Saturday, July 20, 2024


By Joe Iniodu

Public perception of bankers is thriftiness and attention to the minutest financial details. But as a pragmatic adage notes: “In every rule, there is an exception”. Udom Emmanuel, a banking guru and currently governor of Akwa Ibom State is an unalterable exception to this rule. His deep sense of generosity stands him in a unique stead and offers a compellingly different notion of public perception of bankers. He has via personal trait proved that you cannot love without giving.

To those who play to the gallery, giving is a show, it is an event compelling of public attention and a razzmatazz. For Udom Emmanuel, giving should follow the scriptural admonition that your right hand should not know what the left is doing. For Gov. Udom therefore, giving should be unobtrusive and competent enough to confer dignity on the recipient. This concept has put his numerous gestures in the back burner while buffeting public space with unfounded narratives of his frugality. And while the track record of frugality in a public officer of the standing of governor should be acknowledged and celebrated as a virtue that would advance the cause of society, it is in our clime repudiated because such development would not be favourable for political jobbers and rent collectors. An incident of funds’ paucity would therefore fatally impinge on their economic fortune which is dependent on charity. Of course, such attitude does not only promote laziness, it also kills initiatives.

But Governor Emmanuel has come with a persuasive mantra which urges all to rise to their destined faith of greatness. While the mantra promotes the galvanization of talents and initiatives, it also encourages giving as a Christian value as well as a social responsibility. To buttress this concept of social responsibility theory, Governor Emmanuel told a story of how a certain woman ambushed him in his Church in Lagos. He said the woman who had made several efforts with her courage always failing her finally summoned herself up and approached him. As a senior officer in the bank, he had the entitlement of security personnel who in the line of their duty tried to restrain her but Udom discouraged them.

According to Mr. Udom, he listened to her pitiable story which summary was request for assistance to enable her start petty trading in seasonal items like roasting of corn, plantain, yam etc. Mr. Udom said the woman asked for a paltry amount to enable her commence the trade to which he said he more than doubled. His joy, according to him, is that today, the woman is self reliant and could feed the family. He said that the woman is doing so well that from time he visits him with foodstuffs despite his many pleas that she should rather use monies expended for such items for herself and the family. The banker turned politician observed that the woman would still be wallowing in poverty today if God had not used him for that intervention pointing out that those God have blessed should be blessings to others. His belief is that if such ideal becomes our pre-occupation; the world would be a better place.

The compelling story was told not to earn any political mileage but to underscore a moral precept that everybody should internalize irrespective of political affiliation, ethnic affinity or religious creed. After-all, as it is often said, we are people from one heritage and one ancestry. And as it is opined in a popular adage, when the eyes have calamity, the nose is usually affected. Gov. Udom is seeking a society where egalitarianism would be the watch-word; where we would not only be our brothers’ keepers, but also, according to Rev. Jesse Jackson, our brothers’ brothers.

The concept may appear utopian for many but it is very pragmatic for Governor Udom Emmanuel who has an avalanche of evidence to give vent to the feasibility of this ideal. Firstly, as a fervent Christian, he believes in the principle of giving. He believes that love for humanity could be expressed in giving often recalling the scripture which posits thus “give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom” Luke 6:38. To further strengthen God’s ordinance in giving, Proverbs 19:17 notes “he that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he had given, will He pay him back”. All these seem to be the pivot that charts the giving philosophy of Governor Udom Emmanuel. Little wonder that he carries out his giving acts without publicity.

His many acts of generosity which are legendary and mostly said to be done in private capacity points to a man who knows the value of kingdom investment. Widows are special people before God just as orphans are. But it is not uncommon in our clime to see these unfortunate people suffer privations in the hands of their relations. Owing to this societal malaise, the people are largely poor. Many shut their eyes against them but not Governor Udom Emmanuel who lives by the dictates of the scripture in Proverbs 28:27 which notes thus: “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them would see many curses”. As salient to his nature, not necessarily to the fulfillment of the scripture, he recently gave widows seed money of N200.000 each to enable them engage in economic activities that would leverage them for poverty.

Numerous acts of benevolence by Governor Udom Emmanuel inundate our polity. In all of them, one sees the unequivocal trappings of compassionate leadership; a leadership that sees the people as a measure of value. Taking the case of a young lady computer graduate, who having failed to gain employment rejected idleness and alms seeking to pursue a rewarding career in business, the governor proved that his administration would support private initiatives. The lady in question showed determination to rise to her faith of greatness by establishing a shop where she sells telephone handsets and accessories. With her business still struggling at paltry level, she sent an SMS to her governor. Governor Emmanuel who reads his messages painstakingly did not only read the message, he also sent one of his trusted aides to verify the claim and ascertain how much intervention should b extended to the enterprising woman.

The case of another enterprising Akwa Ibom son who sells cement in Port Harcourt is also worth mentioning. He had sent an SMS to His Excellency, the Governor with details of his plans if he had help. The Governor responded by sending him a truck load of cement to boost his trade. The same happened to another in Uyo who sought equipment to expand his barbing saloon while selling soft drinks on the side. Today he owns a sophisticated barbing saloon shop with a standard soft drinks spot. One could go on and on and on.

Governor Emmanuel’s aversion for the suffering of his people is also well documented. In many situations, he has demonstrated that as a governor, he must share in the pains of any Akwa Ibom son or daughter. He has at different occasions made their agonies his agony. This perhaps is what has informed the many interventions he has extended to Akwa Ibom sons and daughters with medical conditions. The governor’s love for people and his sense of empathy are attributes one can not overlook as he upholds them as a banner of faith. Recently, the death of eight members of two households in a disastrous inferno that started at one o’clock elicited in the governor these attributes which our elites lack. On receiving the news of this calamity, he sent again one of his trusted aides directing that he quickly convenes a meeting with the families and ensures a befitting burial for the deceased persons. He also instructed him to make findings on how government could help the family post the burial.

But Governor Emmanuel does all these unobtrusively. His actions are proof that our leaders have blood and could also feel the pains of others. Sadly many leaders don’t. This is perhaps what distinguishes Udom and his predecessor from many others.

Joe Iniodu is a public a affairs analyst


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