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Attah : A visionary statesman at 71

By Udeme Nana

THIS November 20, the father of modern Akwa Ibom State, Arc (Obong) Victor Attah, a first class architect, former
Chairman of Nigerian Governor’s Forum, a man of courage, consistent and visionary statesman turns 71.

Obong Attah, can be compared to such iconic figures like the Great Zik of Africa, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello
and Aminu Kano whose politics anchored on seeing possibilities in what the vast majority of their peers saw as
impossibilities. Their resolve was driven by the question “why not”.

His creativity, resolve and indomitable spirit is an example of a visionary leader. He laid a solid foundation for
modern Akwa Ibom State and unbound the spirit of the people to move confidently into Nigeria and the world.

One of the first major examples of his vision to set excellent standards in the development of Akwa Ibom was the
whooping investment in the strategic window created by the introduction of the Global System of Mobile
Telecommunications (GSM) in the country.

His government invested N6.7 billion in the Econet Company which after
several changes in ownership now operates as Zain network.Today, Obong Attah walks tall, having been vindicated by
the resolution of the issues surrounding the sale of Akwa Ibom’s shares in the company.

Against the background of a total dependence on an analogue telephone system which had served the State, the
investment in the GSM network forced the immediate roll out of the service in Akwa Ibom making Uyo, the state
capital to become one of the first four cities in the country where the GSM service was available.

The return on that bold and visionary investment was a source of joy to the people; it created employment,expanded business opportunities for the people in such areas as direct dealerships, sales and repair of handsets and recharge cards in addition to other accessories like chargers and batteries. Moreover, the availability of the GSM service in the
State eased communication between people in the State and others in several parts of the world.

Obong Attah’s initial vision to catalyse industrialisation and change the profile of the State from a civil
service economy was bogged down by epileptic power supply. He started to build an Independent Power Plant in the
State, conscious of the immense benefits of uninterrupted power supply to boost the economy. Though the project could not be fully delivered before he left office at the end of his tenure in 2007, the good news is that his
vision has been sustained to achieve the desired objective.

As governor, he was the first to tap into the immense potentials of the Information Communication Technology
(ICT). Aware of the total dependence on oil as the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy and the problems associated with
the oil industry, coupled with the understanding that oil is a wasting resource, Obong Attah took steps to tap
into the Information Communication Technology sector by working to replicate Silicon Valley in Uyo.

The facility, now christened Victor Attah Digital Opportunities Centre (VADOC) was set up as a forerunner to what could have served as the hub of a digital society in the Niger Delta area of the country. Attah was indeed the first governor to prepare an Information Technology Policy in the country.

By the time former Governor Attah started the Akwa Ibom International Airport project in Okobo, the National Hanger project had been discussed for decades but he proved that the future belonged to those who dream and take concrete steps to translate such dreams into reality.

The Akwa Ibom International Airport which received an Arik plane on September 23 this year, when completed will
revolve around aircraft Maintenance, Repairs and Overhaul Facilities (MRO). When fully completed, the Akwa Ibom
International Airport would become the first ever in Nigeria with hangar facilities. As observed by then Hon. Minister of Aviation in his goodwill message at the Contract Signing Ceremony, “the hangar facility which is presently unavailable in the country will enhance the potentials of the new airport. Furthermore, the hangar facility (National Aircraft Maintenance Centre) will assist neighbouring West African countries to maintain their
aircraft and consequently improve and create safety in the air transportation sector”.

His strident, courageous advocacy for derivation, resource control, fiscal federalism and indigenous ownership of
marginal oil fields yielded several positive results which includes the large monthly allocation now enjoyed by Akwa Ibom and other Niger Delta states.

The Le Meridien Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort he conceived and built is the reason why Akwa Ibom has become a conference location of choice in Nigeria. Attah built the Nwaniba, Abak, NungUdoe-Ikot Okwot roads among others, including several other bread and butter projects across the state. He built the Nigerian Stock Exchange Office, the Shelter Afrique Housing Estate and built 1550 modern houses across the 31 local government areas of the State.

It was Attah who also laid the foundation for the establishment of the Akwa Ibom University of Technology. Akwa Ibom State now proudly welcomes the world because of the existence of  these facilities.

Mr. Nana was SSA, Media and Public Affairs to Govs. Attah and Akpabio.


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