Sunny Udeh is politically seeking to occupy the Abi State Constituency seat in the Cross River State House of Assembly on the platform of the PDP. Over the weekend, www.calitown.com put Udeh on the spot throwing a few questions at him. Excerpts:
Can we get to know you?
My name is Sunny Udeh, a former Special Assistant to Gov. Ben Ayade on Songhai Farm, a former Special Assistant to Governor Liyel Imoke on Administration, a former Leader of the Abi Local Government Legislative Council, and a former Councillor in Abi Local Government Legislative Council representing Ebom/Ebijakara ward. I have been in public service for 14 years now. Prior to that I was into private business with interests in printing and freelance writing. I hold an MBA from the University of Calabar. I am an indigene of Ebom community in Abi Local Government Area. I am married with children. I am a conscientious and sociable person.
You have thrown your hat into the House of Assembly race for Abi State Constituency, what is driving this?
My major reason for putting myself up for consideration by the people of Abi State Constituency as their representative in the State House of Assembly is accountable service. Yes, I want to be of sincere service to my people of Abi LGA and be held accountable for that responsibility when given the mandate. My years of leading the Abi Legislature and thereafter working with the Cross River State Government with strategic responsibilities has prepared me sufficiently to be a capable voice to speak for the Abi people. I have built significant capacity and garnered enough experience to navigate the maze of governance at the State level to deliver the goods for my people. I will require no gestation period as I will hit the ground running, from Day One. Believe me, I understand how both the Legislature and the Executive work and that knowledge confers certain advantages on me, with all modesty.
Realistically, how does the zoning arrangement in place favour your candidature?
Zoning has become an unwritten rule in Nigerian politics that has served us quite well. It has its merits and demerits. I believe its merits far outweigh its demerits. It is intended to give everyone a sense of belonging. In my case, zoning favours me doubly, so to speak. In the configuration of Abi politics, it is the turn of the Bahumono axis to produce the House of Assembly member. I am a Bahumono man. And amongst the four wards of Bahumono, my ward, Ebom/Ebijakara is the only ward that has not produced a House of Assembly member. So my candidature is very solidly supported by zoning considerations.
Were you to be elected, what are you differently bringing to the table?
For the period that I have been actively involved in politics, which is a little over 20 years now, Abi has been blessed with quality representation in the Cross River State House of Assembly. From Hon (Dr.) Emmanuel Idaka to Hon. (Dr.) Isaac Igiri and now the current Speaker of the CRSHA, Rt. Hon. John Gaul Lebo, the bar has been raised quite high both in terms of quality of the individuals and the quality of their lawmaking outputs. I consider myself privileged to aspire to a position these noble gentlemen have distinguished themselves in. I intend to leverage their knowledge by periodically consulting them. Most importantly, I will have bi-monthly legislative town hall meetings with my constituents. These engagements will not only shape and reshape my legislative agenda but will also provide an opportunity to render periodic account of my stewardship to the people. I believe that accountability is a critical requirement for any public official to be deemed a success.
In your assessment of the needs of your constituency, list out five needs that occupy the front burner and demand serious attention.
The biggest challenge of Abi LGA, for me, is to stem the tide of insecurity to lives and property occasioned by the communal conflicts amongst some of the Bahumono communities and the inter-state boundary dispute involving Adadama community and the Ikwo people of Ebonyi State.
Then there is the urgent need to improve our human capital development index. This is important in order to create a pool of human resource that is sufficiently skilled and empowered to create wealth for themselves while creating substantial value to society.
Furthermore, being an agrarian LGA, it is critical to me that Abi takes a big leap away from subsistence to commercial agriculture. To achieve this, we will work to produce agriprenuers – people who will see and take up agriculture as a serious business undertaking – by improving access to necessary inputs like finance, improved crop and animal varieties, fertilizer etc, as well as acquisition of relevant agribusiness skills and knowledge.
Also there is the need to massively improve our decaying and almost non-existent infrastructure. Good infrastructure support economic growth. The poor state of our roads is a big source of worry to me.
The educational facilities and resources in Abi also demand urgent attention. Most of our school structures are dilapidated and teachers need retraining to be able to impact meaningfully on the pupils and students.
Comment on the Songhai Farms and what a conscious legislator can do to lend support to the place.
The Songhai Farm project is one project that should not be allowed to waste away. The vision behind its development was far-reaching. It is an integrated agricultural facility that has in-built capacity for primary and secondary production activities. By this, I mean that crop farming, fish farming and animal husbandry takes place there and the produce from these activities can be processed and packaged for the market, within the Farm. The Farm is also an agro-training and research centre. It is, however, sad to note that it is still a project site that requires continuous Government funding to complete for full operations to start. The financial constraints faced by Government has militated against the completion of the project. The most realistic and sustainable way to go, as things stand, is to partially or wholly privatize the project. As a legislator, I will first study our privatization laws to ensure that there is no impediment to the speedy engagement of an equity/operational private partnership for that project. Then I will engage with the Executive, and with the benefit of my knowledge of the project, as well as public procurement regulations, we will fast-track the privatization of that project. As it is now, hundreds of millions of Naira in infrastructure and equipment are gradually wasting and rotting away. That is very unfortunate and unacceptable. I will work to speedily reverse that.
Assess your electoral chances.
My chances are quite bright. By the grace of God, I am not a neophyte in the political landscape of Abi. Any set of assessment criteria deployed to assess the aspirants and candidates ranging from experience and capacity to zoning, to political participation and visibility, to acceptance or popularity levels, etc, will put me up there in the scale. I would not undertake this venture if, for one moment, I doubted my electability.
If you were to talk directly to your constituency, what message of hope do you have for them?
My dear people of Abi LGA, let us continue in the tradition of always putting our first and best eleven out there. I believe I have the capacity, experience and integrity to be your voice in the Cross River State House of Assembly. I have no doubt that I will be a very capable voice. We cannot lower our bar of legislative representation. We cannot afford to experiment with a serious position like our member of State Assembly. I am a face and a name that you know very well and can easily relate with. Make me your capable voice in the Cross River State House of Assembly. I promise to speak for and only on your behalf. I will be accountable to you and will never disappoint you. Thank you
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