Akwa Ibom 2019: Second term is no birthright
￼ by Dr. Emaeyak Ukpong
In this piece, former House of Representatives member Dr. Emaeyak Ukpong examines the battle for power in Akwa Ibom State and the factors that may guarantee or thrawt the second term bid of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
These are strange times, when some selfish individuals, in fact a tiny clique, insist that the past does not matter—a couple of them even swear that the past never existed. They want to reinvent time and create a parallel world where there will be no reference to human experience, which offers us all the collective wisdom to navigate the present and a compass to the future.
These are the people who are saying that Udom Emmanuel, governor of Akwa Ibom State, does not have to account for his time at the Hilltop Mansion; that he should just be allowed to complete the eight years meant for Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District, popularly known as Eket Senatorial District (ESD). They justify their stand by saying that other governors before Emmanuel had done eight years each, for Uyo Senatorial District and Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.
I don’t know who is the author of this strange theory of eight years for each sitting governor, but some weeks ago Gov. Emmanuel asked a meeting of his political foot soldiers to help him “defend his birthright” by making sure that he gets a second term as others before him. He then cried, “Am I not also from Akwa Ibom?” So, is the chorus of a second term as a given for a sitting governor feeding off the plaintive but uninformed cry of the governor, or is the governor being encouraged by gold diggers to ask for what he has not earned?
Other governors before Udom Emmanuel earned their second term by dint of hard work. It was their track record in the first term that spoke for them and paved the way for their second term victories.
By the time Obong Victor Attah’s first term was up, he had chalked up solid physical achievements in spite of the fact that the geo-political environment was hostile to his administration. Attah had started or completed work on the following: Ibom Power, Ibom Hotel, Ibom Airport, Akwa Ibom State University, Edet Akpan Avenue, Nsikak Eduok Road, Nwaniba Road, the entire network of roads in the Bank Layout in Uyo, Abak Road, Atiku Abubakar Avenue, Uyo Village Road, and Shelter Afrique Estate.
Similarly, by the time Senator Godswill Akpabio completed his first term, he could point to the following completed state assets: the new Governor’s Lodge, Ibom Airport (which Attah initiated), the e-Library, the state university (whose take-off he made possible), Use Ikot Amama Road, Abak Ikot Ekpene Road, Ekom Iman Road, Ekim Itam Road, four flyovers in Uyo, numerous intra-city roads in Ikot Ekpene, Oron axis, Eket and Ikot Abasi.
Enter Deacon Udom Emmanuel. It has been nearly three and a half years since Udom Emmanuel assumed duty at the Hilltop Mansion as the governor of Akwa Ibom State. This means that the governor is in the twilight of his first term, and can therefore be evaluated on his job performance, more so as he has formally asked Akwa Ibom people to re-elect him. What is his record in office; what has he done for the state that will make Akwa Ibom people to renew the mandate given to him by the Supreme Court in 2015?
In recent times Mr Emmanuel has spoken glowingly of his achievements as governor at various forums. On 1 September 2018, he boasted of his ‘achievements’ to The Punch in a two-page interview; but when pressed for concrete evidence of what he has done with N1 trillion he has received from all sources since he became governor, Mr Emmanuel retracted into his comfort zone of excuses.
“In all sectors of the economy,” Emmanuel boasted to The Punch journalist at the interview, “the question is who could have done it better?” His quintessential arrogance! I swear many in the state would have outclassed Udom a million times over. The ‘superlative performance’ he was referring to is about “a governor who could pull numerous projects through, and despite the challenges in the country, a governor was able to commit investors to bring money into the same economy going through recession.” The governor would later explain that these ‘record’ achievements consisted in the regular payment of salaries and pensions, “when many other states are not able to pay their workers;” employment of 1500 primary school teachers, payment of N600 million WAEC exam fees for school kids and the building or attraction of nine industries to the state during his tenure. Not persuaded, the interviewer pressed the governor for some achievement he might have forgotten. Our man reached for his well-worn excuses. He blamed high exchange rate and inflation for his lackluster performance, adding the clincher that “it would only take a magician to do more than we have done.”
This is Udom Emmanuel’s record from his own mouth. Again, check The Punch of 1 September 2018. Now, let’s peel off the boast and look at the bare facts in the governor’s claims. Payment of salaries is a routine obligation of government. That the governor would list it as achievement shows the tragedy that has befallen my state; it underscores the point that the governor has not the foggiest idea of what he was rail-loaded into office for. The pension bit is not true. The state owes a backlog of pensions. As you read this, a task force of sorts is in the works to clear the backlog as a way of appeasing angry workers ahead of the coming elections.
The part about bringing investments is gut-wrenching. This is faction, a mixture of facts and fiction, but more of fiction. On a closer look, it’s worse. It’s comical. First, the fiction. The governor has preened himself to no end that he has established nine industries. One of these claims is the infamous toothpick factory. This is fiction. The government has not built any toothpick factory and has produced no toothpick for the state. Yes, it imported equipment that was not fit to purpose, but this has not been installed because it had no factory facility for the unsuitable equipment. The same thing goes for the so-called Akwa Ibom Pencil, which is Akwa Ibom only in the packaging while the pencil itself reads made in China. The fertilizer blending plant he bragged about in the interview is a bagging operation, not a blending factory.
The truly comical are the governor’s coconut refinery in Ikot Abasi, dairy farm in Uruan, armored car plant in Itu. From the word go these were academic propositions from a business school veteran. They were never realizable ideas. They have remained at the ideation level. If the coconut refinery idea was to kick off agriculture-led industrialisation, why did Emmanuel not think of cassava, oil palm, and citrus which Akwa Ibom has in abundance? The state has no coconut, which is why Udom is starting his hare-brained refinery idea with a coconut nursery that would be grown into a plantation to feed his dream refinery. A coconut seedling needs seven to eight years to become a fruit-bearing tree. Have you seen the comical side of Udom’s industrialization plan?
The governor also made a false claim that he reactivated the state-owned Peacock Paint. No one has seen products from the Peacock Paint factory on the market. He merely repainted the factory building and is falsely advertising it as reactivation.
He equally advertises a syringe factory and electric metering firm sited in Onna as part of his “nine industries.” These are small budget cottage operations, the plan for one of which even predates his government. None of these two factories has the turnaround potential that deserves all the celebratory noise from a government that has earned N1 trillion in three years plus. This government is averse to big dreams. It is majoring in minor.
However one looks, the record shows that Udom Emmanuel has not added to the stock of pivotal assets bequeathed to the state by his predecessors. He has also failed to put to use and maintain state assets he inherited. Under his watch Ibom Hotel has become an embarrassment; the state specialist hospital has been shut, reopened, and is now in a state of suspended animation. Uyo is a sea of potholes. Biblical floods are virtually washing the city away with Udom looking on as in a trance. The physical state of Eket is shameful. Primary and secondary education in the state is in shambles. So is health.
In spite of this embarrassing record amidst fabled wealth, there is this din of second term as though a second term was an entitlement. A second term is earned; it is not automatic. Other governors in the country had served for only one term because their people rejected their second term bid on account of poor performance. It’s key to let Udom know that previous governors in the state had had to face fierce reelection battles, even though they had performed where he has recorded dramatic failure. Idongesit Nkanga, who is perhaps one of those misleading Udom on this birthright delusion, challenged Attah in his 2003 re-election bid. The late Ime Umana was also in the race against Attah. Akpabio faced an unyielding challenge from Frank Okon and Senator Akpanudoedehe. Attah and Akpabio, both sitting governors, took the challenge on the chin, and fought off the opposition with the record of their achievements on the job. They didn’t cry birthright and never summoned their ethnic nationalities to come out and fight off non-existing alien invasions. It’s time the whining stopped. This job is for adults.
Udom Emmanuel has failed to meet the minimum governance standard and should join the list of single termers. He must be called out on his blatant cronyism: everything—appointments, patronage, the few village roads he has started—must go to Awa, his village, not even the greater ESD! He and his ever changing stories should be rejected. His claim that he should do two terms because he is Ibibio is hollow. The governorship of the state is not about ethnic representation. Besides, the great Ibibio nation has able and proven leaders that can step in and save the state from the slide triggered by Udom Emmanuel’s uncommon incompetence. In another breath, Udom hides under the untenable excuse of lack of resources. But the record of resource inflow to the coffers of government under him puts a lie to this claim.
The governor has run out of excuses for his failure. He must be rejected at the poll. Akwa Ibom people must take back their state from this spectacular failure.