‘Twenty Nice Things’ that Happened to Akwa Ibom in 2019

L-R: The Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo(3rd left); State Chairman NUJ, Comrade Amos Etuk(2nd left); State Secretary, NUJ, Mr. Dominic Akpan(right) and Mr. Umo Robinson far left

By Umo Robinson

The year 2019, aka ‘twenty nice things’, billowed into the whirlpool of eternity past a few weeks ago. And as a foot-soldier in the Akwa Ibom State Deputy Governor’s media beat, yours sincerely had since the beginning of the year been looking to see if indeed the year would live up to its billing as the carrier of ‘twenty nice things’.

At the close of the year on Tuesday, the 31st of December, 2019, the draw-down on my surveillance stood thus: first nice thing was the renomination early in the year of Mr. Moses Ekpo, for a joint ticket with Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel for a second term as Governor and Deputy Governor.

In the sense of the possible ‘nice things’ occurring in the office of the Deputy Governor, that renomination exhausted the expectation, and even its fulfillment. It was like the goose that would lay the golden eggs; or that whole bunch that would render any further search for its fractions unnecessary.

The renomination also constituted a major ‘nice thing’ from Governor Udom Emmanuel, Mr. Ekpo’s statutory and political alter-ego. Having in his first term ceaselessly promoted Mr. Ekpo as the best deputy governor in the country, it became an integrity issue whether the governor would be able to move beyond mere promotion and shake off palpable pressure for him to run with another candidate as deputy governor.

When Mr. Emmanuel finally cracked the hard layer of mounting anxiety by announcing Mr. Ekpo as his running mate for the 2019 gubernatorial election, he packed all of his own ‘twenty nice things’ offering to the people of the state in 2019 and beyond in that singular act. Indeed, the governor subsumed everything in that renomination, something which we now understand to have been purely from his own volition.

But why was the renomination that significant? Precisely because it made Mr. Emmanuel the very first governor in the state since 1999 to have gone into his second term with the same man as his running mate, thus sealing his status as a man of absolute integrity. It was therefore no surprise that at the polls later in the year, the people of the state enacted the second nice thing by preferring him to any other candidate, rightly judging that if his charity had so obviously began at his political home, he would have same to dispense in our larger home of Akwa Ibom, even at a discount.

Vox populi, vox dei – the voice of the people is the voice of God! That was exactly what the judiciary attested with regards to the popular mandate given to Governor Emmanuel and his Deputy for a second term. First, it was the tribunal, then the Appeal Court, and finally the Supreme Court – establishing the third nice thing of the ‘twenty nice things’ of 2019. To massage and reciprocate the supreme beatitude of the moment, Governor Emmanuel recorded yet another first by retaining his entire first-term cabinet – the fourth nice thing of 2019 in the state.

And the rest, like they say, would have been history! But the people of the state have had more than they bargained for – in a year that merely promised ‘twenty nice things’, Akwa Ibom witnessed several breath-taking things and the least we can do in appreciation here is to continue to count our blessings and exhaust the list of twenty, if nothing else. And so we take Ibom Air, the fiftth nice thing as well as an infrastructural and business wonder from the standpoint of our local Nigerian possibility, beating a national record in airline business feasibility.

Such a wonder that it inspired the song:“Go, tell it to the mountains, over the hills and everywhere …,” As early as in the first week of December of the past year, this 1993 Christmas block-buster by Cedarmont kids had started playing on the airwaves in the state. For the Deputy Governor, a consummate communicator, a doyen of the media, and devout Christian of Catholic persuasion, the song issued double summons; namely, “go tell it to the mountains (media) that Jesus Christ is born; and that Udom Emmanuel has indeed proved his mettle”.

His response to the summons was prompt: “I will be at this year’s Press Week to give the media a message; but, first, I will be at the Press Centre Canteen to hobnob with members of my constituency,” Mr. Ekpo had intoned, the calm mirth with which he conveys seriousness of decision praying on his lips.

Given his very tight scheduled, which included an oversea trip at the corner, my deductions were that the deputy governor could only undertake those media-related outings as crash programmes – and that

is what it turned out to be: the two events on the same day – Friday, 13th December, 2019; one even lasting well into mid-night, and qualifying as the sixth nice thing of the year. Health and security equivalent of striking the rock twice, if you asked me; just like his Biblical namesake had done in the days of old.

But our modern day Moses stretched the limits in virtuous justification of the confidence reposed in him by the media in the state as its ambassador, as well as to prove the point that Governor Emmanuel means well for the state as indicated by these other nice things of 2019: the new deal in hospital infrastructure; the flour mill; rice mill; garri processing mill; the fertilizer blending company; the game-changer security move, resulting in the cessation of hostilities in perennial flash-points across the state; its concomitant renaissance in infrastructure at the Ibagwa Barracks; and the upswing in plans towards actualizing the Ibom Deep Sea port project.

Also in the list is the attainment of the all-time high of over 1,700 km of economically viable road network constructed across the state; the unveiling of the long awaited biographical Holy Grail on our Deputy Governor titled, “Trials and Truimphs ….”; the state’s arrival in 2019 at the critical threshold in power sector investment, making possible another nice thing; namely, the launching by Professor Osinbajo of the AKS ‘light for all’ programme. What about the broad roadmap on agriculture, and the others in solid minerals and sand exploitation, in addition to the action plan on education, all put together in 2019 by the Udom administration.

The Deputy Governor’s speech at the gala night and award ceremony marking the end of the 2019 Press Week fully attested to the above achievements: “I thank all of you, my colleagues, for considering me worthy of an Ambassadorial Award. Journalism is my first love, and the only way I can pay back for the tremendous opportunities it has availed me is to defend its sanctity to the best of my ability. My request to the succeeding generation of journalists is that you stick to the highest standards of the practice in order not to disappoint your ambassador”.

“A good turn deserves another,” he added. “The Udom Emmanuel administration is the first in Akwa Ibom to have patronized the media clan to the extent of assigning the Deputy Governor slot consecutively for two terms to a journalist. Whether the media in the state reciprocates this gesture by accordingly fraternizing with the administration, and doing all it can to ensure its success, will determine whether another administration in the future decides to copy Governor Emmanuel by co-opting a running mate from the media.”

And the clincher: “as your ambassador in government, my feedback to you is that this administration means well in all spheres, and that the media should take ownership of it.”

And who would not take ownership of an administration which appropriately ended the year with various forms of “item 6” – call it “the ultimate nice thing”, which included the very novel Christmas Village initiative. On behalf of the governor, the deputy governor had earlier flagged off the Christmas Village, carrying his media team with him. The team was obviously beaten by the aromatic bug from the barbecue at the village. When its principal was away from the state, the team virtually took a stand at the village – and here is how Esther Effiong, the senior information officer in the Deputy Governor’s Office justified that action.

“Our boss, His Excellency, the deputy governor, had called on the media in the state to take ownership of this administration. As his media team we feel we should set the needed example. So we are here to relax, eat and take ownership”.

Surely, 2019 was a year of twenty nice things – especially the nice thing involving the redefinition of “taking owenership” to mean relaxation and “jollification” at the Christmas Village; the nice thing of our deputy governor walking the grounds of the Press Centre, and ultimately taking a seat under one of the canopies to share drinks and banters with younger media colleagues. Appropriately, these twenty nice things ushered in the year 2020; aka, “flenty flenty” as some of our brothers have fortuitously decided to pronounce it.

Welcome to the year “Plenty Plenty” in Akwa Ibom; and hopefully, in the nation at large.

  •  Umo Robinson is media aide to deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State