Philanthropist and leading aspirant for the Ikono/INI Federal Constituency seat, Obong Emmanuel Ukpong-Udo, fondly called Macaire, in this interview says he is in politics to set a new standard of representation because there is a limit to what philanthropy can achieve.
Obong Ukpong-Udo, a Master Degree graduate of University of Portsmouth and a soon to be Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) from Middlesex University, United Kingdom, also speaks on his plans for the people of his Federal Constituency, when elected.
You were among the key persons that championed Governor Udom Emmanuel’s campaign in 2015. It is almost four years down the line and a second term in view, how would you assess his performance?
_You are right, I was one of the few key persons that believed in the then Secretary to Akwa Ibom State Government (SSG), Deacon Udom Emmanuel, but I want to disagree with the use of the word ‘championed’. Deacon Udom Emmanuel is a friend. So, I simply did what a true friend ought to have done. When you see a true friend embarking on a worthy cause, it becomes incumbent on you to support in the best way you can_. That was how I became part of the campaign project. On his performance so far, *I will say he has done very well and he will perfect it with superior performance from 2019.* Governor Udom Emmanuel, for me, is Akwa Ibom hidden treasure, one that is running the affairs of the state diligently. We have witnessed a tremendous revolution in skill acquisitions, agriculture, security and infrastructure. _His diligent approach to the industrialization of the state has been unparalleled as he strives to attract investments into the state. Governor Udom Emmanuel is a technocrat whose economic ideology is driven by long-term vision. Whenever he talks about Akwa Ibom, he does so with a passion. The interest of every Akwa Ibom child and the future generation is paramount in his thinking, policy thrust and developmental agenda._
Has he gotten the priorities right?
_You would recall that when he became the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, one of the major projects he embarked upon was the resuscitation of the Peacock Paint. He also sent bulk of our youths on training abroad in Oracle, Agriculture and all that. What was he trying to achieve? He wanted our youth to be equipped with requisite skills to drive the industrialization agenda of his administration. Governor Udom Emmanuel has been and is to make the next generation of leaders to be immersed in the task of building on the foundation that has been laid. That is vision and all these are embedded in the Dakkada philosophy._
Governor Udom Emmanuel is determined to industrialize the state by creating the enabling environment that encourages investments.* Ultimately, the initiative of the Udom Emmanuel’s administration is transforming the state from a Promise Land to the Land of Fulfillment; from a civil service-minded state to an industrial hub – a state where youths are positively engaged and one whose economy supports commerce. Once an administration gets its vision right, things work out well and this is why we call him Mr. Right, Mr. Industrialization.
What values are you bringing to or have you added to the industrialization drive of the Udom Emmanuel’s administration?
_I will continue to expand on my network to create more job opportunities for youths of Akwa Ibom but with special emphasis on Ikono/INI Federal Constituency. The Governor’s agricultural revolution is one area I really want to key into. I am working out modalities to acquire land for mechanize farming to create both direct and indirect jobs for youths of my federal constituency. As a safety professional in the oil and gas and maritime industries, I am making plans to bring in investors to play key role in some of the administration’s signature projects._
Given your stride in the Oil and Gas sector, what influences your decision to delve into politics?
_This is one question I tried to avoid. But be it as it may, I want to use this opportunity to make my salient points. I had struggled for years to dissociate myself from politics because of the way people from our clime perceived politics. Many people see politics as a dirty game and this has kept me wondering how I would be branded a politician. In the cause of my philanthropy, I have discovered that there is a limit to what Obong Emmanuel Ukpong-Udo as an individual can do to help his people and the extremely deprived society. I told myself that I need a platform to affect a greater number of people positively. As a private sector-driven person, I have limited resources to touch the lives of thousands of my people that are looking up to me. But if I have a better platform, I would be able to touch more people. So, this is the whole idea. And for me, this is the only way I can build new culture that support selflessness._
_My humble background has taught me a lot about life. I have seen it all growing up as a teenager. I have traveled far and wide outside the shores of Nigeria and I have a world view to life. So, I don’t need to be told what people are going through. I feel happy and fulfilled whenever I am able to affect the lives of people around me positively. The driving principle of religion is faith, and faith is worthless without hope. Faith runs on the vehicle of hope. If you take hope out of faith, it is useless. That hope is what I want to inspire in politics. At first I was a bit reluctant to come into politics because it is seen as a dirty game. But you see, all what evil requires to succeed is for good men to do nothing. If everybody stays away, then what happens to the system? If you are passionate about your people, you must be ready to sacrifice for them._
Why are you interested in political office?
_The drive is to touch the masses and set a new standard of representation. What we hear is that the salary of a lawmaker can pay hundreds of teachers or health workers. Imagine the difference it will make if I employ 100 teachers and health workers to go around my Federal Constituency with the salary I earn. First, my earnings as a lawmaker will open to my people and I will also open a trust fund account where my salary and allowances will be paid into. The money will be used for the public good, to empower my people and develop my federal constituency._
From our findings, you have been a philanthropist all your life, will you continue this if your people do not support your political ambition?
_For me, philanthropy is a calling. It is a pledge I have made. One of the things that give me joy is giving. When I give, I get the kind of satisfaction wealth, fame and business success cannot give me. One thing nobody can separate from me is philanthropy. I am seeking to represent my people at the national assembly to expand my philanthropic works. I see politics as a platform of expanding the reach of my humanitarian works. So, my focus will be on empowerment. I intend to get the unemployed youths and women to stand on their own. The reason our people, particularly the youths, appear so naive is poverty. A hungry man can easily compromise. Poverty has reduced us to a ridiculous level. So, if elected, I must, through legislative intervention, begin to guide my people to create wealth._
In advanced democracies like the United States, parliamentarians have specific areas of interest. Are you thinking in this line?
_When we talk about advance democracies, we must understand that they are different from ours by all indices. Their political exposure and literacy level is higher than ours. If we must bridge the gap between the advanced world and ours, we must strategically begin to address the challenges in our education system. One of my cardinal objectives as a national assembly man will be education. It is said that when you educate an individual, you have liberated several generations to come. The level of employment and poverty in my Federal Constituency, for instance, is still high. Several youths that should be assets to the area are not actively engaged even when some of them are graduates. Our women are hardworking, dedicated and diligent in their respective trades. But there is limit to what they can do. As a private person, I have been actively involved in the empowerment of the youth and women but to reach a larger percentage of these groups, I need to put in place robust institutional frameworks that are supportive of the society we want to build. And I think that society is one that is progressive, developmental and wealth creating. That society is what Governor Udom Emmanuel, through his Dakkada philosophy, is putting together for Akwa Ibom and its people._