As Governor Udom Emmanuel steps out as recipient of Leadership Newspaper Governor of the Year, 2016, many are bound to ask the question, why him?
The question is even more compelling as the ownership of the paper is traceable to someone who is not only a chieftain of a party other than the one which the governor belongs; he is also neither from his region or linguistic group. Mr. Nda-Isaiah, a onetime presidential aspirant of APC and founder of Leadership Newspaper is from Niger State.
But a timeless adage asserts that there is no hiding place for a goldfish. Even in a shoal, goldfish is distinguishable because of its uniqueness. Governor Udom Emanuel is equally so fated not because he is blessed with debonair looks or wired to high places or has resources to buy awards; it is that he knows how to put his hands on the plow to provide service. It is that he understands the meaning of service and has the capacity and political will to provide it.
And in a clime where democracy profits is fast becoming a mirage in the face of high expectations that the people were psychologically adjusted to hope for, the performance of Governor Emmanuel brings hope and satiates expectations.
On October 6, 2016 Governor Emmanuel was at Leadership Newspaper Award Ceremony, not as an Award recipient but as a keynote speaker. The governor used the platform to mount advocacy for good governance that would improve the lots of Nigerians as well as that of the Nation. He did not lose sight of the imperative of unity as a critical item in the Nation’s march to advancement. He proffered solutions to a myriad of the country’s challenges and charged Nigerians to variously contribute their positive quota to have a Nation with an assured future.
Governor Emmanuel’s speech stirred the audience to a new consciousness and earned him a deafening ovation. Dignitaries including PMB who were in the audience could not hide their satisfaction for the eloquent delivery that defined that keynote address.
But Governor Emmanuel was not only talking, he was also walking the talk back at home. His works caught the search light of Leadership Newspaper which is said to be meticulous, detailed, dispassionate and uncompromising in its assessment. And so his service in the State in the last 21 months has been a subject of intense scrutiny and Leadership Newspaper has adjudged him to have scaled its rigorous parameters and therefore qualified to fly their flag as its Governor of the Year, 2016.
Coming from a body across the Niger and likely a different political platform, the Award must be viewed as deserving of significance. It is indisputably an honest assessment bereft of the prejudices of party affiliation and ethnic coloration. It is an Award which parameters are altruistic in content and integrity.
The constitutional responsibility of governor to a State and its people is well known. The Leadership Newspaper has used Governor Emmanuel’s diligent execution of that constitutional mandate as the basis of conferring him with the honour of Governor of the Year.
Interestingly, the mandate covers both the tangibles and intangibles and the chief executive of the State does not seem to be found wanting in any of them. Be it in the intangible like peace and tangible like infrastructure, Akwa Ibom is still up and running even in the in the face of acute recession that has put the federal government in reverse gear.
In 21 months, Governor Emmanuel has shown proof that government can work and that no excuse can substitute for its unworkability. In the face of declining revenue, he has constructed about 700 kilometers of road, built about 17 bridges, executed over 400 rural development projects across the 31 Local Government Areas of the State, ensured that supply of electricity for an average of about 18 hours a day in some parts of the State, built drainages and tackled ferociously the erosion menace that is threatening some parts of the State.
He has also faired fairly in the area of education especially the sustenance of the Free and Compulsory Education which he has complemented with the yearly payment of over N600 million as WAEC fees to final year Secondary School Students of public schools in the State. Of course the free healthcare services to children from age 0-5, pregnant women and the aged have also been sustained as public policy.
His industrialization vision has continued to shine with radiance in spite of the federal government fiscal policy which has negatively impacted the establishment of industries. The establishment of industries has a lot to do with foreign direct investment even as it also has much to do with the procurement of machineries which is foreign exchange dependent.
The scare and bully tactics the central government foisted at the very beginning encouraged capital flights that are still yet to return. Government’s policy on foreign exchange has also not encouraged investors. Despite these obvious challenges, the Udom administration has moved on with its determination to industrialize the State and turn around the fortunes of its people.
Suffice it to say that it is scaling the hurdles. Currently, toothpick and pencil factory is up and running. A syringe factory which is a private concern but facilitated by the State government is on the verge of starting operations. The metering plant is to also join the league soon. Peacock paint which had been moribund for more than a decade had since been resuscitated.
In the area of agriculture, the Udom administration has adopted a revolutionary approach. Since the discovery and commercial exploitation of oil, agriculture which was the nation’s economic mainstay has long been relegated.
Successive governments pledge to diversify the economy through emphasis on agriculture has remained mere rhetoric. But the Udom administration has dared to be different. Indeed, it is in the area of agriculture that this government has made the boldest imprint.
Its policy and programmes on agriculture are innovative, practical and sustainable and of course without losing sight of the economics of scale. From the improved oil palm and cocoa seedlings, the cassava plantation (about 450 hectares in 15 LGAs), the prime hatchery and the Grower Scheme, the vegetable revolution facilitated by AKEES etc.
Akwa Ibom State seems set to become the Nation’s food basket in no distant future. In his keynote address during the last Award ceremony, Governor Emmanuel had stated that Nigerians should be ready to replace the SUVs on the roads with tractors in the farm. His policy on agriculture seems embedded with the orientation that a country that cannot feed itself is doomed.
One of Governor Emmanuel’s five-point agenda is poverty alleviation. It is apparent that it may be difficult to leverage a people from poverty if one does build their capacities. Capacity building has therefore been a cardinal avowal of the Udom administration.
This has been noticeable in the training of 450 youths in Cocoa processing, about 1000 in Oracle Database Management, about 100 in mechanized agriculture in Israel. The trainings which have been within and outside Nigeria, promise to be of immense benefits to the beneficiaries who are all Akwa Ibom sons and daughters.
In the area of sports, the governor has also made commendable strides. Acknowledging sports as a major income earner, Governor Udom Emmanuel has invested enormously in that area especially in the provision of facilities. Currently, he has delivered a pilot sports academy complex and has promised to replicate same in all the federal constituencies in the State.
Perhaps his most magnificent legacy would be the espousal of the Dakkada philosophy which is designed to awaken in Akwa Ibom people their fate of greatness. Governor Emmanuel would be remembered for this creed even long after he is gone.
Governor Emmanuel’s selection for the award of Leadership Newspaper Governor of the Year, 2016 is well deserved. He has shown capacity, vision, doggedness and wisdom to go with it. His rich corporate background may have leveraged him but his messianic sense of service and passion to live in uprightness have combined to define him as a candidate of honour anywhere, anytime.
By Joe Iniodu
Joe Iniodu is a public affairs analyst.