Engr. Ita Awak, the immediate past Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and a former Commissioner for Information in Akwa Ibom state. He is currently the Director of Airworthiness Standards, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). In this interview with IDONGESIT ASHAMERI, he spoke on the Local Government election in the state, the clamour for restructuring and other issues. Excerpts:
You were a vibrant Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Akwa Ibom State chapter, what is it that you miss about your former office?
Well, my appointment is something I am thankful for. I thank the leadership of our great party for according me the privilege to serve my country in this capacity. As far as my former job of enlightening people with regards to the dreams and philosophy of our great party, the APC is concerned, I have not really missed so much, because right now I am still doing what the party requires of me and I am in contact with my party on daily basis.
I came to Akwa Ibom because my party had a strategic meeting. What I am doing now is also contributing to the enlightenment of our people in relation to what they stand to gain by embracing our party fully. So, I want to also seize this opportunity to congratulate my brother and friend, Edyboy, who took over from me as the Publicity Secretary, for doing a good job by enlightening people of what they stand to gain by embracing totally our great party.
Are you not uncomfortable with this new role? Given the fact that you were very vibrant as your party’s spokesperson and very deeply involved during the 2015 election, how do you adjust to an appointment in the aviation sector, which is almost considered a federal civil service?
The truth of the matter is that before I veered into partisan politics in 1999/2000, I was already practising as an aircraft engineer. I veered into politics with the chief purpose of enriching the quality of politicians from my own area; that is Mbo. That, for me is one of the lessons that our youths have to learn, that before you veer into politics, you must try all you can to make sure you develop yourself in the area of getting a qualification and a profession. That is the only way you can enrich your own politics.
Before I was given the appointment, vast majority of Akwa Ibom people thought I was a journalist. But for me, anything that I am given to do, I do it with all my heart. I do it with all commitment. Now, coming to my new role, this is the first time someone from this part of our country, the South South, is given an opportunity to serve in this strategic critical sector of the Nigerian aviation industry. This, to me, is a rare privilege. And I use this opportunity to thank Almighty God. The best way to thank God is to make sure that I discharge the functions of this office to the glory of God.
How do I glorify God by what I do with this office? Now this office has a mandate. And that mandate simply means that the Director of Airworthiness Standards must ensure and find the courage to make sure that all the air operators in Nigeria do not go below the minimum or critical safety standard. I am the product of law, everything that went into my creation was in conformity with the laws of the Almighty.
The way I am expressing myself now in my present office is to make sure that we abide by the laws governing the office and executing the mandates of that office. And for me, I must be a testimony to Nigerians as to the worth of an Akwa Ibom person when given responsibility.
You know that there was a time in this country that if you want somebody you can depend on, they used to look for a Calabar man, a loyal and dedicated person. And from day one, I had made it known that this is not business as usual I am the Calabar man in charge. That means you must conduct the aviation industry in total compliance with the regulations.
This is the first time someone from that part of the country is occupying such key position in the aviation sector. How critical is the aviation sector and how can Akwa Ibom state benefit from the opportunity of having you in office?
Let us paint a picture of the industry. We have come a long way as far as the aviation industry in Nigeria is concerned. When we started this journey of indiginising the aviation industry, we started with a school in Zaria. That became like the culturing institution. Most of the engineers and pilots in Nigeria Airways went through the school.
After the collapse of the Nigerian Airways, we have seen a lot of productive Nigerians go into the civil aviation industry. The thing is exploding and thankfully, at a point of the civil aviation industry in Nigeria, we also had people from Akwa Ibom State who competed very seriously in that sector. I am talking about Captain Okon and Captain Udom who came together to put up the ADC Airline.
After the unfortunate demise of the ADC occasioned by government policy and antagonism of the government of the day, right now, we no longer have Akwa Ibom people in the Nigerian aviation sector. How does my office come in here as an Akwa Ibom person? We had a very visionary leader in this state in the person of Obong Victor Attah. He discovered that inspite of the fact that the Nigerian Airways was one of the biggest airlines in Africa, none of its aircrafts was serviced in Nigeria. Because of the estacode mentality, all the aircraft and other things about the Nigerian Airways fleet were serviced abroad.
When Attah had the privilege to be the governor of our state, it was part of his vision to ensure that Akwa Ibom comes into the aviation industry and monopolise that area of aircraft maintenance. That is why I think he invested our money in building an MRO (Maintenance Repair and Overhaul) centre.
He did not only stop there, he also visualised and made manifest our own Air Force. Attah’s original idea was not to use it as a point. The way we are using Akwa Ibom Airport now is just a by-product of Attah’s vision, a very mediocre by-product of his vision. The whole thing was, set up an MRO, build aircraft runways and attract a international maintenance institution. If we had successfully done that, that means Akwa Ibom State would have been a hub to capture the aviation industry as far as maintenance is concerned in the West Coast. What did Attah do further? He tried to realise that dream.
Attah sent over 70 Akwa Ibom people to be trained all over the world. In my position, I have seen about two of them trickle into the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority. They are now very respectable inspectors that are working with me. But, others trickled out of the system and I as am sitting down here, I am seeing other states investing massively to make sure that their own youths come into the aviation industry.
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