AKWA IBOM: 33 YEARS ON

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Udom Emmanuel is leveraging his financial sector background to drive the growth of the state, writes Etim John

He got to the saddle well prepared for the job. Udom Emmanuel, prior to assuming office as the governor of Akwa-Ibom State in 2015 had cut his teeth in a complex mix of politics and governance as the Secretary to the State Government.

It is safe to state that in the 33-year history of the state, Emmanuel distinguishes himself as the consolidated modest gains of the past and escalated deliverables in government in an unprecedented manner.

His plans are lofty and ambitious. They are not for faint-hearted men. Only men like Emmanuel who had a successful stint in one of Africa’s most successful financial institutions could conceptualize and bring to fruition big projects in record time.

Deploying his financial re-engineering skill set as finance expert, Emmanuel subjects each project to sustainability tests to justify scarce capital for projects. He set out with a smart, realistic five-point agenda of: wealth creation: economic and political inclusion, poverty alleviation, infrastructural consolidation and expansion and job creation.

When the federal government was busy tinkering with the plan of relaunching the rested nation’s national carrier without success, Udom Emmnauel put Akwa Ibom on the global map by hitting the nation’s airspace with Ibom Air, the only state-owned airline. The airline that started operations in 2019 with three aircraft today boasts of five solid aircraft in its fleet.

The aircraft shuttle Uyo-Lagos –Abuja- Enugu and Calabar with plans to make entry into the West African region market starting with a short haul flight to Douala, the Cameroon’s capital.

The indelible imprints of Emmanuel in the socio-economic, infrastructure sphere of Akwa-Ibom have undoubtedly repositioned the state as a ‘civil servants’ state to an emerging thriving sub-national economy. Aside from the revenue outlet the airline provides, the idea of owning an airline also opens up the economic space by stimulating productive economic engagements due to ease of movements in and out of the state.

In an organic manner, the planks of his agenda are enabling one another in a creative manner. For instance, Infrastructure development enables job creation through attractions of investors who are ultimate creators of wealth. The resultant effect culminates in poverty alleviation and share-prosperity as many idle-hands get busy. They become economic agents that contribute to the government pool to service more needs.

That is vantage Emmanuel thought pattern – clear, sustainable and dignified economic empowerment model. He knew dishing out handouts to unengaged folks is unsustainable and won’t last. He rather created an enabling environment for them to be self-reliant and thrive.

Today, over 20 industries and still counting are operating in the state employing thousands of Akwa Ibom citizens.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit without warning, throwing the entire humanity into utter confusion, Emmannuel was and is one the distinguished leaders that triumphed in the face of unprecedented adversity caused by a major public health crisis.

The governor promptly rose to the occasion and triggered measures to mitigate the spread of the deadly plague that was ravaging states. Since April 1, like a General who has a duty to defeat the enemies and protect his troops, the governor forfeited sleep for Akwa Ibom citizens to live. Every night he holds meetings to review the COVID-19 safety protocol measures and recalibrates his strategies in tandem with emerging realities.

Little wonder why Akwa Ibom records the lowest rate of infection. It was largely due to pro-activeness of Governor Udom Emmanuel.

On the education front, the governor is repurposing the education curricular of the state to be globally relevant and 21st century competitive. In a technology-driving world where mediocrity has no place, visionary leaders must galvanize their people to be relevant in a knowledge-driven world.

This was the premise that led the Udom Emmanuel administration to hold the first ever Education Summit where experts and other stakeholders reviewed the education template in the state and consequently realigned it to modern standards. As a result, a greater premium is placed on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to build the future manpower for the emerging industrialized state.

The government also encourages students with payment of West African Examinations Council, WAEC fees and other generous grants to facilitate education development in the state.

The administration of Udom Emmanuel also places priority on road construction. The government has constructed over 1700 kilometers of economically viable roads across the state. This road helps in ease of transportation of agricultural produce from the hinterlands to the city thereby boosting economic prosperity.

The power supply in the state is rated among the best. Residents enjoy a minimum of 18 hours of uninterrupted power supply.

This has drastically reduced the cost of production as huge cost hitherto allotted for energy is channeled towards core production.

Today, Akwa Ibom is adjudged one the most peaceful states in the country. It was not a coincidence. It was a product of creative ways of using economic empowerment to guarantee social harmony especially among restive youth. The Udom Emmanuel administration established Youth Empowerment Programmes (AKEES) to take jobless youths off the streets.

Many of the youths who could have been creating havoc and causing social strife in communities in Akwa Ibom State have been empowered.

The great strides of Emmanuel in Akwa Ibom are too numerous to enunciate. Is it the first- led factory at Itam, first Shoprite at Ibom Tropicana or the Automobile Assembly Plant at Itu or DAAR Communications Broadcasting Complex, Abak? The achievements are numerous.

As the state marks its 33 years anniversary, Akwa Ibom is fortunate to have a man like Emmanuel at the helm. This is the most challenging time to be a leader. Oil, the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy has plummeted many times. Many sources of livelihood had been ravaged by the pandemic which further constrains leaders from augmenting revenue shortfalls from taxes.

Obviously, no mediocre in power will survive this perilous time. It requires great financial wizardry and unusual fiscal discipline to service the government and the people. The financial sector background of Emmanuel has been very invaluable this season.

Many are amazed how the government could still flourish amidst pandemic. The reason is simple, Akwa Ibom made the right choice in Emmanuel whose financial discipline and savings for the raining days saved the state.