Silas: It’s Too Early to Assess Akwa Ibom’s Industrialisation


Udo Silas, former Senior Special Assistant on Media to Governor Godswill Akpabio (now Senate Minority Leader) and former General Manager/Editor-in-Chief, Akwa Ibom Newspaper Corporation, the state owned media House, in this interview with Anayo Okolie, speaks on the 30th anniversary of the state and other issues Excerpts:

Akwa Ibom State just celebrated 30. how did it go? How has the Daakaada philosophy helped the Orange State?
30 years of statehood is not easy, even in the life of man, so it’s worth celebrating. I must commend my friend at the helms of the tourism ministry. He saw an opportunity and maximised it. He succeeded to evoke the air of celebration. There was a street carnival; I understand was a success and many other such activities that made the weeks leading on to the birthday quite celebratory.

He stirred the Orange colour controversy and succeeded in using it to gain mileage for his boss. So kudos to him and Akwa Ibom.

Now, you must understand that Daakaada is at two levels. There is the political and then the personal. Daakaada, simply translated means ‘Arise’. So at the political level, the people are being asked to rise into a consciousness of not only what society ought to be but also what government ought to do, to bring the envisaged society into being. Now, this is not a consciousness that deifies authority. Daakaada respects authority. But inherent in that respect is the concurrent responsibility of government to her people.

Through Daakaada, the Akwa Ibom man has become more aware of what accountability is or ought to be. This is because, where they were asleep before, now they have risen. So the Akwa ibom man is now more politically conscious. So the positives of Daakaada are all encompassing. Agility of mind and thought does not equate to non-subscription to authority. Daakada recognises our right to disagree. It emphasises reciprocity of respect between the governed and the government.

At the personal or individual level, Daakaada speaks to the ‘can do’ spirit. Daakaada means arise. It abhors docility of thought and action. So while Daakaada as a philosophy is expected to imbue self-belief, industry and entrepreneurship in her people, it has also accentuated their participation in political processes and governance. I hope the Udom government doesn’t treat it as a fad. Infact, I am sure the ramifications are not lost on them.

Let’s talk about industrialisation. It was the main plank of the Udom campaign. What’s the score so far?
Yes, industrialisation was the rallying cry. I think it is safe to say that the government has done as best as it can, under the circumstances. There is talk of the syringe factory, the coconut refinery and a host of ideas deemed and posited as the beginnings of industrialisation. Question is, do they signpost the vision of an Attah? The daring of an Akpabio? Or the ambition of a Dangote?
I believe it is too early in the day to properly assess. Industrialisation takes time.

You were a technocrat in government and seemed to have a robust relationship with your former boss, Akpabio. What is your relationship with the present government? And what was the outcry over severance entitlements?
I would say that the relationship is cordial. For example when I laid my father to mother earth about two years ago His Excellency Udom Emmanuel gave me support. And we hail from the same local government, Onna and he is my brother. So a cordial relationship is not when you speak to a person regularly or work with the person.

There was an incident recently, when we, as the forum of former aides to the immediate past governor went to press to ask that our statutory severance be paid. I understand the governor was angry that we went to press without exhaustive interactions with him. We were even accused of insolence.
Sometimes, when you speak truth to power it may be deemed insolence. I could speak truth to Akpabio. I served under him for eight years. Then again, that might be because we are and have been friends right from our university days in Malabo. We were schoolmates from 1983-1987.

Naturally, our outcry attracted the minority leader, who intervened and asked that we apologise to the governor for going to press. We complied and we understand His Excellency Udom has received our apology.
So the minority leader did intervene, as any leader ought to. He has done his bit. It is now in the hands of His Excellency Udom. Udom is a deacon. He understands compassion and forgiveness. He knows our demands are statutory. All we did was ask in the spirit of Daakaada. (laughs). But seriously, if we erred by going to the press, we had said sorry. We, the forum cannot fight government. We are too small. They are the big tree. We are not even the small axes. As Coordinator of the forum, I must say that my colleagues are not angry. We are hopeful that the intervention of the minority leader and the Church-mind of His Excellency would bear fruit.

What if it doesn’t?
Well, what can we do? Go to court? We do not envisage we would get there. We pray good counsel prevail.
For instance one of our colleagues lost the wife and baby at childbirth just recently, due in large part to paucity of funds. It is sad. Really sad. So we hope for the best.
If for nothing, at least for the simple fact that the forum played an active role in the emergence of the Udom administration.

So how do you see the politics of Akwa Ibom in 2019?
Time and chance reside in the pouch of our maker. Exactitude is not a mortal strength. But if you are asking whether the opportunities exist for a take-over in Akwa Ibom come 2019, it does. Opportunities are to democracy what butter is to bread.
Donald Trump saw his opportunity in America and he took it. Yes, there is all to look forward to in 2019. Whether the democrats gave Trump the opportunity or not is neither here nor there.
Back home in Nigeria we saw Mimiko do it in Ondo state. Oshiomole did it in Edo state. We saw Buhari do it at the center.
So like I said, opportunities always exist in politics. I know His Excellency Udom Emmanuel knows that. He knows others know that too. Politics has always been a game of the possible. Your opponents see opportunities, while you strive to close their eyes.