By Joe Iniodu
At the approach of one year, many chief executives of States caught the fever of trepidation. The reason drawn from elementary diagnosis was simple: what to present to the people as scorecard of stewardship of the last one year in office for those who were sworn in on May 29, 2015. For many of the governors whose basic obligation as payment of salaries is already an issue, not to talk of other imperatives of good governance, one year in office and the expectations that traditionally sequel it was sufficient to cause anxiety. But not for Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, who appears to have ascended the office of the chief executive of the State fully prepared.
From his first day in office, he demonstrated that he was on a mission and that he was possessed of abounding zeal and vision to deliver the blue print of the mission. As a man who understands the tide of the time, he decided to take his mission to God. On May 29, 2015, at Ibom Hall Grounds, he made clear to all and sundry that his administration would partner God in every ramification and material particular. To give vent to the pledge, he declared a-three day fasting which was rounded off on the 3rd of June, 2015. Thus, the business of governance had begun with God firmly on the saddle with His servant Governor Udom Emmanuel available to carry out His will.
Suffice it to say that in the past one year, God has not disappointed and Udom has not failed as a person. As many would say, he hit the ground running from the first day. Few days after being sworn in, he set up strategic technical committees that were to aid the realization of his vision. They included to wit: Technical Committee on Foreign Direct Investment; Technical Committee on Ibom Deep Seaport; Technical Committee on Agriculture and Food Sufficiency. The Committees which still subsist and have remained major drivers of the administration’s vision have recorded impressive strides that have proven that constituting them was indeed well thought out.
The tone and tenor of his government was well set. The moment he assumed office, he pledged to resuscitate Peacock Paint Industry in line with the vision of his administration and rehabilitate structures at Saint Luke’s Hospital, Anua, to accentuate his commitment to the healthcare needs of the people. During the commemoration of Governor Udom’s first one hundred days in office which took place on the 5th of September, 2015, structures in the hospital wore brand new looks while Peacock Paint made its bold re-entry into the market. Also, water reticulation which had given way to boreholes made its return as water kiosks sprouted as new features in the capital city of Uyo. Shelter Afrique, a sprawling residential area and other residential locations in Uyo that had prior to then completely depended on boreholes began to enjoy the services of the state water company that is known to provide clean and potable water. They were also a number of ground breaking ceremonies to herald that first hundred days in office which many adjudged as the right foot forward and an appropriate foothold on the reins of governance.
But if the first one hundred days occasioned a pomp and pageant celebration, the first one year had good reasons for a razzle dazzle. The scorecard in one year had evolved into a rich résumé of tangibles and intangibles condensed into various nuggets of democracy profits. The administration therefore had to find the time to either, inspect, flag-off or commission some of the projects which dot across the three senatorial districts. With the projects well scaled up in number, there was the inevitable need to nominate a few days which covered from 24th – 29th to enable Governor Emmanuel visit the project sites to perform either the function of inspection, flag-off or commissioning accordingly. Those who joined the governor on those scheduled visits would testify to the joy that rented every place they went as the people welcome them with dance of joy in appreciation of democracy dividends that they were being buffeted with. It was indeed a Democracy Day deserving of the pomp as the people found things and reasons to celebrate.
The programme of activities commenced on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 with the inspection of the Second Runway at Ibom International Airport. The facility which is at a completion level of over 70% when fully ready for use would tolerate large bodied aircrafts that may not be able to land at many other airports, especially as the Ibom International airport has been licensed for cargo operations. The day also witnessed the inspection of Idiaba-Nda Nsit-Nung Udoe Road Project with 4Nos. bridges; inspection of Remodeled/Selected Roads, Strategic Roundabouts/Junctions in Eket Townships and inspection of Sport’s Academy at Ikot Mbong, Onna Local Government Area among others. Perhaps, the one that caught the endearment of many was the flag-off of Saint Gabriel’s Coconut Plantation and Refining Plant, an agro allied business seated on 11 hectares of land that span across Ikot Abasi, Mkpat Enin and Eastern Obolo Local Government Areas. The project which would provide employment for more than five hundred youths has a product value chain totaling about 365 usages.
Entered day two of the programme of activities was the inspection of 6.4km Nto Edino-Ekwerre Azu Road Network in Obot Akara Local Government Area. The people of that section of the State had for sometime been vociferous in their complains of neglect. The Udom administration seems to have met their yearnings with interventions on the roads some of which are at advanced stages of completion. An indigene of the area, Mr. Eyakeno Akpa said, “Udom is doing very well for Obot Akara and we are very happy with him. He is constructing bridges where previous ones had collapsed and cut us off from civilization”, he giggled heartily.
The entourage of the governor moved from Obot Akara Local Government Area to Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area where the Chief executive of the State commissioned both the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) and the added Emergency Operation Centre which is within the same premises. While commissioning the facilities, the governor reiterated his administration’s commitment to the healthcare needs of the people noting that the life of any Akwa Ibom person is as important as the life of the governor.
The day also witnessed the flag-off of International Oil Depot by Delmar Petroleum Group, a private initiative that would absorb by way of employment some of our youths. There was also the inspection of 6.6km Road Network at Atan Offot. The pulsating day was rounded off with the commissioning of 1.1km Information Drive in Uyo, a road that is christened as the artery of the media community. Cornelia Connelly College (CCC) Afaha Oku was not left out of the bazaar of democracy profit as their internal roads and renovated structures were also commissioned to the joy of members of the school and host communities.
The dizzying speed of development in the state in the past one year has shocked even cynics. “If he continues at this pace, Akwa Ibom which is already a state to watch may become a mini Dubai”, intoned Mr. Dominic Essien, who submitted that the conduct of those in political authority had long ago made him to develop apathy. He said that Udom’s administrative style is on the way to rejuvenating him out of the lethargy. He cited the case of the commissioning of 3.5km Ikot Udom Road with 15.0 span bridge as evidence of a government that is genuinely seeking to make a difference. “This road is the access to the Palace of the Paramount Ruler, for sometime it was almost inaccessible”, Dominic stated. The flag-off Ikot Okoro-Ikot Ibritam Road in Oruk Anam Local Government Area also drew the same tonnage of commendation. For Mr. Ben Nkanta, the flag-off of the construction of the road has given Oruk-Anam people a sense of belonging and redefined their sense of entitlement in the Udom administration. There was also widespread joy as the governor went for the inspection of Uyo-Etinan Road Dualization Project. “This is a government which does not only keep its promise, it actually works the talk”, said Emem Nkereuwem, an indigene of Eket who resides in Uyo and commutes between Eket and Uyo regularly. She noted that Akwa Ibom is witnessing the manifestation of the rhetorical question: so government can work?
Governor Udom Emmanuel’s mission of service also extended to the inspection of erosion sites on Calabar-Itu Highway and that of Dominic Utuk Avenue where his government has made meaningful intervention. He also inspected the 1.2km underground drainage project at Nsikak Eduok Avenue in Uyo. The Democracy Day celebration also witnessed the flag-off of Uyo Ultra-Modern Regional Market, a private public partnership between Akwa Ibom State Government and notable developers, ULGA and HFP. Of course, this underscores the governor’s appreciation that enhanced commerce would not only help in creating wealth, it would also broaden the scope of engagement of the people and provide vibrancy for the economy of the state.
In order to make for effective coordination of the activities of government, save cost and enhance efficiency, the Udom Administration did what many have rightly christened as waste to wealth referring to the wisdom of converting the abandoned and derelict structure on Udo Udoma Avenue into a State Secretariat, Annex. The facility also hosts Staff Medical Clinic and Government Mechanical and Electrical Workshops which were all commissioned as part of the celebration. The commissioning galore in just one year in office was rounded off with that of Akwa Prime Hatchery at Mbiaya Uruan in Uruan Local Government Area and a state banquet at Le Meridien Ibom Hotels and Golf Resorts.
But there were still many interventions in schools, electricity projects in communities, agricultural inputs to farmers, humanitarian gesture to widows and others that this treatise has not been able to capture and which the schedule never mentioned. The strategic intervention aimed at improving cocoa and cassava yields and the establishment of fertilizer plant in Abak Local Government Area are all parts of effort at ensuring food security as well as wealth creation and capacity building. All of these have happened because the man on the saddle believes that the singular reason for the existence of government is the people. His administration is therefore people centered and God fearing. The combination of the two is the reason for the robust scorecard in just one year.
Joe Iniodu is a public affairs analyst.