The All Progressives Congress candidate for Akwa Ibom North West (Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District in the 2023 elections, Udom Ekpoudom, tells PATRICK ODEY about the decision to join politics, his emergence as senatorial candidate and the dispute over his candidacy
you retired as a Deputy Inspector General of Police since 2010. What motivated you to join politics now?
I was in the Police Force and I retired peacefully in 2010. After my retirement, I had the opportunity of staying either abroad, in Abuja or in Lagos, but because of the love I have for my state, Akwa Ibom State, I decided to come home to help the government develop the state. When I came, I decided with my wife that she should work alone with me as a director, and we agreed that we should establish a school that is different from any other school in the state.
We looked and discovered that there was a lacuna in most of the schools being run in the state, and that there was something school proprietors never laid emphasis on. They only lay emphasis on academics, leaving aspects of the curriculum like morals and others. In Nigeria today, the society is changing, and the best thing is to have a school, where we can train total children. So, we established a school to get our children well trained and secondly, we wanted to help our unemployed youths to get jobs. And by the grace of God, by today, we have employed many of them; graduates and non-graduates. We have been able to put food on the tables of unemployed youths. So, that was why I joined politics, because no matter what I do, no matter how rich a man is, you can’t do enough for the society except you join government. So, I joined politics to be able to help my people to bring in the dividends of democracy.
Akwa Ibom is a PDP state. Why didn’t you choose the PDP to actualise your dream instead of the APC?
You are correct but not totally correct. Akwa Ibom used to be a PDP state. I was in the PDP some years ago. When I came back after retirement, I joined the PDP but I left the political party because I was not satisfied with the way they were doing things. The PDP now is in tatters. I was there and the same problem I am facing here is there. So, I don’t think I made a mistake because I foresaw what is happening now in the PDP.
You contested for Akwa Ibom North West (Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District and you said you won the primary but Akpabio is contesting the ticket with you. What happened?
I want to say that Akpabio is my brother. I want to say also that the way he behaves now disturbs me. I never expected him to do what he is doing. When God blesses someone, he should not misuse what God has given to him or her to oppress people. Akpabio, you all know was in Lagos. He was brought in from Lagos and made a commissioner for seven years. From Commissioner, he became the governor. From governor, he became a senator and was later made a minister. I think if I was in his shoes, I should be thanking my God that in a state like Akwa Ibom, where there are a lot of educated people, I have been able to achieve these. But I think, he wants to misuse what God has given to him.
He was not an aspirant of the APC in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, he was never. When I retired from the Police Force in 2010, I came back to join politics and after some years, my people said I should contest the Senate seat in 2014, I told them “no, I would allow my brother (Akpabio), who has performed well as a governor to contest as a way of honouring him”. Many of my people were not happy, and they felt I was trying to sell our right. I said no and begged them. He (Akpabio) went and contested. After coming back, he wanted to try the second time; he tried and failed because he didn’t performed well. Let me tell you that since 1960 when we had independent, Abak Five has never produced a senator. But where Akpabio came from has produced five senators. It is not that they are better than us. My people said no and that this time around, it must be Abak Five.
I contested with other persons from the same senatorial district and I won clearly. By that time, Akpabio was busy campaigning to be the President of the country. He never dreamt to contest the senatorial position, though we heard rumours that he had bought form for the Senate. However, when I went to Abuja, we saw the list of people that bought Senate forms and his name was not there. We went for clearance, did everything, election (primary) was held and I won. Akpabio did not show up. Just because he went for the position of the president and failed, he ran back. All of us were in Abuja as delegates. Our presidential primary was on Tuesday to Wednesday, and on Thursday evening, we started coming back. I arrived here around 5pm or 6pm. Later, in the night, a journalist called me and asked: “Are you not the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial (Ikot Ekpene) District candidate?” I said yes, and he said “but there is another primary going on now at Ikot Ekpene’’.
I thought he was joking. So, what I am trying to say is that Akpabio was not a contestant in the primary. We did the primary and the results were sent to Abuja and the Independent National Electoral Commission supervised the whole exercise, the Police, the DSS were there and the results were sent to Abuja. Three weeks later, he came from nowhere and to want to become a senator. What he (Akpabio) is doing is absurd not only to Abak Federal Constituency but to Abak five. He only wanted to cause confusion because he likes causing confusion these days. Instead of using what God has given to him; money, power, to build the state, he likes causing confusion.
How is he causing confusion in the party?
Senator Akpan Udoedehe brought the All Progressives Congress to the state; it was his (Udoedehe’s) turn to contest the governorship position, because all these time, it wasn’t his turn. Now is the turn of Uyo Senatorial District. People like me would have thought Udoedehe should be allowed to contest because it’s Uyo senatorial district’s turn now but my brother (Akpabio) wants to bring someone from outside, and by doing that, trouble started. I am not happy because of that. It’s injustice. As if that was not enough, we conducted congresses in the state from the wards to the state level. He came and caused confusion. When the reports were sent to Abuja, on the way, the result was changed without knowing that INEC had their copy. Senator Akpabio was not a contestant for Ikot Ekpene senatorial district in the primary.
But Akpabio is alleging that the primary you claimed to have won was cancelled due to security issues. How will you react to this claim?
There was no security threat. If the primary was cancelled, why didn’t they inform me? Nothing like that happened. INEC was there, the police were there, the DSS was there. There was nothing like security issue. How would a retired police chief take part in an exercise and there would not be enough security? He just wanted to use that as an excuse.
But during the re-run primary which took place in Ikot Ekpene on June 9, 2022, the state APC Chairman, Stephen Ntukekpo, claimed you were duly informed. Are you saying it is not true?
He is not even the chairman in the state.
But is he not the one recognised by the law?
Which law? That case is now with the police. Stephen Ntukekpo is not the APC state chairman. His case is with the police. The election was conducted and he lost but they went and altered the figure. When they went to an Appeal Court, the court told them to maintain the status quo, but they went back without adhering to it. So, Ntukekpo can never be the chairman of the APC.
Now that INEC seems to have tilted to your direction, are you worried about Akpabio’s next move?
I was not worried before not to talk of being worried now. If INEC were to be against me, I would have been. Luckily INEC is not for me, it is for the law. So, I am not worried. I want to say that God will bless the Akwa Ibom State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Mike Igini. I saw Igini for the first time, a day before the primary election at Sheer Grace Arena, and the then commissioner of police. He (Igini) introduced himself to me. I didn’t know him. But what that man, Igini did, if we can have five per cent of Nigerians like him, this country will change. Akpabio dangled everything before him and he refused to yield. That is why they are accusing him. I’m sorry to say this, but my brother (Akpabio) believes in money but money cannot solve all problems. Though some people are shouting Igini’s name for doing the right thing, God Almighty will exonerate him. This is my first time to see a Nigerian who is so upright.
Your campaign group issued a statement quoting you as saying that your ticket is not for sale. Did Akpabio approach you to sell the ticket?
Before now, I was very close to Akpabio, but when he became a Minister, he became like a Lord, to the extent that when you call him, he will not pick your calls. So, for three years now, he has not spoken to me, but that day, I was shocked when I saw his call. He asked me where I was and I told him I was in Akwa Ibom State. So, he asked me to come to Abuja and I told him that I had just returned from Abuja, then he told me whether I would like to be Minister of Police Affairs and I laughed. But can he make me a minister? So, I put off my phone.
The REC in Akwa Ibom State, Igini, has written a report to Abuja indicating that there is no APC governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State. Are you worried about this?
I am very worried about that. This is the handiwork of my brother (Akpabio) because he doesn’t like something to go straight. During the primaries, all of us waited at the venue for the materials to come. Suddenly, our youths got information that they would divert the materials to go and do what they used to do in those days. You know that there has never been any election; it was only to thumbprint and thumbprint. So, when they came, instead of them to take the materials to the Sheer Grace venue, they decided to take them to somewhere else before the young men blocked them.
The young men directed them to go to the INEC office but they said they won’t go and that they want to go to the DSS office. So, for hours it was getting late, I remember when Igini put a call to the Director of DSS and he confirmed that they were there. They said they came with a man in charge of Abuja and he spoke with him and the man said he couldn’t do election that day because they were traumatised. So, around 11 pm, we had to go but we were told the following morning that the election was done. How? So, it was the handiwork of Akpabio and many people were not there. So, INEC is saying the correct thing. I will be very sad. If APC dies and can’t have a governorship candidate at the end of the day, the blame will go to Akpabio.
One of the contestants, Ekperikpe Ekpo, who contested with you, claimed he won that primary and that was why he decided to step down and allow Akpabio to stand in the re-run primary. How true it this?
That is nonsensical! In the first place, asked him if INEC was there, that is number one, any primary done without INEC presence is null and void. Number two, according to the electoral law, what they said they did, they shouldn’t have done it. I am the recognised candidate and nobody can change me except either I die or resign. You said you were there, what time was the primary? Akpabio is just using Ekperikpe as a stooge. but they have failed.
You made a statement that what Akpabio is doing is absurd to Abak Federal Constituency. Have the stakeholders cautioned him?
It has not reached that stage yet but I want to tell you in confidence that this fight is not only Ekpoudom versus Akpabio; it is a fight of political parties in Abak. The insult is too much.
What are your chances and how do you intend to ensure that you don’t disappoint your people if voted to represent them at the Senate?
People in my constituency don’t vote for party per se, they vote for individuals. They know my pedigree. Although I have not headed any political office before, I have helped a lot of people in my constituency. I helped a lot of people in my senatorial district with scholarships and have given employment to many people both in civil and military jobs and I feel so happy whenever I do that. When I went to submit my form in Abuja, those young boys and girls I helped years back who are now men and women, when I landed at the airport, they were jubilating. So, forget about Emmanuel Enoidem, he is my friend in the PDP, the people will vote for individuals and not political party.
I want to reduce the poverty level in my senatorial district. Some people are very poor. There are young graduates roaming the streets with no job. Some months ago at the campaign office, I saw a young man with Ph.D walking about with nothing to do. I’m not boasting, God has blessed me with everything I want in life. So, what will I be looking for again? My senatorial ambition is to help people to find their footings in life.