CROSS RIVER: ‘None Of The 15 Persons Jostling For Ministerial Appointments Deserves It’
Buhari will be burying APC in the state to appoint any of
By Soni Daniel, Editor, Northern Region
Chief Utum Eteng, a legal practitioner and Deputy National
Treasurer of the APC Presidential Campaign Council and
member of the Legal Committee of the Presidential
Campaign Council, hails from Cross River State. He is
upset that APC could not win in the state in the last
elections. He narrates what he felt caused Buhari’s defeat
in that state and what he needs to prioritize in his second
How did APC perform so poorly in Cross River State?
Before this time, everybody had thought in Cross River
state that APC was hopeful, that APC was going to win in
the state easily given the level of support it was getting and
the caliber of politicians behind the party in the state.
In fact, it was obvious from the level of support, that the
PDP was actually jittery over the strength and popularity of
the APC in the state, forcing the state governor to become
friendly with Buhari.
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But the problems of the APC in the state, which were
principally borne out of greed, internal crisis, greed and
avarice as well as unnecessary power contest, caused us
the defeat. I call it unnecessary because in 2015 APC gave
the president 28,000 votes so the 25% was not there. Even
though in the last elections APC improved on that by giving
the president 117,000 votes which is a remarkable
improvement over that of 2015, it could have done better
than that if not for the reasons I mentioned now. The whole
problem started with the struggle for the chairmanship of
the party, pitting one key party leader against the other
until it was too late to retrace their steps, leaving us with
avoidable loss of a state we were poised to win with ease.
Does that not clearly show that the party does not have a
I have maintained that long before now that we don’t have
leaders and elders who care about the interest of the party
in Cross River state elders. If they are there at all, they are
either too afraid or too timid and left at the mercy of
whoever wants to use them to satisfy personal interest over
and above that of the party.
So what is the way out now that the election has been won
For me the way out is that the national chairman of the
party, the national leader of the party Asiwaju Bola Tinubu,
and Mr. President as the conscience of the party must take
a positive stance to see that the party is reorganized and
organized properly to play the role it is supposed to play in
I would say straightway Mr. President Sir, tell the national
chairman of the party, that they should dissolve, whether
legitimate or illegitimate, state exco in Cross River State
currently contesting for power and come up with a caretaker
committee and in doing so, care must be taken to ensure
that none of those who participated in any of the factions
that robbed the state of victory should be allowed to play
any role in the new committee. They must ensure that only
neutral persons with genuine interest in the party should be
entrusted with duties in the new executive committee.
The second way to make peace in the state is to ensure
that the minister who is appointed from the state and the
national officer of the party from the state do not control
the structures of the party in the state so as not to stoke
the embers of crisis any more. I am saying so because we
are all witnesses to the role played by top officials of the
government and the party leaders from the state at the
national and regional levels.
Who do you think should become the next minister from
Cross River State. Should Usani Usani be retained?
Going by my analysis I would say, no. But since this is a
government of change and if the change would make him to
change, that is fine. However, I want to say that given the
high level of controversy surrounding all the people who
caused the APC to lose the state, Buhari has to take extra
steps to determine who becomes a minister in his cabinet
from the state. I understand that no fewer than 15
persons are jostling for the position of minister and I have
taken a look at all of them and none of them, by my candid
opinion, has what it takes to do the right job for Mr.
President and the people of Cross River State and Nigeria
as a whole.
If any of those people whose names are being mentioned, is
appointed, then let it be known to all that the President and
the national leadership of our party would technically be
performing a memorial and the burial of the APC in the
state. To be honest, let no undeserving person in Cross
River State be made a minister anymore.
But beyond the crisis in Cross River State, do you think
that the APC had done anything tangible to lift Nigeria any
notch higher from where the other party left it?
This country under the APC leader of President Buhari has
done comparatively better than any previous administration
in the country.
Why do you say so?
Number one, it makes nonsense of any logic to think you
can compare four years with the 16 years that another
party was in power. It is completely illogical. Instead select
the first four years of PDP and compare with the first tenure
of the APC in order to make sense. That is the level of
comparison I am talking about.
If you like, during the first four years of the PDP, they
brought the GSM technology to Nigeria as its only major
achievement. But within the first four years of President
Buhari, so much has been achieved in virtually all the
sectors of the economy despite the organized conspiracy
and sabotage to bring down the administration by
What do you mean by organized conspiracy and sabotage?
Are they the ones responsible for insecurity, which was
already threatening even before Jonathan came on board?
To the extent it has been. The theory of the conspiracy can
be arrived at for instance and the President should not
sleep with his two eyes closed on this matter because the
conspiracy from the opposition would be more intense.
I am saying so because during the electioneering and
campaign period, you would have noticed that level of
insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other forms of violence
reduced drastically because the organizers were also
participating politicians in the elections. Apparently, they
were busy organizing their political structures and
campaigning with little or no time to feed the boys to go
and commit the havoc but now it has been intensified
shortly after the elections. You can see that the whole thing
is organized crime against the sitting government by its
Don’t you think that there are some fundamental factors
promoting security challenges in the country?
To some extent there has been a huge number of
unemployed persons starting from the PDP 16 years and it
is obvious that the government that came in for only four
years cannot immediately meet the demand because it is a
problem that has lingered over the years. It is
understandable why many have resorted to criminality and
all forms of illegitimate activities as a means of livelihood.
But it is wrong and unhelpful for a people to resort to evil
pursuits all in the name of livelihood.
Don’t you think the government itself has lost touch with
the key issue of development because today you cannot
find industrial estates where production is going on as it
was in the past? Why is life more difficult?
I will say that even in the 16 years of PDP rule we never
saw any of these industries going on at that level but what
is the position with Ajaokuta today?
Have they started production?
I can say they will soon start production. And many hands
will be brought on board once that happens. What about
the revolution in railway transportation in Nigeria? Have you
not seen that President Buhari did it and it is working very
It’s important to remind you that Nigeria was still using
railway system before Buhari came.
Good, if it went comatose must credit not be given to
somebody who revived a dead man to life? It is true that
most of the railway projects in Nigeria were dead before but
it was brought back by the present administration and we
need to thank the government that did it.
Have you used train anywhere in Nigeria and from where to
Yes, from Kaduna to Abuja when the Abuja airport was
closed and it was sweeter, faster and better than all these
risks on the roads. Now, we can go to Warri from Lagos on
train and vice versa. These things are on. So you cannot
say nothing is happening. Make a trip to Onitsha and see
what is gradually on ground in terms of the second Niger
But people often argue that the bridge was actually started
by President Jonathan.
No. To start a building is the simplest thing because you
are talking about block work but how to really develop the
building to a house is what is important. So Jonathan
cannot put a block and say oh we have started a building
and it was abandoned.
Look at the Calabar Airport, so much noise was made
about it; go and see if it rains and you will see how the
whole place will be leaking and dropping water like baskets.
But they were making noise about building an international
And so when you look at some of these things to a very
large extent; get to Abuja Airport now, you will see that it
has been elevated to a particular standard and now there is
a link through railway and the work is ongoing there. All
these are the accomplishments of one man under the APC.
So you cannot say he is not developing anything; these
things are getting developed.
But do you think that this country would have been far
developed if any of these parties were to run strictly an
By our own level for now, it is going to be very difficult. For
instance, if you are taking a leftist, centrist or rightist
position in designing policies and programmes as a
government, you would deprive a lot of people of so many
things. But today the government is fighting corruption
which affects everyone irrespective of ideology. So, let the
country continue to serve the interest of the majority of the
people, ensure inclusive growth and spreading of
opportunities for all Nigerians and we can continue from
there. Let the government be able to provide for the welfare
of the people even if it is not on any ideology.
What will really serve us as a people is for all Nigerians to
have a positive attitude towards their government and not
to work against it as an enemy would do. It is for us to
reduce our lust for money, greed and attitude to steal. If we
can change that, our country will be better than running on
As a lawyer do you think our development stride has been
hampered because of lack of laws and policies or the
absence of a strong political will to perform?
Not lack of laws but the political will to implement or
enforce because if you go to our sacred books, we have
more laws in them than all the 774 local governments we
have in Nigeria. We have laws on almost every subject
matter. So the laws have been there almost from time
It is our inability to implement the laws and the
inconsistency of those who take over from their
predecessors. You are taking over rather than look at
projects started by your predecessor and see how they
would impact on the development of the place and the
people, the new person would be thinking of how to start
his own. So that is the dilemma we are into, nothing more
If you were to advise Mr. President on what to do in his
second term, what would you ask him to do?
I would ask him to concentrate on the recovery of stolen
wealth, ensure that the EFCC chairman, Magu is confirmed
by the senate, and ensure that the Presidential Panel on the
Recovery of Public Assets is given legal backing to
prosecute looters in the country.
How will that work with the existence of EFCC and ICPC?
Such bodies are not even enough given the level of looting
in this country. We need more of them to help in checking
corruption and money laundering.