Ibanga Isine, journalist and newspaper publisher talks about his governorship ambition and how he plans to turn Akwa Ibom state around.
Journalist and publisher of GUARDPOST Newspaper, Isine Ibanga, in this interview with PREMIUM TIMES speaks about his governorship ambition, the strategies he will adopt to turn Akwa Ibom State around if elected and other sundry issues.
Ibanga Isine is not known to be a politician, but all of a sudden you are showing interest in occupying the governorship seat of your state, Akwa Ibom, come 2015. What is the attraction?
You are right and wrong to say I am not a politician. What does it take to become a politician? Yes, I am a reporter and you know that to report politics, one must understand its mechanics and dynamics. We see and know more than the political class admits. We analyse difficult and murky political situations and arrive at assumptions that ultimately hold true. The fact that some people don’t display obvious political tendencies does not in any way mean they are averse to politics when seen as sets of activities associated with governance. Every living being is involved in politics one way or the other. So it should not be surprising to you or anybody for that matter that I am aspiring, with all sense of humility, to lead the people of Akwa Ibom State at the appropriate time. I love to serve and it comes quite naturally. To answer your question straight, I want to serve the people of Akwa Ibom State.
Why do you want contest the governorship and not the State Assembly, House of Representatives or even local government chairman given the fact that you have not cut your teeth in politics?
I don’t know of any law that precludes me from aspiring for any position of leadership in the country. It is wrong to expect that everybody must start their political career by contesting the councillorship election and then move to contest the chairmanship of their local government area. It doesn’t work that way for me and I don’t think that works for a lot of people. Would you have wished a person who has met the constitutional qualification to be the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to contest as a councilor? A lot of people think journalism is all about running around listening to gossips and writing sensational reports to sell newspapers and promote radio and television stations. Nigeria got its independence and democracy not through armed struggle but through the press and its hard-hitting journalists. Any journalist worth the salt can become the President of Nigeria. The same applies to other professionals in the country. We don’t only edit newspapers; we also manage the human, financial and other resources involved in the complex technicalities of the industry.
Under what party are you hoping to realize this ambition?
I am very conscious of the fact that for now, nobody can realize his political ambition in the country without going through a political party. The 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act as Amended do not provide for independent candidacy. But I don’t believe people should disqualify themselves on the basis of not being a professional politician. You continue hearing people say politics is a dirty game and you begin to wonder who and what makes politics that dirty. Politics will stop being dirty when clean people come into the field. I am not going to tell you the platform I will launch my campaign for now. We have a clear strategy and milestones to attain before we get to a point where a platform will be needed.
The present administration has reportedly brought uncommon transformation to the state. Do you agree to this and if elected, what new approaches would you bring to the governance of the state?
For the record, Akwa Ibom State under Chief Godswil Akpabio has witnessed tremendous development in many sectors. It is true that he has taken infrastructural development to an all time high since the creation of the state in 1987. His leadership has changed the psyche of a typical Akwa Ibom person and made him realize his self-worth and be accepted as an important force in the Nigerian project. Check out the supplement we published in GUARDPOST newspaper of March 3, 2013, titled “Akwa Ibom: An Emerging Infrastructure Hub in Nigeria,” and you will appreciate what has happened in the state. But we also indicated that the governor is able to perform that much because he didn’t abandon many of the projects and programmes initiated by his predecessor, Obong Victor Attah. Having served in Obong Attah’s cabinet for many years, Akpabio had a first-hand understanding of what the state needed and when elected into office in 2007, went in with full force to do what people have come from far and near to pour commendations.
On the second leg of your question, we will build strong human capital; devise new economic strategies that would stimulate IGR and reduce our reliance on ‘handouts’ from the Federation Accounts. We will up the level of social services to our people especially in rural communities where majority of the population live. I long for the years we drank from the water tap on the way back from school. We will create an industrial base through PPP and encourage entrepreneurship. We will diversify our educational curriculum to make our children pay serious attention to the sciences, technology and the arts. Any society that does not invest in its future is doomed. Investing in the future involves creating first-class educational system for our children. It involves providing their basic needs today so they grow healthy and proud of their heritage.
Akwa Ibom is believed to be a complex state to govern considering its multi-ethnicity status, which sometimes induces suspicion among the ethnic groups. What approach will you adopt to arrest this situation?
Before ethnic flag-wavers and their supporters took to the centre stage of the political arena in the state, we had a robust relationship among the various peoples of the state. So if you ask me, I will tell you that there is no difference between me and my brother or sister from Ikot Ekpene, Oron, Eket and Ibuno. Ibibio language is spoken and understood by almost everybody in the state. We eat the same kinds of foods, share cultural values and traditions and much more. We intend to re-enact the Ibibio State Union kind of bond that recognised the indivisibility of the people. When people are treated well and their needs met within the commonwealth, they don’t go create artificial boundaries. On the other hand, when people are suppressed and their rights and privileges denied, they fight and explore every available fault lines.
You are Ibibio, which produced the governor between 1999 and 2007. The incumbent, Godswill Akpabio is from Anang and will vacate office in 2015. Is it not proper to allow Eket Senatorial District to produce the next governor to reduce the emerging tension?
You are talking about the controversial zoning of the governorship of the state to Eket Senatorial District. As far as am concerned, there is nothing like zoning in the 1999 Constitution. Zoning was created to address the concerns of minorities and cannot be applied in the strict sense of the law. While I am averse to injustice and would wish every part of the state to produce the governor, I am concerned at the level this zoning thing is going. Like I said earlier, people exploit artificial boundaries when they are cheated and suppressed within the commonwealth. If a governor provides equal opportunity for all sections of the state and spreads development equally too, there would be less need for people to call for zoning. We should allow the best among us to lead irrespective of where they come from.
It is generally believed that the governorship election requires enormous resources and political structure to prosecute. Will I be right to say you don’t have any of these for this project? Or is there any one you are banking upon to provide you with any or the two of them?
That’s one of the myths politicians sell to discourage people from entering the political race. Nobody has the monopoly of political structure in any society. Those who had structures yesterday are clutching the straw today. Politics is dynamic and it is like rain water that runs along the road. It doesn’t stop running and can only be swallowed by a gully but if it remains longer inside the ditch, it evaporates when the heat comes. Don’t be deceived to believe that the most important thing needed for a great political campaign is a large bank account. Ask Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. We are building a network of supporters all over the state and soon we will be in every LGA.
What is your take on the crisis within the PDP?
The on-going crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP doesn’t come as a surprise to those who understand the nature of politics especially in a new democracy like ours. It is a part of the learning process it has to go through to become a strong and virile party. The APC will also witness its fair share of implosion very soon. Sharing party offices and even elective positions will definitely throw up serious challenges because of the divergence of the members. While the PDP will be coming out from its troubles the APC will be entering its crisis period and that may affect its fortunes in the 2015 polls.
Can you please tell me who Ibanga Isine is?
Ibanga Isine is an indigene of Nung Ukana in Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom. I attended the Lutheran Primary School Nung Ukana, Modern Secondary Commercial School, Uyo and the University of Uyo. I hold a Master of Arts degree in Mass Communication and attended further training in Advanced Reporting at the Thompson Foundation of the United Kingdom and in Economic and Financial Reporting at the Lagos Business School.
I started my professional career in 2000 as Production/Programmes Manager at the Christian Radio Studio, the West African branch of the Lutheran Hour Ministries, United States. In 2001, I worked with the Nigeria Television Authority before joining the The Punch Newspapers in September 2002. I served briefly in Lagos before I was deployed as Correspondent to Owerri and then to Makurdi, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Awka and Abuja. I rose from a Correspondent to Chief Correspondent/Bureau Chief.
In 2010, I resigned from The Punch and was later appointed Special Assistant, Media and Administration to the former Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, High Chief Nduese Essien. However, on September 8, 2011, I was appointed Deputy Editor, Investigations, by the Leadership Newspapers Group and was promoted Editor in December of that year. I was the pioneer editor of Government, a weekly newspaper of the Leadership Group. On June 4, 2012, I resigned from Leadership Newspaper Group and started GuardPost Newspaper. I am happily married and have a strong desire to serve the people of my state.