Iniobong Ekponta in Uyo reports on the rising expectations of the people following the assumption of office of the new governor
With the fuss of elections over, the newly sworn-in Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, has settled down to face the big task of steering the ship of the 27-year-old State to its expected destination. Amid fanfare and the usual razzmatazz that characterize every political change of guard, Deacon Emmanuel was sworn-in as the fourth civilian Governor since the State was created by former military ruler, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), on September 23, 1987.
Acting Chief Judge, Justice Stephen Okon, administered the oath of office separately at the Ibom International Stadium, to Governor Emmanuel and his Deputy, Obong Moses Ekpo, and they promised to hold the sanctity of their offices dear and in trust for the people. Since stepping into the big shoes vacated by his predecessor and master, Chief Akpabio, a basket of expectations have been thrown at the former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), who left the banking hall of Zenith Bank as Executive Director, to try his administrative ingenuity in the murky waters of politics. Though the man popularly called ‘Udom’ has since made some few appointments including the SSG, Mr. Etekamba Umoren and his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Mr. Ekerete Udoh, the depth of his government would be appreciated when the House of Assembly has cleared Commissioners and other aides. “
The success of the Governor will be determined by the quality of technocrats and time-tested officials, so coming from a corporate government system he should know that only the best brain can deliver”, notes Hon. Udeme Eduo, a PDP stakeholder and former Etim Ekpo Council Vice Chairman. While commending the smooth transition from Akpabio to the former Zenith bank chief, Eduo was quick to advise the new Governor to face the challenge of industrialization to the fullest.
He noted that “the unemployment situation in the State has become alarming, recalling that “the former Governor tried to accommodate the unemployed youths in the system by creating empowerment programmes” and urged Emmanuel, to emulate. To Chief Esin Nkereuwem, leader of the Oro Leaders’ Forum, “the out gone Governor has created the necessary infrastructural framework for industrialization to take off and it is expected that the industrial masterplan for the proposed Ibom Industrial City (IIC) will be religiously interpreted and implemented to change the current civil service status of the State.
Speaking at a forum to bid Akpabio goodbye at the Government House, Chief Nkereuwem, commended the former Governor for some interventions in Oron including the change in status of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) at Oron to University, but said much still needed to be done in that axis.“Oron has existed as oil and gas hub in the State fetching foreign exchange from oil to run the State, but infrastructure in our communities across all the five Local Government Areas of Oron have been in deplorable state since 1999”, laments Chief Okon Osung, Chairman, Oro Think Tank (OTT).
According to Osung, lack of access road even to the proposed site for the Ibaka Deep Seaport in Mbo Local Government Area has posed grave danger to motorists plying the road to the beach everyday to buy maritime resources. The neglect of the area, which he wants the new Governor to correct, he said, had been part of agitations that the governorship slot should also be allowed to evolve to Oron “so we can also develop this area because we are also part of Akwa Ibom”.
In the run up to the polls in the first quarter of this year, the neglect of the area had ignited agitations by stakeholders that Oron should be excised from Akwa Ibom to become part of the proposed Oil River State, with capital at Degema, in Rivers State. Also, the problem had pushed the area to declare for the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), but series of persuasions forced four Local Government Areas, except Urue Ofong Oruko, to vote for the ruling PDP.
With the dwindling resources from oil, the real sector (informal sector) of the State’s economy, which has been totally dysfunctional over the years should be overhauled and strengthened. And according to Mr. Gabriel Umoh, a Professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Uyo, it was time for real diversification to agriculture, which he said, used to be the mainstay of the nation’s economy before the discovery of crude oil.
Umoh, currently on Sabbatical in the neighbouring Port Harcourt, Rivers State, flayed at a situation whereby agricultural matters were being politicized by successive governments, adding that “Governor Emmanuel should desist from politicizing agriculture”.
In time past, according to followers of the political trends in the ‘Land of Promise’ since 1999, political influence have always dictated the distribution of resources, jobs and appointments in the State, but they urged Governor Emmanuel, to allow merit prevails this time. To really entrench the culture of agriculture in the system in Governor Emmanuel’s era, “it is very important to do a thorough probe of the agricultural sector in the State”, a member of agric association, All Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (AFAN), who would not want his name in print told The UNION in Uyo. According to him, “there are a whole lot of discrepancies in the management of agricultural loans in the State”, disclosing that “large portion of the funds was allotted to politicians and friends of government, to the detriment of real farmers”.
Confirming this, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Godwin Afangideh, apparently helpless on how to recover the loans running into several millions of naira, had ordered those who hid under the canopy of cooperatives, to get the facility to refund the cash, which The UNION learnt, was interest –free at N550,000 per person, They, therefore, charged the incoming Governor to correct the anomalies and entrenched the cultural of transparency, due process and accountability in the management of the agricultural sector. “It should not be business as usually”, they warned, advising that such monies should be channeled to the real farmers to improve the agricultural potentials of Akwa Ibom”.
However, the new Governor has said he was on a mission to further consolidate on the achievements of his predecessor, assuring that with the cooperation of everybody including his political opponents, democracy as government of the people, by the people and for the people, would thrive with more dividends of democracy in Akwa Ibom. From its creation in 1987, the State has witnessed intermittent sessions of administrations by both the military and civilians until 1999, when a coalition of pro-democracy forces in alliance with civil society groups and the media ensured the end of the Jackboots era and stability in Nigeria’s democratic process.
It could be recalled that the late Obong Akpan Isemin became the first civilian Governor when Babangida introduced strange system of Diarchy in 1992, culminating in the botched 1993 Presidential elections re by the late MKO Abiola of reportedly won by the Socialists Democratic Party (SPD). Obong Victor Attah was to follow suit in 1999 at the return of democracy. He ruled for two terms (1999-2007) before handing over the power baton to the immediate past Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio.
However, the emergence of Emmanuel last weekend as the fourth civilian Governor of the State marked 16 unbroken years of democracy in Nigeria and Akwa Ibom. With the right atmosphere devoid of the distractions of the opposition and his political enemies, Emmanuel believed the State could be salvaged and taken to an enviable height. Only time will tell if these mouth-watering postulations will translate to real and implementable policies and programmes that should define his time as the Governor with the magic wand of Akpabio. The people are watching.