President Muhammadu Buhari has, in the recent past, made some political appointments that have now become a subject of concern for many All Progressives Party, (APC), chieftains in Cross River and the neighbouring Akwa Ibom State. The party chieftains are not happy that proper consultations are not made with critical stakeholders from the state before those appointments are made. Alex Egbona, the member representing Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives is one of those not happy with the development. He spoke with some journalists on the issue and expressed the fear that if it continued, it would affect the fortunes of the party in his state
You recently wrote an open letter to the President on issues of appointments. What was it all about?
Thank you. Let me try to give a brief background to all of this. You must be aware that I was and remain the only person from Cross River State that was able to win an election for our dear party, the APC.
What that means is that for now, I am the elected political eye of the party, if you know what that means.
People made sacrifices for the party to secure the victory. If I did not win the election, there would not be anything like APC in Cross River State. People spent their money. People worked for the party.
Having done so much to give our party an identity in Cross River State, it is only expedient that the political reward system should be activated by the Federal Government in favour of those who staked their life and everything to give the party success during the election.
Do you know what it means to wrestle power with a ruling party in a state like Cross River and beat them hands down?
Do you know what it means to defeat a former speaker of the state house of assembly who enjoyed maximum support of a sitting governor in two different elections into the same office? It was not a tea party.
That is why it is very annoying that when appointments are made in the name of Cross River State, the inputs of critical leaders in the state would not be sought. It is very embarrassing a stakeholder like me and other key party leaders in the state will be hearing of appointments made by my party in the media.
It is an abnormality that outsiders will be the ones to make nominations for appointment of people to occupy the Cross River State quota. That is why I had to respectfully draw the attention of Mr. President to this issue.
I am hopeful that this will be addressed properly, otherwise I see a gloomy future for the APC in my state.
Is it that you are angry because you were not consulted before the appointments were made?
It is not about Dr. Alex Egbona. You are getting it wrong. It is about our party and the interest of the stakeholders.
This is a state where you have people like Chief Clement Ebri, a former governor who even contested for the position of National Chairman of the APC.
You have people like Senator John Owan Enoh who was our candidate during the last governorship election. You have people like the former Senate Leader and immediate past chairman of the NDDC, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, (SAN).
There are big wigs from the state that are very loyal and committed to the party, including people like Chief Wilfred Inah; Rt Hon Larry Odey; Senator Bassey Otu Bassey; Hon Ebuta Ayuk; Ntufam Hilliard Etta; Ntufam Fidelis Ugbo; Hon Chuks Agube;
Utum Inah(rtd); Comptroller-General Vincent Ubi (rtd); Hon Cletus Obun; Dr. joe Odok etc.
There are many more. These are our leaders and they ought to be aware of what is coming to the state. Their inputs, our inputs, should be sought before those appointments are made.
Some of these leaders are even supposed to be given the right of first refusal. But we are never consulted and will only wake up to hear that so and so person has been appointed as non-career ambassador. If we continue like this, how can the party grow?
How will people be encouraged to work for and support the party in the future? We cannot allow this to continue, unless they want the party to die. Without the people, the party is dead. I fear that if this norm of appointing unfamiliar party men are appointed, the APC will die in Cross River.
I see a dark future for the APC in Cross River if this matter is not addressed speedily. See, one of the benefits of giving party supporters and loyalists some of these appointments are the ripple effects it will have down the line.
If someone who is a party man or woman is given an appointment, that appointment will affect the lives of hundreds of other party supporters and loyalists.
As the only elected representative of the party from Cross River, I can tell you that I am seriously weighed down by the avalanche of requests I get on daily basis.
They see me as their governor, their senator, their member of House of Representatives, their House of Assembly member, their LGA chairman, their councilor.
I enjoy helping people from the little that I have but our people must be empowered through these appointments so that they will be ready to support the party during the next round of elections.
What has come out of the letter you wrote to the President?
The letter is just about to reach the President. I have also sent copies of that same letter to the Senate President and the Speaker, House of Representatives.
I am also sending copies to the leadership of the party at the national level. We cannot keep quiet and allow this to continue.
Some of us are very loyal to this party and will not watch it die. So, I am very optimistic that Mr. President, who is a listening leader, will act on this and at the end of the day, something positive will come out.
How do you see what is happening to the suspended chairman of the EFCC?
I will say that what is happening at the EFCC is normal and should be expected in every sane society.
As public office holders, it is expected that we will give account someday. Let’s not get it twisted. Ibrahim Magu is only being grilled based on allegations leveled against him. Until a competent court of jurisdiction pronounces him guilty, he is innocent. He has been given the opportunity to defend himself.
The man who gave him the appointment, our very dear President, is a known no nonsense man. It is clear that he wants Magu to defend himself and that is what is happening. Let us not try him in the media.
Let’s wait and see how things turn out. If his hands are clean, he will go home free, if he is guilty as accused, then the law will take its course. Mr. President knows what he is doing and I can assure you that it will turn out for good for Nigeria and Nigerians.
You are Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum and your committee visited refineries in the country recently. Till now, nothing has happened and we are still importing fuel.
Now, the price of fuel has been increased again. What is going on?
It is unfortunate that our committee’s activities were hampered by the COVID- 19 break-out. Recall that we were in Warri and Port Harcourt and held consultative meetings with the various stakeholders there.
We had planned to have another visit as part of efforts to concretise what we did during the first visit, and thereafter turn in our report to the House of Representatives. But not long after we ended the first round of oversight visit, the dreaded pandemic broke out and the story changed.
Things have not been the same again thereafter. But before the pandemic, we made some inroad on the matter of our dead refineries and we are only monitoring the situation of things to be able to know when to revisit the issue and get the refineries to work again.
I can assure you that Mr. Speaker of the House of Representatives and indeed all of us in the committee are seriously interested in resolving all issues concerning our dead and moribund refineries. But there is very little we can do now because of the scourge of COVID-19. The state boundaries have just been open.
The air space has also just been open. But even at that, people are still skeptical about travelling. So, like I said, we can’t really do much right now.
The issue of fuel price prices and availability, I believe, are tied to the optimum level of performance of our refineries. I am certain that Nigerians will heave a sigh of relief once the refineries come back to life. We are not resting on this. The process may have been slow because of COVID-19 but rest assured that the House of Representatives is not resting on its oars