Last month, the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, was in Ekureku, Abi Local Government Area of Cross River State, to give out relief to flood victims in the area. At the event, the people prayed for Dr Alex Egbona, their representative at the House of Representatives, for the role he played in drawing the attention of the federal government to their plight.
This and other issues became the subject of discussion when Egbona spoke with some journalists after the event.
In less than a month from now, a fresh election is going to be conducted in two wards of Ekureku, your village, in line with the order of the appeal court. How ready are you for this election?
Let me use this opportunity to wish the entire people of Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency, whose interest I represent in the House of Representatives, a very wonderful Christmas and promising New Year. These are the people that voted overwhelmingly for me to get into the National Assembly. I therefore owe them my continued selfless service and representation as their representative.
To answer your question straight, yes, the rerun election that was ordered by the court of appeal is to hold on January 25 next year. On the same day, elections into some wards in Abi Local Government will also hold, in line with the order of the tribunal.
My party, the APC, is ready. As the party’s candidate for the Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency rerun, I am ready. I am also sure that the people of the constituency are ready. One thing I will like members of the public to know is that I have a relationship with my people. It is beyond political relationship. It is not the kind of relationship you find between politicians and the electorate. I am not one of those normal politicians who would abandon their people only to go to them when it is election time. You can make your independent findings about my relationship with the people of my constituency, or even the people of my state, from top to bottom.
See, one thing is very clear, my constituents are ready for us to emerge victorious again. It was that same determination that made it possible for the APC to win the last election in my constituency in the entire state. I am sure you remember that it was only in the Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency that the PDP could not win in the entire state. I am talking of the state house of assembly election, National Assembly elections and the governorship elections. It was my federal constituency that frustrated the antics of the PDP. So, you can imagine how resilient my people were.
Now, come to think of it, the court ordered rerun is only in two wards of my local government; I am talking of two wards of my village. That is how it is. I am from Ekureku and this is about the Ekeruku people. At the risk of sounding immodest, Ekureku people are resolute on this matter because they know what is good for them. They know me. They know what I have done for them over the years, long before I even decided to contest an election.
They know what they have seen in the last six months since I went into the House of Representatives. They know the projects that await them in the days ahead. Thank God the budget has been passed and signed into law by Mr President. A lot of projects that will benefit the entire people of the constituency have been captured in the 2020 budget-you will recall that I undertook a tour of the entire constituency some months ago, to find out from the people exactly what projects they would love the federal government to execute for them. The next stage is to ensure that those projects are executed under the 2020 budget. I am determined to continue to do that. So, the people of Ekureku know what is at stake and they will not want to take chances at all.
But how did you feel about the appeal court judgement that ordered a rerun in Ekureku?
For the matter under discourse, the appeal court is the final court. So, like they always say, once you have reached the final court of competent jurisdiction, there is nothing you can do. The judgement may have been final, but not infallible. So, you accept the outcome and move on. In this case, I had no choice than to accept the judgement and then begin to prepare for the rerun. At least the court upturned the verdict of the tribunal which initially ruled that I was not the candidate of my party. The appeal court had also nullified the position of the tribunal which had ruled that my certificate of return be returned to INEC. The court of appeal decided in my favour and today, I am still a member of the House of Representatives.
There has been a clash in the recent past, involving some communities in your local government. Some people have been reported to have died. How do you feel about this?
My heart bleeds. I weep for the losses we have suffered as a result of the communal clash between the Usumutong and Ebom/Ebijakara people. It is very sad. Very, very sad, that in times like this, people can still take up arms against one another. I have been told that many people were killed. I have been told that a lot of our people had to flee their homes to take refuge in the forest. This is not the kind of news we should be hearing now. My heart really bleeds at this time.
In times like this, I can only appeal to our people in the warring communities to have a rethink and allow peace to reign. I love and support peace. No matter what they are fighting for, human life is much more precious. There is no justifiable reason why lives should be taken by fellow human beings. I condemn the killings in its entirety. I condemn the wanton destruction of people’s property. I condemn the carnage.
Some of us are fighting hard to attract development to our communities. Of course you know that no matter how hard you try, no development can come if a people are not peaceful. I am begging all those who are fighting to drop their weapons of war and embrace peace.
Let me also use the opportunity that this interview offers, to appeal to the Cross River State government to intensify its efforts in making sure that this unnecessary blood-letting and skirmishes end. The government owes us the duty of providing security for all of us. The first responsibility of the government is to protect lives and property. So, I expect the state government to use every available and constitutional means to protect the lives and property of our people. Whatever needs to be done should be done fast. We cannot continue to lose our people to communal crisis. The perpetrators of this dastardly act should also be traced and punished according to the law. This will be the only way of preventing a re-occurrence. When people are punished for their crime, there is every tendency that others will learn and shun such crimes.
On my part, I will continue to engage the necessary organs of the federal government with a view to finding an end to this crisis.
There was a report that NEMA was in your village recently to give relief to victims of flood. Could that be part of the rerun campaigns?
I am surprised that you are asking this kind of question. Why should I play politics with the fate and future of people who were unfortunate to be victims of flood. These are people who were chased out of their homes by flood. It was a natural disaster. Nobody prays for it. So, all we can do, using our privileged position, is to draw the attention of the federal government to their light. In any case, that was why I was elected by the people.
So, what did was to liaise with NEMA and other relevant government agencies and cried to them to come to the aid of my people. I kept disturbing them until this help came. What you heard of was the fruit of my engagement with the federal government because I really wanted the pains of those flood victims to be ameliorated. I am happy that the federal government listened, through NEMA, and they sent those relief materials to my people.
At the event where those items were shared, I also made another appeal to NEMA concerning an urgent need for assistance for my people in Ekureku for a rice mill. I am aware that NEMA offers such help. At the moment, what is happening is that people from our neighbouring state will come to Ekureku to come and buy the unprocessed rice in bags and take to their mill in Abakiliki to process because they have the facilities. Now, what I am asking NEMA to do for us is to give my people a mill so that as they harvest rice, they can also process and sell. It is one way of boosting local rice production which Mr president has been promoting. Ekuruku has very rich soil for rice farming and the people are engaged in very serious rice farming business. The quality of Ekureku rice is phenomenal. But the challenge is how to process. I am certain that once NEMA comes to our aide, things will get better for our people.
Ekureku people are ever grateful to the federal government and indeed to Mr President for the relief materials that we got. The people are very happy and have since sent greetings to Mr President and NEMA for the kind gesture. We only pray that God should not allow this kind of disaster to come near our people again.