Anietie Ebe recently resigned from the Akwa Ibom state government as a special assistant to the governor on project investments and industries. In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, he spoke on his experience in the government of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
PT: In your letter of resignation, you said you were not given basic work tools since your appointment. What do you mean by basic work tools?
Ebe: We were not mobilised to work, we were not mobilised to deliver on our responsibilities. Whichever way we want to look at it, once you are given a task to do and you are not mobilised to be able to achieve that task, it means you have not been given tools.
PT: Like office vehicles?
Ebe: Yeah, that’s part of the tools to work with….
PT: So, you didn’t have a vehicle for your official work?
Ebe: I was not given an official vehicle, I used Keke (tricycle) to do my job. Can you imagine a special assistant to the governor using Keke to go and receive a certain set of potential investors!
PT: This sounds unbelievable! But then what about your private car? I am sure you must have had one.
Ebe: My private vehicle broke down. For about two years, I didn’t have a private vehicle. So, what I did was to borrow cars at certain intervals from friends, from family members.
PT: So, till you left the government, no official vehicle was assigned to you?
Ebe: No, I didn’t get one.
PT: Were you getting transportation allowance from the government?
Ebe: No. But once in a while, we were paid imprest. Maybe once in every two or three months, it wasn’t a regular thing. I don’t know if imprest could be translated to transport allowance.
PT: Does that means you weren’t fulfilled working for the government in the past three years?
Ebe: We were not fulfilled in any way.
PT: Why didn’t you use your salary to get yourself a car, at least?
Ebe: How would I use my salary to get a vehicle for government….?
PT: (Cuts in) ….. A personal vehicle, we mean!
Ebe: What’s the cost of a vehicle? If we use the money for things that could help us do our official jobs, how much will be left out of our salary? It was a political appointment, we had several other responsibilities back home in the villages. So, the money wasn’t sufficient to do it, we were paid barely N492, 000 monthly.
PT: You mean the money wasn’t enough for you to take care of your needs, as well as….
Ebe: (Cuts in) …. Political responsibilities, as well as get a vehicle to run official duties.
PT: What where you doing before you joined the government?
Ebe: I am a geologist, I was working as a project manager for a private firm.
PT: Apart from stating why you were resigning, you went political in your letter by talking about leaving the party (the Peoples Democratic Party). Was that really necessary?
Ebe: The appointment came on the basis of my party membership. So, if I am leaving the party, it means I had to drop the appointment.
PT: Does that mean you had considered leaving the PDP before you even thought of resigning your appointment with the government?
Ebe: These things, they correlate. I had been faced with all these challenges of not being mobilised to deliver on my duties as the special assistant to the governor and then coupled with recent political development, so I chose to leave the party.
PT: Yeah, those were the exact words you used in your resignation letter – “recent political development”. How do you mean?
Ebe: Recent political development in the sense that people I have more confidence in are on the other side (the All Progressives Congress). People like Nsima Ekere, Godswill Akpabio, my mentors….
PT: (Cuts in) …. But Nsima Ekere has always been in the APC probably before you even got the appointment as a special assistant to the governor?
Ebe: Yeah, there’s time for everything, probably this was my time to leave the party.
PT: That means even when you were working with the government, you had a soft spot in your heart for Nsima Ekere who is one of the opposition leaders in the state?
Ebe: Not that I was having a soft spot for Nsima Ekere in that sense. I knew I was in PDP, but now I had a reason to leave the party.
PT: It doesn’t add up. According to you, you had issues with lack of work tools, and it wasn’t political ….
Ebe: (Cuts in) …. I had issues with lack of work tools, and it wasn’t political. It doesn’t matter, people could have more than one reason for putting in their resignation. The other reason for resigning is political.
PT: I have to ask you this question again. Why you were in the PDP and also working with the state government, did you ever think that someday you were going to join Nsima Ekere in the APC?
Ebe: No, I wasn’t thinking. You don’t necessarily have to join people you admire or who are your mentors. I knew I was somewhere. But I just thought it was the right time I moved ahead and find something better for myself and also assist Akwa Ibom state to grow.
PT: Are you contesting for any political office?
Ebe: No, I am not.
PT: We are aware that your mum, Mrs Valerie Ebe, who is a former deputy governor of the state, also left PDP to APC. Does it have anything to do with your leaving PDP?
Ebe: No, I am a man of my own. She is not part of the reason I left PDP.
PT: You were with the Foreign Direct Investment office in Akwa Ibom. We spoke with Gabriel Ukpe, the head of the Foreign Direct Investment office, he told us you were lazy, and that you weren’t delivering on your job, so he had to shut you out and that was why you resigned?
Ebe: For posterity sake, let me put the record straight, I wasn’t a staff of the Foreign Direct Investment office; I was posted there by the Bureau of Technical Matters and Due Process, headed by Ufot Ebong, who is a Senior Special Assistant to the Governor. I was drafted there as a professional to assist the Bureau on technical matters.
My job description and responsibilities were well-laid out in my appointment letter, which was to provide support to the Bureau on technical matters and ensure successful implementation of state government projects, in strict compliance with all engineering and project management policies and procedures.
While I was with the Foreign Direct Investment, I usually forwarded my reports to Ufot Ebong, I never reported directly to Gabriel Ukpe. I was never to answer to Gabriel Ukpe in whatsoever capacity. He lacked the locus standi to have appraised my performance.
Gabriel Ukpe ignorantly said it wasn’t part of my job to go on project-inspections. My job description specifically mandated me to monitor all project sites to ensure compliance with ordinances, regulations, policies, and procedures. I was even mandated to visit projects that have been completed to ensure accuracy and compliance with established contract standards and specifications.
PT: Your resignation letter was meant for Governor Emmanuel, how come it was circulated all over the Internet?
Ebe: You know how these people operate. When Victor Antai, a commissioner in the state, resigned his appointment, I noticed that the government countered it with a sack letter even when the guy had already resigned. So, I was playing safe; I was thinking probably if I didn’t make the letter public, they might come up with a letter that I was sacked. That’s why I put it out there.
PT: This whole thing, to some persons, might appear as though you just want to give the governor a bad name, in order to hang him politically?
Ebe: No, why would I do that? I resigned my appointment, which is a normal thing for somebody to do when he is fed up with a system. I am not running anybody down.
PT: Apart from your personal experience, how would you assess the governor’s performance so far?
Ebe: As I said, the governor needed some more experience in the public sector. This is the first governor in this state that has refused to mobilise his aides to carry out duties assigned to them. It has never happened before in the history of Akwa Ibom state.
PT: Aside from this, there are areas you should probably give the governor a pass mark?
Ebe: Well, the governor said his focus was on industrialisation. He has failed in the drive for industrialisation, so I don’t think he has gotten a pass mark.
PT: But there are a couple of industries out there like the metering company, the syringe manufacturing company, the pencil, and toothpick manufacturing companies….
Ebe: (Cuts in) …. Are they actually functioning?
PT: But we have seen photos and videos of these industries?
Ebe: Well, I told you I wasn’t mobilised to go for site inspections, so I cannot talk on that.
PT: But as someone from the state, I guess you must have probably come across the toothpick produced by AKEES?
Ebe: I have not seen it.