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A Passion For A Greater Nigeria
27 Oct 2012

A Welcome Address Presented by the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, His Excellency Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio, CON, on the Occasion of the Visit of the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, on the Occasion of his visit to Akwa Ibom State, October 27, 2012

Mr President, everyone saw stars that bright, starry night in the east. But in the midst of the billions of twinkling stars of all colours and hues, some wise men saw only one star - the star of Jesus. That was how the wise men began a joyous journey to see the infant Jesus and told everyone along the way that a king had been born. History should note that we in Akwa Ibom State saw your presidential star first, began a journey with you and told all Nigerians on the way that a president like no other is at hand. This is the birthplace of your Presidency, and we are always delighted to have you in our State. Welcome home. Welcome to your family. Welcome to the Land of Promise, where the promise of your leadership began.

Though some have questioned your actions and some your policies, no one has yet questioned your heart.

We know your heart - it is filled with good intentions for all Nigerians. A heart burning with fiery passion for a greater Nigeria. A heart which shares the joy and pains of all Nigerians. That is why we invited you to come and commission the seat of our Government, the Governor's Office, and lay the foundation stone of the Akwa Ibom State Stadium, Uyo.

Your Excellency, the New Governor's Office was conceived to meet the demands of an ever-changing world. It is not only ICT compliant, it has all the facilities needed for e-governance and contemporary governance. It replaces a building we met, at the inception of this Administration, which lacked space for visitors and facilities for the administrative controls needed in today's world.

We estimated that the work would be completed in eighteen months but thanks to the diligent supervision of the Finance and General Purpose Committee headed by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr Umana O. Umana, and cooperation of the contractors, the JB Group, the building was finished in just eight months. This is a proof that we are running Government at the speed of light, because we know that time waits for no one.

This same principle we hope to apply to the Akwa Ibom State Stadium which foundation stone you graciously laid today. It will be a 30,000 seater stadium with a banquet hall, proximate conveniences for all spectators, restaurants on each floor etc. It is planned to meet global standard in stadium architecture.

Your Excellency, we intend to invest more in sports and this is just the beginning. The global sports industry is four times larger than the automobile manufacturing industry, and seven times larger than the film industry. Despite a global economic slowdown, a study by Price Waterhouse Coopers predicts a revenue growth rate of 3.7 per cent ($145.3 billion) for the sports industry by 2015. We intend to be part of this action.

We also want our sons and daughters to be part of the action. The American tennis great, Serena Williams looks like the African girl next door in terms of physique and energy. What she has achieved our women can achieve - provided they are introduced to tennis as early in life as she was. She has grossed over $40 million in career prize earnings. That could be the story of an Ekaete or Amina or Yetunde or Ada tomorrow. David Beckham, the British footballer who plays for Los Angeles Galaxy Football Team, has a lifetime endorsement contract with Adidas for $160 million (equivalent of N16.2 billion). Basketball star, Lebron James has a seven-year endorsement contract with Nike for $90 million.

Your Excellency that we failed to win a medal in the London Olympics this year was the subtext of the main story. The main story is that we are left out in a global market which defies economic meltdown - in spite of our huge potentials. This we seek to address in Akwa Ibom State with a sustained programme for sports development.

Your Excellency, we have a lot to thank you for. When James Watt invented the steam engine he brought the sister into it and started it. The amazed sister said, "James it will never go! It will never go!" The engine started and began to drive. She turned to him and screamed, "James, it will never stop! James it will never stop!!" Mr President, if we want to thank you for everything, we will never stop.

But let us thank you for approving an Export Processing Zone for the Ibaka Deep Seaport and constituting    a    Technical     Committee    for    the Implementation of the Ibaka Deep Seaport Initiative. Our desire to make the port, along with the Ibom Industrial City the economic hub of the Gulf of Guinea, received a boost with your patriotic action. We want to request that you keep supporting this project to the fullest.

A short distance from the site of the Ibaka Deep Seaport is the Ibom International Airport which had the privilege of hosting the Presidential Jet on your arrival. We are building a Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility at that airport. We most respectfully appeal to your good heart to partner with us and turn this project into a National Hangar. Such a hangar is needed for the effective maintenance and checks on our aircrafts and for the avoidance of air crashes which had become the bane of flying in our country. It will be the first of its kind in West Africa and will be a panacea for air safety in the sub-region. It will save the lives of Nigerians and boost confidence in the aviation sector in Nigeria.

We deeply appreciate your approval for the Akwa Ibom State Government to construct/dualize the Uyo -Ikot Ekpene - Aba Federal Road and the Ikot Ekpene - Itu - Odukpani - Calabar Federal Road and the approval for the refund of the money so spent. These roads are important in the achievement of the objectives of the Deep Sea Port and the Ibom International Airport, which has facilities for cargo flights. They will open up both the seaport and airport to the rest of the Country.

Your Excellency what is happening in Akwa Ibom State has been described as Uncommon Transformation. I have been asked so many times what is the secret of our success. Let me attempt an answer with a story. A certain professor requested his students to undertake a study of some bad boys in campus neighbourhood. All the students came up with the conclusion that the boys would end up in prison and would never amount to much. Twenty years after that study, another professor stumbled on the study and decided to find out what happened to those boys. He discovered that all of them made good and became successful in their different careers. He called them and asked them what turned their lives around. They all said it was one teacher.

The professor excitedly called the teacher and asked her, "How did you turn the lives of those bad boys around?" Surprised, she said simply, "I do not know how I did it, all I know is that I loved those boys."

How are we embarking on the uncommon transformation of my state? I do not know. All I know is that, like you, I love my people, I love this Country, I love humanity. That is the secret of your success as the President of Nigeria. It is the secret of my success as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State.

Once again welcome home and feel the warmth of the welcome of all Akwa Ibom people every minute and every second of this brief visit.

God bless all of us.

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