“A man’s memory may almost become the art of continually varying and misrepresenting his past, according to his interest in the present.” – George Santayana
All seemed fair at Uyo Township Stadium in the afternoon of Friday 23rd September, 2016, when Akwa Ibom was concurrently celebrating 29th anniversary of its existence as a state, and one year anniversary of the Dakkadda Philosophy. In the colourful event, I observed keenly in a reclusive manner, the hue and tone of every activity that characterized the event. More than anything else, it was quite fascinating to watch our leaders in predominantly orange-coloured, Yoruba attire, celebrating Akwa Ibom birthday with preponderantly uniformed mass of citizens, who formed themselves into socio-political and cultural groupings, representing the spread of interests across the state.
To state the obvious, the event was more of a celebration of Governor Udom’s Dakkada Philosophy, and an open expression of unbridled support for the state governor beyond 2019 than the actual commemoration of the 1987 historic event. This was observably evidenced in the groups that paraded with appellations such as Udom Youth Alliance; Dakkada Ambassadors; Mandate Preservation Group (MPG); Shoe Size 15-23 (i.e. Udom to rule from 2015-2023); Udom Ambassadors; Udomitizers; Udom Over 31; E-Women for Udom; One Vision for Udom Emmanuel; Dignified Women for Martha Udom and several others. The atmosphere was like that of an electioneering campaign. Virtually all the goodwill messages delivered on the day virtually lacked the focus of capturing the true essence of the historic event of state creation. One may not be too wrong to query whether the struggle and the labour of our heroes past were so inconsequential to the extent of failing to win the attention of this generation. I think Akwa Ibom celebrants were rather unfair to history.
The history of Akwa Ibom State creation cannot just be misconceived as Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s singular act of benevolence by declaring a new state out of Cross River State on 23rd September, 1987. Before Ibrahim Babangida had his name in Akwa Ibom creation history book, there were uncelebrated indigenous names that preceded him: those who agitated and pushed for the actualization of a geo-political expression of what today is known as Akwa Ibom State.
The struggle began with the history of Ibibio State Union in the late 1920s when a situation engendered the need to establish the unity of all sections of group of people identifiable as Ibibio origin and stock. The Union structured itself to look after the welfare, interest and survival of Ibibio people in the Nigerian project. It was through the agitation of Ibibio State Union, beginning from 1954, that Yakubu Gowon yielded to the pressure of creating the then South Eastern State along with 12 other states on May 27, 1967. The yearning for state creation was not to stop there, even when the South Eastern State was later renamed Cross River State after carving out some Igbo segments that were thitherto part of the state.
Throughout the long years of struggle, the watershed of Akwa Ibom history that chronically suffered unfair neglect remained a conference held in Etinan on February 25, 1978, where the name, ‘Akwa Ibom’ cropped out to identify the mainland Cross River. Featuring in the prestigious meeting was Chief Effiong Okon Eyo (a.k.a. Eyo Uyo), who had represented the region in the Eastern House of Assembly in 1953. Also, this historic gathering was well attended by 10 traditional rulers who represented 10 local government areas in the mainland Cross River State. They were: Obong Sampson Udoidiong from Ukanafun, who chaired the meeting; Obong S.T. Nsubong (Etinan); Obong Ekpenyong Udoekong (Uyo); Obong T. Uyoatta (Eket); Obong C. Akpan (Ikot Ekpene); Obong Okon Isong (Oron); Obong E.U. Arthur (Abak); Obong Ekpe Atakpa (Itu); Obong A. Umoessien (Ikot Abasi); and Obong Jacob Akpan (Ikono). Another attendee worthy of mention was Barr. Anthony Wills-Obong, an Uruan-born politician who later represented Uyo in Constituency Assembly in the months that followed.
It was from the aforementioned meeting, that the memoranda demanding the creation of Akwa Ibom State, with capital at Uyo, took shape. After that, there were several failed efforts at getting the federal government to act on this demand for new state. The opportunity came in 1986 when Major-Gen. Edet Akpan assisted in submitting these memoranda to in-coming military Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who had set up a Political Bureau to define the political future of the country. Through the recommendation of the Political Bureau, Gen. Babangida declared Akwa Ibom State on September 23, 1987. But it is disheartening that important milestones in our history are conveniently left uncelebrated, and the labours of our leading progenitors are not deservingly appreciated. It’s a pity.
Aside from the foregoing, the question now is: was the creation of Akwa Ibom State a necessity for the people of the then mainland of Cross River State? Of course the answer, beyond any consideration, is affirmative.
Akwa Ibom was necessary. The need for Akwa Ibom State was to bring the people with shared common cultural experience together in a bid to pursue common political interest in one accord, and to forge a strong identity in the ethnic conglomeration called Nigeria. It also helped, to a larger extent, in multiplying and increasing our political opportunities. In all, Akwa Ibom was created to be a comfortable home for her citizens given her natural endowments and economic potentialities. But today, is Akwa Ibom State home enough?
Millions of Akwa Ibom people are scattering all over the country and the world over. The estimated population in Akwa Ibom State stands at 5.4 million, while more than 10 million dwell in Diaspora. In the streets of Nigerian cities, one would see majority of Akwa Ibomites engaging in all sorts of ignoble jobs for survival. For instance, a visit to Port Harcourt alone would tell this pathetic story explicitly. Is this the kind of state our forbearers fought for? A state that lacks the capacity to fend for its teeming population? These questions desperately beg urgent answers.
At creation of Akwa Ibom in 1987, the state inherited appreciable number of industries from Cross River State. Some of these include: Quality Ceramic Industry, Itu; Qua Steel Industry, Eket; Biscuit and Abestonic Industry, Oron; Sunshine Batteries, Essien Udim; Plastocrown, Uyo; and so on. All of these industries, which have become moribund today, were established between 1979 and 1983, during the administration of Dr. Clement Isong as governor of Cross River State. Unfortunately today, Akwa Ibom has so much retrogressed, and remained industrially primitive. Today, Akwa Ibom is not only a mere agrarian, redundant civil service state, but a largely oil-proceeds dependent economy.
At 29, the state is not self-sufficient. Akwa Ibom people today still depend largely on garri produced in their mother state, Cross River. This is sad.
After 29 years, there is a ridiculous height of unemployment in the state. Majority of Akwa Ibom citizens today are living in mass misery and squalor, facing unprecedented hardship each day. There is hunger, anguish and despair in the so-called land of promise as a result of inexcusable ineptitude and gross incompetence of leadership.
Governor Udom Emmanuel should not allow his Dakkada philosophy to completely lose its presumed efficacy. The philosophy should be rebooted to revive the dying dreams of the founding fathers of the state. It should be redesigned for the extensive reorganization of our economy for the purpose of industrialization.
Yes! I am UbongAbasi Ise. For comment, send SMS to 08189914609