Umo Eno: What Comrades Do

Ekomobong Peter

Comrades do not slumber. They stand in solidarity. They are “fighters” who waste no time to bounce back and cover lost grounds. They have vision and strategy.  So is the story of Comrade Umo Eno, Governor of Akwa Ibom State who had his day at the Postgraduate School of the University of Uyo to share in a feast of scholarship.

As a doctoral candidate, he presented his Seminar which is a sine qua non for graduation. “I was done with my course work but could not fulfill other conditions for the award of a PhD due to the demands of politicking for the state’s plum job”. Having done with the rigor of electioneering with 354,348 votes from 268 wards across 4,354 Units and clinching 29 out of 31 Local Government Areas, he has moved on these 378 days to proof a rare mettle of social consciousness in governance by revolutionizing rural development, community health and education, social inclusion especially People Living with Disabilities (PLWD); Building of ARISE Compassionate Shelters for the poor and widows across communities and allocation of 156 apartments  to civil servants at the Grace Estate.

 Through the State Bulk Purchase Agency, thousands of vulnerable citizens are given free stable foodstuffs to eliminate effect of floundering hunger occasioned by the national economic crunch.

While he is daily sandwiched by protocols that accompany Governors in Nigeria, Governor Umo Eno never hesitates or has any inhibitions about stretching forth his hand to shake youths, cuddle the aged and warmly pick up kids everywhere he goes.

Posing a task for his security aides, who by now have understood they are working with a non-conventional Nigerian political figure.  There have been no qualms between the comrade governor, labour movement and union leaders since he took the mantle This is because before they make demands, he often ensures supply is available. So far, he has supplied over eighteen billion naira to offset pension and gratuities, paid leave grants to staff of the unified local government commission.

During the thanksgiving service to mark his administration’s first anniversary, the excited Umo Eno reminded the labour community that he has fulfilled his pact with them. “When we were campaigning, I told you I will be your champion, today I am championing your cause”. Received as truth, the audience reverberate with thunderous clap for a Comrade who prioritizes the welfare of comrades possibly in anticipation of another round of thirteenth month salary and more largesse.

Would more come the way of civil servants, students, artisans, farmers, the poor and needy? Certainly.

Last week at a thanksgiving service to mark the first anniversary of members of the Eight Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly,  Pastor Umo Eno for the umpteenth time echoed his empathy to the downtrodden and his mantra for welfarism. “ I do not have to build bridges across  tha Atlantic Ocean to show I have a legacy project… My legacy is  to help people; connect with Akwa Ibom people to achieve their purpose and destiny, ensure peace in the state without which there’s no meaningful development.. 31 children from our public schools who didn’t know they could travel to Abuja are with their visas ready to travel to the UK for and educational exchange programme.

“I want to build confidence in them, let them know the world is theirs to explore, and that they are not limited by the circumstances of their birth. I have sponsored three Akwa Ibomites last week to Aviation School, Zaria where their dreams to one-day fly a Boeing has started…Those are my legacy projects “

An Entrepreneur, Rural Community Development Advocate, Philanthropist, Priest, Doctoral Candidate, Community Health Ambassador, Tourism Exponent, Captain of Participatory Governance, Sustainable Development Goals Champion and Vanguard of quality education from bottom top. Umo Eno has shown he indeed is the people’s governor Akwa Ibom people deserve at this momentous moment in our history.

For Umo Eno, every day is for the people. An evidence of this was when he stepped forward to meet a crowd of aluta generation who nestled the postgraduate school as an amphibious battalion would do around their general. He did not disappoint. He has never been in a hurry when it has to do with interacting with communities anywhere. His first month in office could pass for a beautiful dawn where hope becomes real. He appointed his aides on Student Matters, one represents students living with special needs. Released N100 million intervention grant for Post and undergraduate students. Under this first phase of the many support for students with disabilities, undergraduates got two N250,000 each while Postgraduate students got N300,000. Not done he launched a bursary scheme where over twelve thousand students have so far benefited. A second phase is commencing, the governor assured his comrades while addressing them that wonderful day.

Emersed with thundering billows of aluta salutations and aspirational quest for leaders to “build the youth”,  Pastor Umo Eno yet again saw an opportunity to assure these young Turks of the Tuskers Republic(as University of Uyo is known) that his administration will sustain the annual payment of bursaries and continue with interventions in education. He did not hoard the proviso, but you must build yourselves. “… While it is good enough to chant “build the youth”, the youth must device means of building themselves to fit into today’s very competitive society”, he counselled.

At every fora, Governor Eno has challenged Akwa Ibom youth and students to take advantage of his administration’s lead to build and develop budding entrepreneurs. His administration has established IBOM- LED : an entrepreneurial and leadership School, which has an affiliation with the Lagos Business School. The facility takes interns through different modules, certify and facilitate their registration with relevant agencies, and on graduation are presented to the governor for startup grants. The first batch got N400million worth of grants. His target is to train 5,000 before the end of his first term in office. In addition, the Centre also has a partnership with MasterCard Foundation where Ten Thousand Women entrepreneurs are expected to be trained.

To further the course of re-engineering the economy where skills and proficiency are optimized, the governor recently inaugurated the Governing Council of DAKKADA Skills Acquisition Centre, which has been generously described as West Africa’s leading entrepreneurial centre by the consultant, Professor Ayodele Atsenuwa of the University of Lagos.

Umo Eno’s comrade leadership is realistic to the extent of showing the youth hands on self-development strategy to beating poverty, overcoming stereotypes and evolving a brand that is traceable to productivity. He has refrained from pittance patronage to drive home his mantra that a new phase is here. To further drive home his point, he attracted Bank of Industry to Akwa Ibom with an initial deposit of two billion naira. He directed that disbursement should not take colouration of partisanship, or favouritism, rather, beneficiaries must be deserving entrepreneurs.

It is no longer a titbit that the Asian economy and other developed economies had domesticated and supported growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It is not superfluous to state that indigenous economy grows, and wealth circulates more when SMEs are patronized than tax waivers granted some big portfolio businesses who ensure wealth of developing countries are siphoned to their parents countries with little or no skill transferred to jump-start the local economy.

Being a builder of a conglomerate of businesses, and biggest employer of labour after government in the State  at a point in time, with over two thousand work force before politics found him,  it is heartwarming that the Governor has remained unwavering in his principles of building capacity, providing cutting-edge skills to youths as a foothold to steering a new development order of prosperity based on productivity and ideation rather than political patronage that lacks sustainable structures for growth.

Peter, is a development communication scholar and Special Assistant (Media) to the Governor

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