EMMANUEL Ibeshi – remember him? That was the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP in those halcyon days of the Obasanjo years. It should easily be recalled the frequency with which Senate presidents were changed in those years, and it was Ibeshi and his colleague, Gbenga Olawepo, who had to explain why it had to happen each time it did.
That was then, but now, Ibeshi has some explaining to do, which has to do with his native Cross River State. He is from Cross River North, the part of the state that incumbent state governor, Ben Ayade hails from. Cross River South and Central have each produced a governor in Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke.
What issues bother you?
It amazes me and it is very pathetic because I would not at 57 today, be thinking about being a governor, I would have thought of maybe a younger person with the same vibrancy or zeal that we had when one started this thing.
I came into politics in 1992 to the House of Representatives, I mean our first elective convention as PDP in 1999 where I emerged as National Publicity Secretary.
The ideas we had as young people at 31, coming into the House of Representatives and the ideas I see today of those who get into the same house are miles apart.
Let’s take it as partners, shapers of the destiny of Nigeria because where we find ourselves, we are at the brink and nobody knows what can happen so we need to be able to be strategic, bold, and upright concerning how 2019 is going to be and that is why I am taking this bold step coming to you to let you know that I am making myself available because of the situation I find on ground.
Available for what?
Governorship. The governor on seat at the moment is from my local government and he was actually my campaign manager in 1992 when I went to the House of Representatives.
He was a student and I would not naturally want to go against him, I should be there to nurture him, to give him ideas to succeed but it is unfortunate that has not been possible because the more you try to advise him, the more he is on his own target.
This is the first time Cross-River North is having a slot as the governor of River, and it has become an embarrassment to us the way things are going in Cross-River. This is more of a rescue situation that I find myself trying to do and again PDP has never lost elections in Cross-River. We have always been the ruling party.
I’m permanently PDP in nature, no matter what has happened, and that is the reason after listening to a couple of young men who believe in me, and that is why I am asking you for your support .
Do you intend to run on the PDP platform?
Yes, of course.
That means you have to go up against the incumbent governor in the primaries?
Yes, with the incumbent governor in the primary election.
And you don’t see this as very daunting?
There is nobody who will think about going into primary against an incumbent governor who doesn’t count the cost that will just jump into it; it means the person is a stupid person.
I think I have been in this terrain for too long not to know the cost and not to look at the collateral gains and the collateral damage of not coming into the fray at this time.
I have looked at that and have tried to look at what is happening at the national secretariat and what is happening back at home, world level to state level, congresses and primaries that are eventually going to come, so I have counted the cost and I have looked at every issue very squarely just the same way I counted the cost in taking PDP to court as national public secretary and I won.
One of the things that has always worked for me has been my knees, I didn’t come into politics like everybody else did. I don’t know how people came, but I came into politics when we were praying for Nigeria and that has kept me on from House of Representatives where I went against the opposition.
My Cross-River local government is Obudu and in Obudu, all the councillors were NRC but I heard clearly from God, I went to SDP and I was the only person that won the election on the platform of SDP.
I had never been in politics before; that was my first attempt. The same scenario played out in the National Public Secretary election thing which we are all talking about now. In as much as I’m not looking at it as an end, it has never been known as an end to me, it’s been a service and each of these positions that I try to hold they have always left me with indelible praise. This entire thing started as a caucus when I was in the House of Representatives that is my story.
Looks like you’ve been swimming against the tide since 1999, right?
I think at this point in time Nigerians need people who can see beyond this crisis, people who have the necessary passion to rescue the system and some of them may not even live to see it come to pass, they may pay the supreme price but you need to get to that to save this country for our children and that is the reason the press needs to be bold and courageous in shaping the thought of our young people who believe they need to untoward things before they make something in politics.
God is raising more Davids. This herdsmen thing started in the North-east and spread all over the country and everybody is terrified. Where are the Davids? Politics will make these people slaughter all of us one after the other until the Davids begin to rise up, it will be a David – Goliath affair.
With your relationship with the governor, what is it that makes you decide that you want to take him as your opponent, is it that he’s so poor in governance or he is disconnected from the people?
That question is rhetorical, we know how pathetic Cross- River is, we are like a laughing stock, I saw different write-ups on the 1.3trn budget of Cross-River.
We from Northern Cross-river have always been the bone of Cross-River politics, there’s nothing to talk about in this administration, just stories and undeliverables. You need to go to Cross-river and not just what is on paper and do your analysis and tell me why we should sit down and look at the situation.
I offered to be the governor’s Chief of Staff but he said I was too big for Chief of Staff because his idea of Chief of Staff is a Personal assistant.
Since you know the governor so well, why didn’t you offer yourself for the position?
I contested in 2015 but Imoke literarily imposed him on us, but I don’t think Imoke would have thought that Ayade would have performed like this. What is happening now is unbelievable. I walked out of the primaries because I knew the way it was going to end because Imoke was not going to allow anybody in and that’s why we are where we are.
Can you explain further?
In a state like Cross-River, it’s almost a civil service state hyped so heavily by Duke — tourism, agriculture, industries. Imoke came again, we had General Electric coming in setting up their zonal office and all of those making the state to bubble to an extent. There was hope, when you talk about Cross-River, you talk about tourism, talk about Calabar the green city.
When you’re completely disconnected from the people, we’re talking super- high way. It’s desperation in Cross-River, there’s fear in the state and again for us from the North, we’re very united and supportive so it hurts to want to go against your own blood no matter how bad he is.
But if we sit down there, we’re going to go down in history as the worst ever in Cross-river history, when we fought so hard to get this position. Ayade is the worst turndown we can have in almost every sphere of Cross-river life.
Duke hyped the tourism and carnival, it’s was a one-month activity but it’s been reduced to 3 days now and the mountain race which was bringing all this athlete from overseas to come to obudu is cracked and then you pretend that you want to do roads and you bulldozed people’s houses and you have not done the roads, neither have you set up new houses. When people get into office they forget where they are coming from all of a sudden.
Now that you are going to take over from an incumbent governor, what are your agenda and programmes?
My greatest vision for Cross-River is to change it to an entrepreneur state, to look at all the product we have both agriculture and otherwise, and place emphasis on the value chain of these products.
Three-quarters of government in Nigeria have not tapped into one per cent of monies available from donor agencies and this money comes to Nigeria and just goes to NGOs doing their research and turning that money back to their purse.
If we look at this it’s pathetic, we have played politics for too long in this country. When are we going to have a government that will tap into the resources available and utilize those resources? If the young people are engaged daily in production even if it’s cassava production, you find out you can go there and get paid even if it’s to peel and put it in the cassava mill and nobody will be waiting in the street for politician to give them N5,000 and that’s what some Nigerian youths are looking for.
When we finish politicking, we should be able to go into leadership, to look for people that will be able to help you deliver your manifesto but that is what we are lacking here. For me Ayade has done 4 years of Cross-River North, my blueprint is 100 per cent as to what my economic thrust is, to change and charge the psyche of the youth in the state. They will see we’re not looking for MOUs to sign; we are only channelling their energy into productive capacity in the areas of SMEs that are going to spring throughout the state using themselves as peer pressure to do that.
What I have put together is visible, realizable, it’s not money to spend and if they implore their energy in all those things their lives will change, so that is what I intend to do.
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