A Typical Emmanuel’s Masterstroke
By Ubong-Abasi Francis
There’s a reason he has been a serial winner of the “Best Governor” in Nigeria award. By every measure and standard, Mr Udom Emmanuel, the governor of Akwa Ibom State, is not the regular Nigerian politician. His mould is hardly made of Nigerian clay. When it comes to purpose-driven leadership and result-oriented governance, the ace banker cum politician is in a class of his own. Mr Emmanuel does not only turn anything he touches to gold, he also turns people to goldsmiths so they would be more hands at the gold refinery. This has been core of his Dakkada philosophy. Since assuming office in 2015, the Akwa Ibom governor has exuded brilliance and tenacity with a complementary sense of responsibility and without doubt, has led the State through a defining era. In the words of Nigeria’s vice president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, Udom Emmanuel is a “clever governor”.
It’s an election season in Nigeria so almost every part of the country is caught up in the election frenzy. In most states, governance has been temporarily suspended as attention is shifted to elections. But somewhere in the Niger Delta region, a state government is converging her people to interface and hold further engagements on governance. The Akwa Ibom State Government through the Ministry of Information and Strategy, initiated and hosted an Inter-Ministerial Briefing last week. Tagged “Tracking the Promise”, the season one of the briefing held on Wednesday, 15 March and Thursday 16 with the State Commissioner of Works and Fire Service, Prof Eno Ibanga; Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Offiong Offor; Commissioner for Labour and Manpower Planning, Mr. Aniefiok Nkom; Commissioner for Health, Prof Augustine Umoh; Commissioner for Economic Development, Mr Emem Bob; and Commissioner for Special Duties and Ibom Deep Seaport, Mr Bassey Okon, all in attendance.
Mr Udom Emmanuel, one of the very few Nigerian governors who initiated and held regular briefings to keep the people informed during the coronavirus pandemic and perhaps, the only one still sustaining it, has taken the lead again with the inter-ministerial briefing. Since assumption of office in 2015, the governor has placed premium on participatory governance and beyond just words, he has consistently acted it. In his opening remarks at the inter-ministerial briefing, the State Information Commissioner, Mr Ini Ememobong noted that the governor has made a duty to hold regular parleys with the media in the state. “There are Governors in the South South states who have never met with journalists even once, let alone allow them to ask questions. His Excellency Udom Emmanuel has been having parley with journalists yearly because he is passionate about interfacing with the people”, he said. “Since assumption of office in 2015, the Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration has vigorously pursued multi-sectoral development and intervention programmes on all fronts. This is why we are here to update the citizens and also feel their pulse on government’s efforts”.
All over the world, the primary need of the populace is to have a say in how they are governed. How the people respond to government policies and programmes is a function of their perception of the government. Conflicts, revolutions, resistance, protests, etc against a government are usually a result of disconnect between the governed and the government. The damage that a society can suffer due to this disconnect can sometimes be unimaginable. In contrast, a society where this gap is bridged through good communication enjoys peace. Dialogue is the spinal cord of governance – a fragile, delicate and very vital organ that runs through the whole system. Spinal cord is to the human body what dialogue is to governance. The Udom Emmanuel led administration has been servicing this organ and the obvious robust synergy between the government and the people is the optimal outcome of dialogue. This is why Akwa Ibom, under Governor Emmanuel, has been repeatedly adjudged as the “most peaceful” state. It is why the state has become a destination of choice for investors, etc.
In the course of the two days of the inter-ministerial briefing, Akwa Ibom people had the opportunity to discuss extensively on the administration’s performance in all the sectors that featured in the event. For instance, the Works Commissioner, Ibanga, while responding to questions, cleared the air on issues bothering on roads. “Nsit Atai – Oron road will definitely be completed. We are running on speed and today whatever that had happened on that road, the narrative has changed”, Prof Ibanga assured. “This government is firm on delivering good roads so it has terminated and reawarded contracts because of non-performance. We have terminated up to five major contracts because this government wants to meet deadlines. At the speed we are running, these roads will be completed”. At the end of Prof Ibanga’s briefing, participants were better informed on the achievements, progress and even challenges the state was facing in that sector. One can only imagine the millions of Akwa Ibom people who were left satisfied after a 2-day interactive session with six Commissioners.
Currently, the state has about 21 Ministries and only six have participated in the just concluded season of the inter-ministerial briefing. This means that there about 15 Ministries still left to feature. More than finishing strong and finishing on a high, the Udom Emmanuel administration will obviously be finishing with the people on its side. Besides the obvious excitement on the faces of participants and their glowing remarks, the briefing has received very good and positive reviews and feedbacks. The testimonials from the media, the religious and traditional institutions, civil rights groups, labour and pressure groups, professional bodies, NGOs, etc. clearly indicate that the inter-ministerial briefing was a well-intended and well-received initiative. Many have even strongly suggested that it should be sustained beyond the present administration.
Again, the timing of the inter-ministerial briefing further shows Mr Emmanuel’s masterly strategy. Like I noted earlier, it is an election season in Nigeria and one common thing about electioneering is the rise of misinformation, fake news, speculation, propaganda, etc. Rather than wait for all these to start playing out and the government will be doing rebuttals, the administration opted for proactive approach to arm the people with accurate information which makes it easier to combat misinformation. The Dean, Faculty of Media and Communication Studies, University of Uyo, Prof Peter Esu, in his teaser on Governance, Transparency and Responsibility at the inter-ministerial briefing, corroborated this when he berated one of the governorship candidates in the state for lying about development in the state on National television. “One of the governorship candidates in the state sat on national TV to say that there are no good roads in the state. But that is a lie because fact check will show that Akwa Ibom State has one of the best road network is this country”, Prof Esu noted.
By now, the people of Akwa Ibom would be feeling fulfilled that their collective decision to choose Udom Emmanuel in 2015 and 2019 has not brought them regrets and shame but pride. The people must be feeling so proud to have a government that affords them the opportunity to be actively involved in governance as well as enjoy the numerous benefits of democracy. Through the inter-ministerial briefing, the administration has not only empowered the people to want more accountability and transparency from the government but has set a good precedent for succeeding administrations. This is a batch of honour for Governor Udom Emmanuel.
*Francis writes from Uyo