achievements as a governor of the state and his ability to work with the president of the country, Bola Tinubu, I’m sure he will do well.

Again, South South people have been the breadwinner of this country. They carried our bread to Abuja and they shared it without remembering us, but with our brother around, he will tell the power that be, remember my people, we want him to tell the government that the Niger Deltans should be taken care of. The minority syndrome is going to be a thing of the past.

Tinubu’s administration is talking about restructuring, do you have suggestions on how the restructuring should be?

This country is blessed as I said earlier, it’s blessed with a president that is patriotic, he likes this country, he seems prepared before coming into office, he has his plans, restructuring is long overdue. The country today is running a unitary government, everything is in Abuja.

Let me start from my kitchen, the police force, the sooner we allow decentralisation of police the better for us. The IG will be in Abuja and be controlling somebody in Akwa Ibom, Sokoto or Zamfara. Let Nigeria have State police. We will start state police if we want the crime web to be reduced to the barest minimum. We are not saying that there will not be central police. How do you see a country where the president is staying in Abuja to control things like health, education, effectively?

These are the things the states should be allowed to take control of fully. Federal roads in the whole country are in pitiable condition and if they can allow the states to take control, you will see a big difference. What of the local government that is appendage to the state government? The state government will receive much money from the federal government and will in turn give a pittance to the local government which will not use it for anything.

In those days, the local governments could do local roads, clear gutters but you can’t find such now, that is why this country should be restructured. We are happy that before the last president left, power was decentralised, so that it will no longer be one source of distribution. I’m sure that this present government will implement it so that we will be having a regular power supply.

As a retired DIG, are you satisfied with the current service chiefs?

Yes I am satisfied, if you look at the posting of these service chiefs, there is a balance, all of them are not from the same group or zone. Also, for him to have removed the IGP, that shows that he has a direction, I’m sure they will do well.

Do you think Akpabio as the No 3 citizen in Nigeria would resolve the internal wranglings in Akwa Ibom APC?

The internal crisis we have has prevented us from taking over the government house but I believe that the story will change. Akpabio will unite APC members in the state and you know when there is unity in a party, that party will succeed, I think this is one of his problems which he will first solve

There seems to be a synergy between the governor and the senate president. Do you think Akpabio will still have the interest to oust the present governor?

Truly the present governor, Pastor Umo Eno is a wonderful person, he is just a peacemaker, he is trying his best since assumption of office. I was shocked to see him in Abuja at the residence of the senate president during his inauguration. Are you aware that I was badly affected in the last administration? The government felt that since you are of the APC you are automatically the enemy of the state.

My in-law, a younger brother to my wife, had what we called ‘Food Affairs”. God blessed him to have that eatery, his branch in Ikot Ekpene, PDP government said I was the owner of that company and the former commissioner of works used a bulldozer to bulldoze the building even while people were still eating inside without paying one kobo as compensation, thinking that I was the owner of the building. When the building was marked, my in-law went to see them at the ministry of works and was asked to come the following day to collect compensation. He went there waiting for them at the ministry but received a call that government officials were at the eatery bulldozing it while customers were inside. All the properties inside were gone. I don’t think pastor Umo Eno could do that. We should rule with fear of God. I reached the rank of DIG without a scratch on my body, it was not because I was strong but God did it. But that will not stop us from penetrating.

How is the fuel subsidy removal affecting your business?

I don’t think there is anybody in Nigeria that is not feeling the impact of the fuel subsidy removal. But then I thank President Tinubu for being bold enough to remove it. Our former president was a former soldier but he couldn’t do it but Tinubu when he came, he removed it and it was in our own interest. Though I’m suffering now because of the amount I use in buying diesel, patrol for our school, but I foresee a brighter future, everything will be fine. I want all of us to support the president so that he can succeed.

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