A testimony to Gov Akpabio’s achievements
There was no foreboding, whatsoever, for the pleasant surprise this Monday morning. The flight from Lagos to the new Akwa Ibom International Airport in Uyo was painless. The jerky landing associated with most local flights was absent.
The pilot obviously maximised the smoothness of the new tarmac as he made a smooth landing and guided the Boeing 737 aircraft to a halt, a couple of metres to the building housing the arrival hall. Upon descent, the burly metallic bird flew low enough for one to steal a glance at the rich flora in this part of the country.
Lush green ambience, several pockets of water bodies, mostly streams and lakes, complete the magnificent natural ensemble that highlight the Uyo landscape. Indeed, Nigeria is a beautiful country. Every part of the nation lavishly advertises the majesty of nature.
I recall a similar visit to Jos early this year and the pilot, waiting for clearance from the control tower before landing, had to hover very low in the Jos troposphere. The low flight which lasted for close to 20 minutes more than paid off as it provided us an opportunity to feast our eyes on the clinically calibrated savannah plains and the rolling hills that cast your mind back to a time out in Cape Town , South Africa .
As we alighted from the aircraft, the thought of how to get a neat cab to convey us to town preoccupied our mind. Aside Lagos , Abuja and Port Harcourt airports, it is usually a challenge to get befitting shuttle cabs to ferry commuters to the cities from most Nigerian airports.
It is a painful reminder that we are yet to get serious with our drive to boost tourism. Recently, I was in Jos. As old as the Jos airport is and as old as Plateau State is, we could not get a decent cab to ferry us from airport to town. And this is the state endowed with the best weather all year round, an endowment that has made it a tourist resort all through the decades. Something must be wrong with our sense of development.
But our fears were assuaged by the pleasant turn of events. Akwa Ibom now has a properly structured cab transport system. Several orange and white cars were on hand to ferry commuters to town. Edet, our cab driver, says it is the initiative of the state government.
He offered to take us to anywhere we wished to go; and he listed a couple of places. The road from the airport to Uyo town was dualised and smooth. “Most roads in Akwa Ibom now are like this, even in the rural areas”, he intoned, obviously trying to sustain the conversation.
Edet was right. The roads in the state had been transformed from craters and pothole-riddled roads to smooth motorways befitting a state angling to have a foothold in the nation’s hospitality business. My colleague and I arrived Akwa Ibom on a day Vice President Namadi Sambo was visiting the state.
We were doing a story on Nigerian cuisine for an international travel magazine. We were to cover the Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Rivers State axis before journeying to Delta State for a date with the legendary Banga (palm nut) soup. The South South offers a wider range of assorted soup and we had prepared our mind to satiate our culinary inclination.
Akwa Ibom did not disappoint. The tasty Afang soup, the yummy Edikaikong and the scrumptious Adak soup garnished with an assortment of meat and fresh fish were handy to tease our taste buds.
By training and practice, nothing tickles the fancy of a reporter better than the tale of the unexpected. In Akwa Ibom, we got a good dose of the unexpected in the level of transformation the state had undergone in recent years.
A network of richly asphalted roads; pockets of modern housing estates; model primary schools that looked like regular blocks in some state universities and other knowledge infrastructures including the refurbished secondary schools that could pass for buildings in any of the nation’s Ivy League dotted the Uyo municipality.
There was a frenetic buzz of commerce which the natives attributed to two factors: the influx of people from other states into Akwa Ibom and the kindling of the passion of entrepreneurship among the natives by the Godswill Akpabio government.
No doubt, Akwa Ibom has gone through the mill of social-economic re-engineering. It has transformed from a provincial civil service state to a fervent conclave of commerce.
Edet credits this to the transformative leadership of Akpabio. He was our chauffeur and guide for the three days we scoured the state. And yes, Akwa Ibom is the ultimate adventurer’s delight.
But beyond the transformation which stretches into the innermost precincts of the state, the state provides a ready answer to those who still doubt the workability of our democracy.
Governor Akpabio’s ruthless transformation of Akwa Ibom State in barely three years is a deadpan affirmation that good leadership is not a franchise of Harvard graduates only.
A home-bred lawyer, he has not only raised the bar of leadership, he has also proven an effective counterfoil to James Watson’s weird analysis that there is something genetically wrong with the black man such that he cannot rise above the material satisfaction of food and drink to provide purposeful leadership, the type that comes from reflective cognitive thinking.
Besides, Akpabio has by his conquistador performance, shown that democracy, if properly practised, is the best vehicle to promote free enterprise and liberate the people from the shackles of ignorance. His uncommon attention to the education of the ordinary Akwa Ibom sons and daughters stands him out in the pantheon of governors as the authentic matador.
Ray Umukoro writes from Abuja