What Obong Attah Reveals

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By UbongAbasi Ise | Published on Monday 5 December, 2016, p3

 

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision” – Helen Keller

 

One of the most difficult chapters in Akwa Ibom political discourse is the question of total lack of one common vision that transcends one government administration to another, and illuminates the citizens’ path to alluring destination. When a group of people or society lacks the sense of moving accordingly towards a direction, then every course is steered by leaders’ sheer impulse towards uncertainty. In a sense, human societies that desire progress tend to be conditioned and modified totally through immortalizing vision. They hold such vision as inexhaustible source of their strength.

Does Akwa Ibom formulate right precepts that can successfully guide the state and her citizens in all phases of life? Meeting the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Arc. (Obong) Victor Attah in company with the team of Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) Akwa Ibom State Chapter that paid him courtesy visit recently, I seized an opportunity to find out from this quintessential statesman if Akwa Ibom State is anywhere close to the vision he conceived during his years at the Hilltop mansion. Of course Obong Attah we all know would not mince words. He said, “People have different visions. So I want to hope that the new vision is good since that is what Akwa Ibom people want. But in all indices, it is completely diametrically different from what I had of Akwa Ibom.”

The response was, indeed, revealing, and quite telling on the state of affairs experienced now in Akwa Ibom. But before rushing into that, I think it is pertinent to ascertain what Attah’s vision was.

Obong Attah’s vision, as I launched incursion into his administration indeed, was people-oriented. He evinced a strong ardour to expunge ill-conceived inferiority notion of Akwa Ibom State and people. The leader, in the publication, Come Let Us Build Together, enunciated his vision and called on Akwa Ibom mass of citizens to come together in an attempt to uplift the state from social, economic and political oblivion to an enviable position of importance and relevance. He craved to change Akwa Ibom from an industrially primitive, pedestrian state to industrial hub cum economic destination. He believed in, and worked towards development of human capital and challenged the local construction engineers to rebuild Akwa Ibom. Indeed, a leader of Attah’s mold fits properly into Myles Munroe’s description that “a leader’s conviction about his significance propels him to develop a personal vision, as he begins to formulate the specific ways in which he will carry out his contribution to his generation.”

Attah’s projects were all directed to improve the living conditions of the people. For instance, Global System of Telecommunications (GSM) was first introduced into the country where about N6.7 billion was invested in Econet (now Airtel); the Akwa Ibom International Airport was conceived to make Akwa Ibom that destination, and was centred on Aircraft Maintenance, Repairs and Overall Facilities (MRO), which was to be the first in Nigeria with hangar facilities that would help maintain aircraft and as well, guarantee safety; Akwa Ibom Science and Technology Park was also conceived to be a comprehensive strategic project aimed at elevating Akwa Ibom people from the state of backwardness to the zenith of technological, information, and economic prosperity. Obong Attah laid the foundation of Akwa Ibom State University, built Shelter Afrique Housing Estate, provided about 1,550 modern houses across the 31 local government areas, and conceived Le meridian Ibom Hotel and Golf Course which serves today as a great landmark not only in Akwa Ibom but in Nigeria as a whole. Obong Attah, in all, led a concrete struggle against deprivation of our fair share of income which resulted in the current regime of 13% derivation from crude oil.

But today, where do we go? Why does the rate of unemployment so high? Why do we experience so much misery, hunger and despair in the land long after Obong Attah had gone? If today’s vision is completely different from Attah’s, then it must be totally disconnected from the people. If Attah’s vision saw people as end, then the existing ones must definitely take people as means. Yes! That could be a difference, unless, there is no vision at all.

The problems we have in leadership today are woeful. According to John Maxwell in his 2011 book, 5 Levels of Leadership, “for those who are not naturally gifted for it, leadership can be mystery. For them, leading people is like walking down a dark corridor. They have the sense of where they want to go, but they can’t see ahead and they don’t know where the problems and pitfalls are going to lie.” These leaders misrepresented their visions in the building of massive structures that has no impact in the lives of the common citizens; their visions only target next elections; and they remain too garrulous, and apt to guile the masses at every given opportunity.

It is time to retrace our history, and desist from mutilating past visions to score cheap political goals. Instead, let us coalesce the visions we had in the past and sum them up with today’s ideas critically.

 

Yes! I am UbongAbasi Ise. For comment send SMS to 08189914609

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