From Judex Okoro, Calabar
Effiong Efa Nyong is the African Democratic Congress (ADC) governorship candidate for Cross River. In this interview, Nyong, the Bakassi-born politician promises to reconcile, restructure and restore C’ River glorious days if elected in 2023, adding that almost all facets of the economy in the state is comatose and only a committed candidate with vision and mission can rescue the people from the mal-administration of APC-led government.
I disagree that I am relatively new in politics. My foray into politics started quite early contrary to what people know. I got involved in 1987 through my very senior friend, Effiong Ononokpono, who represented Oron federal constituency in the House of Representatives in 1979. He engaged me in a series of discussion telling me why young people should be involved in politics. He then took me to a meeting at 3, Bedwell Street in Ikoyi’s home of the late Chief Mathew Tawo Mbu, Nigeria’s first High Commissioner to the UK. There, I met Dr. Peter Ogban, a former federal commissioner for health, John Bissong, Robert Asim Ita, Chief Edim Imona and P.J Ekunke, who was a customs officer then. That was how the Cross River Foundation was born and I was made secretary, largely because I was the youngest and so I could take notes. It was about this time that Chief Mbu lost his son, John in the UK, this was before Akwa Ibom state was created.
However, I left politics to concentrate on my journalism profession until June 12, 1993 election saga, which brought me out as a member of the African Democratic League and NALICON, thereby contributing to the return of democratic governance in Nigeria. After then, I went back to work until this dispensation where I thought it necessary to come out following what I perceive as extreme mismanagement and governance, loss of lives, brazen destruction of the economy, banditry, kidnapping, cultism and our collective heritage. Criticism couldn’t do it anymore, especially when government agencies now blackmail people for not towing their line. So, based on wealth of experience, you can see, I am very ripe to govern Cross River. And my party ADC is not new. We are mobilising the people at the grassroots. Note that this election is not going to be business as usual. We shall all move into the fields to tell people what we have not sitting at the comfort of our homes to win election. There is no right time to do the correct thing. We have to push our narratives and story.
APC is the ruling party in Cross River. Don’t you think it has performed that it would be a herculean task to displace them in 2013 poll?
The APC administration in the state is just a disaster. They have failed on every front. Insecurity, tourism, education, roads, health, etc. recently, the state has witnessed an increase in kidnapping while the APC government in the state is feigning ignorance all in the name of trying to be politically correct. Even when the House of assembly passed the anti-open grazing bill, the governor refused to sign and thought he was being smart. On this strength, we shall restructure the security architecture of Cross River to tackle these criminalities. Kidnapping and piracy on our waters shall become history in a new integrated and all inclusive security programme aimed at securing lives and property; enhance work and industrial harmony and growth. We shall collaborate with our sister states and all security agencies in this regard. In fact, anyone campaigning for the APC should be taken to a psychiatric facility for examination. There is no aspect of our lives that has not suffered, yet you see people asking you to vote for the greatest disaster in Nigeria’s history.
As a governorship candidate, could you tell Cross Riverians what your programmes are and how you intend to achieve that if elected in 2023?
Our administration will be anchored on reconciliation, restructuring and restoration. By this , we will seek to reconcile the various ethnic groups and nationalities within Cross River State which have been divided for different reasons including land, where communities wage wars killing one another, political wars through persecution discrimination in appointments; sacrificing merit on the altar of partisanship, we shall also reconcile the various programme of previous administrations, which have remained very disjointed and incoherent, with so much money in debt. Reconciling the various duplication in the system to fuse into a functional and effective one shall be our focus.
On restructuring, our administration shall seek to restructure various sectors in Cross River state including the local government systems by granting fiscal autonomy and freedom for growth. We shall create Local Government Development Areas, while pushing for the Federal Government to create more local government areas (Kano with a land mass smaller than Cross River State has 44 LGAs) while Cross River has 18 local government areas. We shall restructure the economy of the state so that our young people will cease to be transported or exported outside the state to be used as house helps. We shall commence the process of relocating the Margret Ekpo International Airport from its present location. We shall reform the Cross River State civil service, pay pensioners promptly, pay gratuities, care for senior citizens and secure jobs for our youths. Our tourism industry as a key driver of the social economic growth shall be restructured as a major income earner for the state. We shall build beaches and create a major business hub in South-South.
The restoration agenda of our administration would be demonstrated through our various specific programmes and interventions in the area of education by restoring the age long glory of our primary, secondary and tertiary institutions (both government and private) to ensure that products of our institutions can favourably compete with the best brains around the world. To this end, we shall restore teachers’ training and retraining institutions and culture. The inspectorate division of the ministry of education shall be strengthened for proper evaluation and measurement.
Sporting culture and tradition too would be restored and return the glorious days of the 1960’s and 70’s. In 1957, Hogan Bassey became the first Nigerian World boxing champion; Oliver Orok was at one time a world weight lifting champion, Grace Apiafi, Ekpeyong Eyibio, the Belgam Sisters, Augustine Ola, Patrick Bassey, John Okon Ene were all national sporting stars. Nigeria’s first national football team captain was Richard Etim Henshaw, a Cross River State indigene. The first recorded organized football match in Nigeria was played at the Hope Waddell field in Calabar, Cross River State. Today all those heroics are mere history.
We shall restore our pride of sporting prowess in Nigeria when we come into office. Apart from re-modeling the U.J. Esuene Stadium, we shall build, three multi-sports stadia, one in each senatorial zone; this will positively empower and engage our youths. Of course, I would not forget my immediate constituents, the media. The media in Cross River State shall be modernized, expanded and restored. The Nigerian Chronicle shall be repackaged as a full-fledged print media corporation with the capacity for commercial printing and profit making. While Cross River Broadcasting Corporation (CRBC) will be expanded with two radio channels for news and entertainment, while the television shall be expanded to three, the movie channel, entertainment and sports and news and current affairs. With this, we are ready to make the difference if elected. We would invest in the sector we have comparative advantage over other states to improve upon our revenue base.
The Bakassi issue has become a pathetic one as successive administrations have failed to resettle the displaced people in terms of providing infrastructures for thousands of natives whose territory were ceded to Cameroon. What can you do differently for them if given the opportunity?
The Bakassi issues are the most pitiable aspect of the mal-administration of the people. Revelations from the Federal Government has shown that Cross River receives monthly as stabilization fund from the Federal Government. Then multiply N500m by 12 months, it will give us N6b in a year. Multiply by 14 years and it will give us N84b. That is how much our government in Cross River State has been collecting and spending on behalf of the deprived people of Bakassi since 2008. How does government collect N500m for 14 years from 2008 as Bakassi stabilization fund and there is nothing to show for it. No good school, no water, no roads etc. The Bakassi experience shows how wicked the government has been to the people of Bakassi. It is very sad to know that some self- styled Messiahs and indigenes have been part of the looting and rape. Since the news broke, neither the APC nor PDP governorship candidates have said one word. They are probably warming up to continue where their predecessors stopped. Sure, they are waiting to take their turn because Bakassi is a looting field. That will change under my administration as every kobo of the fund will be spent in Bakassi and will turn it into a world class resort with artificial beaches within two years. We shall revisit Bakassi and the various agreements; it shall no longer be discussed or handled in secret. A Bakassi and other displaced peoples commission shall be established. We shall also engage the Cameroonian authorities for peace and security in the area. You must hold government accountable, ask questions and above all vote wisely!
Vote buying is becoming a norm in our political system as parties and candidates are gearing up ahead of 2023 through various veiled empowerment programmes and appointments. What could be done to curtail this?
One of the ways to curtail vote buying is for INEC to ban the use of phones within 50 meters radius around polling stations. The BVAS should be strictly adhered to. Results should be uploaded as people vote no room for manual coalition. For the electorate, this is the time to stand up and be counted; reject their monies and vote for a candidate that you know would deliver on mandate. This is not the time to gamble with our state