To Nigerians in general, every celebration of Democracy Day simply conjures up to the mind the remote history of Nigeria in the Eurocentric era of imperialism, the oppressive extremism and incapacities of successive long military regimes soon after the country’s Independence, and of course, on the side of individual and group liberty, May 29, 1999 when a new dawn arrived and the country was in for what today has remained a liberal period of 17 years of uninterrupted democracy in the country. No gainsaying the fact that the gains, pains, challenges and prospects that have come with this period can never be over-emphasized.
As a State in the Nigerian federation, the Akwa Ibom story of unmitigated democracy from 1999 has come with its own peculiarities with regards to heightened political awareness and participation, socio-economic developments, opportunities, and prospects which, as some analysts would argue, could not have been easy in the absence of democracy.
Expectedly, from creation on Wednesady, 23rd September, 1987, the new Akwa Ibom State’s identifiable slogan or mantra was “The Land of Promise”. Hence, the ensuing concentrated occupation and gradual development of the state with its capital in Uyo were, amongst other things, conscious indications that behold, though the emancipated people have not reached the promise land, here had come an opportunity for them to rewrite history with their inheritance, cerebral sagacity, tenacity of purpose, optimism and dynamism. Here were a people already respected for their moral innocence, innovativeness, perseverance, and industry. For the sake of such history, it is necessary to state that from creation in 1987 to date, Akwa Ibom State has had six military governors in Tunde Ogbeha (September 1987 –July 1988); Godwin Abbe (July 1988 – September 1990); Idongesit Nkanga (September 1990 – January 1992); Yakubu Bako (December 1993 – August 1996); Joseph Adewusi (August 1996 – August 1998); John Ebiye (August 1998 – May1999). As military manouvres had then dictated, sandwiched between the jack-boots, was late Obong Akpan Isemin, of the National Republican Convention, (January 1992 – November 1993) as the first executive civilian governor of the state. But the overwhelming fact remains that consistent, unmitigated democratic rule in Akwa Ibom, like in Nigeria, began with Obong Victor Attah, of the Peoples Democratic Party, (May 1999 – May 2007), who handed over the reins to Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio, also of the People Democratic Party, on May 2007. But today, following that entrenched transition, it is His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel.
As should be expected, every administration in the state has had occasions like today’s to review its progress report in line with the fundamental vision of the Akwa Ibom Project, placed on the laps of Democracy and leaders in the same dispensation. On assumption of office as the 4th democratically elected governor of the state, Governor Udom Emmanuel presented a 8-point agenda, his blueprint, which did not only betray him as a thorough-bred professional with a vision but also as a leader conscious of the challenges before him. The blueprint therefore was to guide his governance of the state vis-à-vis the impact it will create in the lives of the people. The governor did this fully aware of the past and the foundation he met on ground, the present challenges and realities he would have to grapple with, and how he would love to be remembered by the people of the state and posterity after his tenure. It was part of his promises that, in no distant time, the state will no longer be stigmatized as a civil service state with the concomitant minuses that come with such nomenclature. That was how Gov. Udom signed in on May 29, 2015, a day like today.
Indeed, one of Gov. Udom’s most popular objectives was –and still is – that of diversification of the state economy through industrialization. With this, so many lives would be affected in the area of poverty alleviation, empowerment of youths, creation of employment, and generation of revenue to the state, thus making the state a pivot of economic activities in tropical Africa. But to get the people involved, to give them a psychological boost, the governor came out with the now contagious “DAKKADA” ideology. Like he said recently in an interview on Channels Television to herald this year’s Democracy Day in the state, Gov. Udom strongly believes in his capacity and that of the blessed people of Akwa Ibom to tap the abundant natural endowment of the state for the general good. Hence, to give credence to his dynamic economic vision, Gov. Udom saw the need to speedily harness the hidden resources at the Ibakka Sea Port, which according to experts, has the potential to transform the economy on completion. One of the things he therefore did was to set up a strategic tink tank to work our modalities for the actualization of the projects. While commenting on the project during the Channels Television interview, the governor hinted that 80 per cent of paper work on the project had been completed. The state government under Gov. Udom was also to embark on the construction of strategic economic roads, development of small and micro businesses, empowerment of youths for agriculture, support for education of the Akwa Ibom child, good welfare for workers, inter-tribal unity, etc.
One year later, it would be a disrespectful understatement to say that, in times as hard as now, Governor Udom Emmanuel has not demonstrated great and promising efforts towards translating dreams to realities. Like the objective analysts, even the hardest critics are saying that the governor has genuine intentions for the development of the state and its people. The recent commissioning and inspection of projects spread across the state to mark the country’s Democracy Day are strong indications to what awaits the state in the nearest future. Lest we forget for the personal or political reasons we can advance, in the face of the present cash crunch, Governor Emmanuel was amongst the few state governors in the country who, though having rejected the federal government’s bailout, does not owe workers. This is a mark of effective management and prudence that is expected of a good leader. The Sensor also wishes to commend the governor for the successful conduct of the recent PDP Congress that was devoid of the usual rancour that would give cause for worry.
Even against the above, it must be said that the journey had just begun for the governor and his administration. It is therefore advised that whatever in the past that used to create aimless spending, tension and ill-will between the government and the people must be avoided or well managed in such a way that they do not affect the smooth running of the government, the peace and unity of the state. Because of the recent past and its unenviable tradition, there would have been fears about how the governor would handle uncompleted or abandoned projects bequeathed to him by past administrations like the Science Park. In addition, the industrialization of the state must be more of action than words to win the trust of the masses. In that way, white elephants projects, which have been observed to be the major cause of abandoned projects, must be avoided. Again, economic factors in the location of projects should be the norm rather than making politics and affinities the yardstick. With threat of national recession, all effort must be made to speedily diversify the economy. It is also expected that, as the Governor enters the second year of his administration, Akwa Ibom youths who have been trained in different technical and vocational fields be seen applying what they have learned in the development of others and contributing back to the state’s economy. This can only happen if such ones are empowered on the completion of their respective courses
On this note, amidst expectations of more democratic dividends, The Sensor joins all Akwa Ibomites and well-wishers to congratulate their Excellencies, President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Udom Emmanuel on the celebration of Nigeria’s Democracy Day.