My representation will usher in new lease of life for my constituents – Egbona
by BEN EGUZOZIE
October 26, 2014 | 12:00 am| | | Start Conversation
Alex Egbona was once a councillor in Abi Local Government Area of Cross River State, and grew from there to become deputy chief of staff to Governor Liyel Imoke. Lately, he resigned his appointment to contest election for the Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency seat in the House of Representatives. He spoke with BEN EGUZOZIE on his core area of interest, his agenda for his constituency, as well as his relationship with Governor Imoke. Excerpts:
The current occupant of the Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency seat is planning to return to the House of Representatives for the third term and you are also planning to contest against him?
Let me start by saying that my Brother Bassey Ewah has been there (at the House of Representatives) for about eight years now. He has the right to seek a third term. I also have the right to that seat. He has done his best and I think it is time for a change of guard. Let me also say that my relationship with him is very cordial. I can tell you that I was the person who moved the motion that made him to go to the House of Reps. There was this clamour of who will replace the incumbent at that time, Hon. Obeten Okon. There was a tussle on who will come in, and we in Abi LGA decided that it has to be the person who indicated interest in Yakurr. We endorsed Bassey, and that has been the story till now. Bassey has been winning with Abi votes. All the Abi men and women have been voting for Bassey in all the elections. I will tap from his knowledge and experience. Incidentally, he has experience in the legislature too; he has been in the Cross River House of Assembly as the speaker then, before he moved over to the House of Reps. He has done his own bit and I’m actually going to improve on what he has done. If there is anything he has not done, I will look at them and try to do it and even do better.
What do you intend to achieve; different from what has been happening?
I want to leave a legacy of proper service. I want to leave a legacy that people can feel and enjoy within the next 48 months, to put a cottage hospital. I want to decongest the General Hospital at Ugep. With the new Polytechnic that is actually called School of Management and Technology; students of that College will have the benefit from a nearby health facility that is of standard; because my idea is that we will put a resident doctor there to offer 24-hour services. In 48 months, I think we can achieve that, and that is my first target for my people. There is a saying that a healthy man is a wealthy man, and because in Nigeria people don’t pay attention to health, that is why you see people going to India. What you just need to do is to provide some facilities here, bring some medical experts even from the same India. With a conducive environment, an Indian doctor can work in Ugep, can work in Mkpani, can work in Ekori, can work even in Ekureku, can work in Itigidi or any part of the local government. An Mkpani person doesn’t need go to go to Ugep because for now, that is the only hospital, very far from Nko, very far from Ekori. I have already started my consultations and the response is very interesting. I have met a lot of very prominent Yakurr and Abi people, men and women; and I am still consulting. I am already moving ahead, and as I told you I am not working alone. My people are with me and together we will get there.
One would have thought that as chief of staff to the governor, you would not have the need to seek other political offices?
Life, for me, is all about service. I have served as a councillor before. I have served as special assistant to the former governor, Donald Duke. I have been deputy chief of staff, and then I moved up to become chief of staff. These were various platforms for service. And now, duty calls again. The only constant thing in life, as we are told, is change. We must keep moving. The more you move, the more opportunities you have to touch lives and this is my pre-occupation. I have always derived pleasure in serving our people; and I believe that since I have served for almost eight years as the chief of staff, now I have the call from my people to serve them in a higher capacity, to represent them in the House of Representatives; it is a constituency we actually share with Yakurr Local Government Area, and by divine design, Yakurr men have stayed there for 16 good years; first Hon. Okorn Obeten was there from 1999-2007, then Hon. Bassey Ewa took over from him till now; so equity and fairness demand that the position should move to Abi. Like I said, my people believe that I have what it takes to represent them, and I had to leave the office which you say is lucrative, to serve my people. All my concern is about service; service to mankind and I believe I have what it takes to offer good service at the national level.
What gives you the conviction?
Having assessed my antecedents, and having assessed my past records; right from when I was a young man, at any level I find myself I offer service. I have been one prefect or the other during my school days. In the secondary school I was a perfect. In the high school, I was what they call Hall Master; in the university I was involved in students’ union politics; and since I left the university, I have been serving. As soon as I left the university, I was a councillor, that was early 1991. It has been all service, from national service to serving my people as a councillor. I have always served. I want to believe that His Excellency, the former governor, Donald Duke, saw this spirit of service in me when he decided to make me his special assistant. That was in September 2001. It is all about service.
Assuming you win, how will your experience as chief of staff help you as a member of parliament, since you have not been there before?
I told you earlier that I had been a councillor. That was the beginning. In fact, there can be no better way to be a better lawmaker than to start from the scratch. I started learning from the very scratch. I hold a PhD and I read a lot. My job as chief of staff exposed me to the rudiments of legislative functions. Don’t forget, the office of chief of staff has no end. It has no boundary actually, because you are involved in a lot of activities. You are even involved in receiving the House of Reps’ people when they come into your state. When they come for what they call oversight functions, you interface with everybody, you interface with the Federal Government officials, you interface with other state governments, you interface with the police, you interface with the Customs and everybody. So, it is a very large and bogus office; and in any case it is the hub of government. When anybody needs one assistance or the other, he/she is directed to the chief of staff. As chief of staff, you are just like the next person to the governor; because for the governor to move, you must have an idea where he is moving to. If he is not sleeping well, you will be called upon. If the governor wants to move to anywhere, you are involved. So, it is an office where you are faced with many challenges, but you rise to the occasion and that is exactly what we are going to do in Abuja. To me, Abuja is even smaller. In the sense of service, Abuja is smaller; the chief of staff’s office is more challenging than the House of Representatives. The House of Reps is to make laws for your people, three basic things – you make laws, you do appropriation and oversight functions. But the office of the chief of staff goes beyond that. Let me give you a small example: in the office of the chief of staff, let’s say in the case of Cross River, it’s an office that embodies so many things. The office must work with or without funds. There is nothing like no fuel in the governor’s car. There is nothing like there is no light, you must create an opportunity. If the governor wants to travel he will just tell you he is travelling, for instance to the United States this week, and how he goes to the US is your own responsibility. That is how the office is structured. If the President of the country is coming, it is your duty to make sure you receive the advance team, even where the President is going to stay, you take adequate care of that. It is your responsibility to make sure there is light 24 hours. So, it is a very challenging office. I can say that I have a lot of experience because I started as a deputy chief of staff. I think, that to a large extent, has assisted me. I don’t need capacity building from anybody because I had been deputy chief of staff, and it prepared me actually for the challenges of the office of chief of staff. And having worked as chief of staff for almost eight years, I have acquired so much experience in leadership, in dealing with people, in handling issues of development and all that. Believe me; I am very prepared for this assignment.
How will the zoning drama in PDP affect you, especially now that some are saying that PDP in Cross River has cancelled zoning?
I want to believe that the media quoted the PDP chairman out of context. But let me also say that on my honour, I am well qualified and enjoying the support of the people of Yakurr and Abi where I come from, for this project. Having said that, let me add that the country believes in the policy of zoning. It is because of zoning that the sitting President became the President. Because we had been clamouring for the Presidency to go to the south; and that is why we are even rooting for the second tenure of the President. So, in the case of Abi/Yakurr, the Yakurr people have done 16 good years. So equity demands that the thing should move to Abi. And to give credence to this, the Obol Lopol of Ugep has even made a pronouncement that it should go to their Abi brothers. This is not the era of trouble. Abi, to a large extent, is a small local government compared to Yakurr, and that is why people insist that we should zone the positions. It should automatically move to Abi without hassle. So, if zoning is done, everybody will be happy at the end. The era of trouble, the era of killing people because you want to serve is a thing of the past, and I believe that with zoning, there will be less tension. I believe that with zoning, everybody will be given an opportunity. I believe that with zoning even the smallest local government or ward can have a representation. That is what we are trying to achieve in Abi. In the local government where I come from, we have 10 wards; we rotate chairmanship, Ediba Ward with 15 polling units produced a chairman, other wards can also produce a chairman when it is their turn.
Did you inform the governor about your aspiration?
Yes of course! He has given me the go-ahead to go and run. First, he granted me the permission to go and consult, and test the waters, and after that I told him I will resign. He gave me the nod, and I actually resigned.
What was it like, working with Governor Imoke?
Awesome. You need to work with him. I learnt humility from Governor Imoke. He is humble to a fault, very unassuming, intelligent. That is what I have learnt from him. Liyel Imoke is a governor that if you are on the dining table with him, he will be the one serving you. It doesn’t take anything from him. He knows all his subjects by their first names. He normally tells me to do things well; he will also tell me that there is a difference between government money and public money. The public money should be meant for the people. He doesn’t encourage waste. He believes in perfection too. He will also advise me not to do things wrong because of tomorrow.
What are your parting words?
Let the people of Abi/Yakurr get ready for positive change; change that they can feel, change that will shock them for good; change that will make them happy that their life is being given a new meaning. They should be looking forward to a very vibrant representation, and I have told you that I have a target of 36 – 48 months; and if I don’t do well I will not be asking for another mandate, because I have certain things I will showcase, which are very dear to my people.
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