By Umo Robinson
Sunday, May 29, 2022 and the attendant ritual of a broadcast by governments in the country to mark their anniversaries, offered yet another opportunity to advance and deepen the discourse on state-craft; and, possibly, adopt the ideas thrown up in the process for implementation. In Akwa Ibom State, Governor Udom Emmanuel similarly gave a broadcast. But the governor’s broadcast was more than a ritual in several respects. Enhanced by the mystique associated with the number “7”, Mr. Emmanuel’s 7th anniversary address to the people of the state was a rhapsody of arrival; a reenactment of the biblical celebration song, beautifully crafted by the Patriarch David in Psalm 126:6: “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
That phrase: “precious seed”, is a fitting metaphor for the new deal which the Udom administration cut with the people of the state on coming on board in 2015. Many years ago in the former Cross River State, with the present Akwa Ibom State as its mainland area, our own kings, like King David of old, were not only carriers of the “precious seed” on behalf of the people with the sense of thrift expected of fathers, they went about sowing same and achieving results such as the Pamil Industry in Abak; Sunshine Battery and Biscuit Industry in Ikot Ekpene; the Quality Ceramics in Itu; Qua Steel in Eket and the AbestonicLimited in Oron, etc. In addition to the Civil Service, these companies afforded the people a variegated employment and business option, and a burgeoning market economy in tow.
Suddenly, however, there emerged a leadership culture where seeds were promptly eaten, rather than planted; where there was little or no sowing, but a continuous orgy of harvest from the magical farm of crude-petroleum-politics and the Civil Service, the only farm-gates and delivery points. One was therefore either a civil servant or politician, while the rest of the people were hangers-on, holding chasuble for rewards ranging from occasional “empowerments” to charitable tips.
This was essentially the situation on ground when Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, an investment banker, appeared on the scene in 2015, crying out: “Hey guys, you don’t eat your seeds, you plant them for more and more seeds before consumption”.
Hear his direct words in his 2022 anniversary broadcast: “Akwa Ibomites, seven years ago, I stood before you and made a solemn pledge to serve you diligently, transparently, faithfully and with God as the bedrock of our governance ideals. It was, to put it plainly, a distillation of the social contract with you. It was a contract to move the levers of development and growth of our state through industrialization and infrastructural renaissance, using the three gateways of development: Land, Air and Sea. It was a contract to provide quality healthcare and quality education to our children in line with the realities of 21st Century expectations”.
According to Mr. Emmanuel, his contract with Akwa Ibom people was “aimed at engendering a new order, as well as ignite entrepreneurial spirit in the people and show in practical terms that all we need to succeed and thrive is embedded in us, and that a reliance on government from cradle to grave was a self-limiting proposition that must be jettisoned. It was a contract to dare and dream, to prove doubters wrong that even without controlling policies, where the passion is right and creativity shapes the heart and mind of a leader, great and enduring achievements can be made”.
Indeed, in the last seven years, the governor has registered enduring achievements with regards to the initial contract which he signed with the people of the state as predicated on the five cardinal points of Job Creation; Poverty Alleviation, Infrastructural Consolidation and Expansion, Wealth Creation and Economic And Political Inclusion. The score-card is equally superlative with regards to the expanded version of the contract or the eight-point Completion Agenda, comprising industrialization; infrastructure, aviation development; agriculture; human capacity development, security, small and medium scale enterprises and rural and riverine development.
The achievement profile is of course generic, and only a sneak-peak at the enormous results recorded by firing on all cylinders during the last seven years. So much so that even the governor himself admitted that as exhaustive as his anniversary speech tried to be, it hardly did justice to his full score-card. “I cannot mention all the roads we have constructed, but soon all the roads we have constructed, commissioned or have work on-going would be published in major national newspapers, on social media platforms, and other media channels so that Nigerians would see what we have used the resources available to us to achieve for our people”, he said.
Let it suffice to say that signal projects such as Ibom Air; St. Gabriel Coconut Plantation and Refinery; Ibom Deep Sea Port and the 21-Storey Dakkada Towers collectively sum up the uplifting narrative of the Udom years, at least in the interim. And why not – if not – when in sheer grandeur of vision and novelty of delivery, Ibom Air alone qualifies as the face and signature of the Udom legacy, having effectively exploded the impossibility myth in the nation’s aviation sector.
Little wonder then that Governor Emmanuel gave it the greatest projection in his broadcast. “The establishment of Ibom Air is a testament to creativity; to careful planning and the belief that where the passion is right, nothing can be impossible. When we mooted the idea of its establishment, many critics said it could not be done, that a sub-national cannot achieve what the government at the centre could not pull off”, he said. “Today, Ibom Air with a fleet of 7 aircrafts, comprising 5 CRJ 900 Bombadier series and two brand new airbuses A300-200 series with 10 more brand new airbuses soon to be added to the fleet, has raised the profile of our state, and has made the ease of doing business in our state enormously appealing,” he enthused.
The down-load from the above may be designated: “inventiveness versus a generation of doubters”. And as consolation for the governor as he struggles with cynicism, as well as encouragement for future Akwa Ibom leaders who would wish to attempt the “impossible”, the following perspectivization may be helpful. Seeing, it is said, is believing; and facts don’t lie! Accordingly, there is no deed arguing over facts – you just persist in what you are doing, and thereafter invite the doubter to inspect the evidence, which is what these yearly anniversaries afford.
Yet, it must be stated that the brand of doubt we find amongst our people is not the sort that questions the reality of aviation technology. No! what our own version of doubt says is that, “it just cannot be done in Akwa Ibom – may be somewhere else, but not here!” This is self-doubt, aligning with the condition of the Nazarene brethren of Jesus for whom nothing good was possible out of Nazareth, and because of which they missed their opportunity for a revolution – for, according to the Holy Writ, the Messiah could not perform any miracles there.
Replicated in Akwa Ibom, as the signs already show, we also run the risk of shunning the opportunity for our greatness. Addressing the problem must begin with tracing its roots.
In this connection, the often-cited “etok syndrome” is immediately instructive and fundamental. For even in the absence of any known socio-anthropological research-based statement on it, that phrase early designates the “small beginning” of our people, that legitimate starting-point-phase in socio-economic evolution. What possibly went wrong was that our coastal location screened us away from the stimulating socio-political convulsions within our more in-land neighbourhoods and created a comfort-zone mentality.
Overtime a certain species of docility and complacency was ingrained in mainstream psychology through the easy subsistence naturally afforded by our on-shore/off-shore coastal food surplus. Living at the level of subsistence means nothing other than carrying on without ambition, and even suspecting or doubting any in-house manifestation of ambition as precocious. It is a situation where the normal and transient phase of our “small beginning” rather being overgrown, has been crystalizedinto a continuing way of life, which our former civilian governor, Obong Akpan Isemin of blessed memory, identified as the “etok syndrome”.
But interestingly, the Dakkada mantra preempts all these: it says with the alliterative appeal of a vicarage hymn, “rise to the faith (possibility) of greatness, rise to the faith that with God all things are possible, rise to the faith that Akwa Ibom was created by God out of greatness, rise to the faith that as a people we can move beyond (etok syndrome and earn something equal to the crude-oil-proceeds allocations of the bonanza years just by the creative entrepreneurial engagements with our God-given resources and brains, rise to the realization that the time for this is now!)”
In the course of the last seven years, the governor has moved from preachments to actual field-practice, with bold and decisive steps being taken as enunciated in the anniversary broadcast. “If we were to score ourselves, I will give us 85 percent, and by the time we are done next year, that score would have inched up considerably,” the governor judged.
Eighty-five percent! That is a distinction score by any standard, and takes the administration beyond the Rubicon on its agenda to forge a market economy for Akwa Ibom State. What remains is for all of us to heed the governor’s anniversary call for unbroken unity. The sincere and unbiased doubter should go inspect the evidence of performance, get convinced and get involved even at this critical final-push-stage of delivery.
With the legendry cohesion and industry of the Udom team, a team that has produced the longest serving deputy governor in the history of the state, we can only imagine what is achievable even in the dusk of this administration, if repentant cynics and doubters were to weigh in on this final push to the Eldorado of our dream. Surely, we would have forged that unstoppable pan-Akwa Ibom mass-action needed to explode the myths about ourselves and smash the calabash of “Calabar house-boy/house-girl” status usually tagged on the people from this part of the country in national reckoning. We would then have fully siegedthe initiative on behalf of the rest of the country in post-petroleum survival action as we “rise to the faith that with God all things are possible”.
Indeed, all things are possible: beginning from an Akwa Ibom-based aviation hub; a massive coconut-oil production belt in Nigeria, to a huge arable crop cultivation and processing destination – all in our state; such that at this time next year, the resounding state-wide valediction for our governor would be: He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, has finally returned with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
Now, it is hearty felicitation for the Udomestication Voyage at SEVEN!
Robinson is the media aide to the Akwa Ibom State deputy governor.