By Harris Emmanuel
Ekerete Udoh doubles as the Chief Press Secretary and Senior Special Assistant on Media to Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel. In this interview, he talks on the governor’s developmental strides, especially the industrialization drive, infrastructural development, and empowerment programmes among others.
What is the Completion Agenda of the governor all about?
The Completion Agenda is the continuation of the Five Point Agenda that shaped his first term achievements. The Completion Agenda has eight broad areas aimed at deepening the development strides. In this case, the emphasis is still going to be on job creation, political inclusion, aviation development, small-scale enterprises, youth and women empowerment, Ibom Deep-sea port, and of course, not taking the eyes off the critical sectors such as education, health care, agriculture, etc.
The important element is that by the time the governor completes his tenure in 2023, this state would have been industrialized. Recent publications put Akwa Ibom, Lagos and River states as the most viable states in the country. How did that happen for a state that was previously seen as a civil service state to have been able to generate IGR to the extent of being classified alongside the states that have over the decades been highly industrialized?
The reason is that the governor has created the enabling environment for investors to come in. The governor has brought in a lot industries and there are about 16 of such industries that are here in the state. The Dakkada philosophy has been hugely successful because the Akwa Ibom person has internalized the ethos of the philosophy.
Why is the governor not celebrating these lofty achievements?
Before the governor came on the public sphere, he was a major captain in a private sector as an executive director of a bank with contacts spread over the financial world. So, coming to be the governor of Akwa Ibom State and based on the way his colleagues all over the world see him, if he does a 10 kilometer road, to him, that is something that should be done. There are things he just believes should be done and you do not need to carry cymbals, flutes, and drums and beat on the streets. There are things he has done and people are talking and we are talking about them. The amount of federal allocation that comes into this state pales into insignificance when compared to what used to come into this state between 2007 and 2015. And he has been able to apply these meager resources to achieve all these.
For instance, Ibom Air; when the governor said he was going to launch an airline, most people did not believe him. He got the people and gave them directive and the rest is history. It has made Akwa Ibom State the hub. It has made the ease of travelling enchanting and exciting. In those days, it was only one flight that was coming to Uyo from Abuja, and if you miss it, you have to wait till the following day, but today, you can leave Uyo to Abuja in the morning and do your business and still come back with the 6’ Oclock flight.
You talked about paucity of funds; do you think he would be able to bring his lofty ideals to fruition given the lack of adequate funds and the short time frame?
These are not ideals. They are functional things that are there already. The Completion Agenda is to deepen those things we started in the first term, and then expand the layers of engagements. The flour mill, coconut plantation, plywood, metering company, syringe, and plastic company are there.
The Completion Agenda is to deepen these achievements so that the man that would come in 2023 would run on a very solid foundation. The level of infrastructure development would have been raised to the level that his successor would use the resources to develop other areas. The governor is looking at governance from the private sector mindset, and that is getting result and affecting lives, and creating the necessary value chain.
On allegations that the new industries are owned by the governor.
Those are pure insinuations and not based on facts. Other people could not bring one industry to the 31 local government areas as they promised. And this man has brought 16 going forward, and instead of saying thank you for bringing these industries, they are now saying that they belong to him. Of course, these industries are on PPP and this arrangement is all over the world. However, they could not attract those private investors because of the toxic political space, kidnapping and killings.
The governor has created the enabling environment where peace thrives and the people are happy, infrastructural amenities are being expanded; Ibom Air is a rousing success, people have food to eat. Like what Sunny Ade said in one of his songs in the eighties, ‘let them say.’’
On reasons for the prevailing peace in the state.
By bringing God into the equation, running a Christ-centric administration where there is respect for common humanity and where there is zero tolerance for any form of criminality. There were some issues in Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo, the governor personally went there and spoke with those young men and women who had embraced other ways of lives and they agreed to lay down their arms and embrace peace.
Since the last election, politics has become so toxic in the state. So, what has the governor done to embrace his opponents?
Everywhere the governor has gone, he has always extended the olive branch, urging the opposition to come and join him to develop the state. He believes that political parties are just platforms to get to offices. The Akwa Ibom story remains everlasting, sacrosanct and across political spectrum. So, he has always asked the opposition to imbibe the pan-Akwa Ibom spirit. He believes that politics would come and go but the soul and the spirit of Akwa Ibom would remain enduring and immutable.
On comments that the governor is not performing
What do you expect them to say? No matter a leader achieves you who would still have people who will say that he has not done anything. The critical element is that those people are in a very tiny, almost infinitesimal proportion and their ranks are fast depleting.