IN THIS SPECIAL REPORT, Charles Udoh, Ekerete Udoh, James Edet, Michael Bush, Aniefiok Macauley, Grace Akpan, Essien Ndueso, Aniekeme Finbarr, Uko Umoh, Sampson Akpan, Emmanuel Nicholas, Emmanuel Sam, Solomon Eyo, Richard Peters, Idris Mabadeje, Aniekan Ukpong and Godwin Ibok, all seasoned media professionals who have keenly followed developments in the state, traced the journey so far, and the impact of the five years of governance of Akwa Ibom State, under the leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
SPECIAL REPORT: UDOM EMMANUEL: 5 YEARS OF TOUCHING LIVES
May 29, 2015 marked a watershed in the annals of Akwa Ibom State. On that day, the people of this South-South state, heralded the swearing-into office of their new Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, a thorough bred professional, a doyen of innovative management and a renowned apostle of excellence.
LEADERSHIP STYLE AND GOVERNANCE
The true mark of leadership is the inclination to stick to innovative and audacious course of actions.
Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs puts it more succinctly, “innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”. One of the outstanding features of a good leader therefore, is the capacity to reason freestanding of conventional wisdom.
Often, a good leader may not follow the known rules of doing things, particularly in a political clime like ours. Initially, his drive may seem unpopular, but with time, his vision becomes clearer for pundits to decipher, thus setting such a leader apart as a critical thinker, a revolutionary and hero who bolsters his people too. In the words of the sixth President of the United States of America, John Quincy Adams, a good leader inspires his people to “dream more, learn more, do more and become more”.
The above analysis of know-how in leadership best defines the governance style of Mr. Udom Emmanuel, who in the past fast five years as Governor of Akwa Ibom State has demonstrated a leadership style that has attracted enthusiastic connectivity and economic simulation among his people.
Since his ascendancy to the seat of governance of Akwa Ibom State on May 29, 2015, Governor Udom Emmanuel has manifested a clear insight and understanding of the kernel of leadership through policies and programmes that have positively impacted on every section and sector of the state.
A lot has been said and written about the imprints of Governor Udom Emmanuel in the economic sector as well as the great strides of his administration in infrastructural revitalization and its industrial agenda for fast growing state.
Nonetheless, one area that social commentators and political analysts seem too often to overlook is the humongous achievements of Governor Udom Emmanuel in the unity project of the state and the other intangible attainments of the administration.
The proclivity of Governor Emmanuel as a peace ambassador, bridge builder, champion and front liner for the unity and greatness of the state is enshrined as word on marble in his political and economic inclusion pillar and his well thought out DAKADDA philosophy for the state.
In words and actions, and in every occasion and situation, the governor has emphasized the cords that bind the state together, distancing himself and his administration from the agents of destabilization, discordance and acrimony, who rather seek to exaggerate the negligible diversities to undermine homogeneousness of the state.
This underlying philosophy of the governor in running the affairs of the state is exemplified in the equitable distribution of human capital development and his infrastructural expansion drive to every segment of the state without biases and bigotries. This explains the huge support base of the governor across the 31 Local Government Areas of the State, devoid of ethnic sentiments. The strength and reach of his support came to fore convincingly during the 2019 gubernatorial election in the state, in which Governor Emmanuel easily won landslide votes in all the 2,980 units of the 329 wards of the state.
For Governor Udom Emmanuel, the unity, harmonious coexistence and the holistic development of the state are topmost agenda that must not be sacrificed on the altar of personal ego and self-aggrandizement.
THE BIRTH OF INDUSTRIES
Industrialization has copiously manifested as a priority sector in the development matrix of Governor Udom Emmanuel, not only due to the fact that, it is one of the major planks of the Eight Point Completion Agenda of Governor Udom Emmanuel but because it has become a recurring decimal in the christening of the State budget, since the Governor came on board his second term administration.
The 1999 budget of Akwa Ibom State was christened, “Budget of Industrialization for Poverty Alleviation” while that of the current fiscal year 2020, is christened, “Budget of Industrialization for Poverty Alleviation” phase 11, continuing the mapping from that of the previous year. While presenting the 2020 budget in the floor of the House on October 8, 2019, Governor Emmanuel had said unequivocally that, his vision was to build an industrialized state away from the Civil Service mono-economy, targeting job creation, wealth creation and poverty alleviation.
“The 2020 budget is christened, Budget of Industrialization For Poverty Alleviation, phase 2, because my completion agenda is predicated primarily on the rapid industrialization of the state”, Governor Udom Emmanuel had emphasized.
With the resolve therefore to build more industries and attract huge volumes of Foreign Direct Investments, FDI, to Akwa Ibom State, Governor Udom Emmanuel has at the last count, bring on stream, 18 industries which are producing consumables for the people of the state, in keeping with the Governor’s commitment to ensuring that 80 percent of consumable items will be produced in the state by the end of his administration in 2023.
To this end, Akwa Ibom State prides itself as home to the largest Syringe manufacturing factory in Africa with a production capacity of 400 million syringes per annum, the Jubilee Syringe, the best and first ever digital Electric Metering Solutions manufacturing company, with a production capacity of 3 million prepaid meters annually, the Lions Plywood and Timber factory which at the moment is providing jobs to over 150 young people in the state and two Rice mills, the Ibom Agricon Rice mill, producing the Family Rice and the SACAM Afro Processing Rice Mill, producing the Three Rose Rice.
The State also boasts of the Greenwell Fertilizer blending company with a production capacity of 400,000 metric tons per annum, producing assorted kinds of fertilizers for different soil types, the Virgin Coconut oil Refinery, the Kings Flour mill and the Ufani Palm Kernel Crushing Plant in Ukanafun. Others include: the Plastic, Toothpick, Pencils and ongoing Quality Ceramics and Tissue production factories in Itu. There is also the Ibom Industrial Park/Jetty ongoing at the Ikot Abasi coastal area of the state, Cassava processing mills in Abak and Ibesikpo-Asutan, Oil palm processing depots, power and gas processing plant which is ongoing in Ibeno and the mega ongoing Ibom Deep Seaport, making Akwa Ibom stand tall as the emerging industrial hub of Nigeria.
THE RE-BIRTH OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
In pursuit of a vibrant economic and entrepreneurial development, Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration has turned attention to what could be termed “the low hanging fruits”.
This low hanging fruits of the economy spans through the agricultural sector, small and medium scale enterprises, skill acquisition and empowerment.
To give a legal backing to entrepreneurship development, the government had not only set up Akwa Ibom Micro Enterprises and Developments Agency but signed the Akwa Ibom Micro Enterprises Agency bill into law.
The My Entrepreneurship Goals Programme of the Marketing and Brand Management unit of the Governor’s office has also trained for certification more than 130 youths on the management of various enterprises .
Within the last few years, government in a bit to recapitalise the economy, injected over 2billion naira interest free loan to traders and small scale businesses.
Besides, to ensure that the prices of stable foods are within the capacity of the poor, the government further provided food processing equipment and agricultural inputs to cooperative societies across the state.
SUPERLATIVE STRIDES IN HEALTHCARE DELIVERY
There are reasons for the people of Akwa Ibom state to celebrate the emergence of Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, five years ago, with regards to the total revamping of the health sector.
Unarguably, Governor Emmanuel’s intervention in the State’s health sector right from his first term in office saved Akwa Ibom from being badly hit by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus ravaging the world. He proactively prepared the State to meet any health emergency.
The governor embarked on rehabilitation of secondary health facilities across the state with such energy and consistency that baffled even his critics. With a simple message: Health is Wealth, he set about transforming long abandoned and dilapidated hospitals into functional health care center equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment, manned by motivated personnel.
Some of the medical equipment imported by the administration, which arrived the state in 50 containers include, electrocardiograph 3 Channels, colonoscopy (with halogen light), x-ray film processor, x-ray film viewer, gastroscope, operating theatre light (5-Spot light), operating table, anastasia trolley with ventilator and monitor, syringe pump, electro surgical units, monopolar-bipolar operating instruments, suction pump and host of other state-of-the art equipment including CT Scanners, Surgical microscope for eyes.
The governor began his transformation of the state’s health sector with the iconic missionary hospital – St. Luke’s Hospital, Anua – Uyo, where he constructed and equipped a 300-bed gynecology ward in honour of the reputable Irish Missionary, Dr. Ann Ward. From there, he undertook the rehabilitation and upgrading of several hospitals namely: Etinan General Hospital, Ikot Okoro General Hospital, General Hospital, Ituk Mbang, General Hospital, Ibiaku Ntok Okpo, Emmanuel General Hospital, Eket and General Hospital, Iquita Oron.
In the same vein, Governor Emmanuel has built and equipped Comprehensive Health Centre, Awa – Onna. By so doing, he has transformed the health sector in Akwa Ibom state which was in a state of decay and improved to a great extend to provide access to quality health care delivery, especially for rural dwellers. Before now, the sick and those seeking medical attention were mostly taken in from all nooks and crannies of the state to the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, UUTH, which primary objectives are for referral and research.
As a result, there has been a noticeable decrease in child mortality and morbidity in pregnant mother’s, affordable health care and a healthy population. Most importantly, he has made the state a reference point in healthcare delivery and improved life expectancy, making many people from neighbouring states to come to the state on medical tourism.
While appreciating the feat recorded by Governor Emmanuel, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo who commissioned the rehabilitated Etinan General Hospital on September, 23, 2017, said “this is an extremely useful project, it is the type of project, I believe touches the lives of the people directly”.
In addition to upgrading secondary healthcare facilities across the state, Governor Emmanuel took a decisive step to reclaim and salvage the newly built quaternary health facility – Ibom Specialist Hospital which was poorly managed by a private consortium. Since taking over, government has transformed it into a multi specialty health care facility with experts in various specialised health care fields working there. The facility has come in handy in the fight against COVID-19.
Governor Emmanuel complements his rehabilitation of health facilities with recruitment and training of health workers with incentives. There have been series of specialised training and certification of 100 healthworkers in Basic Lives Support and Advanced Cardiac Lives Support with Medical Energy Experts from the USA; Training of 20 Biomedical Engineers and agreed to regularly pay the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) and CONHESS to medical and dental practitioners and nurses respectively.
The dreaded novel coronavirus pandemic met Akwa Ibom state health care system already primed and ready to taken on any eventually. Already the state has attracted commendation for Nigeria Center for Disease Control, NCDC, for its remarkable efforts at containing the spread of the virus. This could only be possible through the visionary and proactive leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
TRANSPORT AND AVIATION; AKWA IBOM TAKES TO THE SKIES
Gov. Udom Emmanuel is pushing for more innovations, changing narratives and birthing new frontiers to the transport and Aviation sector with the acquisition of a 90-seater Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft which steps the number in its fleet to four, progressive moves recorded in the Ibom Deep Seaport Project, provision of mini buses to drivers and improved roads network across the state to boost all-round commercial activities.
Armed with cosmopolitan and business-oriented skills, Gov. Emmanuel in the past 4 years, has opened up the state in particular and Nigeria at large to greater International trade to complement his industrialization strides. According to the Governor at the launch of IbomAir in 2019, “Aviation development cannot be underemphasized if my vision for an industrialized state must be achieved”. The governor’s assertion is umbilically tied to the fact that when transportation systems are effective, they provide economic and social opportunities and benefits that result in accessibility to market, employment and additional investment. It was this understanding that made the former Senate President Bukola Saraki to say of Gov. Emmanuel during the launch of IbomAir, ” When you have a man who understands how to attract investors, Nigeria will experience what Akwa Ibom is experiencing”.
Interestingly, his efforts in transport development has undoubtedly fast forwarded the Ibom Deep Seaport project to a commendable height, which on completion will facilitate the transportation of goods and services to and from the state. While undertaking an on-the-spot assessment of the progress of work at the project site, Director General, Infrastructure Concession Regulating Commission (ICRC), Mr Chidi Audu-Izuway, noted that “Ibom Deep Seaport will be the best Seaport in Nigeria and the sub-region with its natural depth, capacity to accommodate large vessels, 5129 radars for port development and excellent proximity to major shipping routes”.
Izuway further observed that the road infrastructure outlay designed for access to and evacuation of goods and services from the Seaport was world-class and visionary.
In addition, his administration has among other things constructed Taxiway at the Victor Attah International Airport, engaged in full upgrading of Airfield Lighting System at the airport, constructed commercial building at the airport, trained compliance and monitoring officers as well as vehicle inspection officers, regulation of urban transportation, presentation of mini buses to drivers, introduction of insurance scheme to tricycle operators and massive road construction network.
These have made Akwa Ibom to become a destination to many, facilitating ease of movement within and outside the state through air and land, with the state Aviation sector recording 98 per cent on-time flight departure with uncompromising safety mechanism.
A MORE EDUCATED AKWA IBOM STATE
The prevailing novel coronavirus, otherwise known as Covid-19 pandemic has foisted a new reality on the global community, such as was unimaginable just a few months back. Although, Covid-19 is first and foremost a health crisis, its impact has reverberated in different aspects of life, necessitating impromptu changes to the modus operandi in governance, businesses, healthcare and educational services and deliveries.
Education is one of the most affected sectors. For fear of providing a congenial environment for community transmission of Covid-19, many countries, rightly, decided to close schools. Today, it is estimated that about 1.6 billion learners, representing over 90% of the world’s students, are confined to their homes because of the ravaging novel coronavirus.
The prevailing closure of schools around the world has added to the many other challenges confronting the education sector, especially in developing countries. For many, before now, school was consistent with the idea of teachers in front of the chalkboards or whiteboards and classrooms filled with students sitting at their desks. The closure of schools has interrupted the traditional teaching of students in the classroom and also interfered with the progressive assessment of students as well as occasioned the postponement or outright cancellation of major internal and external tests and examinations.
The Covid-19 dilemma has therefore, challenged innovative policy makers and governments around the world to fashion out ways of ensuring that teaching and learning continue, even in the absence of traditional classroom settings. In Nigeria for example, many public and private schools were about rounding off academic activities for the second term when the initial cases of coronavirus were reported. Many schools closed without conducting the second term examinations for their students.
Fortunately, however, in Akwa Ibom, the State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel in a state-wide broadcast, directed all public primary and secondary schools to conduct their second term examinations to effectively round off before proceeding on the coronavirus-induced closure. Although considered risky at the time, that directive by the governor has once again underscored his determination to ensure that the future of the younger generations of Akwa Ibom people is not jeopardized. For the governor, truncating the second term at its tail end, even when no case of coronavirus had been recorded in the state could not have passed for a good leadership decision.
As the world continues the search for a permanent solution to the coronavirus pandemic, and the closure of schools, indeterminate, educational stakeholders who have realized that learning does not have to take place within a brick-and-mortar building, have deployed new methodologies to academically engage their students.
Today, schools are embracing the internet as a veritable platform to engender teaching and learning. This scenario, as laudable as it seem, does not address the peculiar situation in Akwa Ibom state as it caters only to children of those in the top echelon of the society. Therefore, to bridge the teaching and learning gap without shutting out the children of those at the lower rung of the social ladder, the administration of Governor Emmanuel exhibited ingenuity by creating a School on Radio programme.
The School on Radio initiative, designed primarily for students preparing for the Junior and Senior Secondary School final examinations, has been commended by parents and students alike. Unlike the internet based programme, the School on Radio, because of its wide reach, allows students, even in the remotest parts of the state to benefit. With engagements and assignments in different subjects, Akwa Ibom students are not losing much to the coronavirus induced ‘holidays’.
The popularity of the initiative has emboldened parents to make a call for the expansion of the programme to accommodate children in the primary school category. As a listening administration, modalities are already being worked out to bring that category on board the School on Radio.
Since becoming Governor of Akwa Ibom State in 2015, Mr. Udom Emmanuel has been consistent and unrelenting in his determination to engender an ideal educational environment. Doing this, he believes will help to raise and prepare a new generation of Akwa Ibom people who would be able to man the emerging knowledge economy his administration is creating.
Apart from retaining the free and compulsory education for all Akwa Ibom children in public schools from primary to senior secondary level, Governor Emmanuel has continued to make annual payment of over N600 million WAEC and NABTEB fees for indigenes in public secondary schools.
To accentuate his determination to find lasting solution to the problems confronting the education sector, the administration of Governor Emmanuel hosted the First Education and Exhibition Summit in the state; took over 17 community secondary schools; constructed 10 Computer Laboratories with internet facilities in 10 secondary schools across the state.
The administration has constructed and renovated over 500 school blocks as well as provided learning facilities through the Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Committee. More than 600 projects have been executed by the State Universal Basic Education Board, through matching grant, comprising classroom blocks, boreholes and modern toilet facilities, in addition to providing educational materials like plastic chairs/tables , desks, teachers’ table/chairs, desktop and laptop computers, library resource materials, sport facilities, solar panels, generators for schools across the state.
The recruitment of over 5,000 teachers into the education sector; provision of facilities for smooth accreditation of 38 academic programmes of the Akwa Ibom State University by the National Universities Commission; and the facilitation of NUC resource visit to the Akwa Ibom State College of Education, Afaha Nsit and the eventual approval for the commencement of degree programmes in 11 courses, are all pointers that circumstances notwithstanding, education remains a priority for the Udom Emmanuel administration in Akwa Ibom State.
RICH INVESTMENTS IN THE POWER SECTOR
With Power as the life wire of industrialization, and the coming on stream of numerous industries in Akwa Ibom State, the Udom Emmanuel administration has made huge investments in the procurement of state-of- the-art equipment and the building of electricity power sub-stations in strategic locations to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply for residents and investors.
Governor Emmanuel has, since his first term, demonstrated a clear understanding of the cardinal role of power in the efforts at changing the status of the state, from a predominantly civil service orientation to an industrial hub. In other words, the Governor fully
realizes that his efforts at building infrastructure to support his economic programmes would come to naught without uninterrupted power supply throughout the state.
To this end, Governor Emmanuel has within the last five years, embarked on the following: the construction of 2 x 5 MVA, 33/11 KV injector sub-station, along Edet Akpan Avenue, Uyo, construction of Ibom International Airport 2 x 15 MVA injector sub-station, secured license for generation of 685 megawatt at Ibom Power Plant, Ikot Abasi, construction of Power Sub-Station at Ekim, Mkpat Enin, rehabilitation of PHED facility at Etim Ekpo, Mkpat Enin, Ikot Ekpene, Ikot Abasi Ekpu Village as well as construction of 1x60MVA, 132/33KV Transmission sub-station in Afaha Ube, Itu LGA. These interventions are geared towards providing the backbone for other sectors of the economy to thrive as well as targeting the linking of every community in the state to the national power grid.
The launch of Power-for-All by December, 2021 on September, 23,2019, is another audacious feat by Governor Udom Emmanuel towards ensuring that every home in the state is linked to power by the end of 2021. Government is currently collating data from all villages in the state for a community metering programme, with a view to ensuring that every community is connected to the national power grid. Also, an inventory has been taken to know all the villages in the state without electricity power.
The tactical approach to the building of power infrastructure across the state is to achieve the overall objective of improving the quality of life of the people and drive more investors to the state.
MORE ROADS, HOUSES AND SIGNATURE GOVERNANCE
Despite the shrunk in national wealth which has direct bearing on States of the Federation, the campaign promises made by Governor Udom Emmanuel-led PDP government have continued unencumbered to the shocking of citizens, including the cynics and skeptics. Road infrastructure has continued to receive attention, recording a construction of about 1700 kilometers of road within a period of four years. Drainages and bridges have also been built. One can recall that the approaching road into Nsikak Eduok from Oron road was more of an artificial river before Government intervened and curbed that absurdity. IBB avenue leading to the State Secretariat was another web of menace before remedial measures were taken, pending the consummation of an agreement with the World Bank which is set to partner the State Government to control and end the flooding challenge in the area. A menacing erosion which threatened residents of part of the capital city, off Nwaniba has received prompt attention of the compassionate Udom administration. There are many other cases of such interventions which the present administration has undertaken swiftly as a government which believes in more work and less noise.
In furtherance of his vision to link up the entire State with good network of roads, Governor Udom Emmanuel is also constructing a-12 lane dual carriageway – the Ibaka Super highway as a superlative project in this direction. The Road at completion will provide access to the Ibom Deep Sea Port, and link Eket, Ibeno, Mbo, Udung Uko and Oron Local Governments together through one single thoroughfare.
The super highway y will also help those assessing the Port from Uyo to have an ease of travelling through a dualized Uyo – Okopedi Highway to Okopedi – Oron dualization into the Superhighway, to either take to the Deep Sea Port or provide a smooth route to locate their business concerns in Eket, Ibeno, Mbo, Oron, Onna, Mkpat Enin and Ikot Abasi without any interjection.
In Uyo metropolis, Governor Udom Emmanuel is working earnestly to ensure a Road master plan for the city is established to avoid traffic congestion.
This much explains the contruction of Ring Road 2 to link road users wishing to go to Abak from Oron Road and Aka road. That would prevent circumnavigation through the city center (Plaza ) before assessing their locations.
From Aka junction, motorists will be able to travel to Abak Road through a well constructed dual carriageway, without any trafic congestion.
The administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel is also constructing Ring Road 3, to decongest Oron road. The dualization of 3rd Ring will link commuters to Nwaniba Road, by the left as well as Aka and Abak Roads by the right, hence, solving the log jam threat that pose a serious challenge to the dwellers of Shelther Afrique and the environs.
Still within the Uyo metropolis, the Governor is working assiduously to ensure the linking of communities. So far, over 100 roads have been constructed within the Uyo capital city through Direct labour programme. 40 have been completed with 64 still ongoing. This programme to develop the city center of the State and completely link it up as one beautiful metropolis by eliminating all deplorable roads from the city, highlights the midas touch of the present administration.
So far streets in Shelter Afrique, Mbiabong, Ifa Ikot Okpon, Akpasak Estate, Osongama Estate, Housing Extension, Anua Offot, Oniong Offot, Atan Offot, Akpa Ube hub, Ewet Housing Estate, Itam Market, Afaha community, Aka Community and the once abandoned Uyo Village have all recieved massive face lift in terms of construction of their intra Roads network together.
Akwa Ibom State Government is also working very prudently to ensure roads connecting the State with neighbouring States are being constructed to enable easy flow of inter-state economic activities .
Governor Udom Emmanuel has further constructed the Nto-Edino – Ekwarazu Road which will link up Akwa Ibom with Abia State from the Obot Akara axis, while also constructing the Obotme – Arochukwu Road, which links Ini local government area with the Northern part of Abia State. The Governor did not stop with these two projects as he is constructing the Ikot Ibritam Road in Oruk Anam that connects Akwa Ibom with Rivers State.
One may ask: what is the gain of investing in the construction of these inter State highways? Today, Abia State does not have a functional Airport, so all air travellers plying through the Victor Attah international Airport receive encouragement and boost from the quality access roads linking their State to Akwa Ibom.
This inter- State roads also encourage cross border trades which increases the Internally Generated Revenue of the State. Abia and Imo states do not have a functional beach, therefore during festive periods and out of festive seasons, fun seekers from those states wishing to visit Akwa Ibom State to savour the beautiful coastal line of Ibeno beach or play Golf at Ibom Hotels and Golf Resort at Nwaniba are encouraged to do so with the good network of roads.
Worthy of note too is the fact that, Governor Udom Emmanuel is also contructing roads to link up Local Government Areas mostly the rural areas. The Secretariat Road in Udung Uko connects Oron and Urueffong-Uruko local government Areas, Awa – Asong Road connects Mkpat Enin to Onna local Government Area and Ndon – Eyo Odii Road conects Onna to Eket and Ibeno Local Government Areas. Ikot Ibritam – Ikot Ekafe Road connects Ukanafun to Oruk Anam local government area; while Ibiaku Uruan- Ndue-tong Road connects Uruan, Itu and Uyo local government areas together.
The Ibaka Superhighway links Ibeno, Mbo, Udung Uko and Oron local government areas and many others.
With his determination to get the Ibom Deep Seaport working, the skyline of Akwa Ibom is already brimming with hope and wealth. And with three years still in his Kitty and the work zeal he is known for unabated, Akwa Ibom would sing the glorious song that the right man came at the right season.
FOOD FOR ALL
To top the list as a state when Agriculture is mentioned, Governor Udom Emmanuel has since 2015 ensured that there are more tractors in the farms than luxury SUVs in the streets. To achieve his vision that food consumed in Akwa Ibom State are home grown and even sufficient for exportation, Governor Udom Emmanuel opened up the hinterlands with high quality roads networks, creating access to the rich agricultural prospects across the State. This redeeming wind blew across Ini, Obot Akara, Uruan, Oron, Oruk Anam and others. Such critical opening up preceded and gave rise to the flourish and boom in agricultural activities in those areas.
The Technical Committee on Agriculture and Food Sufficiency, the Foreign Direct Investment Committee comprising indigenous egg heads have worked hand in gloves with the State Ministry of Agriculture and Women Affairs to coordinate the Agricultural renaissance and diversify the state’s economy. Their efforts in line with the Terms of Reference spelt out by the Governor helped facilitate the acquisition of new improved seedlings of cocoa, maize and rice as well as fast tracked improved plantain and cassava productions. Cocoa production also received a special attention through the training of farmers on modern skills to embark on a cocoa maintenance scheme and only recently distributed Agro Chemicals –NAPSAC Sprayers to all cocoa farmers . This initiative ripened the successes and prosperity in cocoa production. The state has suddenly become the largest cocoa producing state in Nigeria.
Comparing the past and the presence, there is also distinctive difference in the growth of vegetables like cucumber and tomatoes, with the establishment of large green houses in the state, cassava processing mills to crash the price of garri, improved inputs from the State Government ranging from improved cassava stems, rice seedlings and fertilizers, to encourage farmers to cultivate all year round and ensure abundant food in the state, rice mills strategically located in the State – Ibom Agricon Rice at Ini Local Government Area, and yet another one, Sacam Rice Mill at Ikono, and the Ibom Golden Rice in Ibiono, distribution of improve seedlings to farmers and provision of mechanized farm implements to assist in the enhanced rice cultivation, the 11,000 hectares coconut plantation has received a boost with adequate attention to quality fertiliser while another span of land in Okobo has been reserved for more coconut plants to feed the Coconut Oil Factory being executed in the state, the fertilizer blending plant to blend fertilizer to meet the needs of the local farmers. The five hundred metric tonnes capacity King’s Flour Mill is conspicuous as a cynosure of agricultural strides. Beyond crop farming, the livestock market is also in the radar. Recently, the governor completed the central abattoir project in Itam, standing it out as the very best in this part of the country.
The Governor’s drive to make Akwa Ibom the poultry nerve center of the entire South South and South East regions, informed the completion of an ultra-modern world class hatchery for day old chicks at Mbiaya Uruan. This hatchery has a poultry farm for parents stock and also modern facilities for off-taking and processing the matured birds from farmers. The vision of the Governor in stimulating the local economy and encouraging small and medium scale enterprises, prompted him to commence a 3bn naira revolving loan facility which means that traders, small businesses’ owners and are exposed to an interest free loan ranging from 100,000 to 5million naira. This is in addition to the interest free loan to 2000 cassava and corn farmers.
YOUTH ENGAGEMENT AND GOLDEN ERA IN SPORTS DEVELOPMENT
It is hard to believe that the same Akwa Ibom where a governor some few years ago confessed to his government being bedeviled by cultism; with insecurity and violent crimes walking on two legs is the harbinger of peace and youth empowerment under another administration.
A News magazine in consideration of the dark days at the time and alleged culpability in not stemming the tide described the situation on one of its covers, as Reign of Terror.
Those bedarken days were indeed horrible with tears of victims and relatives flooding the streets. Several families had their tales of woes to tell from the loss of their breadwinners to the rape and kidnapping of their daughters and wives.
Some local government areas like Ika, Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun were completely shut out from other parts of the state owing to insurgency.
The youths are the future of any nation. It is against this background that nations put in place training and development programmes for their young men and women. Where there are no such training and development programmes, the youths as the most active part of that nation’s population find alternative means of socialization. This may be detrimental to social security in such a country. It was in this recognition that Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States said; “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion by education.”
This is to say that the people of which the youth form the majority need to be constantly trained, developed and guided in order to meet the yearnings and expectations of the society.
If the youths are not properly guided, criminality, insecurity and deviant tendencies will multiply. This was why Franklin D. Roosevelt, one time President of the United States opined that “flaming youth has become a flaming question. And youth comes to us wanting to know what we may propose to do about a society that hurts so many of them.” This situation has played out in some parts of the country where people come out to ask what government proposes to them by way of kidnapping, defiance of government orders as well as other criminal acts. To checkmate this kind of scenario in Akwa Ibom State, the Udom Emmanuel administration has put in place various training and development programmes for the young people of the State.
In an effort to avoid a situation where youths seek alternative means of socialization, the Udom Emmanuel administration banned cultism in the State and proscribed some sixty five cult groups in Akwa Ibom State. And considering the fact that there is no vacuum in nature, a monthly youth prayer summit is put in place to accommodate and engage youths in spiritual and mental exercises.
Not oblivious that Satan finds work for an idle person, this administration has instituted several forms of training programmes to get the youth gainfully engaged. These range from giving them skills in the areas of agriculture, entrepreneurial activities and sports. Today, most young men and women engage themselves in various agricultural undertakings. They could be found in poultry and fish farming, livestock, cocoa and coconut farming, rice and corn farming and in several trades.
Sports development has become a very lucrative business. To ensure that Akwa Ibom Youths are not left out in this business, Governor Emmanuel has upped the ante in sports in the State. His concern has been to construct sports development centres in the ten Federal Constituencies in the State. Renovation work was carried out in Ikot Ekpene Township Stadium, Uyo Township Stadium, as well as the school sports facilities at the West Itam Secondary School and the big one, the construction of a model stadium, 18,000 capacity Eket Modern Stadium. His administration has lifted the football teams in the State to international recognition. During his tenure, the State through Akwa United lifted for the first time ever, the federation cup twice, and he also made the state to now have two strong teams in the elite division of the country’s football league. The success of the yearly school sports festival is also witnessed in the ability of the state female soccer team, Ibom Angels, to get through to the finals of the national female federation cup, and the successes of the state’s contingents in recent national sports festivals.
Perhaps, it is in recognition of the strides made by the Udom Emmanuel administration that our young men and women took to the streets of Uyo to applaud Governor Emmanuel’s proscription of cult groups in the State. They have faith that Governor Emmanuel is ready and willing to take them away from an era of total insecurity and lawlessness. They have risen in support of his proactive actions since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in the State. This is a way of their telling the governor that they have faith in his leadership. Not minding the hardship during this trying period, they are satisfied that they are following a leader who knows the way and is giving quality, effective and efficient leadership. By this, they are exemplifying Elton Trueblood’s definition of faith which according to him “is not belief without proof but trust without reservation”.
With this kind of massive support, cooperation and goodwill, more and sustained training and development programmes will continue to come the way of the Youth of Akwa Ibom State. In addition, the advancement of the cause of the youth will ensure a peaceful prosperous and secure Akwa Ibom State. In a not too distant future, we will say like Rouget De Lisle, a French writer; “come children of our native land, the day of glory has arrived”, and all thanks will be to a leader, Udom Gabriel Emmanuel.
A CLEANER AKWA IBOM, NIGERIA’S NEW DESTINATION OF CHOICE
Over the years, Akwa Ibom people have become renowned for high personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness. It is therefore, not a surprise that the Emmanuel administration has, in the last five years, through innovative initiatives, kept the State at the top echelon in this regard.
The monthly environmental sanitation, regular de-silting of drainages and daily sweeping of major roads in the metropolis have remained top priority of the administration.
The unrelenting efforts of the administration have been acknowledged by the “Clean Up Nigeria” . The body has after its surveys, named Akwa Ibom twice, as the cleanest state in Nigeria.
As the home of rich cultures, salivating cuisines, beautiful sites and scenes, Akwa Ibom is also famous for excellent hospitality.
The deliberate policies of government to promote destination Akwa Ibom has seen tourists from around the world throng the State to partake of the rich culture and cuisines that make this part of the world thick.
Some of the novel initiatives of the administration include: the Orange September celebrations, the Ukapisua Street Groove and the Ibeno Mega Beach Fiesta.
Uder the Emmanuel administration, Akwa Ibom has won many laurels in national and international events, including the Best Overall participating state at the African Festival of Arts and Culture Exhibition (AFAC EXPO 2015).
A major event that has continued to attract tourists into Akwa Ibom is the annual Christmas Carol Festival. This event has become a major global event at the yuletide, when Christians from around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Through live online broadcast on social media platforms and on many national and international television networks, people from around the world participate in the event, which parades international gospel music ministers and preachers. The uniqueness of the Carol Festival is the conglomeration of choirs from the 31 local government areas of the state.
THE UNSONG AND UNSEEN ACHIEVEMENTS
In the Third World, any review of political stewardship almost always begins and ends with tangible achievements. Our people focus permanently on infrastructure and such other physical projects. We cannot be blamed for this short sightedness, after all we all know there’s no smoke without fire. The promise and fail nature of successive administrations has taught people to only believe what they see. Other than these physical achievements, what else can doubting Thomases see and touch?
Clearly, the clamour for achievements that can be seen and touched is understandable. In Akwa Ibom state though, where an accountant and banker, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, has since 2015 been governor, things are not exactly one-way. While one still hears a tiny minority feasting on why the state chief executive had better focus on a signature project -whatever that means, an alarming majority seem excited about the last five years of their governor and for a number of reasons. People point at infrastructure, at industries, at Ibom Air as well as at political inclusion, peace and security and such other milestones by this governor.
These writers are of the opinion that for anyone elected to an executive office, infrastructure and sundry hard achievements are a given. That therefore makes soft achievements like integration, peace, etc. the fundamental yardstick of governance. The Akwa Ibom state number one citizen has changed our landscape with the tremendous value he has added but other governors cannot be said to have fared any different. However, when it comes to achievements that cannot be seen, there can be no gainsaying the fact that Gov. Udom Emmanuel has no good second.
Look at the incredible peace the people have continued to enjoy since 2015. Many still cannot believe this is the same state that saw so much bloodletting, kidnapping and armed robbery in the years and months leading up to the emergence of the current helmsman. Yet, Mr. Emmanuel’s strategy is simple: ensures justice, unity, access, love and inclusion. In his time, one hears very little of political party this or that, or this tribe or that one.
One other area the governor has been phenomenal is the matter of faith. God has for the first time been given pride of place by the state openly and cheerfully. In fact, in some circles, Government House, Uyo is now seen as a church. Christian programmes are a regular feature of the state government timeline.
This has further galvanised the people who hitherto found it difficult to speak with one voice. During the 2019 general elections, the governor was rewarded with a speedy harvest as the people massively bought his electioneering mantra, Only God, by reelecting him with a moonslide. When the tribunal, appeal court and supreme court sealed the electoral victory, the nooks and crannies of the state broke into wild celebrations that lasted nearly a fortnight.
Of course, he had since gone ahead to appoint one or two members of the opposition into his system.
That counts for much in a society where the winner always takes all. Furthermore, there’s something to take away from any leader in Nigeria who has the courage and selflessness to work on areas the people cannot see. Think about that. Mr. Udom Emmanuel is a special governor -a governor whose legacy shall echo long after 2023.
Which brings me to another intangible talisman that redounds to the credit of this governor, to no end. His peaceable mien and restrained speech are virtues every leader and potential leader should emulate. In five years, he has remained himself, and one hopes there would be no departure in the remaining three. Udom Akwa Ibom, is a pride to both God and man!