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Obong Victor Attah: Honour for the quintessential stateman

IN the immediate aftermath of his statewide engagement with the people leading up to his election as the second civilian governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah had enunciated his vision in a published and widely distributed handbook Come Let’s Build Together. In it, he lucidly marshalled the philosophical thrust and developmental initiative of his incoming government.

This approach was novel. As the title suggests, this was an invitation to the people, every citizen, to take ownership of the government and be involved at whatever level in its socio-economic and political engineering.

After all, this was a breath of fresh air of open democratic engagement and power must return to the people. Perhaps to understand the workings of the mind of Obong Attah with relation to service to humanity, it is necessary to situate this novel approach to governance within the context of his earlier engagement, even as a practicing architect, with almost every administration in the state since its creation in 1987.

Every previous administration, which was in the main military, had the benefit of a profoundly detailed and practical working document from Obong Attah to launch out.

In some cases he would be invited to assist informally in providing both the road map and practical steps for actualizing such initiatives. This was to culminate in his designing the master plan of both the entire state and also the state capital, Uyo. From that antecedent, Obong Attah as governor of the state, had prepared himself intellectually, physically and spiritually for the job.

He had spent his early years in Uyo and had the opportunity to traverse the state and savour its tropical allure. And so as a development practitioner, his vision for development and enthusiasm to accomplish same came to him naturally.

Construction engineers

Humane and compassionate, Attah  believes in and works towards the development of the human capital, that every person has something to offer humanity. As governor he demonstrated this by assembling qualified but largely untested construction engineers and challenged them to rebuild the dilapidated streets that dotted Uyo.

Whilst some did well, others did not. Yet he further challenged them the second and even the third time in the belief that the Julius Bergers of this world didn’t just become the giants they are overnight. By this initiative, three things were achieved – capacity building for sustainable development, greater sense of self worth and good projects delivered at lower cost.

Witty an humourous, Obong Attah relates with everyone he meets with avuncular familiarity irrespective of age and status in life. No airs, no pretentions; just simple, approachable and sincere. To be his friend, be prepared to argue and give fresh, insightful point of view different from his. As governor, he insisted on seeing every written matter addressed to him.

A voracious reader, he would devour them by the bushel, make notes where necessary or invite the writer to elucidate on the points raised. Connecting with the people was, therefore, made easy. Quite a number of people believe Attah is not a good politician in the Nigerian mould.

They may not be wrong because he says it as it is, looks straight in your eyes and tells you how he feels. No pretentions, no insults no selff-righteousness. What he cannot say directly to you, he will never say behind you; he is your friend after all.

Former President Obasanjo, a customary political sparing partner with Attah, while addresing a group of senior citizens during an official visit to Akwa Ibom, confessed his admiration for Attah in spite of their disagreements. Obasanjo had said, “madam (referring to Attah’s late wife, Alison) no vex oh. But make I tell you, if I be woman, the only person I for marry for my life na this your husband. I like am.”

In the heat of the resource control imbroglio, Attah, a devout Christian of the Catholic faith, mobilized the entire Akwa Ibom State in a solemn assembly of prayer and fasting to seek the Almighty’s intervention in the positive resolution of the contentious onshore/offshore oil dichotomy that had completely eroded the state’s revenue base.

Not everyone would agree, but people of the state were happy that by their supplication, a political and judicial resolution had been achieved which guaranteed an even enhanced revenue profile as the highest revenue earner in the country. Paradoxically, Attah’s government did not benefit from the massive funds flow.

A man at peace with himself and his Creator, he will always admonish – do the little things that matter to the greater number.

Show gratitude to those the Almighty has used to add value to one’s life by saying thank you with a smile. For wittingly or unwittingly offending a fellow man, always say I’m sorry, and demonstrate it. In soliciting assistance or cooperation from someone, always say please, and mean it.

Today, the imprints of his bold steps speak volumes of a man passionately devoted to service to his people and having successfully led the state’s team and also admirably piloted the affairs of the most important committee of the just conducted national conference, the people of Akwa Ibom roll out the drums today to honour this leader with unquenchable quest for excellence. Ubok Udom Akwa Ibom steps forth for recognition of one of Nigeria’s finest statesmen.

 Ise Akpaso, a former media aide to Attah is of Image Matters in Lagos


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