From Godswill Akpabio’s uncommon transformation to Udom Emmanuel’s unequalled accomplishments, the Akwa Ibom State story is changing for the better, writes Segun James
The challenges that strewn his path before and after his election were enough to throw him off balance. From the challenge of governance to the litigations over the legitimacy of his mandate, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, like most governors, had an interestingly rough start. But he kept his eyes on the ball and would not give in to cheap distractions especially that it comes with the job.
“If you think you don’t want to be distracted or can’t answer all manners of names, don’t come out to serve. The terrain allows for that,” Emmanuel once said at an interactive session with some select media in Lagos. Although straight from the banking hall, there is no gainsaying the fact that the governor appears prepared for the job. He understands the issues and with his impressive intellect and exposure, is able to sell them. He enjoys being taken on but on the intellectual burner.
His grasp of issues, policies and intricate rudiments of governance are today is selling points. In truth, his predecessor, Godswill Akpabio might have laid the foundation for a rather smooth take-off, it becomes an entirely different ball game the moment power changes hands and not only did this reality dawn on Emmanuel early, he also picked up immediately knowing full well that excuses would not improve his scorecard at the end of the day.
Twelve months in the saddle, Emmanuel is already writing his own name with a choice pen in the sand of time. With contemporaneous developments of the different and critical sectors of the state, the Akwa Ibom story can only get better. The technical committee set up for the realization of the key projects like the Ibom Deep Seaport, Agriculture and Food Sufficiency as well as Foreign Direct Investments, amongst others is evidently up to task with manifest results.
Major roads construction and dualisation, including the fly-over at Ikot Oku Ikono junction, upgrade of infrastructure, urban remodeling and renewal projects, commercial agricultural schemes such as the Cocoa production scheme, Agro-allied economic enhancement programmes as well as the implementation of different capacity building programmes for the workers, the youths and the women in the state form the basis for celebrating his one year in office.
These, coupled with free and compulsory education policy, free health care service for pregnant women, children between 0-5 years and the aged as well as the numerous welfare packages for the people, including the less privileged living with disabilities as well as victims of natural disasters, are some of the sectoral accomplishments of the governor so far.
The consolidation of infrastructure as well as expansion is yet another cardinal objective of the Emmanuel administration. With a budgetary allocation of N65.42 Billion in the 2015 state appropriation and N91.8 Billion in 2016, infrastructure development and the construction of roads, bridges and drainages have remained at the centre stage of the administration. This is because government considers them key drivers of industrialisation as Investors and tourists are best attracted to destinations, where adequate infrastructure is put in place.
Emmanuel assumed office with the vision to ensure a clean and healthy environment. His policy thrust on Environment and Mineral Resources is targeted at pollution control and waste management, flood and erosion control, forest reserves conservation, mineral resources development and sustained awareness campaign on good public attitude towards environmental protection. The manifestation of this vision is evident in the beautiful scenery the state adorns.
A key necessity of people is shelter and Emmanuel is fast tackling the housing needs of the people of the state. In keeping with the recommendation of the white paper by the ‘Presidential committee on Urban Development and Housing,” the governor has ensured access to decent, safe and healthy housing facility and house ownership as well as map out a well-planned urbanisation for the state, proving again that government is committed to providing quality housing and urban renewal services as well as decent and affordable accommodation to the teeming populace.
In the area of Agriculture and Food sufficiency, which government considers critical to the wellbeing and socio-economic transformation of the people, the state Agriculture already engages over 70 per cent of the state’s population with the capacity to catapult the state from consumption – oriented economy to a market – driven economy. With the dwindling fortunes of petroleum globally, it becomes imperative to diversify into massive agricultural for increased food production.
Emmanuel knows it is impossible to underplay the role of power in driving his vision hence his investment in that sector. Thus, in his quest to make Akwa Ibom State an industrial hub in the gulf of Guinea, Governor Emmanuel has been tackling power generation in the state to boost commercial and domestic activities.
The governor, in his bid not to leave anything out, has also identified some matters as technical. Therefore, for effective handling of technical matters as they are marked, involving massive and capital intensive projects, the idea is to work in liaison with various project ministries/agencies to evaluate, monitor, control and verify the projects to ensure adherence to due process towards achieving cost effectiveness and compliance with global standard.
To boost investment, commerce and industry, Emmanuel had declared at the inception of his government that “Our commitment to industrialisation is irrevocable. We know that through industrialisation we shall rewrite the Akwa Ibom story in employment and wealth creation”.
That declaration is largely believed to have manifested in the pace of events and the magnitude of developments that are connected to the industrialisation sub-sector of the Akwa Ibom economy. Beginning from clear policy articulation to the array of project consolidation as well as result bearing indices, there is no denying the fact the last 12 months have been remarkable for the government and her people.
Tourism is globally considered as the fastest growing source of revenue generating machinery, second only to oil, which unfortunately is fast losing its place with the current crash in the prices of petroleum globally. Realising this, Emmanuel had on assumption of office drawn a development blueprint targeted at the development of culture and tourism for wealth creation, youth empowerment, socio-economic transformation and direct foreign investment.
And in order to fully actualise the blueprint, government has evolved policies and programmes targeted at providing the enabling environment for the attainment of the goal. This is to ensure adequate exposure of the abundant natural endowments and potential of the state to global searchlight in attracting national and international patronage.
Emmanuel does not underplay the role of labour and effective civil service in the success of any government or organization, to the extent of their harmonious relationship. The governor has therefore put in place manpower development and capacity building programmes to ensure a sustained cordial working relationship between the state government and labour for a smooth running of government machinery.
Apart from diversifying into agriculture as alternative revenue generating means, the governor has further charted a pragmatic approach with a view to turning around the fortunes of the state. As a result, government has put in place modalities to establish, maintain and ensure continuous improvement of machineries for sourcing, collation, accounting and utilizing of public funds.
Emmanuel is also sensitive to gender issues, which is fast gaining momentum in the development plans of government as encapsulated in the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs of the United Nations. This is in fact domesticated in Emmanuel’s 5-Point Agenda as his government has continued to put in place policies and undertake programmes for the enhancement of the welfare of women, children and the vulnerable members of the society.
Another fascinating thing about the government of the day in Akwa Ibom is its idea of rural development. The rural development master plan of the administration is to attain a far-reaching transformation of the state’s rural space and unflinching belief in equitable transformation as an index for economic development. The master plan systematically presents a holistic rural development thrust which targets credible data of rural infrastructure to reflect trajectories for intervention, extension of electricity to all communities and provision of potable water to rural dwellers to check the prevalence of water borne disease, amongst others.
Evidently, the challenges ahead are going to be tougher, but the good news is that they are not impossible with the present administration. Emmanuel has not only begun to walk the talk within one year of assuming office, he has proven to have the capacity to take Akwa Ibom further. No doubt, a good start, the governor too knows that excuses for a declining performance would not be entertained. He can only go further.
Evidently, the challenges ahead are going to be tougher, but the good news is that they are not impossible with the present administration. Emmanuel has not only begun to walk the talk within one year of assuming office, he has proven to have the capacity to take Akwa Ibom further. No doubt, a good start, the governor too knows that excuses for a declining performance would not be entertained