By Emmanuel Ufon
In an interview with the Cradle TV Crew, the Executive Chairman of Itu Local Government Council Barr. Etetim Onuk, popularly known by his people as ‘the capacity Chairman’ opens up on his struggle towards the reformation of his area and Gov Emmanuel’s industrialization strides in ITU LG.
You have been in position of authority as the Chairman of the Council for almost two years, how would you describe the experience so far?
Marvelous, my first reaction to that is fulfillment and I think it is a wonderful experience in servant leadership mission. I’m in a mission to serve my people. I came from the private sector into the public sector, and I want to say that the experience so far is worthwhile, the joy of having the opportunity to serve my people so I’m fulfilled.
As part of your campaign promises, you assured sustainable peace. Will you say this has been achieved?
To a far extent, you know if you want to assess achievement in that direction you will first of all assess where you are coming from and where you have reached. I think Akwa Ibom generally has experienced unprecedented peace. You know how this state was before governor Udom Emmanuel came in, it was prone to kidnapping, assassinating, armed robbery, Political tuggery and the rest, don’t forget that Itu Local Government Area is part of the state so what ever affect the state at that level also affects us here at the local government level. Itu Local Government Area being part of the state here has enjoy tremendous peace, we came in with a mission to liberate Itu back into the mainstream of politics so that whatever is going on at the state level will also affect us here positively, and do not forget that the Bible says when the righteous is on the throne the people rejoice, so part of what we are rejoicing is that there is peace in Itu Local Government Area today.
In terms of rural community youth empowerment, the women and elders what are you doing to bring the people together and chat a way forward?
Without sounding immodest, I will say that this is one of the local government area that is People’s friendly.
How do you know this?
I can attest from the massive support we are enjoying from our people. If you were here few minutes ago you would have seen people cueing up here for one business or the other, some on solidarity visit to commend us on what we are doing. When we came into government we made a deliberate policy to extend our empowerment gesture to our youths, as we speak now the first we did was to set up a revenue committee that we engage our youth, we have about 350 to 400 youths in our various committees because it is a way of generating income for them, they generate revenue for the council and in return we appreciate them with some percentage. We also introduce skill acquisition programmes for them and to me that is a more enduring programme because when you want to secure your future by being skilful in a particular area of life you have to undergo training. We also support the women who are traders, farmers and artisans with grants to succeed in their ventures.
How will you sustain this unprecedented package as a legacy after your tenure? Are you confidant that this is complementing Governor Udom Emmanuel’s ‘dakkada’ philosophy in Itu?
Yes, it is already complementing his Excellency Governor Udom Emmanuel’s ‘Dakkada’ philosophy. On the sustainability aspect, I want to say that government is a continuous process, so once you leave the office, your successor continues from what you introduced because it is a good gesture. You do not disband a winning team , you need a programme that will benefit the people for the sake of continuity.
We have observed the remodeling of the Secretariat facilities and the renovations of the housing estate. How did you achieve this with paucity of funds?
Well, when I assumed office, this place without any fear of contradiction was not habitable at all, but as I speak, you are in the comfort of the executive Office that has been worked upon. Infact there was no roof here, not to talk of the conference Hall and other part of the Administrative blocks, the council hall there was an habitat for rats and reptiles, but today, it is a site to behold. I don’t want to talk of the office blocks, people were not coming to work because the offices were nothing to write home about, but today it is a beehive of activities. Coming here today, you have seenworkers on their duty posts. On how we have been able to do that, it is a vision. I am one person who thinks that money should not be a major constrain. When you have a vision and you work towards the actualisation of your vision, money comes in. So we have been able to manage the little fund that comes in here to drive the vision of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
Please take us on how you have been able to maintain a cordial relationship with your party here in Itu?
You know if you don’t maintain a cordial relationship with the party, that simply means that you are on a political suicide mission, because we are products of the party. That is where we derive our strength so you can not afford to play with the structure of the party you uphold Mandate from to succeed. I can say confidently that we have a very wonderful and cordial working relationship with party mandate which I’m carrying.
Can you please reflect categorically on some of your achievements in council from inception?
Well, like I said earlier if you had been in Itu in 2017 and today, you will notice that there is a remarkable difference in Itu Local Government Secretariat in particular. I don’t know when last you entered into our rural areas, you will also notice that there is a complete and major departure from what it was before we came in. The Secretariat here speaks for itself, like I said this place was not habitable but today you can witness the reformation. If you go to our security village, you will find out that the whole place is filled up. If you will stay here till evening, you will see the number of people coming out for sport activities, so we have been able to create a living, working and recreational environment that people are enjoying. If you go back to our communities, when we came in we made a deliberate decision to ensure that every year especially in the dry season we carry out rural road grading in the ten wards of this local government area. We are just waiting for the dry season to set in for this year’s grading. We have a grader that we inherited from the past administration abandoned for years, we have put in for repairs to enhance our road grading outings. This time around we will grade more roads in each of the wards with our graders. Besides road gradings, in areas of rehabilitating the Secretariat we have ventured deeply into the health sector, we had about fifteen health centres in Itu local government area that were not functioning, to God be the glory today almost eight of our centres together with that of the west Itam are functioning optimally. Don’t forget that quiet unfortunately the entire Itu Local Government Area does not have a general hospital, the Mary Slessor general hospital is a death trap because of the topography of the area. Before you can get there if you are not careful the sick person may die on the road.
That is why we took health care service delivery as an important sector. Like I said eight out of fourteen health centers in my local government area are functioning optimally, we have engaged services of doctors, pharmacists to visit this health centers on weekly basis and the good news is that people are responding. Before now, people preferred our local herbalists and traditional birth attendance because our centres were not functioning but today they are enjoying our facilities in the health centers. It has also reduced the mortality rate, like I said, the joy I’m deriving from all my projects is that our people appreciate my work in the council.
Today Akwa Ibom is 32 years old, we progress from different Administrations. What is your take on the present Administration’s industrialization drive?
My take on Governor Udom Emmanuel is that of gratitude to God who brought a man in his calibre to Akwa Ibom state at a time like this, you know when people ask me about His Excellency’s impact in Itu, I tell them that if there is any local government area that will benefit much in Governor Udom Emmanuel’s industrialization drive, it is Itu Local Government Area, I even wonder if Governor Udom Emmanuel’s grandmother was from Itu Local Government Area, because his industrialization drive, passion and interest is focused in Itu Local Government Area. Today Itu can boast of a mini industrial park, as you speak, Itu can boast of an investment park just like a Chinese village. As we speak, remember when his Excellency came on board, his first major outing was the ground breaking ceremony of the Amoured Vehicle Assembling Plant that is in Itu, the project is ongoing now, we are talking about the rehabilitation of the mouribound companies, like the abandoned science park coming out alive in governor Emmanuel’s tenure. So I keep on telling people that Itu is the major beneficiary of our governor’s industrialization drive and the industrial hub of this administration. My message to him is that of gratitude for making Itu a focal point of his Administration’s policy. I’m grateful to him and God that he brought a man of his calibre to be on the saddle of our state as we are celebrating our 32nd anniversary.
As a legal practitioner what is your reaction to the current tribunal judgement?
As it affect Akwa Ibom state, I think it is a confirmation of the wish, desire and vision of the people of Akwa Ibom state. Though the tribunal have not yet ruled on all the cases that appears before her, I am persuaded to believing that the mandate of the people that was willingly given out during the election will be confirmed again because such a credible, fair unprecedented election deserves an applause. I’m very hopeful and optimistic that the tribunal will uphold all the elections that was declared winning. I call on all Akwa Ibom people to continue in supporting governor Udom Emmanuel, he is doing a wonderful, superlative job, unprecedented in the history of this state, so let us encourage him to continue to do more – for my people in Itu, I want to thank them sincerely for the opportunity given me to be their servant leader and appeal to them to continue to support this government as we will continue to do better.