Chief Benjamin Okoko, a former National Publicity Secretary is in the contest for the gubernatorial ticket of the party.In this interview, Okoko who is also a business consultant speaks of his plans and programmes for the state ahead of the party primaries.
Excerpts: After your involvement in the last three governorship contests, you are going for another contest. What is your motivation? It is said that greatness is not in how many times you fall, but being able to rise each time you fall. 1999is a story everybody knows. The 1999 election basically was supposed to have been a coronation for me as everything was set but some leaders of the party approached and prevailed on me to withdraw my candidature for the governorship election in 1998/1999 election. I accepted it without any condition. In 2003, I ran and the party decided that the incumbent should have a second term. In 2006 we had a crowd of about 60 aspirants. There was complete confusion, but the party decided it was Governor Godswill Akpabio that should have the ticket. He got the ticket and ran. In 2011, I didn’t run because I became wiser; I came to understand my party better knowing that it is not easy to run against the incumbent seeking a second term. In 2015, Governor Akpabio is finishing his second term, so I feel I have to come out. With the experience I have had in the previous times, I really understand the politics better this time. I am quite optimistic to be successful this time and four is my lucky number.
Also read: Opposition party says govt playing politics with Boko
What is your take on the issue of zoning in the state? I am not running because of zoning. I am running on my credentials as Benjamin Okoko for the governorship election. Talking about zoning, I want to say that it started with me. I made the supreme sacrifice for zoning. In 1998, the elders came to me and said they wanted to do zoning. When they brought the issue of zoning, I had my own idea about it. I accepted and advanced my reason and thinking and how I felt zoning should be done. For me, zoning is the basis of expanding and accommodating within the party. But the leader at that time felt zoning should be done at the level of senatorial district. I allowed it, but at the end, people were cleared to contest the primary but the leader prevailed that I should allow Obong Victor Attah to run; that they wanted to start zoning from Uyo senatorial district.
I was young at the age of 37. With that arrangement we had, Obong Attah from Uyo senatorial district ruled for 8 years. Governor Akpabio from Ikot Ekpene senatorial district is about to conclude his eight years. I am yet to see anybody from Ikot Ekpene senatorial district coming to say he wants to run for governorship. Even when Uyo senatorial district was finishing its turn in 2007, there were still some people in Uyo senatorial district that came out to run, which was not right. In the spirit of statesmanship, will you accept it if called to make another sacrifice? Make sacrifice because of what? That time it was on the basis of zoning. That time they said they wanted to start from Uyo senatorial district. For me, power is service.
What will the party tell me now? Already the party has spoken. The party has said it’s zoned to my senatorial district. Now that you are coming out, what is your vision and blueprint for the state? Governor Victor Attah was resource control, Governor Godswill Akpabio uncommon transformation; Governor Benjamin Okoko’s administration will be uncommon sacrifice; that is my vision. How are you going to achieve or go about this uncommon sacrifice? It has to do with my own value of life. How do I see life? What do I want in life? For me, great societies are built on the sacrifices of people, at some point in time, who determine that the cause of history must go this way. If water is flowing towards a specific direction, you can say no let it flow this way and change its cause.
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