Exclusive Interview: Akwa Ibomites Should Take Advantage Of Gov Emmanuel
Secretary to the Stage Government (SSG), Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, in this exclusive interview with the Directorate of Marketing and Brand Management (Dakkada), without mincing words, reeled out some key factors that endeared him to the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, why he accepted to be SSG, and the future of the state in next 12 years. Excerpt:
Good evening Sir and thank you for having us…
You are welcome.
Sir, one year ago, you were in the private sector, but today you are in government. What have you found to be different seeing government outside and inside?
As a private sector person, before I came here, I saw government as purely policy formulation, implementation and execution. I saw government as needless to slow in the conduct of its affairs. I also saw government as a group of citizens who are pursuing the diverse interest of their communities more often that this interest would, from time to time, tend to conflict or compete. When interests compete negatively or destructively, it will not occur well for the development of the state or polity within which the government operates.
After having come in to government, a typical example was the issue of a governor or government of a state having to own a private jet bet it brand new or old probably he uses it irregularly. I saw it as tying down capital. Within just three months of being in saddle as Secretary to the State Government (SSG), working with the Governor, I have found that what he attracts to the state as a result of the spontaneity with which he pursues and prosecutes decision within Nigeria, either Abuja, Lagos or abroad to attract the many investors that are coming into Akwa Ibom State, because today, we are the No.1 investors’ haven in Nigeria. So, when you aggregate all of the inflow from investors that come in to Akwa Ibom State and relate that or compare with the price of a private jet, you will realise the cost effectiveness of the property.
Another example is what we saw in the private sector as either sluggishness or low speed in implementation. In the private sector, you the CEO of the company and every other person are your staff except the board that you report to. But in a government, they are not your staff except a very few of them whom you may have appointed. There are three Arms of Government and are separate arms of government. Those in the Judiciary, Legislator, and Bureaucracy are not your staff and don’t report to you. Even your appointees in the Executive arm of government still have some levels of intellectual autonomy. So when you that you have three Arms of Government with separation of powers and you are interested in due process, you want to play by the rule of law and you want to do what is right, and work within the ambit of the law, it is by that fact, necessarily slow.
I will call it positive slow speed. Positive slow speed in the sense that there must be check and balance, and it is good for the state that whatever you want to spend ought to be appropriated for and if you want extra funds, you go to the legislature so that it does encourage totalitarianism, absolute dictatorship, impunity and insensitivity to the plight of the average person on the streets.
When you are in leadership especially that of a state governor, just put a cone in front of you and with the governor sitting on it; as a father who sees all the sides of the cone, tells you to move from the side you walked probably because he saw something that may attack you, is actually in your own best interest. In government, you see the importance of having to do this the way they should be done.
The third example is in the private sector where you have tenacity of office. The constitutional barrier put in a number of terms is important, useful and is used for the overall growth of the society. Simply put, that you are popular, an achiever, work hard and yearn for the good of the followers should not mean that you should remain in office forever. It is better for the constitution, in its implementation, to keep a limit on how long a good man or woman can stay in office. It is better for that society than to live because he is open-ended, forgetting that a time can come in the future when someone that would ascend the office of governor may not be as good as the incumbent. Therefore, you suffer from perpetuation of mediocrity in public office because of the open-ended nature of what is written in the constitution. But by putting that limit, you have a legitimate truncation or reduction in avoid self perpetuation in office by a mediocre. So it is better for the society to suffer the effect of a brilliant man or woman whose tenure is limited by constitution, than to say because he is so good, let’s leave the constitution open so that he can stay forever. What happen when a mediocre assumes that office? He/she will exploit the open-endedness to remain in office forever.
So you see, all the questions we used to ask from the private sector, when you come into government, you will actually see that everyone must have a sense of belonging and citizenship. Patriotism is not an action on its own, but an element of reactions on the part of the citizens. Meaning, when you see good governance, governor, deputy governor, commissioner, SSG, senator, etc and you see an all-pervasive goodness, there are some levels of spontaneity to show gratitude, and that amplifies in you a sense of patriotism trying to do your best. But if all around you, you have a consuming fire of equivalent corruption, insensitivity to poverty, the followership wallops in penury – abject destitution – then there is nothing that is sufficient inspiring you to want to give your best, apathy will lead to some level of insensitivity to what is sufficient to your country or state.
These are what used to think from the private sector that those in government are not interest in how brilliant, competent or how able is this person. Our interest is just on how somebody from my town, village and constituency has the capacity of the person to deliver while on that job.
Sir, you came in to the forefront of government and are now the driving force of the government. What are your plans to improve on the system?
I came into the system more than midway from the Governor’s first term. Therefore, the system will connote the system established, worked upon or modified by him. If it were to be from 2015, I would say it is a system that he inherited, but now I would rather talk about the system that I have come to see that he helped to inaugurate.
You cannot talk about the current system without talking about the person that governor, that is the ‘who’ that is governor and the ‘what’ that is governor. What the ‘who’ embodies. For example, Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, an Akwa Ibomite from Onna Local Government Area, fine gentle man. That is how God created him. His identity cannot be changed. The question is, as governor, what is the content of this ‘who’? And that is what is important about the office of Governor. You have heard about the 5-point agenda – Job Creation, Wealth Creation, Poverty Alleviation, Infrastructure Consolidation, and an all-inclusive socioeconomic platform for all to have a sense of belonging.
During political party primaries, if you see the total number of young men and women, I used to take a curious interest for me to acquire data to see the mammoth crowd of young people whose age range from 19 to about 35, constituting about 80%-90% of the total number people gathered there. In a civilised polity, that age bracket is intelligent, creative, innovative, dynamic, hard working and impatient. Impatient within that age bracket is good. They would want things done quick. When you have 85% of the youth of Akwa Ibom State within the age bracket with those ingredients, stay in front of political parties’ secretariat, in other developed country, they would be in banks and other sectors working.
So the creativity, innovativeness, dynamism, energy, visionary output and impatient would have been channelled towards creative activities. But here they are at party secretariats to protect, guard, guide and to escort primaries’ materials for politicians. And the politician would take pride to say ‘my boys’.
So the what in the who called Udom Gabriel Emmanuel is tackling that, to create jobs, convert these creative energies that are ready to be PA to the PA of a PA, mass-move them from the various towns and cities of Akwa Ibom State and in front of political parties secretariats into factories and industries, giving them jobs, making them to have hopes, enlightening them, making them to be alive to give their best. If you have nothing to give back as an adult to your society, the temptation is the one to hit back. If you can’t give back, you only hit back because you feel cheated by that society. You did not go to the best of schools, your school was not equipped, there was no teacher, your father was owed salaries for 10 months and you dropped out of school, you couldn’t eat because your mother had no good job. A catenation of so many acts of ill-wills, such a young man or woman can only hit back, and the tendency to hit back results in cultism, hired assassination, murders, armed robbery and even rape.
So, Udom Gabriel Emmanuel is an embodiment of this component of the ‘what’. The first component of this ‘what’ is to create jobs, convert these beehives of creative energies into the socioeconomic development of the state via job creation. You see it manifest itself in the Akwa Ibom Entrepreneur and Enterprise Scheme (AKEES), Dakkada Ambassadors and industrialisation. You can see the Coconut Refinery, Syringe factor, Akwa Prime Hatchery, Electric Metering factory, and a host of others, to take these creative energies to productive ventures. That impresses me a lot about the ‘what’ that is in the ‘who’.
A good number of roads and streets constructed in the recent times have been commissioned. The Governor said he was more interested in going to streets and roads used by the grassroots in order to ease their physical mobility out of their places of domicile to places of work where they could earn a living. Bad roads damage everybody’s tyres – the good, the bad and the ugly. The rich, the poor and the wretched use the same road. So when roads are good, cars will last longer. A bad road shortens the lifespan of all cars. A bad road increases the level of irritability of motorists in their cars. A bad road means spending longer time go rich your destination. A bad road makes you to use more fuel while on the road. Therefore, a bad road reduces productivity and performance.
We don’t seem to feel aggregate of bad roads because we take them for granted. So to Mr Industrialisation, that is bad of his image. That is part of the ‘what’ in the ‘who’.
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a state or local government sums up to create wealth. If everybody is up and doing, if everybody is enterprising, hard working and happy, you will go to the best of hospitals, we will have the best of teachers. No teacher can teach what he/she does not know. If you give an obsolete piece of information, something that is completely outdated to our children, are you preparing them for leadership in the world in order for them to be competitive in the world of today? When the quality of education is high, then you are sure of having high quality of Akwa Ibomites for the next generation. Education is power because it provides a platform to acquire knowledge. Knowledge on its own is not powerful. What is powerful is the use to which knowledge is put. That is what gives a competitive advantage in whatever you do. That is what attracts me here, otherwise I wouldn’t have been here.
I made a statement while addressing some unemployed youths in Oron recently during reception ceremony in my honour. I said may it never happen to this generation that this kind of light shun through this state, and this state never comprehended it. If we lose an opportunity like this to develop skills and competencies, to impact a larger society for good, then we will lose out. Industrialisation and agricultural revolution are still part of it.
If you observe him well, you will find out he works on files trying to solve problems because he sees that files are not pieces of papers but human lives. In each of the files are either proposals or letters of presentations, etc that when treated, you are touching lives.
The Dakkada inspires me. It says rise up and shine, rise to be the best you can be. Wellington Bassey, with number NA01 in the Nigerian Army, was the first black man to enlist to be a soldier – a lawful killer, not murderer – for the good of a larger society, prepared to give his life for the lives of others. A soldier is someone who, via oath and training, has decided to be prepared to give own life for the lives of others.
Another person is late Cardinal Dominic Ekanem from Ibiono Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. We know what it meant in those days for you to say you won’t have anything to do with a woman. He knew the meaning of celibacy – no woman, no wife, no children – and he still decided to be a Reverend Father, Bishop and to the rank of a Cardinal. That is Dakkada.
Prof. Eyo Ita from Ibeno LGA was the first Professor from the South-East and South-South parts of Nigeria, and a host of our elder ones who had gone, stood firm to read to be a Professor. Air Marshal Nsika Edwok was appointed Chief of Air Staff twice out of sheer brilliance. He was given a course of about 12 subjects and he took first in all the 12 subjects. Late Etim Inyang rose from Constable to Inspector General (IG) and walked in the police force for 37 years without a single query. He went through all the ranks in the police force except DIG.
Another example is Oron people who prayed and wished to have a Reverend Father for years, because an Oron man could not believe how he could stay without a woman. I’m not trying to be immodest, but to prove a point in the context of Dakkada. It could be termed an absurdity for an Oron man to stay without a woman. Some rose to certain levels but could not continue. Joseph Ekuwem went to the seminary in June 30, 1979 and was ordained by the then Bishop Brian David Usanga in Calabar. After the ordination, returning to Oron was impassable as people trooped out to witness the Oron man who would not have anything to do with a woman, and take the bull by the horn. It is not because an Oron man cannot be a Reverend Father, but to do what you want to do and excel. That is what Dakkada is all about.
The ‘what’ in Governor Udom Emmanuel wanting to bring the best out of you, don’t accept mediocrity, defeat. Don’t be hopeless and despondent. Rise up to be the best. Think big, rise up and shine. The Americans call it ‘American Rain’ but we call it ‘Dakkada’. That is what I came to see that is driving me.
For you to appreciate the power of knowledge in education, take Uyo today and freeze it in your mind. Take a translation in time to 31 years ago and freeze that image. Take the two images on to a screen and watch – beautiful houses, tarred roads, Governor’s Office, Assembly Complex, Governor’s Lodge, etc. You can see the power of the human mind. The interplay of knowledge – carpenters, engineers, tillers, politicians, senators, governors – have moved the Uyo image of that time to where it is today. It takes education, knowledge and good leadership to ensure that translation from what it was to what it is today. And if you want that shift, the best gift to your child is to go to a good school.
You hear him often say that there are two things that drive him which he cannot do without – health and education. You see hospitals in Etinan, Ituk Mbang, Ikot Okoro and Ikono being remodelled including the Ibom Specialist Hospital. Health is wealth. No sick person can been productive. There is no productivity in the hospital except the Doctors, Nurses, Medical Lab Scientists and the Pharmacists working there are in good health. But the sick on their bed, their productivity is nil.
On electricity (Ibom Power), the Governor holds consecutive meetings every day on power for all. For us professionals in the ICT industry, we say ‘food is to the human body, electricity is to the national or any state economy’. The Afaha Ubeh Substation, Ekim substation and the Airport substation, and the next one would Eket and Oron. For a leader to call you at 1am does not mean that he means to disturb your sleep, but it shows that he is not asleep. If you are a mediocre, you will be upset but if you are a hardworking citizen, you will be excited to respond to his enquiry. You will know that he is working on a document and there is a certain piece of information he needs. In Taiwan, they are seven hours ahead of us. So if the Governor was to wait for you to come to work the following day to give him that information, without minding the time zone, he would have lost it. And so what if once in a while you wake up at 1am for the good of your state and you are called upon by your governor? You should do it joyfully. That is the totality of the ‘what’ that is in the ‘who’.
Above all, he is sincerely godly. I’m not telling you that he is a saint, but you can see that by his words and deeds daily, he is someone that takes his conscience deeply seriously. Even when appointees disobey and deserve to be sacked, he forgives. I’m happy that someone I report to does not weaken my Christian own consciousness. Look at the increase in prayer sessions in the Chapel, because repetition, after sometimes, sinks. It does not mean that every citizen would then become a saint, but with time, you will become much more sensitive to it.
You have understood the context of his administration and the content of the ‘what’ that is in the ‘who’. The ‘who’ I love as a normal human being created by God, but the attraction is in the ‘what’ as far as government is concerned. You often hear him say that he is not a professional politician and professional in politics. Because one day, government, governance, and administration would end and we will go back to our respective professional constituencies.
So, Ibom Power, road networks, development, industrialisation and lots of projects thriving with tree bamboo and agriculture. Palm tree alone is a cash and export crop – both food and cash. Nothing in the palm tree is useless. The 2nd Runway at the Ibom Airport is a high level revenue generation source because aircraft in all of West Africa should be serviced there not the US.
I have never seen the Governor take a selfish decision. We say in engineering that the Stone Age did not end for lack of stones. The Stone Age ended because Engineers and Scientists discovered better sources of engineering materials. The first engineering material for man was stone, and they used stone to kill animal and after eating, the bones were used as weapons. The trend moved from stone to bronze and iron then industrial revolution, stage age, computer age and information society of today. Likewise, your petroleum should not end for lack of petroleum.
You know what it means to pay salaries. There are several other states that are not able to pay salaries and we are paying because they are human lives. It is about petroleum product. All of the programmes of the Governor are to make Akwa Ibom State less dependent on oil so that when oil would have eventually come to an end, not physically. There will still be oil because the Stone Age did not end for lack of stones. There are still stones around. Petroleum will end not for lack of petroleum because there will still be petroleum underground. It will end because Engineers and Scientists are working on electric cars. It is just about 12 years to the 2030 proposed by Europe to lunch electric cars. So when electric cars had fully developed, the hot demand for crude oil and source of revenue from oil will dropped to zero, bidding farewell to petroleum age, and there will be possibility of gnashing of teeth, where will the dollar come from for our state to grow and be developed?
Gov Emmanuel, like a positive soothsayer, as a Prophet of Boom, not a prophet of doom, is working proactively to spare Akwa Ibomites the doom that is lying 12 years ahead. In summary, like I keep saying, may it not befall this generation that this kind of individual traverses Akwa Ibom land with the kind of light he is shining, and this polity did not comprehend it. Because there will be gnashing of teeth before 2030. He has seen ahead of that. Godliness first and to spare us that doom that lies 12 years ahead.
In all this, where is the Governor leading Akwa Ibom to?
Governor Emmanuel is taking Akwa Ibom from dependency on petroleum products to diversification of the economy of the state, multiple sources of income where the average Akwa Ibomite is equipped with the requisite knowledge, capacity to excel in any part of the world. He is creating a platform for global competitiveness for every Akwa Ibomite via what is doing in the education sector. All what is doing is to make us a Dubai and Singapore of Africa.
He is transforming Akwa Ibom State from quasi subsistence, low level economy activity, and civil service century to a private sector-driven, very strong, viable, and productive state. I can tell you categorically that if we maintain the vision and tempo of development in Akwa Ibom State of today, before 2030, this would be the most developed state in this country.
Akwa Ibom is nicknamed The Land of Promise. The Land of Promise means passing through deprivations, needs and anxieties. So the Governor is changing the economy fortune of Akwa Ibomites. He is giving us an increase in vision where everyone looks up to a better future. It is an offence in Japan for you to say ‘this is the best’. It is a sign of mediocrity. The best is always yet to come. So he is taking us to a land of promise, land of fulfilment and diversifying the economy in preparation for the 2030 petroleum doom that is coming. That doom will not take place in Akwa Ibom state because we must have diversified our economy.
The Ibom Deep Seaport that the Governor is currently working on will be the best seaport in the country because it is in the Gulf of Guinea, and the Americans are interested in it. South-East, South-South, North-East, North Central and nearby countries are also interested in the Seaport which will soon be ready and up to 7,000 people would be employed.
I’m here with full enthusiasm, passion and interest to work with Governor Udom Emmanuel. If I didn’t see all that I described about him, I would not have been here. So let’s take advantage of him. That is my message. He has achieved a lot in three years. I have seen him forgive people. I’ve seen him pray. That is what endeared me to him. It is better to have someone who is positively religion that to have a pagan in governance. He is the man of the moment.