Exclusive: Governor Emmanuel Has Made Akwa Ibom A Shining Light In Nigeria
In this interview on Heritage Radio 104.9FM Diary of Development programme, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Marketing and Brand Management, Mr Sam Edoho speaks exclusively on the achievement of the Udom Emmanuel-led administration in last three and a half years, challenges and 2019 elections in prospect. Excerpts:
Good to have on the programme today, sir…
Thank you very much.
Let’s start from your portfolio. An average Akwa Ibom person may not really know what your work is as the person in charge of Marketing and Brand Management. What are your activities in that office?
If you say the average Akwa Ibom may not know, that is not correct because the average Akwa Ibom person you are talking about is very intelligent. In the last three years, we must have come in contact with the average Akwa Ibom person because in the cause of doing our job, we do not wait for Akwa Ibom people to come to us but we go to them. And I say authoritatively that we have gone round the length and breadth of this state to do the job.
Our job is to give out information about the government, to sell government programmes and policies, to sell the person of the Governor as the Number 1 citizen of the state, to sell the state as a whole to both our people and people outside the state. That involves so many things. In the cause of the last three years, we have embarked on a number of programmes and projects. We published the Dakkada Magazine which we have been publishing consistently since we began. We published the Dakkada Ambassador Newsletter. We have embarked on Dakkada Empower radio programme which empowers the minds of our people for them to rise and take up the challenges of life and overcome and win. We have embarked on the Dakkada Business Forum, we have set up the Dakkada Multipurpose Cooperative Societies all over the state. We have had the Dakkada Entrepreneurial Summit, and a host of other things.
Apart from the industrialization policy of the government, the Dakkada initiative of the present administration has been one phrase that is very popular on the lips of an average Akwa Ibom person. Has the Dakkada initiative lived to its expectation?
I think it is for the people to assess what we have done and let us know. Beyond these projects that we talked about, the Dakkada initiative has created sensitization for all the people in the state. There is nobody in the state that is not aware of the Dakkada philosophy, and is not just aware of it as a slogan. They understand that the Dakkada philosophy itself means that no one should be idle. You should not sit idly but must engage in something because it is what you do with your hands that God blesses. God will not bless nothing but the works of your hands, according to the Bible. Dakkada is saying that you must be engaged and do something reasonable, tangible and productive for yourself as a primary beneficiary, then your family, community and the larger society.
Apart from the encouragement from the government, are there tangible efforts towards empowering these people to stand up because many young persons would still complain of what to stand up with?
Yes! There has been a lot of things that have been done to assist the people to support them to stand up some of which I mentioned earlier. Still talking about the impact, the first has been the impact of awareness. The second impact is that, as we speak today, thousands of Akwa Ibomites, not less than 36,000 have been directly impacted by this philosophy in the sense that you have people in the Dakkada Multipurpose Cooperative Society engaged in activity or the other. You people that have been supported directly in one form or the order.
The Multipurpose Cooperative Society is one avenue, channel or area that government has supported, because we encourage our people to set up the Multipurpose Cooperative Society, and government supported the society with a million naira in each of the local government areas for them to use and commence a business and do something for themselves. It was not a grant, but to be paid back, and the pay back has been fantastic. As you pay back, you have the opportunity to take more funds and utilize.
We have had the Dakkada Business Forum, an opportunity to bring entrepreneurs in the state, people of like minds, keep them together to discuss issues that affect business people and proffer solutions, give them guidelines and directions. In the process, we discovered that a lot of people go into business without business name. we encourage them, show them how to register their businesses. We also discovered that bookkeeping was an issue. We had some professionals who lectured them on the importance of bookkeeping in doing business. As part of the Dakkada Business Forum, the Governor supported entrepreneurs and one of the beneficiaries is Samuel Asuquo from Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area who got a million naira invested in his business, and he has currently employed about 10 people. If you have an average of one entrepreneur employing 10 people downline, you see the extent the impact will get to, apart from those who were motivated like Blessing Emah who was motivated by the Dakkada creed to start developing something. Those are avenues of what has been done.
The Entrepreneurial Summit was organized for 400 people but we got 1300 people in attendance. It was an opportunity for established entrepreneurs and business people in Akwa Ibom State including Pastor Umoh Eno who runs the Royalty Group; Unyime Idem, dealer of the biggest telecommunications in Nigeria, to talk to emerging and boarding entrepreneurs. We have got several other encouragement fora for our people and more are coming.
You talked about getting some persons to be involved in the Dakkada initiative and they got things from the government which to them going. What was the method of selecting these people?
The first thing the Dakkada philosophy encourages is action. It has to be action-based. You be doing something. It is that thing you are doing that will get support and encouragement. I talked about the Dakkada Multipurpose Cooperative Society. We encouraged people to set up the cooperative society and it was functional then there was support from government to what has already been started. You cannot claim to have a dream of building a 10-storey building and be sitting at home. If you have the dream and see that you have acquired a land and started a foundation, then we will support you because we have seen something we are giving support to.
The young man, Samuel Asuquo I talked about was already doing business. What government did was to encourage him to expand his business, and in the process of expansion, he created employment for 10 other people. In the case of Blessing Emah, she was already doing something on her own. The most important thing is to start on a person note. There are some people who are doing micro businesses and are getting encouragements to grow the business.
The exigencies of your office are quite demanding particularly being a trailblazer moving into a path that wasn’t there to encourage an average Akwa Ibom person to stand up and start something. I believe there are some challenges you must have faced. Can you share with us?
Before I get to the challenges, still looking at the effort that was made to support our people. My office partnered with private sector organizations to create opportunities for our people. We partnered with MTN to create 600 startup businesses in Akwa Ibom State with Akwa Ibom sons and daughters, and it was from that partnership that Samuel Asuquo emerged. We also partnered with an indigenous construction company, Hensek who trained some of our youths in partnership with the Directorate of Marketing and Brand Management. We also partnered with another construction firm, Naijapet Structures who also trained some of our youths on Information and Communication Technology (ICT). At the end of the training, the youths were empowered with laptop computers to set up businesses and be productive for themselves and families.
Now, talking challenges, there is nothing you do in life that you will not have challenges. The important thing is for you to remain focus, walk through the challenges and come with results for the people because challenges are a part of the system, a part of life. So, for me, the biggest we had was that Dakkada was launched during a recessed economy in the country. Nigeria had a recession at that time, but that challenged also turned out to be a blessing because that was what Akwa Ibom people needed at that time to wade through the storms of recession that engulfed Nigeria. The people rose up in a salutary manner and engaged themselves in productive ventures that is blossoming.
Let’s move to the present administration. Governor Udom Emmanuel has been on seat for over three years now. What can you say has been the most important achievement of this present administration based on your personal assessment?
Governor Udom Emmanuel is my boss and I thank him so much for giving me the opportunity to serve in this government. If I’m to offer my personal opinion, I would say that this governor has performed creditably for Akwa Ibom State and sons and daughters of the state. He has made Akwa Ibom a shining light in Nigeria. Akwa Ibom is today a leading light in the whole of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Why do I say this? Three years ago, if you are talked about states that have industries, Akwa Ibom would not be mentioned, but today, there is no how you will list the states with industries that Akwa Ibom will not be listed. Akwa Ibom will certainly be listed among the industrialised states and this is courtesy Governor Udom Emmanuel. Some of those industries include the 400 million per annum capacity Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Company, Digital Metering Solutions Company, Greenwell Fertilizer Company, Coconut Refinery Factory, Rice Mill Factory.
Others are the Akwa Prime Hatchery, as well as the Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Employment Scheme (AKEES) Mini Industrial Park housing the Plastic Factory, Pencil Factory, Toothpick Factory, Bamboo Pulp, Artisan Training Centre and the Paper Factory, with products which command both local and global patronage all aimed at creating employment opportunities for unemployed graduates in the state.
Akwa Ibom is today producing high quality tomatoes at the Green House Project close to the Airport. Off-takers of the tomatoes production include Shoprite in Enugu who buy from us apart from the indigenous market men and women. We are already exporting tomatoes to other states of the country.
The Governor has added impetus to the already grown high grade cocoa to expand its production. He is also expanding the production of cassava, and the net effect of the expansion of cassava production in the state is that the price of garri has crashed in the market. Any Akwa Ibom who is familiar with the pricing of garri will tell you that the price of garri has crashed. When this government came into power about three and a half years ago, garri was selling for a cup for N200. Today, it is between 11 and 13 cups for the same N200. That is a price crash, because the Governor is bent on feeding the people and ensuring that the people eat well. When you are properly fed, then you have the energy to attend class and receive lectures and assimilate, go to work and be productive, go to farm and deliver.
There are several other spectacular ongoing projects in agriculture sector including the fact that the Governor does not want us to just produce and allow those things to get spoilt, he produces and looks at the value chain. So, today we have about 10 cassava processing plants across the state – Eket, Abak, Ibesikpo and others are coming up.
In the health sector, health they say is wealth. A healthy population will be productive. Rather than spend their time in bed trying to recuperate, they will spend their time working to deliver value and result for the state.
Before the Governor came, the health system had broken and he began with the process of rejuvenation, rehabilitating the secondary health system. All the secondary health systems are receiving attention from the Governor. First, it was the Etinan General Hospital which was totally rebuilt and brought to world class stand with modern equipment and the staff trained while new ones were hired to look after the health of the people. The second one was the Ikono General Hospital which was dilapidated but has been restored to a world class centre. The third one is the recently commissioned Ituk Mbang General Hospital in Uruan LGA which nothing was done over 80 years of its establishment until the Governor came and totally rebuilt and turned it to a modern hospital.
Governor Emmanuel intends to attach a training school to the hospital to train nurses and other medical personnel. That is a visionary leader who sees beyond the present. Another healthcare system he also rebuilt was the Anua General Hospital. Currently, the Immanuel General Hospital in Eket is undergoing renovation and reconstruction as well as the General Hospital in Oron and that of Oruk Anam. He is not only rebuilding the structure, he also equips the hospitals with state-of-the-art equipment for the benefit of the people in receiving quality medical attention. Qualified medical personnel are employed to look after the people.
The Governor is taking it even higher by ensuring that the medical facilities are digitalized. You don’t need any form of paper when you get to the hospitals. Once you quote your number, the attendant keys in and your medical records are displayed and treatment commences. If you are referred to another hospital, your records are forwarded to the hospital. This is taking healthcare to another level.
You mentioned that we have been producing tomatoes, plastics and other products in the state, why would somebody leave the other products that were already on ground to buy the ones produced by the state government? What are the leverages that would make someone to forgo others and patronize the ones produced in the state in terms of pricing?
Well, I don’t know what you mean by leaving a product that is on ground. Tomato is perishable product and you don’t have it on ground…
(Cuts in…) Let’s look at rice production. We have other brands of rice and now we are producing here. Why would an Akwa Ibom person leave the other one he has been consuming to buy this one?
The reality is that Akwa Ibom has been import-dependent, meaning that things we consume come from outside the state – rice, tomatoes, vegetables, etc and here is a governor that says if we continue to consume what comes from outside, we will be poor. The economy will not grow, which is the problem Nigeria has as a country. The government is saying that we should produce some of the things we consume. We are looking at the things we can produce here and tomato is one of them.
The reason people patronize our tomatoes is that they are fresher because they are produced from and they buy from here as against those produced outside the state and transported over 24 hours before arriving here. Secondly, the quality of tomatoes produced in Akwa Ibom is of a higher grade, a grade used in production of tomato puree. If you slice-open that tomato, you will little or no water. The inside of it is thick as against what is brought from outside where you see water gushing out when sliced which makes it go bad faster. You can keep the ones produced in Akwa Ibom without refrigerating and it will remain intact for a longer period of time. It gives you more paste for your money’s worth.
Thirdly, it also points that you are patronizing the local economy because the money that is circulating within the local economy helps the economy to continue to expand and grow and give employment to other people. Another fact is that locally produced products are cheaper because cost of transportation is reduced following the quality of the economic roads built by the state government who has refused build roads out of sentiment but determined that every road constructed meets economic value, linking the source of production to the market.
Talking about rice, it is a fact that a hectare of rice produced in Akwa Ibom State is four times than those outside the state. It means that it will come at a rate that is lower than the ones that are coming in. Off course we cannot produce all the rice that we need today, but in due time, we will produce a significant quantity of rice to fee our people and reduce our dependence on products coming from outside the state.
We have 31 state governors in Nigeria and they have all spent three and a half years in office. How many of them can boast of bringing in over 10 industries? These 10 industries are coming in within the period of a single administration. If the previous administrations in Akwa Ibom State had brought in anything, these 10 would be additional. The value of the industries is that our youths will be employed, they would be taken off the streets, there will be no time for people to engage in cultism, idleness and any other antisocial behavior.
What Governor Emmanuel is doing in essence is that he is securing the future of Akwa Ibom State and the youths because the industries will outlive him, his administration and government, and people will be working in the industries in the next 50 to 100 years. More industries will come into the state to make it an industrialised state.
The choice of industries brought to Akwa Ibom are things that will help even when the demand for oil drops. Take the Coconut Refinery for instance, it will deliver far higher revenues than oil considering the price of coconut oil in the international market versus the price of crude oil. The price of crude oil is one third the price of coconut oil in the international market. That is significant. Coconut oil is not going to be regulated by the federal government. Here, will produce the oil, it goes to the federal government, our money goes to the federal government and they then release a little to us. But with coconut oil production, you will be in charge of your destiny. Governor Emmanuel is a blessing to Akwa Ibom State.
Looking at 2019, considering the political revolution going on everywhere in the country, have you, at a point, lost your sleep?
Lost my sleep over what?
Looking at 2019…
Why should I lose my sleep? 2019 is a choice for Akwa Ibom people to make, and the choice is between light and darkness, evil and good. And I know Akwa Ibom people will choose good any day. We will choose light any day. So, there is nothing to lose sleep over. What Akwa Ibom people should do is that every man should go to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in their respective local government areas and collect their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVC) and keep it safe. When 2019 comes, let should go out en masse and vote for Governor Udom Emmanuel who stands for progress, advancement, industrialisation, quality healthcare delivery, food sufficiency, etc. After voting, remain there and be sure your vote counts. Make sure that your result is announced. There is nothing to lose sleep about.
Governor Emmanuel has done so well that the people of Akwa Ibom are ready to choose him again.
What do you have as a parting word for the people of Akwa Ibom State?
My parting word is to thank fellow people of Akwa Ibom State for the support they have given to our Governor in the last three and a half years, support development and advancement. Today we live in peace and harmony. There is relative peace everywhere. Let us not take that peace for granted. Peace plus industrialisation is leading us forward. Akwa Ibom is advancing, going ahead, moving forward, not static, and Akwa Ibom is not going backward. And so, when it comes to 2019, the people should vote for peace, progress and industrialisation. Let us not return to the dark days of kidnapping, cultism, wanton, murder, etc. Those are the dark days and are in our past and we are moving. This is state of light. A state named after the Almighty God – Akwa Abasi Ibom State – and we will lead it forward by the grace of God.
Thank you for having you today…
Thank you so much.