By Ikpong Essien Udom
Five years ago yesterday, Akwa Ibom people, residents, friends and guests, who thronged the 26000 capacity Akwa Ibom International Stadium to witness the formal assumption of office by HE Mr Udom Gabriel Emmanuel as governor of Akwa-Abasi Ibom State, had a glimpse of what his years would look like. Though the event commenced behind schedule, caused by his promise keeper-cum-great-teacher predecessor, HE Godswill Akpabio, who had promised to commission projects till his last hour in office and was commissioning new buses acquired for the stadium, the people waited patiently.
And upon being crowned, the new governor, did not disappoint. Giving a spell-arresting acceptance speech which he titled “Sustaining Superior Performance,” Governor Emmanuel drew a long and sustained applause when he announced a change in the name of the venue to Godswill Akpabio International Stadium. From then on, it was achievements and commissioning at every turn. Right from his first 100 days in office, the Governor kept the momentum.
Among projects completed and commissioned within that short period were the reactivated Peacock Paints in Etinan, Water Reticulation and Head Works in Ifa Atai and Idu Uruan, some renovated and modernized wards in St Luke’s Hospital, Anua and many more. The period also witnessed the introduction and launch of Dakkada – a new philosophy for the re-engineering of Akwa Ibom and her people.
No sector was left untouched as a sign of his appreciation to the people for the mandate. Women, the elders, children and the vulnerable, were not left out as his wife, Martha Akwa Ibom, initiated what is now a trail blazing NGO – Family Empowerment and Youth Reorientation Project, FEYReP as a platform for their emancipation. Today, five years on, would it be rightly and confidently asserted that Mr Emmanuel and his administration have sustained a superior performance? Of course he has. And I am convinced of my stance. His adminstration is anchored on a five point agenda: Job creation, Poverty Alleviation, Wealth creation, Economic and Political inclusion and, Infrastructural consolidation.
Viewed from whichever angle, any discerning mind would acknowledge the fact the super-banker turned politician has not disappointed. Uyo – the State capital that could not compare with Ikot Ekpene in recent past, Oron, Eket, Abak, other neglected areas like Oruk Anam and Ini/Ikono, Uruan, Itu etc have benefitted. Many dual carriage highways and numerous bridges have been done.
There are various projects that will eventually change the status of Akwa Ibom from a civil service economy which the State was known as at when he took over, to a self sustaining and economically viable entity. What of the garri, rice, tomatoes, flour and fertilizer production going on in the State? What of meter, syringe, plastic and other industries which have been established and are operating, serving the entire country? What of the coconut refinery that is nearing completion? Must I mention the ever multi billion naira gulping Ibom Deep Sea Port project which implementation is on course for the the first time?
Even projects that were never promised have been executed. Ibom Air, the pride of Akwa Ibom and Africa’s first state-owned airline is operating successfully with the fleet increasing. The 21st storey office complex has been initiated and completed by Mr Emmanuel as the tallest building in this part of the world. A flyover is ongoing as another signature project that was never promised. And then, the most modern Infectious Disease Hospital and Isolation Centre initiated, executed, completed and commissioned in response to the Covid-19 pandemic ravaging the world is standing as the eighth wonder of the country.
Certainly, Governor Emmanuel has kept his pledge of sustaining the superior performance attributed to his godfather and now Minister of Niger Delta, Chief Godswill Akpabio. Right from his third year in office, His Excellency’s friends from Akwa Ibom, but in other political parties, have been attempting to compare the Emmanuel years with the Akpabio years. Each time I am confronted by such write-ups, I always wonder the angle the writers were coming from and their frame of mind when writing. Sometimes I tend to conclude that those pieces were products of misplaced hatred. Otherwise, why would someone compare three, four and now five years with eight years, not to talk of the volume of naira available to each?
My advice to all of us is that we should cooperate with the administration, criticize constructively where necessary, and wait till June 2023 when the governor on seat would have completed his eight years. It will only be then that we could compare and ascertain conclusively, between His Excellency Ex Governor Godswill Akpabio and His Excellency, former Governor Udom Emmanuel: who served us better and whose tenure actually benefitted the State more. Congratulations Your Excellency and Happy fifth year in office.
Ikpong Essien Udom is a member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors