I am inspired by God to support Governor Udom – Ekarika
Pastor Nicholas Johnson Ekarika, Honorary Senior Special Adviser to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Budgetary Matters, an indigene of Abama in Obot Akara Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. He is a retired Permanent Secretary of Akwa Ibom State Budget Office. A born leader of no mean repute, a gentleman to the core, an exceptionally humble man, friendly but highly disciplined, focused, committed to duty with foresightedness, diligent, firm with simplicity, above all, astute administrator and God fearing. Pastor Nicholas Ekarika’s modest life style is exemplary. He is knowledgeable and insightful not only because of his educational attainment, but his natural disposition. As a career civil servant who attained the highest civil service career by dint of hard work and integrity, he lives above board in society replete with corruption and other societal ills. The Abama-born bureaucrat is a humanitarian, he derives joy in helping those in need, be they poor or rich, literate or illiterate and does not discriminate against anyone by reason of class or creed. His intellectual prowess is a plus to him. In this exclusive interview with Saviour Ekpe and his crew, Pastor Ekarika spoke extensively on State and national issues. EXCERPTS:
NEWSFRONT: Congratulations sir for your new appointment.
EKARIKA: Thank you.
NEWSFRONT: But sir immediately after your retirement from active civil service job, you were given an automatic appointment by the state Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel. What led to this?
EKARIKA: Thank you very much for the question but I must thank God for his grace, ability and giving me this opportunity to contribute my quota to the development of my state. I must say at this juncture that it was not an automatic appointment; it was based on competence, trust and loyalty. If it was automatic, it means that every Permanent Secretary that retires should gain such automatic opportunity. During the last few years of my active work in the civil service, I had the opportunity of working very close to His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel and I want to believe that he must have taken time to study me and few weeks after my retirement, I received an appointment letter from His Excellency, the Governor to come back for another round of service. To me, it was a call for more service to my fatherland; I had no objection but to inform my family and friends that no more rest, but that they should permit me to render more services to our fatherland. Here am I today. But I must thank God and thank His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel for the privilege given me to serve in this capacity.
NEWSFRONT: The present administration in the state led by Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel has just celebrated three years in office, do you think this administration has something to show in three years?
EKARIKA: Not just something to show; governor Udom Emmanuel has everything to show for celebrating three years in office. We don’t assess any government in isolation, you assess government based on sectoral achievements, by so doing, it is there and then that a holistic assessment of such government would be captured. In three years, Governor Udom Emmanuel has done much in agriculture, education, workers welfare, youth empowerment and capacity building, roads and infrastructure, rural development, health, industrialization; above all, there is relative peace in the state. Peace is an amalgam of million indices, so for peace to reign in Akwa Ibom State, the governor has been able to manage all the indices of peace, without peace all these sectoral achievements won’t be possible.
NEWSFRONT: What are some of these sectoral achievements?
EKARIKA: They are numerous, let’s start with agriculture, there is a coconut plantation of about eleven thousand hectares; cassava plantation of over two thousand hectares cutting across 15 local government areas; we have coordinated registered rice farmers of approximately five thousand, we have weekly production of ten thousand day old chicks, improved seedlings and subsidized fertilizers among others. In the area of education, we have free, qualitative and compulsory basic education in all public primary and secondary schools; payment of WAEC fees of over N600 million for students in all the public secondary schools in the state; free textbooks and other educational materials. Our Tertiary Institutions also receive attention through strategic interventions such as internal road networks, equipment and building of academic blocks. Also remember within this period, Governor Udom Emmanuel has constituted and renovated about 194 school blocks and over seven community secondary schools have been taken over by the present administration.
NEWSFRONT: (cuts in) what has the governor done in the area of youth empowerment?
EKARIKA: His achievement too in this area is phenomenal. Training of youths in various skills; over 20,000 youths within the three years of his administration. It is not only training, he empowers the youths to start up their own businesses; construction of modern sports centres; over N2 billion has been disbursed as interest free loan for small scale entrepreneurs and traders who are mainly youths and women; there has been enormous achievements in the sports from local to international sports events, what about youth employment from the ongoing industrialization – who are those working in syringe manufacturing factory, pencil and toothpick factory, electrical digital metering solution manufacturing factory, resuscitated peacock paint industry; who are those working in flour mills and coconut refinery, these are our youths and more of these are coming through Ibom deep seaport, Ibom industrial park / jetty, plastic manufacturing factory and fertilizer blending factory. This government does not leave any area untouched, look at over 1700km of roads, 35 bridges state secretariat annex , second runway upgrade of airport to carry two gigantic planes; flood control in the state capital, suburbs and across the state as well as the proposed 21 storey Complex. Again, over 300 rural development projects scattered across the 31 local government areas; over 400 inter-ministerial intervention projects plus rehabilitation and construction of over 500km of rural feeder roads; the same mega achievements go for health and other sectors of the economy. You can now see the reasons Akwa Ibom people are celebrating Governor Emmanuel three years on saddle. Don’t also forget the contributions of Her Excellency, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel in the areas of women empowerment and social welfare. All these are not pipeline or drawing board achievement, they are physically present.
NEWSFRONT: Sir, in what way do you think you can key into Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration in 2019?
NEWSFRONT: re-election bid and your active role in governance?
EKARIKA: It is not about 2019, I have always been a strong supporter of this administration. Don’t forget I have served this administration in many capacities as a bureaucrat. I am still available and ready to serve my people wherever it pleases His Excellency to place me. I am ready to serve this administration in whatever capacity. Governor Emmanuel is a peaceful man, very humble and intelligent, so it will be a great privilege to work with him directly; as I’ve told you before that I had worked with him before as a bureaucrat, I will not hesitate to work with him again if he finds me fit in any capacity. Of course when he gave me the present appointment, I never lobbied for it and as a pastor, I am conscious of my role as a priest.
NEWSFRONT: Sir, how do you see the upcoming 2019 general elections in Nigeria?
EKARIKA: I pray that the entire elections be peaceful in the country. In Akwa Ibom State, I foresee free, fair and credible elections. The Bible says, “when the righteous is in authority, the people rejoice”, the people of Akwa Ibom state will continue to enjoy the present peace before, during and after elections. The people will vote based on the indices of development on ground. Whoever thinks 2019 elections in Akwa Ibom State would be a difficult one is not fair to himself. The people will appreciate Governor Udom Emmanuel for his good work across the state by their votes because one good term deserves another.
NEWSFRONT: You are not a politician. How do you intend to convince people to support Udom for second term?
EKARIKA: In my local government, the gospel of governor Udom is preached everywhere. For instance, the governor has constructed, completed and commissioned a 6.4km with 2No 45m Span Bridges along Nto Edino road that leads through Ekwere Azu to Abia State. This is a road that when His Excellency visited the local government on assumption of office, the road was so bad that no bicycle could pass as at then, and he decided that whether Nigeria is in recession or not, the road has to be constructed. The governor has embarked on the construction of 4.2km Abak Ifia – Ikpe Mbak Eyop – Ikot Abia Osom – Nko Road and Spurs in Ikot Ekpene and Obot Akara Local Government Areas. Other massive projects under Inter-ministerial, at Government Secondary School, Ikpe Mbakeyop alone, the governor has embarked on massive projects such as construction of Assembly Hall; the renovation of four Classroom Blocks; Construction of three Classroom Blocks; Construction of four Classroom blocks. The governor also renovated four Classroom blocks at Methodist Primary School, Obot Atan; renovated four Classroom blocks at Community Secondary School, Ikot Ukana; production of 1000No Dual Desk; Water and Sanitation facility Projects at FIDA, Abiakpo Ibo, Nto Edino among many other life touching projects.
NEWSFRONT: Your name was recently awashed in the media when a socio-cultural and political organisation nominated you for the post of the Deputy Governor to replace Mr. Moses Ekpo. What is your take?
EKARIKA: In the first instance, I don’t even know about the existence of that group. I was surprised when a friend called my attention to it as published by many local tabloids and I was wondering how they came about such insinuation. Let me tell you, I am not desperate over anything, I am very contented with what God has blessed me with, my willingness to serve my state and support His Excellency to succeed comes from a sincere heart and service-oriented mind.
NEWSFRONT: How would you describe governor Udom Emmanuel?
EKARIKA: simple, His Excellency, the Governor is a focused, very coordinated and result-oriented leader with the heart of God for the service of humanity.
NEWSFRONT: What advice could you give to the people of Akwa Ibom State vis-a-viz, the upcoming general election?
EKARIKA: My advice is that the people should stand by Governor Udom, support him to victory again.
NEWSFRONT: Thank you Sir for your time
EKARIKA: Thank you, God bless you.