Sequel the general elections billed for next year, 2019, many politicians who wish to have a turn in the contest have already seized 2018 to prep themselves as the contest promises to be glutinous even to those we think-of as giants.
It is in course of this preparation that CrossRiverDaily stumbled over one of the many seeking to represent Cross River Central Senatorial District at the Red Chambers, Dodeye Arikpo, Chief Security Officer (as he then was) to former Cross River State governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, yesterday in his house at Florence Ita Giwa Street, State Housing Estate, Calabar whereof the following colloquy paned out…
We are glad to be with you this early today, Sir. Could you please tell us of you?
Alright. My name is Dodeye Ikpi Arikpo. I was born in Ugep and actually from Ugep, Yakurr Local Government Area. I grew up here in Calabar. My late father used to work for CalCemCo (Calabar Cement Company) and my mother was a teacher and still alive, though, retired. I had my early childhood here in the state capital and I started out schooling first at Big Quo Primary School and after doing like a year at Big Quo Primary School, my dad moved me and my younger ones to Calabar Preparatory Nursery School, Hawkins Road but now at Eta-Agbor. After my primary education, I went to Federal Government College, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa-Ibom State for my secondary education. In 1989, I left Ikot Ekpene. Initially I could not make my first JAMB examination and so, I did not start my tertiary education the next year being 1990. Eventually, in 1991 when I passed the examination, I was admitted into University of Jos to study Political Science. Due to the ASUU strike that came our way back then, I could not graduate in 1995 as supposed but instead, 1996 and thereafter I went for Youth Service in Benue State. I served in a town called Ishaku.
Life after school?
After that, I took off trading. I was someone who never liked to depend on his mother because my dad was late and of course, things have become quite difficult for a teacher who was training a certain number of undergraduates. I used to go to Oron to buy fish, dry them, sleep in Uyo and probably join AKTC (Akwa-Ibom Transport Company) or Cross Lines and go back to Jos, which was a familiar terrain for me, since I schooled there, to sell the fish. Early morning, I take my fish round, either to terminal markets, restaurants and other few places I knew would have buyers. By the end of the day, the returns I get would be to now go to a place called, Katako there in Plateau State to buy second-handed suits. I launder and package them very well and then take them to Port Harcourt to sell to Bankers and other people who used to wear them. I had done that for a while then went into publishing with a friend who publishes christian magazines. I was with him as both a writer and vendor. After spending about 2 years with him in Port Harcourt, I decided to leave for Abuja to be with my brother. Over there in Abuja, I got a job with DSTV about 1989 – 99. While with them, I went out for the DSS interview afterwhich, the examination as well as other procedures and finally got employed thus. I was posted to Maiduguri where I served for two and a half year before I was called to go for a ‘Protective Officers Course’ in America. Upon my return, I was posted to the DSS headquarters in Abuja where I was till I received a service call to be with Liyel Imoke who was then a Minister. Thereafter, I remained with him till when he became governor; eventually making me his Chief Security Officer. Upon the expiration of his tenure, I was posted to the Ebonyi command where I served for about three months before tendering my retirement letter.
Life after retirement?
Upon my retirement, I started up a private security consulting firm in Abuja called, the Widened Court International Limited which I manage till date.
How about your marital life?
Well, 29th of this month will make it 12 years since I got married to my wife, Victoria. I met my wife in church in Abuja and then we courted. But in between that period she moved to England to work and then we lost contact for a few years and when she eventually came back in 2006, we got married. So far, we have three children; a girl first, and then two boys.
Venture into politics?
I ventured into politics in late 2015 after I had retired from the SSS. Towards the end of that year, I relocated to Abuja in a bid to reconnect with some of my friends and also try to get involved in politics and I figured that considering the network I had, I could start operating from the national which made the whole stuff appear easier. So, give-and-take, I could say that I moved into politics officially in 2015 even though I had involved myself in politics during my time as the CSO – however, non-partisanly.
Contributions to C’River State Politics?
Well, one of the things I have done, as they said: “all politics is local” is to basically consolidate on some of the things I did as CSO. Then, I had opportunities in the sense that I could influence various things in my community. I made sure that I strived so hard to see several people gain employment into government institutions; I had connections with people in the customs and so, few of our boys were taken into the service; and then also, I tried to mediate in crisis; I tried to be able to pull some level of development to our area. When you say Cross River State, I can say that there is particularly no area of the state that I have not touch in terms of goodwill. I am someone who is more people-oriented – by that, I have influenced a lot of political appointment that gave so many people the platform to contribute in the development of their respective communities and so on. If you ask me whether I built schools, I will say no. But if you ask me if I have contributed to the lives of people, I can point to many.
What is your stake in C’River Central?
Cross River Central is a district with a lot of enlightened people especially in politics which makes it look like the bedrock of Cross River State politics. Talking about the stake I have there, for me, it is something that history cannot distort. During my eight years in the Imoke-led administration, I have had my hand in some of the things that happened there so therefore I hold a strong stake in the district in the sense that I know what the Central need and coupled with the fact that I have been there too, I know exactly what to do to take the Central far higher.
Why this Senate ambition?
Dating back to a long time before now, I am not sure that there is any political position that occupied my interest if not the senate. And for me, it is just destiny that played it this way that today we will be talking of zoning the slot to Old Obubra because we must bring that into contest. With much opportunities that lie before our people, I believe that when they have a good representative at that capacity, there are things that can be done to them that the government directly cannot do. These things can only meet the people when they have the right-kind of people in platforms of negotiation – it is that platform I seek because for me, without appearing boasty, I have grown a wide network across Nigeria that I think when given a platform, can aid me negotiate better for my people. I see a situation where the people of the Central can be so distinct in the state that when you are talking about Cross River, you can pick out the Senatorial District and say: “it is different” – this is my drive.
According to you, what is C’River Central’s challenge(s)?
To me, I think the major challenge in C’River Central is lack of education. When I say education, it is not basically formal education because there are a lot of schools and everybody is attending. But, the education I am talking of is that which comes with exposure – our people are not adequately exposed and consequent upon that, they reason in a way I think that at this point in life, it is still backward. This is what I have seen with the issue of representation so far, I think that our people have not been taken out and it is one thing I intend to correct. I believe that when our people are given the kind of exposure they require, probably to learn the ropes of governance and business, they can possibly come back to develop the Central to our taste and liking.
How sure are you of the ticket?
Well, I am too sure I will claim this ticket because: firstly, I see that our people sincerely desire some change. If you have ever seen the first shoot of a corn, it looks fresh and green and also brings joy to the farmer. To me, I think that is who I am. Our people have confined in me that they need some freshness in the polity. Across my consultations, this is what they all talk about. “You have been here, we know you and you are a youth and fresh especially that you are coming in with some kind of new ideas and positivities that we have been looking for – this is one of my selling points. Secondly, our people are getting more enlightened as the days come. Majority are now not after money or big names but after people they believe have the passion to change the system and they want to identify with such people. So, for me, I am sure that because of this, I can surely get this ticket.
But, can you win it?
You see, politics is a contest and as such, when you go into elections, there is no big name because everybody has a chance. Take for example the football game. The other day I was watching how Ahmed Musa dribbled Mezut Ozil. I mean, on a normal day, I know Ahmed would have been watching Ozil play and say ‘Whoa! What a great player. When will I become like him.” But at the moment they are in the pitch together, they are both equal. So, I do not look upon anyone as a big name when we get into the election ground. I believe that when I get my party’s nomination, the election will be a walkover and I am very confident about that especially that God is on our side together with our hard work.
Supposedly you get there, what is in for Central C’River?
Like I have said, one major thing I want to do is to ensure we have more representation at the centre (Abuja). To find ways to create opportunities for our people to go out there and get exposure. I find too many of our people eminent enough to be better placed but remain here probably because there is no avenue for them to leave here. This is the major thing I want to address. Secondly, I see myself as a bridge builder. When you look at the Central, you will see that there are too many inter-communal conflicts. If you take a census of the conflicts that take place in the state every year, you will notice that Central far exceeds the rest districts. With my security background and with the kind of knowledge I have gotten in arbitration in course of my training, I think I could also deploy that to remedy the menace. What we need to do in Central is to breakdown those walls that divide us and try to grow more of the things that unite us. Thirdly, I intend to find a place where women can come in actively and be more involved. I find out that there are too few women in our politics down there in the Central and even those who have tried to come out are often pushed aside. In my opinion, the more women we have in our politics, the more rancor-free our politics will become. Also, I also want to try and develop agriculture in the area. Like I said, because I know I am not government, the best I could do is to lookout for opportunities for our people. Opportunities where they can be trained on how to stepup their Agriculture and also putting them together to be able to access loans and grants to aid their practice in other to stepaway from subsistent farming to mechanized agricultural practice. Not forgetting the youths, I believe that it is lack of engagement that warrant the youths in violent activities. I will try my very best to engage my fellow youths in more societal development schemes that will drive their minds away from evil practices. Let me at this juncture also say that the adequate engagement with the youths will also benefit me in a way that I can know exactly what they really need. Sometimes, when you give the people what you feel they need without finding out from them what the need really is, you end up giving out what at the moment is not necessary.
Your challenges so far?
The only challenge I have had, I must confess is lack of information among our people courtesy of the illiteracy level. Our people sometimes are easily carried away by stories or things they hear which is based on lack of adequate information. So, you find out that when you go somewhere, a lot of false information is available about some people and so, you first struggle to educate them on the truth of the matter in order for them to understand the path they ought to be going through. I find that some people just jump on the bandwagon without first articulating their interest. So, I first educate them on how things are before even mentioning my interest; which makes the a whole work a little challenging.
Central Cross River deserves better! Like I have always said, we have had eminent senators since the beginning but I still feel there is so much we can do. At this point we ought to have moved away from what we think we know to what lies ahead which is better.
Thank you CSO Dodeye Arikpo for your time. We are glad we met.