In this interview, Dr Alex Egbona, the member representing the Abi/Yakurr people in the House of Reps speaks to journalists on the recent passing into law, of the bill he sponsored for the establishment of the federal college of agriculture to be located in Abi LGA, and what the people of Cross River and other states of the federation stand to gain as soon as the school takes off.
He also spoke on the endorsements that have greeted his re-election project.
A few days ago, the bill you sponsored for the establishment of a federal college of agriculture in Abi Local Government was passed into law in the House of Representatives. Why did you even think of that bill?
You must have been aware that I took a similar step in the first year of my membership of the House of Representatives when I sponsored a bill for the establishment of a federal polytechnic for my constituency. This one is the second along that line and I am doing this because of my love for education. When I was campaigning, I printed exercise books and distributed to school children in the constituency as part of my campaign materials. If you take a look at the back page, you will see one of the quotes I put there. It is about what Nelson Mandela said on education and that is what drives me to do all I am doing in the area of education, for my people. Nelson Mandela believes that ‘education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ I cannot give guns or other types of dangerous weapons to my people for them to effect the changes I desire. All I can give them is education.
As you may have known, even though my bill for the establishment of the polytechnic was not pursued to the legislative end because we adopted a faster means to achieve the dream when we saw the opportunity, today we have a federal polytechnic in Ugep. I worked hard with other stakeholders to achieve it.
So, having succeeded in getting that polytechnic-by the way, academic activities are commencing in the polytechnic-the coming of the federal college of agriculture is going to boost the economy of my people. Remember that Abi is gradually becoming the food basket of our state and neigbouring states. I want to believe that you know that the rice that is sold in Abakiliki, Ebonyi State, and in nearby places are grown in Abi. Most people in Abi are farmers and we have arable land where you can grow anything, I mean anything. For example, we grow rice in commercial quantity, we grow groundnut in commercial quantity, we grow cassava, yam, maize in commercial quantity. So, by the time the college begins academic activities and our children get in there, they will now learn modern ways of achieving the results our present farmers have achieved and you can imagine the kind of yields that we will have.
One of the projects I have initiated is a mega farm which is coming to my people. It will employ about 1000 people, directly and indirectly. The farm is massive and it is being undertaken in partnership with the federal government who will assist the locals with funds and implements. Various communities have already donated land for it. The college of agric will really go a long way. You can imagine the traffic into Abi LGA and neighbouring communities in the next few years. People will come to the place to build houses for the students to live. The entire area will come alive with improved commercial activities. This is what our people will benefit.
The bill has been passed into law and the processes are going on for it to be endorsed by Mr President and then we will get into the next phase of getting the school to take –off. I do not know when this will happen. But at least, we have crossed the major hurdle and it pleases me that God is using me to do this for my people.
There is a viral video of the Obol Lopon Ugep and Paramount Ruler of Yakurr in which he seems to be campaigning for you and extolling your virtues. Apart from him, we have read reports of other traditional rulers, elders and political leaders from your area, including the chairman of your local government and a former governor of your state, Mr Clement Ebri, who have spoken well of you. How does this make you feel as the 2023 elections draw closer?
Well, I think I have seen and read some of the reports you are talking about. I have also heard directly from the people especially from the people you have mentioned. It is what it is. That is what I will simply say.
You mentioned my former governor, Mr Clement Ebri. Yes, he is my party man, someone that we all respect and honour in my state. He is from my federal constituency and he is one of those who believe that I have done well as member of the House of Reps. You know our people say that when you are taking your bath, you will not see your back. It is other people that can clearly see what is behind you. Same thing with those of us who are in leadership positions. We do our very best, most times not even knowing that some of the things we do are noted by very highly respected people like Mr Ebri. I was equally stunned at some of the flowery words he used on me, in the presence of other respected elders, youths and political leaders from our place. That was during one of the consultative meetings I had with the Mkpani people. Mr Ebri is from Mkpani in Yakurr Local Government, which is in my constituency. I was almost moved to tears when he spoke the way he did about me and also urged his people to ensure that they supported me massively during the 2023 election. I think he was just being himself. I mean, what will I offer such a man of that high standing? What can I give him at my little level, that would have made him to say the things he said, if not that he was merely saying the truth the way it is? That is why I always say that those in public service should always strive to do what is fair, just, equitable, because people are watching. I never knew that my former governor is following my activities and every little step that I take, in my effort to turn things around in the constituency.
I have also watched the video where my royal father, the Obol Lopon Ugep and Paramount Ruler of Yakurr, Obol Ofem Ubana Eteng made some glowing comments about my person, just as the one from the chairman of Abi, my local government, Mr Farathor Riman. They all described me in glowing terms.
What this means is that people are watching me. They are seeing what I am doing. It means that if I am doing the right things, I will be rewarded at the appropriate time and assuming I was doing the wrong things, they would have also said so and perhaps, also mobilised people against me, especially now that we are preparing for elections.
But that is not to say that everybody likes me. Believe me, there are still some people who believe that I have not done anything at all. The only thing is that this group is made of very infinitesimal number of people. Let me tell you the truth, I have done well for my people and all the things you hear these people say about my performance is the gospel truth. I have touched lives. You can imagine the Obol lopon saying that by his estimation, I have done well and should be supported to win in 2023.
Our elders don’t lie, at least not people like the Obol Lopon who is not a politician. By all standards, he is a distinguished elder statesman and a custodian of the cultural and traditional heritage of our people. He will not see black and call it white. That is why his own endorsement means a lot to me and also an inspiration for me to continue doing the things that are good and beneficial to the people.
So, how ready are you for the 2023 election? People believe that you are spent out and do not have what it takes to undertake a robust campaign, not to talk of winning the election
Really? Where did you hear that one from? You are obviously out of touch with reality. Maybe I should tell you to go to my constituency and carry out independent findings on me. The fact that I have not started public campaigns and gathered that kind of crowd you see in campaign grounds does not make me unprepared. Anyway, maybe it is also good for those who think they are my opponents.
But on a serious note, I am very much prepared. I do my things one step at a time. I have almost completed the second leg of my consultation with critical stakeholders across the 23 wards of my constituency. My campaign council will soon be put in place and the itenary will be made known to everyone.
We will move to all the wards, not to campaign in the real sense of the word, but to show the people what I have done across the constituency, in just about three years. Don’t forget that I started active representation in 2020. One full legislative year was lost due to litigations and the rerun election. So, effectively, I have only worked with two budget years during this period. By next year, I would have done three years. But even at that, people have confirmed that what I have done in less than four years is much more than what those who were there for 20 years were able to achieve.
So, as I move to the various wards and polling units, I will be show-casing my footprints. Maybe I should shock you guys-all my campaign materials were ready like three months ago. That is how prepared I am. When I hit the road, you will see that I have been ready since.
You organised a training programme for youths and women in your constituency recently. What was it about?
It was just one of the various empowerment programmes that I have attracted to my constituency. Recall that a similar training programme was organised for youths on videography and make up artistry at Ekori in Yakurr LGA. We did another one on cassava processing and food processing respectively, for our people in the two local governments. So, the one you are talking about took place penultimate week, where youths and women from the 23 wards of the constituency were trained on poultry and fish farming respectively.
It will interest you to know that about 600 people benefited from the training and as we have always done, cash and starter packs were given out. You are journalists. Please go and find out if anything like this has happened in my constituency or any other part of a federal constituency in our state. I stand to be corrected. When I contested the 2019 election, I made it clear that I will empower my people and I have done that to the best of my ability. I have gone out of my way to prepare grounds for the emergence of millionaires in my constituency. With all the things I have done, watch it, millionaires are coming out of this place called Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency.