Dr Alex Egbona was the Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House during the era of Donald Duke as Governor of Cross River State, and was elevated to the position of Chief of Staff when Senator Liyel Imoke took over as governor. He left the office in 2014 to contest the Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency seat but was denied the opportunity. He recontested and this time, despite being an APC member in a PDP state, Egbona was declared winner as the only APC representative and eventually presented with his certificate of return to represent Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency. He spoke on his determination to keep his campaign promises, among other issues. Excerpts:
How do you assess the performance of people who have been on that seat before now?
It will be unfair to judge anybody’s performance. That is in the past. Of what use will it be to my people if I begin to judge my predecessors? What you should realize is that if you continue to fix your gaze on the past, you will miss your target. For the purpose of your question, I will only respond by saying that all my predecessors did their best.
There were concerns about the issue of your Certificate of Return as your name was said to be initially missing from INEC’s list
My attention was drawn to this after INEC announced the date for the issuance of certificates of return to winners of the election. Of course we got in touch with INEC to find out what happened and we were told that it was because of the same issue of the so-called court order which had been set aside by an Appeal Court order, which made nonsense of the high court order. INEC’s attention had earlier been drawn to the court of appeal order and they did the right thing by issuing me the certificate of return, alongside my other colleagues.
How did you feel when you were announced winner of the Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency election?
Our election took place on February 23, 2019. Before that day, I had traversed the nooks and crannies of the constituency to sell my programmes and vision to the people. I visited every ward in the two local governments and consulted widely. I campaigned vigorously. But something happened on the eve of that election. The news was viral, that I and other APC candidates had been delisted by INEC, meaning that we were not to take part in the election again. Of course this was a serious threat to us. That night, we got hundreds of calls from our supporters who were already confused and destabilised. But having known that it was a ploy by our opponents to weaken and distract us, we moved ahead and encouraged our supporters to push on. The drama and games were belly-aching but you see, when God’s hand is upon a project, all the demons in hell put together can’t stop it. I was so confident of victory and that was what I got at the end of the day. So, that Monday when I got the news that I have been declared winner, I simply knelt down, with hands lifted up, to thank God for showing that he is not just the way maker, he is in fact, the way. If you ask me, I would say that the victory we got at the poll was a confirmation that God has heard the cry of the people of Abi/Yakurr Local Government. So, I will say that this victory is not about me, it is about the future of the people of my constituency.
Having scaled all the hurdles, what are the people expecting from you?
I have said from the first day I was declared winner, that I will keep all the promises I made to my people, for which reason they voted for me. All those who know me are aware that I am that politician who keep my promises. Yes, I know that people don’t believe in the promises made by politicians. But make your findings, ask questions about me, do independent investigations about my political character and pedigree and you will surely convince yourself that I am a politician with conscience. At the risk of being seen to be blowing my trumpet, believe me, I have a name to protect and for the four years that I will serve in the House of Representatives, I will show to this country, that one can serve his people selflessly.
But others have been saying same
For the avoidance of doubt, I like to let you know that I did not seek this office for myself or members of my family. I chose to contest because I needed the platform to be of help to many people. As a private person who has been out of office for the past four years, I still touched lives. I get excited when I put smiles on the faces of people, especially the poor. I feel happy when I empower people. This is what I will continue to do, for as long as God keeps me alive. During my campaigns, I made promises. What I have planned to do is certainly borne out of my natural passion to present myself as the ladder that people need to climb to the top. I have an unrepentant passion to help, to extend a hand to the less privileged. It is my hobby to make people smile. This I have done as a habit every year, under my empowerment scheme.
What do you hope to do for the masses?
Many of our people have benefitted from this scheme. I started the empowerment scheme at a time that I never even nursed the ambition to contest an election. I did it as a hobby. During the next four years, I will assist farmers during farming season, I will assist traders to enable them improve on or add value to their businesses and also give scholarship to the needy. I will assist indigent students in the payment of school fees as I have always done and then introduce what I call conditional cash transfer to some women in the constituency to enhance their businesses. Within the first two years of my tenure, I will build a modern cottage hospital for my people. I believe God will provide the resources for this because it is one of the programmes I hold dearly. Those who desire to learn skills would be given the opportunity to acquire skills of their choice. By the time I leave the seat, people will know that there was a man who occupied the seat and did not care about himself, but chose to bother much more about his people. All I ask for is good health from the Almighty.
Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
The future belongs to God. I have not achieved anything in life without God. He rules in my affairs. As a person, I can only look forward to the best. I see myself continuously showing kindness to everybody around me, whether in public office or not. As God keeps me alive, I will continue to do what is good, to please God and man.
How will you cope with the pressure from your constituency and from your party, being that you are the only APC elected representative in the state for now?
Have you ever heard of the ancient proverb that says ‘God gave the cow a tail, knowing that a time will come when she will need to chase flies with the tail?’ I will leave it at that.
People have said that your former boss, Senator Liyel Imoke worked hard to stop you from winning the election. What really happened?
Maybe I should rephrase the question to read thus, that my former boss worked hard to win the election for his party, the PDP. If you put it that way, I will say you have a point, because every good party man will always want his party to win an election. But to talk about me and former boss is a different thing altogether. I always believe that people have the right to say whatever they like. Talk is free. But what I will like you to take home is that the distinguished Senator Liyel Imoke, former governor of Cross River State, my former boss, my leader, my political mentor is a man I respect and reverence at all times. The history of my political career cannot be complete without mentioning him. Imoke remains my father and leader. No matter how a child grows, no matter where the child gets to in life, a father will always remain the father. Anybody who jokes with the father’s blessing does not know what they are doing. So, I respect Imoke and will always do. Our relationship is beyond politics
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