Cyprian Emmanuel Ikwot is a legal practitioner, a human rights activist and president of Conscience Group International. In this interview with PAULINUS NTA, he bares his mind on the scary level of unemployment in Akwa Ibom and what should be done to address the menace.
Your state receives the highest from the federation account and a lot of multi-national oil producing companies are operating in Akwa Ibom water ways, yet the state is rated second in unemployment rate. What do you think is responsible for this?
Apart from lack of political will and sincerity of purpose, the previous and present state government has not been able to enter into a concrete and realizable memorandum of understanding with these oil servicing companies. They fail to enter into mutually beneficial relationships with them. If you check the statistics of employment in these companies, Akwa Ibom people are not employed. A few that are employed are menial, casual workers who lobby their way in, through either the backyard or outside connections. The government is not aware of what is happening. They are not concerned about employment. The only thing they want is the small peanuts those ones give them. The companies cheat them because they know they don't know. We are cheated, compared to what other Niger Delta states get from oil servicing and producing companies.
Apart from seeking employment from oil servicing companies, what other measures could be taken to stem the tide of unemployment in your state?
I said earlier that the state government is not sincere about creating jobs for the youths. They simply leave the objects and get busy in chasing shadows. If they want to be serious, they should stop patronizing political sychophancy. They should reduce spreading on political parties. What is the need to buy cars and buses for political parties? What is the need funding idle groups and political projects like Dakkada and other empty initiatives? All those people they call SA and PAs, what do they do? What are their jobs? I heard recently that the state government purchased air craft for the state, a few days before the governorship election. Which money is that one? Was it captured in the budget? Who owns the aircraft? The state government does not seem to have any concrete template on how to develop the state and create jobs. I am afraid; we are not on the right path of sustainable development.
The state governor, during his electioneering campaigns, said his administration has built 12 industries in just three years, don't you think he is on the right path towards jobs creation and sustainable development?
Thank God you said “during his electioneering campaign” you can say anything to wipe sentiments and earn support from the electorates. As far as am concerned, those companies are a bunch of mirage. They don't exist. If they do, the government should come up with the statistics of how many youths they have employed; where they are located in the state and their products or services?
When Obong Victor Attah built the Ibom Power Company, we all saw it and it employed a good number of Akwa Ibom people. When Obong Attah built the Ibom Gulf Resort and Le Meridian, we saw it; when he built the State University and the Airport, we all saw them, when he re-invented the architecture of the state capital and extended the frontiers of the state, we saw it; it was viable and visible.
When Senator Godswill Akpabio invested on the roads and physical infrastructure like the flyovers, we saw them. They were visible. But today, the state government spends our hard earned money on sycophancy and window dressing. The present state governor should wake up and know that for now, he has nothing visible to show as his achievement. It is not only painful to note that we are the second poorest state in terms of unemployment, but a colossal irony to note that we receive the highest from the federation account. Our condition is an eloquent testimony of a clueless, visionless and aimless government.
But your state government has the toothpick and other industries. Don't you think it will create jobs and boost the state economy?
I would not describe a toothpick factory as a disgrace, I would rather describe it as a calculated fraud by my state government. In Ogun, Anambra, Lagos and other industrial states, young school leavers use security posts to produce toothpicks. I have friends in Ogun State, I mean individuals who are producing toothpick and other items of that nature. So when a whole state government says they are embarking on toothpick project, to me, I crown their status as a fraudulent band wagon.
If governor Udom Emmanuel is sincere about job creation and employment, they should establish negotiations on how to revive ALSCON in Ikot Abasi. If he is serious about employment, he should establish negotiations on how to revive all the moribund industries that were established by a visionary and serious late governor, Clement Isong; if he is sincere, they should revive the forgotten science park, which was abandoned in the bush by his predecessor.
There is one thing I see in professional politicians. They will dance around you; they will pour encomiums and lavish praises on you for everything you do, be it good or bad. Those that have the goodwill and boldness to tell you the truth will not have the access and opportunity to do so. Those that are close to you will call them your enemies, but when you dance out of the stage, they curse and abuse you. They show all the mistakes you made. They will tell the world how bad you were and jump unto the next man in power.
Take the case of Senator Godswill Akpabio for instance. The very people who used to hold press conferences on his exceptional and superlative performances and his uncommon transformation are now telling the world, how bad Akpabio was. Today they call him “evil”, thief and all sorts of names, but yesterday, they said he was the best governor in Nigeria.
Governor Udom Emmanuel should learn from the Akpabio story. He should listen to suggestions. He should seek advice, not from his advisers alone, but from those who have something to offer. As far as I am concerned and without any prejudice and ill will, he has not done anything visible. He has not addressed the problems of unemployment, which is the most immediate need of the state.
But he is embarking on industrialization agenda.
Those slogans are theatrical embellishment, designed to yield political support. They have no practical effect. I asked earlier, how many people are employed in these 12 industries and how come we are still the second state in unemployment rate? What percentage of unemployment has been reduced by this so-called industries? If the governor wants to leave his foot prints on the sands of time, he should shut his ears from the drum beats of sycophants and embrace realistic people who will advise him well.
It should not always be elections and political advice, but impactful leadership. He should remember that he will never be the governor of Akwa Ibom State forever, so he should do his best now.