Ekere’s Vision for Collective Prosperity

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Obong Nsima Ekere

Here is an abridged version of the manifesto by the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Akwa Ibom State, Obong Nsima Ekere, titled: ‘Vision for Our Collective Prosperity’

The Solemn Assembly, which flagged off our APC’s Governorship and State Assemblies Campaign, yesterday, marked the beginning of our countdown to a New Dawn in Akwa Ibom State. After three and a half years of failed promises, stunted growth and stranded development, Akwa Ibom is about to restart its long walk to greatness.

The ambitious development roadmap of our state, designed by the architect of modern day Akwa Ibom, His Excellency, Arc (Obong) Victor Attah, and built upon by his successor, HE Senator, Godswill Akpabio, has been derailed. It is time to get our State back on track.

Since May 29, 2015, we have witnessed the slow deterioration of our physical, economic and social infrastructure. In spite of our position as the highest producer of oil and gas, with abundant natural, mineral, agricultural and aquaculture resources, Akwa Ibom posts very high levels of poverty and joblessness.

One in two Akwa Ibom persons of working age has no job! We are the State with the second highest unemployment rate in Nigeria. According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 1.8 million of the 3.3 million economically active population of Akwa Ibom State is unemployed. That means more than half of our working population is out of work.

Education is no longer a passport to a better life as many of our well trained and skilled people roam the streets unable to find decent work to earn a living. Poverty, joblessness and hopelessness have triggered a wave of violence, restiveness and insecurity across the State.

In Education, the State’s performance in the West Africa School Certificate Examination (WASCE) dropped from No.14 in 2015 to No.17 in 2018, reflecting the impact of poor funding, poor learning environment, poor teacher-student ratio, and lack of the right motivation for teachers.

Our budget for education has been consistently below the UNESCO recommended minimum of 26 per cent. At 1.6 per cent for 2018 and the same level maintained for 2019, we are grossly underfunding the future of our children and grandchildren.

Infant mortality rate in the State is one of the highest in the Country today with 69 deaths per thousand. Our aged ones have not retired well, because they are often owed their gratuities and pension. We cannot continue like this.

Every four years, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria offers us an opportunity to reshape our future by choosing the right political party and candidates to lead, define and direct our growth and prosperity. Since 1999, Akwa Ibom State has placed its faith and trust, in a party, whose faulty leadership recruitment process, especially since 2015 have impoverished us and translated into the sad state of affairs that we experience today.

Moving Akwa Ibom away from today’s pains requires a full embrace of APC’s promise of prosperity and change. As the party’s governorship candidate in the March 2019 elections, my call to serve is founded on the need to offer Akwa Ibom State a new vision for our collective prosperity; one that affords our people a State in which their best dreams are realised and the expectations met; a State rich in opportunities and the resources to exploit them; a State where every citizen will have an inalienable right to a decent living.

I want to serve as your governor, because the good and hardworking people of Akwa Ibom deserve better than they are getting from the current administration. Akwa Ibom deserves the best in Education, Health, Infrastructure, Rural Development, Jobs, Wealth Creation, Security and much more. Our children deserve the right foundation, training and environment to become global champions. Our young ones deserve transformational opportunities to launch unto greatness.

Throughout history, Akwa Ibom has always been a State of big ideas and big dreams. This is the State of Brigadier Udoakagha Jacob Esuene’s Champion Breweries, Mercantile Bank, Manilla Insurance, Investment Trust Company. This is the State of Dr. Clement Isong’s University of Cross River State (now University of Uyo), Sunshine Batteries, Qua Steel Mill and Quality Ceramics; of Obong Victor Attah’s Ring Roads, Akwa Ibom State University of Technology, Ibom Power, L’Meridien Ibom Hotel and Ibom International Airport, which his successor, Chief Godswill Akpabio completed and put to use for the benefit of the State. This is the State of Godswill Akpabio’s Sports stadium, Specialist hospital, a befitting Government House Complex, the e-library, Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, and world-class Infrastructure.

We want to think big and dream big again. We will overhaul the education sector, recreate the economy, expand infrastructure, revive health services and build a society where the poor is well protected. In all of this, my great Party and I will be sincere with and accountable to the Akwa Ibom people. My administration will have zero tolerance for corruption and we will manage your resources prudently, transparently and efficiently.
Our policies and programmes will aim to create jobs and opportunities, promote private enterprises that will build industries and businesses that transcend the boundaries of our State and Country. On the short term, we will focus on reflating the economy. In addition to our direct job creation initiatives, we shall institute and enforce explicit local content requirements in all government projects and programmes. Overall, our policies and programmes should create 400,000 direct and indirect jobs every year.

The New Vision
The strategic focus of my administration will be to build a better tomorrow filled with opportunities, unity and hope for all Akwa Ibom people. Our policies and programmes will be motivated by the collective aspirations of our people for a rich, prosperous and safe State founded on social justice and equality for all. The new vision for our collective prosperity is anchored on five thematic areas.
We call them the Five Pillars of Change. These are: Economic Prosperity, Infrastructure and Rural Development, Education, Health and Social Protection, Security, Governance and Institutional Reforms.

Pillar One: Economic Prosperity
My topmost priority will be to address the twin challenges of mass unemployment and poverty with massive investment in public works by rebuilding public facilities and expanding the State’s stock of hard infrastructure. Also, we will adopt and implement APC’s very successful conditional cash transfer schemes, empower the youths with training and funding to function as Transformative Entrepreneurs and launch a number of other initiatives to drive growth and create opportunities for all. Every investment must be employment sensitive.

Pillar Two: Infrastructure And Rural Development
An assessment of all ongoing and abandoned State Government projects will be conducted to determine the extent of government investment in the sector, identify projects that have been abandoned with the aim of completing all ongoing and abandoned projects. New projects award under my administration will be complementary to existing projects to ensure the integration of major towns, villages and local government headquarters to Uyo through our ONE Akwa Ibom initiative, an ambitious programme to link all local government headquarters by dualized motorways.

Pillar Three: Education, Health And Social Protection
Akwa Ibom State was renowned for the quality of its schools, and could boast of having the best teachers. It is a matter for deep regret, that from this glorious past, we have moved down from 14th position in 2015 to 17th in 2018 in the WAEC ranking and to a point where our public education system is in complete shambles. The entire foundation school system requires a complete overall.

Health
The cornerstone of our administration’s health policy is Health with Hope; a strategy to reverse the indicative negative health indices of the State, restore hope in our people and offer a system that makes deliberate efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of our people.

Social Protection
Our government will establish the State Health Insurance Scheme (SHIS), to adequately address issues pertaining to the availability and accessibility of quality health care in the State; provide free and comprehensive medical care to children below five years of age, and the elderly who are 65 years of age and above; establish nursing homes in each of the Senatorial districts for the elderly who lack family care; design social protection policy to cover the most vulnerable among our people, including people living with disability, the aged, poor widows, orphans, etc; provide a Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme which will cover the very poor among our people who will be identified by the State Social Protection Policy as follows: N5,000.00 to the extremely poor; Poor multiple-birth mothers to receive (one-off) N100,000.00; Orphans to receive N5,000 through foster parents; Poor handicapped persons to receive N5,000, in addition to skill training

Gender, Women, And Children
We will domesticate the National Gender Policy including meeting the 35% target of women and youth participation in governance through affirmative action; mainstream gender equality concerns into all sectors of the economy both in the public and private sector; ensure women are given the political support/entitlement needed for substantial participation in political and economic processes and put in place, programmes to reduce maternal and child mortality rates in the State.
We will enforce the Child’s Rights Act in Akwa Ibom State and expand the Federal Government free nutritional meals for children in all public primary schools.

Pillar Four: Security
Immediate implementation and disbursement of funds for the proposed unemployment and poverty reduction programmes to address the fundamental causes of insecurity. In our first 100 – 180 days in Office, we will convene a Security Council meeting on the conflict of the border communities. Decisions reached at the meeting would be implemented immediately.

Pillar Five:governance And Institutional Reforms
There is no doubt that both governance deficit and institutional weakness cut across the public and private sectors of the State. When such lapses become glaring, the State cannot be attractive for any type of investment, development and progress can also be effectively undermined.

Conclusion
Our Five-point ONE Akwa Ibom agenda is both a covenant and a pledge, made before you this day, and before God Almighty, to redress the sad reality of our development challenges and set us all on the path of our collective prosperity.
We live in changing times. The best of yesterday may be grossly inadequate for tomorrow. These times require creative, versatile and transformational leadership, not a transactional one; an innovative thinker to lead the charge into a new phase of growth and prosperity. I am the man you can trust to bring 21st century strategies to address the 21st century challenges that confront our people and State.

The 2019 general election is all about you; it is about the 1.8 million young Akwa Ibom men and women without jobs and the opportunity to earn a decent living. It is about the civil servants and pensioners, who have been denied their legitimate entitlements over the past three and a half years. It is about communities, whose roads have been degraded and they can no longer access their home with ease. It is about handouts on the eve of elections, about teachers, disrespected, despised and denied the reward and recognitions they deserve.
It is about misrule and wrong priorities, it is about arrogance of leadership and democratic intolerance. It is about transparency in governance, about grand lies and deceit. It is about local governments’ councils, the chairmen, councilors and executives, who are forced monthly to sign off their legitimate Federal Allocations, so that the government at the state can spend it on everything except the people and the local governments that own the resource. It is about starving the people and the systems for three years to stockpile the financial armoury to subdue them at election time.

I am stepping into the ring to fight for you, build bridges of hope and opportunities, to unite Akwa Ibom behind a common vision of greatness. I am stepping in to bring real peace and healing to our brothers and sisters in Ika, Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun.

In the past decade, I have served this state in various capacities and I have a track record of working on the side of the people. At my current position as Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Akwa Ibom has remained uppermost in my heart even as I serve the region of nine states.

When I am elected governor, I will give my whole-hearted devotion to the call and responsibilities of office everyday of the four years that your mandate and the tenure allow. My administration will be fully dedicated to the welfare of our people, and will be accountable to only God and the good people of Akwa Ibom State. I will operate an interactive and all-inclusive administration.

As your Governor, I will be your voice and your eyes. I will work and fight for you. I will defend your best interest. I promise to make a positive difference in the lives of our people and with your support I will not fail.
I appeal to all Akwa Ibom people to vote for me. Your thumbprint is the key to the new Akwa Ibom of our dream. You have within you the voice to speak a new dawn into being for our people. For your Vote is your Voice!

––Ekere is a former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State and until his current aspiration, the Managing Director of the NDDC