Rt. Hon. (Barr.) Usenobong Akpabio is an erudite politician and a household name in Akwa Ibom State politics.
He drove home dividends of democracy to the people of Uruan State Constituency when he represented them at the State House of Assembly.
The two term Lawmaker, is a vocal, loyal and reliable chieftain of Peoples Democratic Party since inception of PDP in Akwa Ibom State in 1998.
He recently joined Young Progressive Party (YPP) in his quest to appear on the ballot and represent the good people of Uyo Senatorial District (USD) at the Senate.
In this interview with our reporter, Barr. Akpabio unpacked his journey in Peoples Democratic Party, the benefits, frustrations, intrigues, denial, and his mission in his new found Love, the YPP and other matters of the State and its citizenry.
Q: sir, could you lead us into your background?
A: Rt. Hon. (Barr) Usenobong Akpabio is from Mbiaya, in Uruan Local Government Area. I am a Lawyer by profession. However, I ventured into active politics since the creation of PDP. Before the creation of PDP, I had been playing passive roles in politics; like giving my support to other people’s ambition and voted for them at the polls.
Q: Please can you throw more light on your journey in PDP?
A: When PDP Came on board in 1998, and even before that time, I used to come from Calabar to attend Ward meetings. That was when Party meetings meant commitment. Back then, When you come, you have to sign a register indicating that you attended the meeting. Way back, it used to be monthly meetings, where you will have to pay your dues.
So you can imagine me driving all the way from Calabar to attend party meetings. It goes along way to tell you how important and serious it was then.
In 2002, I started nursing the ambition of representing Uruan people in Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, so I bought the party nomination to fly the flag to go for general election, and “PDP gave me that ticket”.
It was a hard fought ticket. It was a nomination that I won with only two votes. I still remember at about six persons stood that election. But the dominant aspirants were myself and Pastor Bassey Isin. I had 128 votes while he got 126 votes while other aspirants had 2, 3, and 4 votes. So, it was a keenly contested primary.
For me that was nomination not selection. In those days we use to have 25 adhoc delegates to participate in Election, per Ward.
After the primary, I went for General Election and I was able to win the General Election. Because I sincerely believe that politics is engagement. The way you engage the people is in the same regard they will accord you acceptance.
When I came in, in Uruan, it was sacrosanct that you can’t go in for a second term. I made up my mind to go for a second term. Although it didn’t go down well with some elders of Uruan.
Without sounding immodest, I know that I had done well in my first term. I put up appearance again for a second term in the State parliament, and I was able to secure a second term seat at the hallowed chamber.
Bill up to my second term in office, we did party primaries two times. The first time I won, and also won at the second time.
I had 261 votes while Kufre Etuk 168 votes others had single digit votes.
What was obtainable then was that, if you do not have 50% of total votes cast, you can not be declared as the winner. The total number of votes cast were summed up, I didn’t have half of the votes cast. So, as a practice then, the first and second will go back for the race.
So that was what happened and I and kufre Etuk went back for the primary the second time. By the Special grace of God, I was able to win the nomination and went back to continue representing my people in the State House of Assembly.
I did well to the extent that the same people urged me to recontest for a third term in office, although it didn’t work out that time. Since then I have been a steadfast, committed and loyal member of the Party.
In 2015, I came out to contest for Senate position in Uyo Senatorial District, something happened. Godswill Obot Akpabio was the Governor of the State at that time and Bassey Albert wanted to succeed Akpabio at the end of his administration.
And I was looking for Senate position. There were some interplay of politics and the then Governor had a successor at hand. So even as at that time, Bassey Albert was very strong, so they had to negotiate with him, that he should rescind his governorship ambition and contest for the Senate position. While Mr. Udom Emmanuel should go for Governor.
2014 to 2015 that was what happened and my interest was thrown under the carpet. Nobody talked about my ambition again. No body considered mitigating measures, bearing in mind I also was in the game.
At the end of the day, Mr. Udom Emmanuel emerged as the Governor and Senator Bassey Albert won his Senatorial Election.
In fairness, good conscience and equity have it that the next person to be considered should have been the person who had also wanted to serve the people as the Senator. I wasn’t happy, yes. But I looked back and said to myself in 2003 I had flown the flag of the party and again in 2007 I had flown the flag of the party, then if I can’t fly the flag again this time, it doesn’t, matter I should remain in the party, support the party, it must not be me always, so I stayed back and supported the party and also supported all the candidates of the party.
In 2018, when it was apparent for Atai Uyo to send a representative to the Senate, I also came out again to vie for the Senate position and something also happened.
Senator Godswill Akpabio left the Party, and Chief Nelson Effiong also left and it was only Senator Bassey Albert left in the party. Also, Bassy Albert was equally looking for second term in office. Because of the fact that Senator Albert was the only Senate member left in the party, everyone said by way of compensating him for staying true to the party, he should go back to the Senate for a second term.
That was what happened too. Again, my interest was not taken into consideration. My interest was swept under the carpet. The system didn’t care. Governor Udom Emmanuel didn’t also care. Because he was one of the Persons that said Bassey Albert should go back to the Senate.
I didn’t mind but stayed back and support the party and all her candidates. I worked for the party assiduously to ensure its victory at the polls. I can still recall the level of pressure for people like us to leave the party coupled with what had happened, but I did not even give it a thought. Somebody like me, I didn’t leave the party, I stayed back and delivered the party. By the Special grace of God, PDP won in Akwa Ibom State.
In 2022 that we are today, it was apparent that this is almost like the last chance people like us will have to run for Senate. Because after now, I will like to create opportunity for the next generation to take over, because I’m getting old.
So, I also came out to vie for the same Senate position and without sounding out a sense of entitlement, If there’s anybody that needed to be considered as far as the Senate race is concerned, it should have been Usenobong Akpabio.
Q: So, why did you leave PDP?
A: When we are talking about party and the issue of reward system for loyalty. I have been loyal to PDP. I have been steadfast and contributed my quota. Going around talking to people about PDP is cost intensive, I have also bought forms that run into millions of Naira. That amounts to boosting internal generated revenue of the Party. But some persons with little and no contributions from time to time will be handpicked as Commissioners and SAs without contributing a dime to the Party.
I think the first people that should be considered would have been the people who have helped build the party, because without the party, there won’t be any government.
Maybe, they have considered other people, but I was not considered, so, I just said to myself, now you are still here, maybe this party had left you a long time ago. The summary of my story is that, I did not leave PDP, PDP left me a long time ago. I didn’t leave PDP but PDP left me. So I had to make up my mind on what to do. Whether to fold my hands and stay in PDP or If I have to actualize my ambition I need to also think and do something differently.
A man without hope is a dead man and since PDP had left me since 2015, because in 2015, and 2019 my interest was not considered. One would have thought that if the PDP was still with you or you were still with PDP, in 2022 that interest would have been paramount as far as the race for the Senate is concerned.
I keep telling people as we speak today; I didn’t leave PDP but PDP left me. I had to make up my mind if I must further my ambition. Because for you to represent the people you have to be a candidate of a party. So, since PDP has thought it wise in their own wisdom not to make me one, I had to move, because it is not about me but the people I want to represent.
I want to give them a choice in ballot of who could best represent them. That’s why I decided to join a party that was ready to give me nomination.
Today, I am no more in PDP, not out of my own volition or I’m angry, but I need to have a platform I can further my ambition. So, I am in Young Progressives Party (YPP) and I’m the candidate of YPP for Uyo Senatorial District. The story is that; I am on the ballot as far as the General Election is concerned.
We are going for a General Election not a delegate election. General election is totally different from a delegate election. What just happened in PDP was for people sit at home and hand pick their wives and relatives, called adhoc delegates, who in turn voted for them.
But when we are talking about general election, it is about the choice that the people are going to make. It is not about the limited number of people.
Q: Sir, why the choice of YPP?
A: One would have thought, like somebody asked me; why didn’t you go to All Progressive Congress (APC)? Because those are the two dominant political parties in Akwa Ibom State.
But you see what is also happening in APC today? There are a lot of confusion left right and centre in all these big parties. There’s a lot of impunity. So, I needed a platform that is little bit clean. There’s nothing wrong with parties but the actors and leaders are the problem.
Like I keep telling people there’s nothing wrong with the Country called Nigeria, it is Nigerians that are the problem. So there’s nothing wrong with the name of a Party, but the people who are in control of the party.
The choice of YPP is because I have found out that its a clean platform. Also, in terms of marketing YPP, it is going to be a lot more easier. If you look at the ballot, YPP happens to be second to the last on the ballot, so it is easy to educate the masses about the location of the Party.
I am not going to sell my name in this election. I’m going to sell the party, let the people know about the party and the Logo of the party. I thank God that we are beginning to aggressively create awareness on about the party.
There are lots of work to be done. From the masses reactions in recent times, people are not happy with PDP and APC. They need a fresh breath. I’m certain YPP can provide alternative to all that is happening now.
So the choice of YPP, it could have been any other choice but I looked at YPP in terms of the location of where YPP is for you to be able to sell it.
I also look at the fact that it can be any other party apart from the big parties, but a party that is ready to stop all these impunity.
Q: Sir, what do you intend to offer USD, if voted into office?
A: Being in the Senate demands effective representation. In our clime, since the disconnect is too much in terms of what government can offer. So, you need someone who will come back and brief the people. When I was representing Uruan State Constituency in the State House of Assembly, I had to do a second term because I went back to my people regularly and interfaced with them.
I can beat my chest today and say that there’s nobody who has been to the State Parliament after me that has done what I did, as far as my tenure was concerned.There’s no Ward in my constituency that I didn’t put one constituency project. Some wards had more than one. That time when I was in the State House of Assembly, I was one person that started servicing Ward Executives monthly.
Others things were projects, like water, Renovation of schools etc. There are too many things and funds in the National that you can help the constituents, even grants.
We sit down here in Akwa Ibom, we don’t know what is happening out there. There are too many grants opportunities from the Federal Government, donor agencies, World Bank Aides, employment opportunities to help your constituency with.
There are a lot of things one can attract back home. But first and foremost, you need an effective representative. Not someone who will go there without understanding what is happening.
By the Special grace of God, I have proven to everybody that in terms of advocacy and effective representation I will not be found wanting. I will give USD the voice that they need.
The man that will be leaving the Senate seat, Obong Bassey Albert has done so well in the Senate. He has been able to have a mix of representing the people effectively and also coming back to brief his constituents.
So, he is going to leave a very big shoe behind. Anybody that is being sent there should be able to fit in well into that shoes without lowering the bar but raising the bar to the next level.
Q: You will be contesting against incumbent Speaker of AKHA and he is also from your LGA, although from different political party, how does this sit on your people and your chances of winning?
A: well, first and foremost, the Senate seat is not about my Local Government but nine Local Government Areas. If we have to reduce it to my local government, I would say the chances of my party winning is very large. You know, it is not election that I can appoint myself but it has to do with the electorates going out to vote.
This election is not an election one is going to win with jumbo votes, by the way things are going to happen. In fact I can say that by the time you calculate the entire votes of USD, it may not even be up to a hundred thousand.
If you look at what happened in Anambra State it was 128, 000 votes that Soludo used to win that election. So if we go by what INEC wants to do, then the issue of government machinery working in favour of who government wants will not be the order of the day.
My approach to politics is not a wholesale arrangement, it is a retail arrangement. Where I will get to the unit, talking to the people in the unit and creating stronger bond of relationships with people at the unit.
Once I finished what I want to do, believing that I have done the best that I can, it is for me to allow the voters to make their choice of who to represent them.
Vote buying and appreciation of voters won’t count this time. Yes, when I was in PDP where they used to do voters appreciation and once that finishes that’s all. The electorates won’t get to benefit nor see the dividends of democracy and the mandate they gave, because they sold it out at the poll.
So, this election is not about party but an individual. To achieve that, a lot of work has to be done on our part as a party selling YPP.
Let me also tell you that I am very happy the way YPP is going. The way the name is going and the acceptability by the people is overwhelming.
Without sounding immodest, I think if you put me side by side with Anybody from Uyo Senatorial District as far as Senate position is concerned, I will stand out at all times.
My name has been there and I am taking that name to YPP. With that name and the new Party and the fact that the whole system has failed everybody, I think our chances are very very bright. So, I don’t have any problem with the fact that we will win.
Q: what informed your conviction that you are going to win the election going by the fact that you will be contesting against the incumbent Speaker of the State House of Assembly?
A: I am a two term Lawmaker in the State House of Assembly from the Same State Constituency and I tell you, I performed superlatively during my time and my pedigree is going to speak for me at the poll.
Q: Maybe you should send a message to Uyo Senatorial District people ahead of 2023 election?
A: First and foremost, YPP has come to stay. It is a platform. It is somebody that is going to represent the people not the party. So, we must now look beyond party but focus on the quality of candidates irrespective of their party affiliation.
That is why there’s no ideology in the party. That encourages people crossing from one end to the other. So, it is important that we begin to get it right from the onset, else, you will rather sacrifice excellence on the alter of mediocrity because of party.
For me as a person, I’m grateful to PDP for grooming me to where I am today. But for me, they had left me and I needed to also find an alternative.
So, the first message is there’s a platform call YPP. it’s the new bride now. You see what is happening in PDP and APC today, you won’t find that in YPP.
I would want everyone that PDP and APC had left behind to come together and build the YPP and give Akwa Ibom State a fresh breath.
Secondly, my message to people in USD is that from time I had wanted to be their Senator. I have a lot of people who would want this to happen. I cannot continue to run this race and it is truncated on the way. And appears as if I didn’t mean it. Today, I am telling them that I meant to be their Senator.
There are so many platforms that one can stand election with. I wish election was not about a political party. I wish election was about independent candidacy as far as Nigeria election is concerned. I can tell you, a lot of people will not even go for party.
Because the money that you spent in party primaries is more than enough for you to execute your general election.
I am giving a cross section of USD constituents hope, that I’m still there, I’m still at the ballot, so what they wanted is still there.
Again, I am also saying to my people, I am the only voice that you will have at the Senate.
We must not allow anybody to influence our wishes and decision.
The choice must not be in violent, it must not be in fighting, the choice is in casting of votes, that is why PVC is very important.
I am not angry. I have moved on. I am now a member of YPP and by the Special grace of God, I will emerge victorious at the polls and YPP shall produce the next Governor of Akwa Ibom State.
Q: Sir, can you throw more lights on the YPP Ballot Revolution Advocacy?
A: some people used to say that votes don’t count and people will not go out to vote.
But today I can tell you every vote will count. So, the ballot revolution is about the fact that with your ballot, a lot of things will change positively for the State.
That is why we’re embarking on massive advocacy for voters registration, because at the end of the day, elections are going to be worn at the unit.
If you don’t go to your unit? You are not following the dynamics.
The ballot revolution starts from the unit. Once you cast your vote, it goes straight to INEC’s data bank. It is not about the party again, but the individual.