Governor Udom Emmanuel Takes Governance One Notch Up
BY OFONMBUK AGNABI
On the day Udom Emmanuel stood on the podium, before the generality of Akwa Ibom people, and took oath of office to begin work as their governor, he said something to the people. Some people may have forgotten what he said on that day. A reminder here: “I stand before you today not as a master but as a servant and not as a boss but as a co-labourer.”
This was on May 29, 2015. More than one year down the road, Emmanuel has lived out the true meaning of the words he used indicating that he was not being a politician when he uttered those words, but just being who he has always been -a Sunday school teacher who, as the son of a school teacher also, believes, and lives out, the scriptural promises that he had imbibed and teaches. Indeed, Emmanuel is a core professional and not your run-of-the-mill politician!
In being Governor of Akwa Ibom state, Emmanuel proves something about humility and focus. He does not see himself as a governor, in the true sense of the expression of the name in the Nigerian political context, but as a chief labourer and a team player whose assignment is to lead other labourers to till the land, plant and water the seeds, tend to the farm, relax and wait fora bountiful harvest. In Biblical terms, one could see Emmanuel squarely fitted into the parable of the sower. He is sowing goodness and peace in Akwa Ibom. He is sowing brotherliness and disarming opponents with a simple lifestyle, which has become a signature of his personality. He is sowing projects for the future of the state.
As a banker, the man remained mostly anonymous while keeping faith with his assignments, and delivering results quietly. Somehow, not many AkwaIbomites knew that behind the white high walls and glasses of Zenith bank, hid a true son who never forgot his humble and Christian upbringing in working himself up the success ladder. It took the eagle eyes of Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio, now Senator, and Minority leader of the Senate, who as governor, prayed for God’s will in his search for a visionary and uncommon successor who would move the template in the development of Akwa Ibom to new heights, to find him. Having spotted him, Akpabio put him through tutelage as Secretary to the State Government (SSG), in a development, which many argued was a huge and very risky gamble. Not in terms of qualification or antecedents, but just that he had remained a quintessential and no-nonsense professional.
No doubt, many politicians in Akwa Ibom, and even beyond, were pleasantly surprised with Emmanuel’s appointment as SSG. Many argued that he would never agree with Akpabio on the grounds that his gentility and simple mien, would never pair well with a hyperactive Akpabio who was on the faster lane to drive the state’s development forward. Others argued that being a “Lagos boy”, one who did not have anything to do with politics of the state since 1999, and one who never showed any overt interest in governance, that Emmanuel was like a fish on dry land. Several permutations and analyses also enveloped Akwa Ibom State on how his predecessor in office as SSG would trounce him at the polls, being a neophyte. He must have read all the analyses and noted all the doubts expressed about his ability to make things happen with candour and equanimity. And in his usual style, offered a coy smile. His only message to those who doubted his capacity was “Udom Is Right.”
Yes, Udom was right to have sought the nod of the people to be their chief labourer. Udom was right to have asked to be allowed to push the wheelbarrow ahead of others. Udom was right to have asked those who actually own the power, to permit him to reload the transformation story of AkwaIbomstate and make things happen for the good. Today, even those who doubted his abilities, and vehemently opposed his decision to be another wheel in the progressive development of the state, are beginning to see how wrong they were.
Most are re-aligning with his vision and are trooping to buy into his template for peace and development. Recently, the 14 member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) who joined other aggrieved people to form G22 visited him as the traditional leader of the party to pledge their loyalty and support. The visit was done “in absolute demonstration of our acceptance of his invitation to us to join him in building a state of our dream which was the fulcrum of our respective aspirations to the office of Governor in 2014”, according to the spokesperson of the group, Barr. Ekpenyong Ntekim, a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice. That is the spirit of a sportsman!
Akwa IbomState has remained very peaceful and accommodating of all opinions. He has shown that there is actually no need for a do-or-die disposition to politics. He has no scruples and taken no prisoners. He relaxes with the poor as with the rich. He is at home with the opposition as he is with supporters. All these are in tandem with Emmanuel’s focused and steady march towards achieving the promises he made to indigenes on May 29, 2015, which include: “to leverage and build on the uncommon transformation of the Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio administration; to transform the economy of our state via industrialization and sustain public-private sector initiative, thereby opening up opportunities for growth and improved living standards; to respect and uphold the tenets of democratic governance which our great party (PDP) unflinchingly stands for, as well as respect the party’s structure, decisions and hierarchy.”
All can be summarized under the five-point agenda of his administration; job creation, poverty alleviation, wealth creation, economic and political inclusion; and infrastructural consolidation and expansion. Looking back, no one would accuse Emmanuel of abandoning these targets. Perhaps, a die-hard enemy would, but that wouldn’t change the perspective of majority of the people of the state that indeed, Udom is leading right. After all, leadership and good governance are for the greater good of the greater majority of the people. History has never recorded a situation where the entire population tags with a leader. While I do not expect same to happen in the state, I am however happy, and comfortable, that the greater majority are enjoying the benefits of his progressive activism in leadership.
Emmanuel’s agricultural revolution and economic policies are unprecedented and enormous. To achieve his vision of industrialization, he inaugurated Technical Committees on Foreign Direct Investment, Ibaka Deep Seaport project, and Agriculture and Food Sufficiency. He has rehabilitated and commissioned Peacock Paint Factory in Etinan, performed ground-breaking ceremonies for the Automobile Assembly plant, the Electric Meter Manufacturing plant, while Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) have been signed for the takeoff of the Coconut Plantation and Processing Refinery, LED Manufacturing plant, and Fertilizer Blending plant.
His administration has deployed the potentials of the state to invest massively in Agriculture. He has signed an (MoU) for Akwa Prime Hatchery and Poultry Ltd at Mbiaya Uruan, Uruan LGA. The project, which comprises a feed mill and a breeder farm commenced production of 110,000 day old chicks (DOCs) per week on May29, 2016 and is expected to attain its full production capacity of 520,000 DOCs per week from November 2016, Cassava Processing factories have been established in the three Senate districts of the state for the production of sixty metric tonnes of garri per day, resuscitated cocoa production through the establishment of Cocoa Development Committee chaired by the Deputy Governor, Mr Moses Ekpo, over 200 youths were sent to Israel for training in agriculture, among others.
In addition, 1,000 youths have been engaged for Oracle training and certification,200 trained in power sector as a result of anew license to produce additional 540 megawatts of electricity, the second runway is nearing completion as well as the main terminal building and the cargo terminals, over 150 kilometers of roads are under varying degrees of completion, and Akwa Ibom Entrepreneurial and Employment Scheme (AKEES), which will engage 10, 000 youths to work for themselves is on course. What Governor Emmanuel has done so far in Akwa Ibom testifies to the fact that behind the walls of corporate empires, sit quality human resources that will change the leadership challenge that Nigeria has, and still grapples with.
Emmanuel’s examples are such that Nigerians ought to begin to extend their search for leaders in their states beyond the regular headline grabbers. Emmanuel is a great ambassador of corporate Nigeria to politics. Many more are waiting to be harvested from behind those walls. Analysts are of the opinion that Emmanuel couldn’t have come at a better time than this. With his pedigree in financial institutions and his wealth of experience in resources management, he can be said to be at the right place at the right. More than anything else, he is the right man for the job.
Agnabi is a political analyst. He lives in Lagos