By Ukpong Ukpong
“Those who do not move, do not notice their chains”. – Rosa Luxemburg
Nothing inspires more than success and there is no motivation like the promise of greater success. This feeling of accomplishment flooded our mind when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared All Progressives Congress, APC, presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) winner of the March 28 election.
That announcement marked a turning point in the ongoing struggle to bring change to our polity and make governance more people oriented. It also gives us assurance that the remaining challenge is surmountable because if Buhari could succeed, despite all setbacks placed before him and his party by the incumbent, then we are certain that with determined move ahead the red sea will part for us and the Egyptians we see today will not be there tomorrow.
We must however not be complacent and take for granted the resolve of few oligarchs desperately holding on to power. They are determined to frustrate our best effort so nobody should give an inch to overconfidence or the leviathan will take the whole ten yards. We must not relent in occupying Akwa Ibom State with our song of CHANGE until the tsunami which began from the fringes of Sahara desert through the marches of River Benue reaches the sandy beaches of the Atlantic.
The broom revolution should not stop at the North and South-west, it must sweep through other parts of Nigeria especially the South-south for us to reap its full potentials. As succinctly put by Umana Okon Umana, the APC governorship candidate, “we cannot afford to have an APC government in power at the federal level and retain the toga of past oppressors, the PDP. It must be APC all the way for its robust programme for the country to reach us unhindered”.
The APC has a programme that will decisively put an end to corruption and liberal looting going on in the country. The party will embark on popular projects that will reverse infrastructure deficit, create 20, 000 employment opportunities in each state every year, devolve power and make federating units stronger, more independent, self sustaining and competitive. States will then begin to derive much more by controlling their resources.
We are witnesses to great deprivations we have suffered in Akwa Ibom even though our leaders led us to support a PDP government that was largely insensitive to our yearnings and for many years instead of meeting our general needs it mortgaged us to few individuals, empowering them to heedlessly oppress us.
They did not stop there but brought in foreigners to harm us further in the pretext of development. Ours is a state where aliens have more rights than its citizens particularly if they are contracted to construct one project or the other. Several cases of human right abuses against our workers on project sites by foreign workers were ignored by PDP government. Who has not heard about the summary dismissal of indigenous workers in ALSCON, Ikot Abasi? What of humiliation and criminally low payment of local labourers by CCECC? Have we forgotten so soon how Julius Berger employed our indigenous engineers on contract basis, while staffing cleaners? When indigenous staff of Gitto complained of inhuman treatment meted out against them by management did the PDP government take decisive steps to tackle the ignominy?
Consider this also, the apparent refusal of PDP government to grant a degree awarding status to Maritime Academy, Oron that has been in existence close to 30 years yet went to establish a full fledge Maritime University in Delta state. What about its inability to award Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene-Aba dualization project, completely overlooking the Ibaka Deep seaport project for six years, despite acclaimed huge potentials they have for our people and country in general?
As a digression, Barrister Ndem Andem, former positive change mouth piece now amalgamated consolidation agitator, spoke recently on Akwa Ibom Decide, a Planet FM radio programme, about PDP’s plan to consolidate and globalize the state. He should not be taken seriously because as nice as the word “globalization” sounds it appears Andem or perhaps PDP does not understand all the facets of it. The simplest definition of globalization is competing at the world stage. Did PDP government prepare the state to do so? What do we have to sell in order to balance trade at international market?
In a state that buys everything from staple food to tissue paper inflation will annihilate us in few years. We cry of capital flight daily, but this government ignored it and rather than provide basic amenities like potable water, power, qualitative education, encourage wealth creation and employment opportunities by funding indigenous businesses to thrive and ensure tax is efficiently paid and accounted for, it decided to embark on eight years of jamboree, wild spending and mega esoteric projects.
Former governor, Obong Victor Attah had warned the outgoing government right from inception, but it spurn that caution, rabble roused and continued its aimless journey, eight years later all the warnings have occurred and the people are the ones who bear the brunt of misgovernment.
Back to our discourse. With our dwindling state economy (in the face of global oil slum) we should be relying on reserves saved and not have to pay billions in debt owed commercial banks. Secondly, considering the revelation by Minister for Finance and Coordinating Minister for the nation’s economy, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that projects undertaken in Akwa Ibom state are not equivalent to 1% of monies accrued to the state from federation account, then we ask where the remaining 99% are? What happened to our internally generated revenue? Was it ignored because so much money was coming from the oil boom? Sadly, rather than build our internal financial base and support local contractors, manufacturers and businessmen, PDP government decided to undertake outlandish projects seen as conduits to launder funds. Who needs a cinema hall and theme park when three square meal is a major challenge?
One could liken Akwa Ibom State to Egypt during Joseph’s time yet without Joseph on the scene. We had our seven years of plenty, but the PDP effectively squandered all of our commonwealth on wild parties and white elephant projects. Now, seven years of famine begins and the same political party is preaching consolidation? What are they consolidating? Is it Etebi-Enwang bridge that was supposed to be the longest suspended bridge in Africa or the gargantuan roundabout in Nnung Udoe junction that employs nobody? Is it the abandoned Tropicana project that should best be broken up into small pieces and given to farmers to plant water leaf and okra instead of allowing it to remain fallow? Is consolidation about the unutilized MRO facility that gulped millions of dollars to build? Evidently, the consolidation preached by PDP simply is perpetuation of certain people in power to continue inflicting poverty, pain and suffering on the people due to insensitivity and impunity in governance. PDP had 16 years to consolidate on its manifesto which never changed all these years but it failed.
That said, let’s explain CHANGE. Firstly, change is doing things differently. It is choosing a better alternative rather than being stuck with an outdated, abused and obsolete idea. Change does not necessarily mean starting all over. It is getting things done using the best tools, correct attitude and on time.
We should therefore not forget the reason we yearned for change lest we loose a critical part of the struggle. Our struggle is borne out of genuine desire to reinvent accountability, transparency, inclusiveness in a system that had in 16 years grown corrupt, shrouded in secrecy and insensitive to the plight of the electorate. We willingly submitted our sovereignty to few of our people through the ballot and mandated them to serve us with diligence but alas when they got into power they decided to band against us, treating us like subjects!
We therefore choose CHANGE over consolidation because it opens our eyes to new opportunities, empowers us to participate in government, makes moderate and practical promises with timeline to assess their implementation. Above all, the CHANGE ideology emanated from the people and puts them first before any other consideration while consolidation is an excuse for years of misrule, misplaced priorities and misappropriation of funds.
What we need now is not to panel beat and realign an old weather beaten car without an engine. What we need is a CHANGEd car with brand new chassis and efficient engine, UMANA OKON UMANA.