By Akanimo Sampson
GOVERNOR Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, one of the richest oil and gas states in Southern Nigeria, has been full of praises for his administration achieving what he described as ”monumental successes” in just a year. He may be right. But, the reality on the ground does not tend to show such a vociferous claim.
According to the governor of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dominated state, Akwa Ibom is standing at the vanguard of Nigeria’s democratic journey as political sovereigns ”who have benefitted most, and earned the greatest dividends, from democracy, in terms of being blessed by people-centric leaders”.
In all honesty, can Akwa Ibom, a pluralistic state that was created by the Ibrahim Babangida administration in 1987, be said to have ”benefitted most” since the inception of the persisting civil rule in May 29, 1999? Can it also be rightly said that the state earned ”the greatest dividend” from democracy?
Comparatively, Akwa Ibom appears to be thousands of kilometers behind Lagos. There is even no basis of comparing the state with Kano, and the nearby Rivers. Truly, the political leadership of Akwa Ibom, not her peoples, stand as the tribe of Joseph in the wilderness of complacency. For the electorate, like the tribe of Joseph, who have the dreamer Joseph, as their ancestor, are not satisfied with the dominant political elite because their dream of abject poverty becoming history in their state is always far greater than the tokenistic dividend of democracy being left to them by the plundering rulers as possessions and inheritance.
Since the Godswill Akpabio administration (2007-2015), the hitherto peaceful state, has come under repeated attack by the flurry of insecurity, sectionalism and selfishness.
Without doubt, the peoples of Akwa Ibom were pioneers to conceive community scholarship schemes, and community schools. When viewed with the lens of their old communalism, the disturbing mass poverty of today, is a relatively new socio-historial phenomenon. If Udom, in the next three years succeeds in crushing poverty in the state, then his achievement will be truly ”monumental”.
The Udom administration needs to go beyond mere rhetorics, break loose from the seeming czarist structure that programmed him into office. He has a golden opportunity to broaden the democratic space, and allow the freedom to make their political choices. As a leader of the PDP in the state, he has to consciously internalise democracy. Since 2007, the ruling PDP is more of a gangsterists’ club than a party of democrats.
”We must dream of possibilities where others see impossibilities, dream of highways where others see obstacles and dream of guardianship where others see predators. We must never say die and we must never retreat or surrender”, Governor Udom said while marking his first year in office. Nothing can be truer. But, can he work the talk?
Continuing, he said, ”when the baton of leadership exchanged hands between the last administration and our administration, the mantle of dreaming new dreams, expanding our opportunities and stretching our horizons fell on us. And in the last one year, we have sought to provide vision, motivation, direction and inspiration for a new Akwa Ibom packaged as an oasis of industrialization and good governance in our country. This is our dream.” This laudable dream does not appear to be flowering yet.
It is not enough to blame the state of things in the state on the national economic challenges. As a church leader also, the governor knows the Christian bible says when there is a casting down, for those in faith, there is a lifting up.
The governor agrees. According to him, ”there is a lifting up and we are marching on. Our compass points remain the five point agenda of this administration namely; wealth creation, economic and social inclusion, poverty alleviation, infrastructural consolidation and expansion and job creation. By God’s grace in each of these five areas we have scored monumental successes in just one year.
”We have put Akwa Ibom on an onward journey. The three technical committees on Direct Foreign Investment, Agriculture and Food Sufficiency, and Ibom Deep Seaport, which we formed at the inception of this administration, have risen to the challenge of strengthening our economic stakes. ”
He is already pointing at the Automobile Assembly Plant in Itu, the LED Industry in Itam, the Metering Industry in Awa-Iman, Onna as testimonies to his resolve, adding, ”we have also flagged off the Coconut Plantation and refinery situated in parts of in Mkpat Enin, Ikot Abasi and Eastern Obolo Local Government Areas. We have also done the groundbreaking for Petro Chemical/Jetty Project in Ibeno and signed numerous MoU’s with investors who would soon develop refineries as well as clay refining in our state.
”We believe that the glory of this latter house shall be greater than the former. Just years ago we were the fourth largest producer of cocoa in Nigeria. We lost that position. But we are back on the move towards topping the cocoa chart in Nigeria through programmes to revitalize cocoa farming. Cocoa, it bears mention, is more expensive than crude oil in the global marketplace. We are on the march to greatness.”
The administration has however, commissioned numerous roads completed by them. They have so far constructed over 200 kilometers of roads, and 15 bridges across the three senatorial districts. Some moribund industries, according to them, such as the Peacock Paint in Etinan have been revitalized and is in production. They are hoping to do same to other companies in line with their commitment to industrializing the state.
For now, till poverty becomes history, and all dreams of the Udom administration become reality, all talks about industrialization, and march to greatness, would be just mere rhetorics. Tangible dividend of democracy should constitute the main plank of his 2019 politics