By Umoh-Obong Kingsley
The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Works, Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, has set the record straight on the issues of people describing him as a very stubborn fellow who doesn’t want to understand situations.
The Honourable Commissioner, in an interview with Planet Radio, he came to the state the serve the masses, and not to compromise.
Read excerpt of the conversation:
It is widely stipulated that you are very stubborn and not ready to compromise. What angle of compromise have you been approached on?
Well, I don’t know what they mean by refusing to compromise, but let me state here that I was brought here by His Excellency to safe the Akwa Ibom people. Anything anyone wants me to do that is in the interest of Akwa Ibom people, be rest assured that in the day, in the night, I will do it. But if it is outside the interest of Akwa Ibom people, I will not be able to do. The danger is this, when the ships are down and you are confronted publicly with these issues, probably the same people that asked you to do it are the same people that will deny you. The question of compromise is out of the way. I will not do what I cannot defend before God and Akwa Ibom people.
Politics is about governance, it is about doing what is right in the interest of the majority. If I know that a road will be created where people will benefit from it, my job is to fight for that not to tender, because a few individuals are interested in diverting the road, I should divert it now. I discovered in the public office, if you are not able to have clean hands, you will not be able to get the job done. If you give contractors job and begin to take back what you’ve given to them from doing that job, how will you be able to get them to do the specification?
When we came, there were fears in some quarters about indigenous contractors. I have said it before and I’m saying it again that indigenous contractors use the same equipment and manpower as the foreign contractors. If you give them the same resources, they could deliver if only you give them the liberty to have the funds they were given. Almost all the jobs that were delivered – Mkpok/Okat, Ikot Udom, Information Drive and other roads were done by indigenous contractors.
The interest of Akwa Ibom is the priority here. If you are working against the interest of the greater majority, which is the interest of the state, then count me out because I am determined. I was called to service for Akwa Ibom people and that I want to do with the best of my ability.
Both you and the Honourable Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Akan Okon, have been described as the very strong disciples of Mr Udom Emmanuel who advise the Governor not to give out money to people. These are allegations even though we don’t believe it but we have to bring them to your notice. Is it true?
Where is the money in the first instance? The state is not even having the resources sufficient to pay salaries. So when people are talking about giving out money, the question would be ‘oh you are telling that Governor Udom gives out money to people, give it to me’. Is it then right that he is not giving to people? If there were any such advice, it could have been ‘ok give it to us’. That story is actually one of the empty stories.
Let me say this, sometimes people make me believe that they don’t even understand the Governor they have. Governor Udom Emmanuel is one person I’ve related with over the years. He has capacity, mentally. There is nothing you will tell him that he will not turn in his mind and feel satisfied as a person. He is not somebody who you will just tell stories and he buys into. He is one man you cannot blackmail. If you tell him a story about somebody, he will do his findings and tells you that you were wrong.
Governor Emmanuel is one of the governors in Nigeria who picks his calls directly. The elders and youths of this state do call him. There are several text messages by people that he would forward to you. The only advice you can give to him is progressive advice, not things of scattering. If you go to him and bring a good idea that will actually add value to his administration, he will listen to you, but the moment you go him about people, from the beginning of your story, you’ve lost out. He will pick up his phone and start working away, meaning that he has discharged you.
People say one of the things that attract huge criticisms in your ministry is that you personally blocked those ‘holes’ that used to get people what is called ‘egun je’…
The truth of the matter is that I’ve come with a passion to ensure that things are done right. There are three ways I will answer that question. Firstly, the resources are not there, and even the little that we have, we if start it that way, we stand to lose, and Akwa Ibom people will take on the Governor for meeting up the policies he gave them at the campaigns.
Secondly, it could be sad when you sell out your right like Esau did to Jacob because of porridge of yam. The truth of the matter remains that if you are a supervisor of people, you cannot supervise them when you have compromised. What I’m simply telling the ministry is that we are supervisors to all the contractors appointed by government and we must keep our integrity intact so that when we give instructions, they will obey. I was brought to serve, not to collect ‘egun je’.
Lastly and very important, the greater interest of our people becomes paramount in what you seem to do and you are doing. If a few people will hinder the progress of work in the Ministry, and hinder the effort of the Governor, and I was sent there to supervise that place and I am silent, it won’t be good enough. Let me tell you this story, we brought in some investors, I think apart from Lagos State, there is no road where you have investors, but it is live and direct in Akwa Ibom. I took two of those investors to the Governor and I was very impressed when he interacted with them. And one of them stood and said he had just one comment to make. He said that since he came and processed his documents to the day he signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), nobody has held his documents on the table asking for anything in any form, which is impossible in any ministry in other places.
That was sufficient for me to go home with. That was more than money. So to me, it is to open up our state where investors can come do business at a global standard. Nigeria has been downgraded in global business environment – 127 out 177 nations of the world – a very poor rating. It means that out of 177 nations doing business, less than 55 of them would want to do business in Nigeria while 127 would go to other nations ahead of us. To me, we have to make conscious efforts to allow the business environment become decent.
Have you ever been tempted in a situation where someone would say sign this let’s get some money and I’m going to give you part of it?
I don’t think anybody will have the courage to walk up to me sign this and take this. I didn’t come to the state hungry. I came to the state from a well-paid job – a job that I was exposed. Believe me, if you come to my office negotiate a compromise with me, even if the Governor gives you the contract, I will beg him that you are not worthy of doing that contract.