AS lawmakers get ready for the inauguration of the 9th Assembly on Tuesday, June 11, ex-lecturer and former Chief of Staff in Cross River State, Dr. Alex Egbona, who was elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to represent Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency in Cross River State in the House of Representatives, has expressed pain over the lingering problem of clashes between communities in his constituency and those in Ebonyi State.
In this interview, Egbona speaks on the politics of Cross River State, the journey so far and what his people should expect from him in the next four years.
How ready are you for the politics of National Assembly leadership?
I want to believe that you may be talking about the politics of committee leadership and membership. If that is what you mean, my response will simply be that as a full member of the House of Representatives, I will be ready to serve in any capacity the House leadership deems fit. Of course, you would have known about my pedigree and experience in public service and business life. I started off as a councillor and I was a principal officer in the legislative assembly of my local government. I have been a special assistant on special duties, deputy chief of staff and chief of staff. I have been a lecturer. I am the chief executive of an agro-based business conglomerate. So, I can wear any shoe because I have the requisite experience and qualification. I can also head any committee because I am eminently qualified. I am not hungry for power, but I’m only driven by the hunger to serve the people. I have looked forward to this day for a long time. As I got into the hallowed chambers of the House getting ready to be inaugurated as a member of the 9th National Assembly, my mind went to a lot of things. I remembered how the people of Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency stood up for me in 2015, how they queued behind me and worked tirelessly to make sure I was elected to represent them in the Green Chamber. I remembered how the results were trickling in and how elated and convinced my people were that we were coasting to victory. I remembered how sad they were when the news came, that we did not win. It was one sad period for my people. As I looked round the Green Chamber, I remembered the antics some people tried to play to rig us out, to deny us of victory for the second time and how the masses stood their grounds and secured victory for me at the end of the day. I remembered how my village, Ekureku, went into wild jubilation immediately I was announced winner of the election. And then I took my mind to the hundreds and thousands of people from my constituency who are looking up to me. I told myself repeatedly and quietly, that my people would have reasons to smile for the sacrifices they made to bring me here. So, I will say that I am upbeat and it is basically about how I will be able to take my people to the next level. I know that God who started this will be with me all the way.
Do you feel fulfilled that you are now a member of the lower chamber of the National Assembly?
I will say yes, especially because the dream and desires of my people have been met. If you knew about the challenges we faced as a people before we got here, then you will agree that it is very fulfilling that at last, we made it to the House of Representatives. I think we got here through the resilience and commitment of the Abi/Yakurr people and through the help of God. A lot of things happened that would have made nonsense of all the efforts of my people. But God who is seated above, who knows that Abi/Yakurr actually needed someone who will think about and work for them at this time, crowned all our effort with a resounding victory. The rest is history.
You are the only one from the APC to have won any election under this dispensation, in your state. How will you cope with a PDP system back home?
I have always said that the various political parties are a platform for us to contest and win elections. That has already taken place. Elections have been won and lost by the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In my state, the PDP took everything except the Abi/Yakurr seat in the House of Representatives which God graciously gave to us. Penultimate week, my governor, Prof Ben Ayade of the PDP was sworn and he has since started work. Members of the national and state house of assembly are also settling down to work. They are all PDP. But for your information, virtually all the people in PDP are my friends, including the governor. At one point or another, we have done things together. So, nobody will be going about with the tag of his political party when it comes to service delivery. At least not me; we all have the mandate of our people to serve them. That is the most important thing. So, whether PDP or APC, we are first of all Cross Riverians and we know what our people want. On the day our governor was sworn-in, I sent him a goodwill message and congratulated him on his electoral victory and swearing-in. I also pledged my loyalty and support to him because we have only one state to serve. Abi/Yakurr is a microcosm of the larger Cross River. If I decide to play politics with the development and empowerment of my people, who will lose? Recall that even the governor himself has always said, during his first term, that his close relationship with the president, who is a member of the APC, was borne out of the desire to attract development to his state. You will recall that he had been pilloried by those who believe that you should not even greet anybody who is from an opposition party. But Governor Ayade has been very close to the APC Federal Government and he is doing that because he knows that it is the best way to attract goodies to his state. That is the way to go. What is important now is good representation for Abi/Yakurr people, irrespective of party affiliation. As I make laws as member of the House, it is not only my party people that will benefit from it. If I see opportunities in my state, which, of course, is governed by the PDP, I will not fail to synergise with the key players back home. I am a firm believer in the theory of politics without bitterness. To cut the long story short, I will work closely with my people back home for the general good of our people.
What is it that you will like to address immediately in the House?
One of the first issues I would like to address is the lingering feud between some communities in Ebonyi State and Adadama community in Cross River State. Many people have been killed as a result of the face-off. Others had fled their homes. In the last few weeks, I have engaged my colleagues from Ebonyi State who are from the neighbouring villages and we are working out peace strategies. In the House, we will take this peace processes higher. The earlier we can get the people to live in peace, the better for the two states. This issue is really disturbing, to me. I will do whatever I can within my powers, to make sure that this rift ends. There is nothing bigger and better than peace. Even if we make all the good laws on earth and do all the empowerment schemes we can do for our people, if they are not at peace with each other, we have achieved nothing. So, this peace initiative is seriously on my mind and I want it achieved as soon as possible. Also, my mind is set on the motions and bills I will have to sponsor within my first one year. My team is already working out the details and I can assure you that it will impact on my people and my state a great deal. God helping me with the resources, I will fulfill some of my campaign promises in no distant time. Let me say this: I will deliberately establish connection links with my people. In the two local governments, I will have a liaison office and also have a constituency office because I don’t want anybody to have any excuse that they could not reach me. I will be very accessible to all my people. I will not be an Abuja-based House of Reps member only. I am a homeboy and will remain so. It is the people that brought me to Abuja; so I will always be with them and for them.