By Leke Adeseri
Obong Umana Okon Umana, Secretary to the Government of Akwa Ibom State,Â brings to bare, in this interview, the policy rationale behind the state administrationâ€™s development agenda.
How would you describe Akwa Ibom State administration after two years?
Let me start by thanking God that two years of governance under Chief Godswill Akpabio, have been very fruitful. When we celebrated the first: anniversary of the administration last year, the score card was very impressive. People were taken unawares by the sheer volume of completed projects which were commissioned. You wonâ€™t believe it that in the first year we commissioned over 250 projects. And these projects included the upgrading of facilities in our public schools, health centres and hospitals, as well as the provision of electricity and potable water in rural communities across the state.
These are projects that have direct impact on the quality of lives of our people since majority of them reside in the rural areas. The governor was able to achieve all of that and also concentrate on the completion of some of the mega-projects he inherited from the last administration, such as the 5-star hotel and golf resort which is managed by the Le1 Meridien Group. The first phase of that hotel is now fully completed. It was only after that facility had been completed that we were able to host the PDP Stakeholders Forum last year which all the major stakeholders of the party including the president himself attended.
We performed very well in the first year and we have been propelled by that performance to complete and commission another 550 rural based projects which have touched every ward in the state. The free and compulsory education policy has also impacted on every family in the state.
You have painted a rosy picture of the Akpabio-led administration. In this era of global economic meltdown, which is evidently affecting every sector, how is the state responding to the challenges in view of its ambitious undertakings?
We have been very deliberate in the commitments we have made, which relate very much to available resources. If you look at the 2009 budget, you will notice that we were very careful. We called it a â€œbudget of consolidationâ€. That simply means that we will concentrate on the completion of projects started in 2008 and those inherited from the last administration.
As a way of taking into account the impact of the economic meltdown, we did not introduce any new project in the 2009 budget. As a fallout of prudent management by this administration, we were able to transfer a surplus of over N30 billion from 2008 to 2009. So that means we started the year with a monthly average of N2.5 billion which implies that even if nothing was coming from the federation account, we had something to start 2009. This has enabled us to cushion the effect of the economic meltdown.
Secondly, I think there is a difference between being ambitious and being unrealistic. Yes, the Akpabio administration is ambitious because we are in a hurry to change the fortunes of the state. We are in a calculated hurry to show that we can get it right in terms of infrastructure, by having the best road network in Nigeria; by having a power plant that will make us self-sufficient in power transmission; by building the best seaport in Nigeria at Ibaka; and by completing our international airport.
So, where can you say this administration met the state, where are you right now and where are you heading…
To us, ensuring that we have the highest quality infrastructure in the country is a priority and that means we must be self sufficient in power. We must have world class roads; world class hotels; and a world-class airport. A seaport is also in the works. So you can agree with me that infrastructure renaissance has been our main focus.
The governor has invested massively in the completion of inherited projects because he believes these projects will add value to the life of every Akwa Ibom person and also transform the economy of the state. So you can see from these that Chief Godswill Akpabio has taught Nigerians a lesson in the value of continuity, and we are not playing to the gallery.
SoÂ toÂ Â answerÂ yourÂ question, the governor met the state at a stage where several significant ongoing projects were not completed. He has continued with those projects, has completed some of them and is still working to ensure that those not completed are completed, while initiating his own projects for the benefit of Akwa Ibom people.
Most discerning commentators in the country today have stated that Akwa Ibom State is doing uncommon things in Nigeria, things that will put the state definitely on the path of greatness.
What message do you have for the people of Akwa Ibom State after the second anniversaryÂ of this administration?
As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If we have had it so good, we can only look forward to better days. We can be hopeful that by the next two years when all the projects are completed and every village in the state is linked to the national grid, then our state will become a model in the country. The future is very bright.