Posted by News Express | 27 May 2015 | 3,929 times
The Holy Bible says that there is time for everything under the sun; it goes ahead to cite the transient nature of life and living. In the same vein, there is time for every government to come to an end: when office holders will look back at the years spent in service and beat their chests in pride or become downcast at the fluffed opportunities and efforts wasted, which could have translated into better lives for the people or greater service.
For Nigeria, that time is now. On May 29, 2015 elected and appointed officials at the state and national levels, will cease to hold office and will only have memories of what was and what could have been. As the country witnesses another transition on May 29, there is no doubt that many present office holders would officially become yesterday’s men, with only the memory of the good or bad they had done lingering. The evil (or good) that men do, they say, lives after them.
It is also time for the today’s men - those taking over different offices, bearing in mind posterity and the transience of political offices - to set their sights on good governance and selfless service (or rejoice over the opportunity to enrich themselves). Whatever way it goes, whatever has a beginning will always have an end. But that end doesn’t always have to be regrettable or viewed with disappointment. This is the case in Akwa Ibom State, where the out-going governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, has spent the last eight years in office building infrastructure and developing human capacity in different ways. Though opinions may differ on the performance of the out-going government in the state, there can only be one conclusion: that Akpabio is leaving the state better than he met it in 2007 and that Akwa Ibom people, indeed, have a reason to rejoice about the state in the areas of physical development, education, agriculture, fiscal discipline and infrastructure. Right from his first day in office, Akpabio had set his sight on changing the story of the state, which was hitherto known for being the highest supplier of house-helps and children engaging in dirty, lowly and menial jobs in different parts of the country. Back then, hardly would one get to any middle class home in Lagos and not meet an Okon, Akpan or Idarabong attending to one’s needs on the order of the home owners. But immediately Akpabio took over power, he demonstrated his determination to put an end to such despicable record. With the introduction of free, compulsory education scheme in the state, children of school age were not only returned to schools, many who had been ferried off to distant places for menial jobs were returned to the state to enjoy the free primary and secondary school education introduced by the government, with the government paying for examination fees and the provision of text books. The free education scheme earned Akpabio several awards and commendations, with his action being likened to that of the late Premier of Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, whose legacy of free education placed shoulder above other leaders. Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka was one of the many people who commended Akapbio’s stride in education.
The Akpabio government also helped in the accreditation of courses in higher institutions in the state, as well as instituting a foreign scholarship for students in science and engineering disciplines. Under Akpabio’s administration, the Akwa Ibom State University (AKSU) grew in leaps and bounds, becoming an enviable institution, which indigenes of the state can be proud of. Only last week, the governor promised to release the balance of N500 million grant for development projects in the institution, noting that his government had earlier released N1.5 billion for the same purpose. Without a doubt, it will be difficult for the history of AKSU’s development to be written without mentioning the out-going governor. To cap his commitment to education, Akpabio ensured that the infrastructural transformation of the state also touched the education sector, building hundreds of classrooms and other facilities. However, what will remain one of his greatest achievements in this regard is the e-library he constructed in Uyo, a development that attracted the attention of ‘Who-is-Who’ in the country as a first of its kind project.
Without contention, the complete overhaul of the state’s infrastructure is the handiwork of the Akpabio administration. From the first year in office, the governor turned the state into big construction site; eight years down the line, Akwa State can boast of world-standard roads across the state, with over 400 roads spanning over 1,300 kilometres built. During the same period, the out-going government delivered a standard airport, which has now become the pride of the Niger Delta; built a first-of-its-kind flood control mechanism in Uyo and Abak; constructed one of the best stadium in Africa, christened ‘The Nest of Champions’; constructed a world-class entertainment centre, called Ibom Tropicana and also the Ibom Power Plant, which generates over 80 megawatts today. As a matter of fact, Akpabio’s detractors always become short of words whenever they reach the topic of infrastructure, anytime they criticise him, with some noting that infrastructure was the only thing he achieved in eight years, though they know that this is far from the truth for a governor who delivered an all-round development.
To drive home its vision of human development, the state government introduced several empowerment and employment schemes, ranging from micro-credit facilities for the market women and youths interested in agriculture, to the introduction of inter-ministerial direct labour jobs, which engaged youths in some of the projects of government. The government also encouraged private investments, making the state attractive and conducive for local and foreign investors. The government-introduced empowerment programmes for women and farmers were to make life easier for the people of the state. While some may argue that poverty is pervasive in Nigeria, Akpabio’s efforts at empowering women through agriculture as well as taking the restive youths off the street, no doubt, lifted the state from the abyss of poverty. Through the Women Agro-Entrepreneurship Development Programme, a scheme that earned Akwa Ibom State a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) award in 2012, the state government under Akpabio changed the story of the state in terms of agriculture. The governor, it would be recalled, received a United States’ Congress award for human development.
In the tourism sector, the Akpabio administration placed the state on the world tourism map, with the organisation of the yearly 9,999 carol singers. And just this year, he ‘broke’ the Guinness Book of Records as the only Governor to have had the largest number of choral singers in one place in the world. The construction and commissioning of the Sheraton Hotel in Ikot Ekpene, the almost-completed Tropicana Hotel, and other tourism infrastructures across the state are enough testimonies of his giant strides in that sector.
In the health sector, the recent completion of a 308-bed international specialist hospital in Uyo appeared to be the icing on the cake for a government that has shown nothing but passionate commitment to the improvement of the health sector in the last eight years. But before then, the government has built general hospitals in different local governments of the state and equipped several hospitals to give care to the people of the state. The cottage hospitals built in Ika, Ibeno, Eastern Obolo, Essien Udim and Ukanafun local government areas are a few examples, including the provision of medical equipment to the School of Nursing, Anua. Other efforts of the out-going government in the area of health include: donation of N50 million to University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH) and building of a pediatrics block; building of an oxygen plant at General Hospital, Ikot Ekpene; activation and expansion of eight Anti-Retroviral therapy centres; construction of renal dialysis centre and donation of 17 dialysis machines to the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital; procurement of state-of-the-art ambulances, among others. But for me, and probably thousands of Akwa Ibom indigenes, the biggest achievement of Akpabio’s government in the health sector is the introduction of free medical services to children, pregnant women and the elderly.
Today, Akpabio can only look back and retrospect on what he has achieved for the state, and it is sure that posterity will speak well of him. Also, the brand new governor who receives the baton from Akpabio can beat his chest for being part of the state’s success stories in the last few years, having occupied the office of the SSG before this call for higher responsibility. But Mr Emmanuel has more reasons to beat his chest in pride. He is the man saddled with the responsibility of taking the state to the next level; he is the one who God’s will has fallen on to deliver more dividends of democracy to the people of the state.
For anyone who knows the ex-banker governor, his humble disposition, pedigree and good personality should be enough to convince one that the people of the state did not choose wrongly on April 11. He has promised to deliver: the expectations are high, while optimism brims that he will not fail. During his declaration, Udom hinged his plans on a five-point agenda, which includes building on the uncommon transformation of the present administration, transforming the economy of Akwa Ibom State for industrialisation and sustainable public-private-sector initiative and to open up many opportunities, among others.
“I am passionate about wealth creation for our people and economic development. Above all, I am passionate about the well-being of our people. I hereby present myself as that force of change that will galvanise Akwa Ibom, irrespective of ethnic, tribe, religion, and political affiliation which our people will ride on to unprecedented economic destiny of development,” Emmanuel had declared at the Uyo Township Stadium. On May 29 he will begin a journey, which many have stated will be another story in success, given his experience and versatility as a financial expert and a godly man.
As the curtain will be drawn on the eventful two terms of Chief Akpabio, the angry man who vented his anger to develop the state and transform the lives of its people, many have begun to have raised hopes that his successor, Udom, will carry on from where he is anchoring. Without a doubt, governance is a continuum and one would be exaggerating to say that Akpabio has or can do it all. What is clear and incontestable, however, is the fact that Akpabio has played his part well; serving the state meritoriously
in the last eight years and one can only expect Udom to do more and probably outdo his predecessor, so that the people of the state can continue to say:
Akwa Ibom Ado Okay!
•Jackson Udom, whose photo appears alongside this piece, is Special Assistant to the Governor of Akwa Ibom State on Media.
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