The governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Akwa Ibom State, Pastor Umo Eno, has promised to give priority attention to infrastructural development if elected. The former commissioner for lands and water resources who is campaigning to succeed Governor Udom Emmanuel, has pledged to go beyond urban renewal to which previous and the incumbent administrations have paid attention into the hinterland to build the infrastructure that would make every part of the state accessible.
The candidate’s infrastructure programme is laid out in a professionally crafted economic blueprint that goes by the name of A.R.I.S.E., an acronym for agricultural revolution, rural development, infrastructure maintenance/advancement, security management and educational advancement. Those four key areas are going to be the focus of his administration if the people of the state choose him as Udom’s successor.
Eno’s promise to pay attention to provision of infrastructure stems from his understanding of the fact that it holds the key to the realization of his plan for other sectors, such as rural development, agricultural renaissance, electricity and education. These sectors are all wrapped around the overall objective of building an economy that would make Akwa Ibom an investment destination of choice not just in Nigeria, but the West and Central African regions, as well.
The objective of developing the rural areas would remain a mirage if the infrastructure to make the areas worth living is absent – infrastructure like good roads, bridges and culverts to link communities; modern health facilities as well as amenities such as pipe-borne water and electricity. Absence of these facilities and amenities would make the plan of stemming rural-urban migration unrealizable. The programme of agricultural revolution cannot become a reality if there are no infrastructures to encourage investors in agribusiness to live and invest in any part of the state, especially considering the candidate’s plan to establish farm settlements in different parts.
A careful study of the A.R.I.S.E. agenda reveals a detailed plan of action by a man with unquestionable and tested competence in development – one with a clear vision of where he would take the state if given the chance. This assertion must be considered against the background of the success he recorded in the private sector as an entrepreneur, which came about as a product of a clear vision. His quest for the highest office in the state may be an opportunity to replicate in the office of a governor the achievements that made him a household name in the hospitality industry in which he held sway.
Eno’s approach to infrastructural development would be different from what has been the usual practice in Nigeria, which pays attention to provision of infrastructure without consideration for maintenance. The country is littered with dilapidated infrastructure because of the absence of a maintenance culture that should keep critical infrastructure in permanently good condition.
All over the country, highways that were built over four decades ago were left to deteriorate to levels at which they can no longer be rehabilitated, but require complete reconstruction. The same goes for public structures and facilities that were left to fall into various states of disrepair due to lack of maintenance. Some of those structures are no longer usable, and would need to be replaced. These are some of the avenues through which taxpayers’ monies are frittered away.
The Akwa Ibom PDP governorship candidate has promised to make maintenance an integral part of his infrastructural development programme. Apart from guaranteeing continuous use of public infrastructure and facilities, it would save the government the cost of building new infrastructure with money that could have been used for other equally important projects and programmes for the benefit of the people. That is the thinking of a man with private sector experience that spans more than 25 years, an experience in saving cost and spending little to achieve maximum benefits.
A man with the can-do spirit with which the people of Akwa Ibom are well known, Eno understands that what is required for the people to burst forth and excel in their chosen areas of endeavor is an environment that is made conducive by the presence of critical infrastructure. He has therefore promised to run an administration that would maintain the trajectory of infrastructural development that the government of Udom Emmanuel has embarked on for almost eight years. The aim is to ensure people can live in any part of the state to successfully carry out economic activities that would improve their standard of living.
Power is critical to the realization of the objective of creating an enabling environment that would enable businesses to thrive in Akwa Ibom State. Despite the presence of the Ibom Power Project at Ikot Abasi, it has not been possible to provide uninterrupted electricity supply to the people of the state. This has been attributed largely to supply challenges, rather than generation.
Eno has promised to work in collaboration with the Port Harcourt Electricity Development Company (PHEDC) to manage the supply network in such a manner that would allow the state realize full benefits from its power project. The socio-economic benefits of taking electricity to all the nooks and crannies of the state can only be imagined.
The governorship candidate is well known as a man of integrity who can be trusted to keep his words if elected into office. He has demonstrated this in his sojourn in the private sector. Whether or not he would have the opportunity to prove this belief will depend on the choice the people of the state make on March 11, 2023.
Erhobo lives in Abuja