The chairperson of Essien Udim Local Government Council, Anthony Luke, speaks with reporters in Uyo about the IPOB invasion of his local government area in 2021. He also speaks about the senatorial election in his senatorial district which is being contested by his former leader turned adversary, Godswill Akpabio.
PT: Essien Udim Local Government Area was, in 2021, engulfed in a violent crisis, so much so that people were taking shelter in the neighbouring Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area. How were you able to restore peace?
LUKE: We have to thank God first that we finally have peace in the local government area. This wouldn’t have been possible without the benevolence, the doggedness and the sincerity on the part of Governor Udom Emmanuel. I thank the governor for standing by us, the people of Akwa Ibom State. Why am I saying the people of Akwa Ibom State? It is because in no time the crisis would have escalated from Essien Udim to parts of Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area, to parts of Ika and Ikono (local government areas). And by coming to quell the crisis in Essien Udim, he was doing that for Akwa Ibom State, not just the people of Essien Udim. He (Gov Emmanuel) never spared funds, he never slept to ensure that the security agencies were on top of the situation. And that peace has been sustained till date.
PT: What really brought about the crisis?
LUKE: Essien Udim is a border local government area, some miscreants came from other states to settle in a part of Essien Udim. They had settled there before I became chairman, I was elected chairman in December 2020. So some of these guys came in and started living in Essien Udim, the community didn’t know what they were into. They would leave in the morning, pretending they were going out for work and then very late at night they would go out to commit crime. When the community got to know this, it was reported to the police.
PT: But there were people who said some of those boys were people you used for elections and you refused to settle them?
LUKE: That is their own line of thought. Now, I had only been chairman for a month or so when the crisis began. So how do you expect somebody that was chairman for only one month then, if their thought is true, to start settling people? You don’t even know if I had collected the statutory (financial) allocation yet. Settle you for what? The people wanted me to be their chairman, I have been a grassroots politician. None of my supporters would go out to cause trouble. A lot of people were arrested, did anybody mention me? Nobody. And the thing is that most of them were outsiders. The local government election in Essien Udim was very peaceful, so who were the people? Did they complain? When did they complain? Where did they complain? So, that is false.
PT: Some people say you are a bad guy.
LUKE: It depends on what you mean by bad guy. By the time you commit a crime and I come for you, I won’t pity you. Does that make me a bad guy? Do I commit crime? Check my records. I was trained in the seminary. I am a Ph.D. student. Why would I commit crime? For what? If you commit crime, I will get you and hand you over to the police. I am a bad guy at doing good things.
PT: Do you carry arms?
LUKE: What do I need it for?
PT: You said you don’t move about with the police. So how do you protect yourself?
LUKE: It’s God that protects me. See, the safest place for me on earth is my village. Nobody in my community will want to harm me. I am their brother. I go to the same church with them. I sit out with them. I don’t take alcohol, I don’t smoke cigarette.
PT: We are aware that before now you were nominated twice to be the caretaker chairman of Essien Udim but your name was removed, and yet you say you are a grassroots politician. What happened?
LUKE: If somebody promised you that you will be caretaker chairman and finally you were not, do you have to blame the person? God never wanted me to be chairman then. God wanted me to be chairman under Governor Udom Emmanuel. I am very happy that God didn’t make me a chairman then. Can you compare caretaker chairman to elected chairman? You can’t.
PT: The information we got is that Governor Emmanuel took a strategic decision to make you a chairman so that he can take over Essien Udim from Senator Akpabio’s control, knowing that you have a lot of following?
LUKE: That may be false. The people wanted me to be their chairman. And if you work for our party (the PDP) you should be rewarded.
PT: Now, let’s talk about the forthcoming general elections. Some people say Godswill Akpabio is unstoppable in the race for the Senate in Akwa Ibom North-West District?
LUKE: Unstoppable how? In APC? Which Essien Udim? I am the chairman of Essien Udim, mind you! Now, let us count the wards that would not support him. My ward would not support him. The other time (2019 elections), their party got zero votes in my community, Okon.
PT: Yeah, because the people in Essien Udim feel that….
LUKE: (Cuts in)… Which people? What is the percentage of people in Essien Udim? My brother, let sleeping dog lie. What are they talking about? What yardstick would they use to support him (Akpabio) when we have Ukana Clinic in Ukana, when we have MOPOL Base in Ukana, when we have Federal Polytechnic in Ukana, when we have Police Secondary School in Ukana? What will my people have to show? What is there in Odoro Ikot? What do we have to show in Afaha? What do we have to show in Ukana West 1? What do we have to show in Ikpe? What do we have to show in Adiasim? What do you have to show in Ekpenyong 1 and 2? Ukana may support him but write it down, he (Akpabio) cannot win in Essien Udim.
You and I know that Akwa Ibom is predominantly a PDP state. Let me tell you, I have to be grateful to the leadership of the PDP because it’s the PDP that gave an Essien Udim son, Godswill Akpabio, the ticket to become the governor of Akwa Ibom State. The PDP made Akpabio the minority leader of the Senate. Essien Udim people can never be ungrateful to the PDP. What are you saying, because he is in another party we will go and support him? An Essien Udim man is not an ungrateful man. Therefore, we cannot support anyone that is not of the PDP. An Essien Udim man has integrity, we don’t do that.
PT: Not voting for Akpabio may mean denying Essien Udim, where he comes from, a voice not just in the Senate but in national politics.
LUKE: Which voice? The Senate is for the 10 local government areas of the district, it is not for Essien Udim. And for God’s sake, in Ikot Ekpene (federal constituency) we have produced five senators from 1963 till date, while nobody has been a senator from Abak Federal Constituency, about 60-something years now. Is that place not part of the senatorial district? They, too, should be given a chance. Akpabio should rest and send his boys to go to the Senate.
When Godswill Akpabio left the PDP he did not inform any of us. Akpabio cannot win five per cent of votes in my area. Ask Akpabio what he did for other parts of Essien Udim apart from his own Ukana community. Ask him why the road contract he awarded from Ekpenyong Atai to Okon has not been completed. For the Senate, Essien Udim people are supporting Emmanuel Enoidem. He will get more than 90 per cent of the votes in Essien Udim. They will vote for Umo Eno for the governorship.
Akpabio has only done well for his Ukana community, not Essien Udim. Akpabio does not have special anointing to remain in political power, he has to give another person a chance. The people who think Akpabio will win this election are dreaming.
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