NIGERIA: Akwa Ibom and the question of progress

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EVERY human being desires progress. Sometimes, the desire is an individual one. At other times, it is collective. When it is collective, it can be for the family, the village, an ethnic group or any other coalition of people with shared hopes and future.

Thus, over the decades, it became well established that the desire for progress among the people of Akwa Ibom is a keenly felt one. Anyone who is familiar with the collective history of Akwa Ibomites within the agglomeration of the peoples of Nigeria should easily recollect that a conscious effort was made to redirect the orientation of the people away from the occupation of domestic servants in the homes of wealthy Nigerians to more respectable professions.

The resounding success of the effort can be clearly seen in the enviable status of many proud sons and daughters of the state who are leaders in their own rights in every sphere of life in the Nigerian nation today.

Providentially too, in the midst of this effort, the fortunes of the state took a turn for the better as it joined the ranks of oil producing states and later became a major beneficiary from the 13 per cent derivation fund reserved for oil producing states in the sharing formula of revenue from the sale of crude oil by the Federal Government every month. In the pursuit of progress, the bounty was utilized by successive administrations to transform the state from the backwaters to a powerhouse in the Nigerian federation.

Powerhouse in Nigerian federation

Uyo, the capital of the state, has most graciously evolved in the last 28 years from a glorified village to a modern metropolis with perhaps the most modern road network in Nigeria.

If the pace of development was at snail speed during administration of successive military regimes, it accelerated in 1999 under Obong (Arc) Victor Attah and turned into a gallop from 2007 when Senator Godswill Akpabio assumed office as governor of Akwa Ibom State. By May 2015 when Senator Akpabio completed two terms of four years each in office, he had started the march towards industrialization of the state by concentrating on the construction of the infrastructure backbone needed for the state’s development.

But the struggle for power in the state is threatening to unravel the dream of turning Akwa Ibom into a destination of choice for Nigerians and tourists from across the world.

The Justice Sadiq Umar-led Akwa Ibom State Governorship Tribunal has ruled that a rerun of the April 11 governorship election must take place in 18 out of the 31 local government areas in the state.

If it is true that “all politics is local,” then the fate of the state will depend on the candidate who is able to effectively appeal to the simple, mundane and everyday concerns of the electorate. The principle presupposes that most people will not decide who to vote for in local elections simply as a means to act on feelings about national politicians. The emotional tie of the people to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) cannot be ignored.

Their intense desire for progress is also a factor that will urge them on to vote for continuity in the governance of the state. Fortunately, a closer look at Mr. Udom Emmanuel’s career in the private sector will reveal that he is well placed to provide a purpose-driven leadership in his new assignment as the governor of Akwa Ibom State.

Mr. Udom Emmanuel served as the secretary to the Akwa Ibom State Government after which he assumed the role of governor of the state in May 2015. By September 2015 when Udom marked 100 days in office, the long list of his accomplishments had become a testimony to the good judgement of the Akwa Ibom electorate.

Under him, the state government started work on 137 kilometres of road building, some of which include: dualization of Uyo-Etinan Road; construction of Etinan-Ndon Eyo Road with two bridges and spur; construction of Ikot Ebekpo-Ikot Ebidang Road for easy access to a clay refining factory; and construction of Ikot Udom Road with 15m span bridge in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area, among others.

Work has also resumed on the dualization of Eket-Ibeno Road just as urban renewal projects within Eket and Oron townships are ongoing. In addition to these, the construction of a second runway at the Ibom International Airport and construction of three collapsed bridges and internal roads in Obot Akara Local Government Area are projects that are quietly transforming the face of Akwa Ibom. Progress has not been confined to construction of roads and bridges alone.

The state government also commissioned the water reticulation and head-works in Ifa Atai and Idu Uruan, in Uyo and Uruan LGA respectively while an ultra-modern gynaecology ward named after Dr. (Sister) Ann was commissioned in the 78-year old St. Luke’s Hospital Anua. The government also renovated male and children wards in the hospital.

Efforts to industrialise the state and provide quality employment to the people saw the revitalisation of Peacock Paints and provision of infrastructure for the car assembly plant in Itu LGA as well as the Low Energy Display (LED) manufacturing plant at Itam. The Ibom deep sea-port project is on course and several substations were built to improve electricity supply.

The state has invested heavily in skill and manpower development by providing training for a thousand youths in oracle technology. Youths have also been sent to Israel to acquire skills in agriculture while another set will be sent for power sector training. The list continues with the groundbreaking ceremonies of a fertilizer plant and the Daar Communications broadcast complex at Abak. At the same time an electric meter assembly and clay processing plant are underway in Onna LGA.

Important to note is the underlying ideology of Dakkada – the call for Akwa Ibomites to rise in the cause of moral transformation and spiritual re-birth which the Governor launched and is very popular with the people. The foregoing is merely a glimpse at the achievement of Mr. Udom Emmanuel in his first 100 days in office.

Clearly, Mr. Udom Emmanuel has brought his more than 23 years experience in managing the investments and life savings of diverse customers to the service of the people of Akwa Ibom State. He is more than qualified and equipped to fulfill the yearnings and expectations of Akwa Ibomites for progress.

Mr. Udom Emmanuel was educated at the University of Lagos where he graduated in 1988 with a 2nd Class Upper Degree in Accounting. He also studied at the Leeds Metropolitan University where he graduated with M.Sc in Corporate Governance. He is highly-regarded within the financial services industry as a leading authority in corporate governance and related issues.

Mr. Umana Umana, on the other hand, is an establishment man who worked in the public service for decades. His track record in the public service is not easily verifiable.

This is why Akwa Ibomites will do well to ensure that the person who occupies the government house in Uyo as governor is one with the relevant training and experience to manage the resources of the state and utilize them in the best interest of the people.

The governor that Akwa Ibom needs in the coming days of lean resources from the federal purse is one that has a mastery of expertise including financial management and not one that will use the office of the governor as an avenue to provide compensation to career politicians for their long years in the system.

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