C’/River 2019: It’ll be neck-to-neck between PDP, APC – Ex-dep speaker

Former Deputy Speaker, Cross River State House of Assembly, Hon. Patrick Antigha Ene, declares that PDP will have fierce opposition from the APC in 2019, even as he says corruption led to the failed steel rolling mills and the suffering of Bakassi people. FRANCIS OGAR brings Excerpts.
Yes, we need to celebrate because we have added a year to our existence. We need to thank God in spite of our challenges. Some countries have had it worst than us but we are still one and strong. As a matter of fact, we need to celebrate it even if there is security and financial challenges.
Nigeria is a great country with great potentials and we need to do everything possible to eschew corruption. Whether we like it or not, the truth is that corruption has brought us down. Go to Ajakuta Steel Rolling Mill and other dead rolling mills in the country and see the havoc that corruption has done to Nigeria.
South Korea that started their own rolling mill the same time with Nigeria is reaping $60 million annually today. So, we should eschew corruption in order to make life better for our people. When we do that, the country will become a beautiful place to live. I love Nigeria.

You have been rather quiet lately?
Although there is active politics underground, the reality or the situation on ground does not call for talking. You know the problem we have in Bakassi. One of the paramount issues recently is how Cross River State government has treated the people.
You might be aware that the federal government has over the years paid the state government money for the loss of Bakassi and oil wells to Akwa Ibom State.
By May this year, the money amounted to N37.5 million and with that kind of money a little bit of it should have been used to help the people, unfortunately it has not been so. These are the issues government needs to address squarely because Bakassi people have been traumatised and have no hope.

A lawmaker’s salary has been stopped because he defected to another party, what is your take on this?
Well, that is very unfortunate because the member left PDP to APC and I believe that by the time he left PDP there was division in the party. The laws are very straightforward on this matter as it says when you leave when your party is in division you cannot lose your seat.
I wonder why the House is declaring the seat vacant. The man left when there was division in the party just as other people left and just like Senator John Enoh left, the young man has taken the matter to court. We wait see how the judiciary would treat the matter.

What is your score mark for the Ayade’s Government?
I cannot give him a blanket assessment but on infrastructure, human development and human management. On human management, he has done well. I understand that he has provided employment for many people. Whatever kind of employment even if it is quasi we need to score him high.
On the area of infrastructure, he has not done well there are so many pot holes everywhere in the state capital Calabar. There are infrastructural decay and many things have changed. He pays salary promptly and I understand he has started paying pensioners. I also understand that he is doing well in the northern part of the state. Of late I have not travel there to see things for myself and we need to encourage him on what he has done well.

What prospects are there for the PDP in subsequent elections in the state?
The future elections in the state will be very competitive. Don’t forget that PDP is an opposition party at the federal level and that will affect the elections in the state.
I don’t see PDP getting everything with ease as it used to be. I see a stiff opposition from the APC. The will of the electorate will be the deciding factor. Even If the party has done well, I think you will not have 25 of the House of Assembly members, 18 of the local government chairmen and all the counsellors from PDP again.
I think APC is going make lot of in-road as an opposition party that is growing and threatening by the day. You might even see what we happened in 1999 when you had 12 (from opposition parties, now APC), 13 PDP members in the House of Assembly. That would create a robust House in the assembly. I feel there will be robust opposition come 2019.

Why has the LGA election not been held up till this time?
Well, I think you should direct that question to the government in power. I understand there are plans to conduct the elections but there seems to be no election. Why he is the foot-dragging I do not know. A couple of people have said that there is lack of funds to conduct the elections.

What is crucial about local government autonomy?
When you say local government autonomy, Are you saying they should operate on their own? On what system of government are they operating? Is it in a federal system or in a federating unit or federalism? In a true federalism they cannot have autonomy. In the present constitution, there will be autonomy and if we are restructuring Nigeria there would be no local government autonomy. I think the system itself today is wrong because in Nigeria we need true federalism.

What is your position on the growing agitation in the South East?
Basically, people have the right to self determination and I think the way they are going about it is completely wrong. We fought for the unity of this country for three years that we want to live together and for you to wake up that you want to secede is wrong.
There is no clause in the constitution that gives any part of the country the right secede. However, I think they should ask for restructuring to correct the imbalances particularly on the number of states in region from five to six as in other geopolitical areas of the country. I think that should be the real restructuring in Nigeria.
They should also know that it is not only that part of the country that is marginalized. Bakassi is also marginalized. Nigeria ceded that part of the country and we kept quiet believing that one day all the wrongs would be addressed, we are still hoping for the federal government to correct the injustice done to the people of Bakassi.
What would you advocate for Nigeria?
One of the major problems affecting this country is youth unemployment. Both the federal and state governments should provide enabling environment for industries to strive in order to engage youth productively and halt youth restiveness.
The youth are belligerent when they are jobless. Government should deliberately look inwards and create opportunities to work. One of such programmes is sports development. The creation of sports centres, academy and other such outfits as is the case in the Western world where sports have been made lucrative career. In these climes footballers, wrestlers, boxers and table tennis stars and others are wealthy persons.
Sports can take these young people off the streets, give them careers, empower them and help them to discover their hidden talents and used same to earn a living. In fact, sports should be introduced in school curriculum. An unengaged youth a security risk anytime and anywhere.

What is your dream for Cross River State?
Cross River State should be a tourism destination, globally. It should a place that easily attracts people to come and relax, invest in thriving industries and a beehive of sporting activities. My dream for Cross River State is to be a place for child development and where security flourishes.
I think APC is going make lot of in-road as an opposition party that growing and threatening by the day. You might even see what we happened in 1999 when you had 12 (from opposition parties, now APC), 13 PDP members in the House of Assembly

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