Cross River State has a unique political trajectory. The state has blazed the trail of producing young political leaders. As 2019 approaches, many young accomplished professionals have indicated their interest to seek political power. One of such persons is Kammonke Abam, a journalist and PR consultant who is seeking to contest for Senate to represent Cross River Central Senatorial District in 2019. He recently spoke with journalist about his plans and other related issues.
1. We hear that you are running for senate against political heavyweights like the incumbent, Senator John Owan Enoh. What are your chances?
First and foremost, power belongs to God. He determines who He gives it to. If He has decided to give it to me, there is nothing anybody can do about it. Only God can determine who will become the next senator of the Central Senatorial District. As a matter of fact, the prerogative of who wins elections from the president to councilors is entirely God’s. We as mortals can only do our best and leave the rest to God.
2. But you must admit that these people you are running against are heavyweights
Sure they are, especially in Nigerian political contexts where somebody is said to be strong if he or she is deep pocketed. Again, if God says it’s me, the world will witness the re-enactment of the David and Goliath story. However, the race is really with the incumbent senator; not on account of his incumbency but his very good performance. Upstaging a man like that isn’t easy. Owan Enoh has done very well as a Senator. But the political configuration of the Central Senatorial District as at now does not favour his returning to the Red Chamber of the National Assembly. Instead it favours the section of the district where I come from and I see myself as the best aspirant to replace him in 2019 so that not only will I carry on the good work he has started but improve on it.
In terms of the reality on ground, there are some variables that are working in my favour and other aspirants from Yakurr. The Central Senatorial District has two major geo-political blocs: the Old Ikom and the Old Obubra. Since the inception of the 4th Republic in 1999, Old Ikom has consistently produced the senators representing us. By next year, it will be 20 solid years that they have had that privilege. Old Obubra now deserves the opportunity to produce the senator out of fairness, equity and justice. That is what those of us from Old Obubra are agitating for. I come from Yakurr, one of the three local governments that constitute Old Obubra. The other two are Obubra and Abi. By some calculations and understanding with our Obubra and Abi brothers and sisters, Yakurr is most favoured to produce the next senator.
3. What do you think gives you an edge over your competitors?
You know what? I usually do not compare myself with others because each one of us is uniquely made by God and has his or her own unique selling points. One thing I can say is that I am committed to providing quality service to the good people of the Central Senatorial District. The difference in my approach is that I am not individualistic. I am not running as the person, Kammonke, but as part of a critical mass with me as a symbol. So my idea of representation or leadership is that of participatory leadership. I believe that individuals hold power in trust for the common good of the people. Power is the commonwealth of a particular people in a specific geographical location. The long and short of what am saying is that the Senate just like the governorship is an institution with so many stakeholders. The Senator is therefore merely the eyes and the voice of the entire people of Central Senatorial District. The people own the power and they determine what to do with it.
It suits my persona because by training as a Mass Communicator and by career as a journalist and PR consultant, I am a service provider. All my life, I have engaged in providing services. The business I do is majorly about providing solution-based services to humanity. So I see politics as an expansion of the platform for service provision for a wider demography.
4. What would you do differently if elected?
I will engage with and consult the people directly through variety of channels including but not restricted to Town Hall meetings. These meetings will help shape the legislative agenda that we will be pursuing. We deliberately wish to adopt the principle of bottom-up approach in our legislative leadership to accentuate the voices of the people that have been muffled over a time. We will ensure that the legislations that we will initiate and the ones we will support in the National Assembly are those that the people want.
Right now, we are facilitating the convergence of thoughts and ideas in a living document that will capture the aspirations of the people of the Central Senatorial District. I am not coming with the attitude that I-know-it-all. Truth is that I do not know much and need to learn and work with everyone that has a value-adding idea. I see myself as the messenger to go and deliver whatever the people say they want delivered.
5. What gives you the impetus to seek for this position?
God. God is the advantage I have. It may surprise you to know that I do not have a godfather like most politicians have who will bulldoze the way for me but I have mentors and good men who have held up my hands and are still holding my hands and showing me the right way to go. I also believe in the sincerity of my heart that I can provide some political leadership for my people and make a difference in their lives. Leadership isn’t really rocket science. When you have love and compassion for your people and are ready to sacrifice, then you are a candidate for leadership. That is why leadership is not by appointment, it is earned.
Other than that, I believe that I am sufficiently equipped to engage in this game at this level. After 27 years of active engagement in the business sector and over 25 years of political participation supporting people, I believe I have some practical experience, knowledge and wisdom to seek to serve my people at this level of representation. It is not a decision I took rashly. I have been preparing myself for a very long time for such a time as this.
Unknown to most people, I have been engaged in the state’s political ecosystem since 1993. That year, I had resigned from the Nigerian Chronicle to enable be run for the chairmanship of Yakurr local government council against the more established politicians like Pastor Usani Usani and Elder Barrister Lekam Okoi among others. We were in the middle of campaign when the 1993 coup was staged and that numbed my infant interest in elective politics.
Thereafter, I decided to focus on developing my young publishing business. It was a trying period for those of us who have made up our minds to play politics guided by certain basic values. So I treaded cautiously in engaging in a political process that was said to be “leprous” and that eventually threw up the proverbial five leprous parties in 1994. Anyway, since that time, I have been supporting candidates running for different offices. Candidates that best articulate the programmes and policies I consider are in the best interest of majority of the people whether at the national, state or local government level.
Not to forget the wealth of experience I have garnered in political leadership working in the administrations of Governors Duke and Imoke. I watched and studied them at close quarters. I had the privilege of working with their spouses and this provided me and opportunity to truly study their personalities and styles all through the period I served them. Like I often say, the 9 years I served as a Special Assistant were years of political leadership tutelage from the masters.
6. Is this all that has given you the impetus?
The point I am trying to make is that I have weathered so many storms the past 27 years since leaving the university the benefit of which I can deploy for the good of the society.
At 50, I believe I am in my prime for political leadership. I now combine the wisdom of middle age and experience with the remnant of youthful zest and energy. My world view is broader. Am more patient, tolerant, and open to thinking out-of-the-box in solving problems than ever before.
7. Why the search for political power. Why are you not satisfied with the power you wield in the media and business?
Political power is a unique expression of authority because it has to do with the people directly. By its very nature, political power is the power of people that they willingly give up in trust to an individual or a group of individuals to exercise on their behalf. While it is true that power from professional or business accomplishment is good, the sphere of influence can never be compared to that of political power. A lot of difference can be made with political power and authority. Political leadership offers opportunities for far reaching decisions with unprecedented consequences that affect lives of millions of people. So, if a wrong decision is made, the people suffer and if the right decision is made, the people rejoice. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria accords enormous power on political leadership and, of necessity, grants political leaders immense discretion to use it. Politicians wield enormous power which if used judiciously, can help transform our society and make it a better place. Therefore, my interest in seeking political power is to contribute to making our society a better place by deploying my competence and integrity in exercising the authority that political power offers. Leaders who greedily or ineptly use the enormous power at their disposal endanger not only citizens that they represent but also the entire fabric of democracy. In short, the psychology of power of politicians matters enormously. Their ambition, values, and integrity are variables that cannot be overlooked if democratic institutions have to be strengthened. The fate of people, the destinies of nations, and history itself are determined to a substantial extent by how well political leaders perform.
8. When elected, what would be your main focus areas?
My main focus areas will be what the people of Central Senatorial District consider as their priority. I cannot decide for them. They decide for me. Right now, my team is in the process of validating what their key needs are. Remember, I had said that we want to offer a representation based on a bottom-up approach where the people are the kings and the representative is the servant leader. I used the word, validation, consciously because the people know exactly what they want and any attempt to tell them what you think they want might be imposition. As a person, the key areas that my legislative intervention will focus on include addressing poverty issues, protecting human rights including environment protection and preservation, gender parity, free speech, and generally, community development.