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PDP Can Never Die, Forget Propaganda.

PDP Can Never Die, Forget Propaganda.

Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom state was in Lagos recently to interact with some Journalists, where he spoke about his mid-term report, the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other issues of national interest:
Just before you came in, we saw some slides indicating that you are already producing pencil in your state. But sometime ago, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, promised that Nigeria would start producing pencil by 2019. What capacity are you looking at your own level?
I don’t reel out statistics, but let me tell you what I heard; that Nigeria spends about N750bn importing pencils annually. The question then is that, is producing pencil a rocket science? The answer is no. Akwa Ibom State has everything it takes to produce the pencil, except the lead in the pencil. With the new attention on environment, you can actually use papers to produce pencil. Things like pencil, toothpick are things we do under small and medium enterprises scheme, not what we take to be our major project. Once the passion is right, nothing is impossible. What we did was to identify that need gap. Akwa Ibom State runs free and compulsory basic education. So, looking at how many schools we have and the fact that they would need pencils. Instead of importing or buying, let me use the money I would have used to import to produce. In that process, I would employ people, and by the time you look at the whole value chain, I have done something with the economy and the effect would be there. The pencils we are producing are not only for Akwa Ibom State. As of today, we are selling to two other states. I don’t want to mention the states, but we need to keep increasing the capacity and perfecting the quality. Some people say the lead was made in China, but we must start somewhere. If as a country we started this, say 57 years ago, today, the whole of Africa would have been buying pencil and toothpick from us. Now we are even making the casing. Encourage us. From casing, we would start producing the lead and from that, we would start producing the machine that makes the pencil.
In two years, you have initiated several projects in the manufacturing sector, like coconut oil refinery, syringe factory, pencil and toothpick factory, etc., but we are told that some people are equally making efforts to sabotage that effort by destroying some of the plantations. Would you say it is the work of the opposition?
I understand that democracy can only survive well when we have a solid economy. Take away that aspect; I don’t know what would happen. I’m not a prophet of doom, but I can only advise that if we really want to move forward, we need to look at the economy. However, I cannot just say everything is about opposition. First of all, it is the mindset of people, and I would not also say people are resisting change. Do they know what it is all about? If you are holding something in your hand and you don’t know the value of that thing, there is some likelihood that you might destroy it. The task is to get the people to be aware of the value, and you would have addressed that challenge. What is opposition? At the end of the day, what matters most is the people that you are working for, but I think we are trying to look at how we can have that mental rebirth for people to see beyond how they used to see it. With that, they would know that whatever we put on ground is for them; they would have that sense of ownership that it’s for them. That would make some difference. It’s to get them to appreciate first what we are trying to do, why we are doing it, who it is for, and once we get across that line, they would know the value and once they realise that, it would minimise such actions. So, I wouldn’t blame it on anybody. Rather, we would increase awareness and bring the knowledge level to what we are doing and where we are going. Also, the projects are sustainable because of the sense of ownership. Like our coconut plantation, the communities own certain percentage of it, so there is that sense of ownership. People protect what they own. So, what we do is, even when they don’t have money, we give them certain percentage of shares. Beyond that, we make these projects run as pure businesses.
For instance, the syringe factory is a total private sector investment; it’s just part of attracting foreign investors into the state. A lot of those factories you see us setting up is not state government-owned. Some are not even under PPP; they are pure private sector-driven investments. In terms of sustainability, you cannot actually get to where you want to in four years. It’s almost impracticable. You don’t look at four years; it’s now left for the people to decide what they want for themselves. If they want you to continue, they know what to do and they are the ones who hold the power, which is the voter card. Can Udom do it in eight years? The answer is yes. Can he do it in four years, the answer is no. So, the people have the power to decide what they want in that case, but I know my people very well.
Are you insinuating that no government can make significant changes in four years?
It is impracticable. Knowing the way our democracy works, the first year, you are in court throughout, from tribunal to Appeal Court and to Supreme Court. So, one year gone. Practically, what you have seen that we are calling two years in office is what we have done between March last year and now. So far, it’s about 12 months, under severe recession. You can imagine that once the economy comes back to full stream and then you allow the term run for eight years, we should be able to do more. We came with a blueprint and we are on track to get it done. It is not rocket science. I feel challenged on few things that we have to do.
From available records, your state gets about the highest revenue from the federation account, but you said in one of your interviews that you couldn’t conduct Council polls due to paucity of funds. How do we reconcile that?
It’s relative to say Akwa Ibom is the state with the highest revenue; highest revenue on what? The only revenue you are looking at is just one line; oil, because my state is the highest oil producer in Nigeria. But, there are various lines of revenue. Even though I get the highest revenue from oil, there was a time that for four months, Exxon Mobil did not lift a barrel of crude oil from my state. So, you can imagine the impact of that on my revenue. Akwa Ibom State produces about 46 per cent of the entire crude oil production in this country. During recession, we can create money but we may not have cash. At times, what I get as the overall allocation is not even up to certain percentage of the internal revenue of some states. What I get as overall at times could be 50 per cent of VAT paid to one of the states in this country. There are some months I get N5.1bn and a state could get internal generated revenue of 10.6bn. How do you reconcile these? How can you then say I get the highest revenue? What I get in total, some states get like three to six times of it. So, don’t look at just the oil revenue, which is a product of quantity multiplied by price. And even the oil revenue we are looking at, we don’t know what is happening behind the scene. It’s NNPC that tells us what is happening. Whoever shares meat with his mouth is the one who would know the quantity he reserved in his mouth. It’s only what he brings out that we would see. We don’t have any other source and Akwa Ibom is mainly a civil service state. So, when the economy is in terrible recession, you know that it would also affect your IGR. Even when you raise the tax rates, the ability to pay must also be there. So, you should look at the aggregate revenue. Some have got ecological funds, but I have never collected. Some have got special

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