Akwa Ibom: Uncommon transformation indeed -By Sam Nwanze

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Akwa Ibom: Uncommon transformation indeed -By Sam Nwanze

 

A text message landed in my phone early Thursday morning recently. I checked and discovered that it was an invitation from a Pas­tor friend of mine who has a Pentecostal Church in Eket, Akwa Ibom State. The Church was to hold its annual convention sometime in November, 2014. The man of God made it clear to me that the invi­tation was the third consecutive time he was inviting me to his annual programme. He insisted that I should not fail this time around “to come and experience the power of God in our Church”, at the convention.

I could not reply him immediately because I was not sure to attend. The date coincided with the date we were to have our adult Har­vest and Bazaar in our Church in Abuja. I wanted to be at our programme too and told him so. But he insisted that I should come to his event and use the opportunity to see the transformation which the State has witnessed since the emergence of His Excellency Chief Godswill Akpabio.

Indeed, I have heard and read a lot about what Akwa Ibom state has become in recent time in terms of infrastructural development which the Governor dubbed “Uncommon Transformation”. But for a General Overseer of a Church to use that as part of his strat­egy to make sure I got to Eket is something I could not imagine. So, I decided to accept the invitation since the Pastor is an extended relation too.

As a matter of fact, the last time I visited the state was in 2008. I was part of a team of senior Journalists that accompanied some prominent African leaders who came to see how prepared Nigeria was for Peer Review Mechanism which was part of the demand for integration to the New Economic Partnership for Africa (NEPAD) initiative by the Heads of State and government of Africa, under the influence of African Union (AU).

The visitors were divided into two groups so that the 36 states and Abuja could be cov­ered within the two weeks of their stay in the country. Interestingly, Akwa Ibom state was one of the states to be visited by my group. Our team met Governor Akpabio at the Coun­cil Chambers of Government House where he received us with all members of his Cabinet. It was also a privileged occasion for me to see him from a close range. The way he marshaled out his plans for the state eloquently and intel­ligently, showed a man who was prepared for the task he was elected to perform. Indeed, he dazzled his visitors with his “uncommon plans” without any written speech. He had his project plans stored in his memory and was reeling them out effortlessly. But some of us believed also that he was only trying to impress his visitors since most politicians in the country never kept their promises.

So, the invitation was an opportunity to see if he kept his promise as people had claimed he did, after more than seven years in power. Came that Saturday afternoon when I arrived at the Abuja Airport to take a flight to Uyo in­stead of Calabar which was the transit point in the past. On arrival at the Uyo airport, I saw a wide and beautiful airport that welcomes one. It was the first pleasant surprise and I had to fish out my jotter to record what I would see. My host had sent a car with his driver to pick me at the airport on my way to Eket. As we drove out of the airport, we just emerged on a beautiful dual-carriage road with street lights that leads to the city centre, about 20mins drive.

Inside Uyo town before we branched off to join Eket road, it was beautiful roads all the way. Some of the Primary and Second­ary schools seen along the way were newly painted and looked good. People seen on the streets going about their jobs, looked happy and orderly. At Eket, I also saw good roads all over the place most of which were neat. I quickly settled down in my hotel room after seeing my host who was busy welcoming his Church members who came from different parts of the country. The following day which was Sunday, I was part of the final events at the convention which indeed started the pre­vious day.

Monday morning, it was time to remind my host about his promise to help me see the state. He gave me a driver and a guide to ac­company us. From Eket, we moved to Oron which is a relatively smaller town than Eket but bubbling as well with human activities. Oron is the ‘home’ of crafish and I made sure that I complied with the ‘order’ by my wife to come with plenty crafish from the place if I had the chance of going there. I noticed that most of the major roads in the town and streets are tarred with asphalt. We moved over to Ikot Ekpene where we also witnessed massive changes in road infrastructure. I dis­covered that most of the local government areas were linked up with one another with a good road network. I also witnessed busi­nesses going on at different spots and streets at Oron and Ikot Ekpene.

From there, we moved to Uyo, the state capital, a distance of about 15mins drive. At Uyo, I remembered a song we used to sing when we were small. “Come and see American wonder, Come and see American wonder”. I think the song had to do with the American landing on the moon then. But this time, the song should be “Come and see Akwa Ibom State wonder”. The state capital and indeed most part of the state have been transformed. It was a total different scenario from Uyo I saw in 2008.

I saw beautiful roads, some of them dual-carriage, some fly-over, new Government House which is an architectural master-piece. I had a desire to go in and talk to the Gover­nor as a journalist but it was a mere desire. I visited the new Stadium which is rated as one of the best in Africa. I saw the Le’ Meri­dien Ibom Hotel and the Golf Course nearby. Giant structures here and there to show that this is a different Uyo form what I saw last. Before now, commercial motor cycles popu­larly called ‘okada’ were everywhere in their thousands but now what you see is beautiful taxi cabs and well decorated ‘Keke NAPEP’

I saw many other things too numerous to mention here. I leant that primary and second­ary school education is free and compulsory in the state. I also was told that much has been done in rural development, electricity, health care, tertiary education, human capital devel­opment etc. I told myself that uncommon idea has given birth to uncommon transformation in the state. This is perhaps why many groups and organizations fall over themselves to have their events at Uyo, with the assistance of the state government in some cases, I was told.

When I got back to Eket, I told my fiend that what I saw was amazing. Then we de­cided to do some analysis on what may have inspired such development in the state. We came to the conclusion that it has to do with the Governor’s desire and determination from the start to make a difference and put down some legacies which he would be remem­bered for many years to come. Even though he has the money due to large income from the Federation Account as a result of deriva­tion share, he has a vision which he decided to push through with a political will that is un­common in most states of the country.

It is said that the Governor is ‘over bearing’ and does not tolerate criticisms. But my take is that any leader who is determined to push his vision through must be ‘over bearing’. But there is positive and negative angle to this as some chief executives who holds political po­sitions and some State Governors just employ intimidation and brute force to subdue their opponents and critiques. I also learnt that one of the factors that helped him succeed is his ability to recognize talents and hard working professionals to work with. This is why many of his aides and cabinet members have been with him for many years.

For example, it is said that he creatively created a Bureau of Technical Matters and brought a competent Engineer form the pri­vate sector to head the place first as Special Assistance and later, as Special Adviser. This Bureau in collaboration with the Min­istry of Work and other relevant agencies, I learnt, have helped to translate the gover­nor’s vision and dream into a reality as far as infrastructural development was concerned. His Commissioner for Information also from the private sector media has been with him for a long time now. In this regard, most of his aides and officials could read his body lan­guage easily and do things rightly.

Governor Akpabio obviously has his own short comings like every other human being but he should be recognized as one of the gov­ernors who came, saw and conquered. I doff my hat for him and it is my belief that he is the type of people we need at the Federal level to help transform Nigeria for the better. I left Uyo airport back to Abuja with the joy that honouring my friend’s invitation was worth the trouble. I was part of those who shared the blessings that flowed in his Church on the last day of the convention. Also, I saw the current reality in Akwa Ibom State.

 

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