Akwa Ibom Is A Model Of Development - Umanah
16 Jun 2009
In this second part of the interview granted Midweek Pioneer team of Friday Udo, Ag. Editor; Ime Isuaikoh, Ag. News Editor and Dominic Akpan political correspondent the Akwa Ibom Information and Social Re-orientation commission, Mr Aniekan Umanah speaks on Governor Akpabio's aggressive drive projects drawn by his predecessor, the Governor's unity project to maintain unity among all sections of the state through even distribution of projects and appointments among others issues of concerns. Excerpts.
You've mentioned unprecedented achievements of the governor in terms of infrastructural development such as never been experienced since Akwa Ibom was created. Now, some people are wondering whether it's possible for the administration to achieve this massive infrastructure within two years without annexing uncompleted projects of the previous administration to claim they are its own. Could you please explain that aspect sir?
I will start from the last one. I do not understand what you mean by annexation. Does annexation here mean pursuing projects the former administration could not complete? Yes, to that extent, continuity of programmes that are in the interest of the people of Akwa Ibom State in which the government of Akwa Ibom State has invested money whether rightly or wrongly, but as long as the money of the people of Akwa Ibom State was invested in whatever firm, it is important such project be delivered to the people. Take the airport for instance, I know you want to go there, the last administration initiated the airport project but you all know that as at May 29, 2007, it was still at the stage of clearing. This administration moved it from the ground clearing point and started building an airport which was initiated by the last administration, so what is wrong with that?
Any sensible government that has the interest of the people at heart must continue projects that are in the interest of the people. The airport is one example. Go to the power plant and find the state it was on May 29, 2007. It was 65 per cent completed. Today, the administration of Chief Godswill Akpabio has taken it to 99 per cent completion. He has completed the transmission line, which is about 47 killometres from Ikot Abasi to Eket; and built two sub-stations. It has acquired the electricity transmission licence from the National Electricity Regulation Commission and also signed a 20-year gas supply agreement with the Nigerian Gas Company. What he is waiting for now is for the federal government to pump gas to the place and then we turn on the turbines and release 191 megawatts of electricity into Nigeria and retain 70 megawatts. So is that annexation? If that is annexation, yes in the interest of the Akwa Ibom people, in the interest of not losing the investment of the people, in the interest of taking a project from 65 per cent to 99 per cent completion, if that is annexation, yes. If annexation means taking an airport from the ground clearing point to the construction of a runway and the terminal building site. I agree, because this is positive annexation of perhaps an idea that was at clearing level and then somebody is now building it and in the interpretation of a few persons it is annexation. I leave that to them and the public, but when the first plane touches down at that airport sometime this year, I think the story will change.
The other day, my excitement knew no bounds when even with a smaller chopper, the governor landed on the middle of the runway. This gave us the feeling of what will come within the next few months.
It was something very exciting to see. But whatever it is, a chopper landing at that airport was a sign that a plane will come there and I was so elated. I felt I was inside that aircraft that came down that day. I needed to have that feeling, so missing out of that feeling is something I have not recovered from. Go and see the magnitude and the quality of work done there and the speed with which the people are working on the runway so that the airport will be delivered on time. He has promised us he will deliver that airport, and some of you would start travelling from Uyo here on air. Within 20 minutes, you are in Okobo and you take-off from there to any part of the world. Akwa Ibom would have been opened to the outside world.
Don't forget we are developing the biggest economy in the Gulf of Guinea and what do you need, a proper airport that can take Boeing 747, A340 Airbus, and other large-bodied aircrafts. The runway is such that it can take two aircrafts coming in and going out at the same time. A total range of 4.5 killometres and about 3.6 killometres have been constructed.
Given the political development in the state, is it not time your ministry introduced a re-orientation programme?
Yes, that is there. Re-orientation programme is something that has always been there, it is something we do directly or indirectly; EARCOM has submitted a plan and we have made a presentation to government for approval, so that we can take-off. With that, a lot of activities that we have planned, I want to believe, will come on stream as soon as possible.
There will be a lot of re-orientation activities. There will be road shows and town crier type of thing. We are looking at having a unity half-hour on radio so that we can talk about things that unite us rather the things that divide us. I do not know how this issue of division came about. Few elites have used the division to create tension and after achieving their aims, they dump the people they used, and go back to Abuja and drink coffee and tea and come back to use the rest of the people. We must tell Akwa Ibom people to rise up and not allow themselves to be used by any political interest who is seeking self-interest and not the interest of people of Akwa Ibom State.
What interest can be more than a mother waking up in the morning and taking her child to school, that is real interest, not the interest of somebody who hires people, his drivers, and cooks to hold placards and hide their faces. Not that type of interest. We have to be frank about these things.
Is Akpabio considering the issue of the abandoned ring roads in the next phase of road construction in the state?Let me ask you, what is abandonment? In 21 years of the creation of Akwa Ibom, why were the ring roads not built? Suddenly, because a man has decided that the people of Use Ikot Amama from Itak and Okoita should see progress, it has now become an issue. Why were all the ring roads not completed in 21 years.
The state capital is one component of the state, so, the 31 local government areas are not inhabited by people. Good enough, one of you is from that side of the state. How do you feel going to your village today? Elated. Before now, the people of Afaha Obong, Etim Ekpo and Ika were cut off from civilization for 50 years. Government must be seen to be interested in the plight of the generality of the people and must try to touch every facet of the society to the best of its ability and available resources in a manner that gingers development in various parts of the state. I must say this clearly, why did we abandon Eket to Mobil for 21 years until this administration, under Chief Godswill Akpabio decided to build over 49 urban roads in Eket and he says he has not finished with them. He wants to get through with the 49 roads first before thinking of what next to do with them.
I asked this before, why did past governments leave Oron for 21 years without one single tarred road, but Chief Akapbio is building 34 roads in Oron. He gives hope to the people of Oron who are integral part of this state. He had to go to Ikot Ekpene and do 26 roads and that is the gateway, the first local government in West Africa where former prime minister of Britain, Tony Blair lived at Queen Street. So, he ought to have abandoned all that because he must build all the ring roads in Uyo. I am not against the idea of ring roads.
They are there and will continue as development continues. Government is a process and development must continue in that manner. There is no way you can assume government to do everything at the same time.
It is not possible because, government has limited resources. Resources are limited. But within its available resources, government must take cognizance of people in the rural areas who are also Akwa Ibom people. That is why he initiated the inter-ministerial direct labour jobs where we have over 3,000 projects across the 31 local government areas of the state. I want to ask you a question, which government in Akwa Ibom State has ever done that? Which government had witnessed the spate of commissioning that we have witnessed. Yes, The Pioneer published the pictorials of the commissioning of projects, pictures do not lie. Which government in Akwa Ibom State has ever done this? Honour should be given to whom honour is due. Chief Akpabio has demonstrated a capacity to lead and develop this state. We must support him as a people. We must do everything that will give strength and enablement for him to continue. In Nigeria today, some people tend to say either two or three states are working. I don't know of the others. I keep asking people to come here and see a model of development. What our people are looking for is basic infrastructure; electricity, water, health care facilities and so on. Then a government gets up and say every child under the age of five is entitled to free medical service and pregnant women too, so that they do not go to traditional birth attendants who only have obscure means and unscientific equipment of ministering child birth.
The elderly from 70 years are also entitled to free medical services. This is a typical or good example of a welfare state. Why did we not think about this in 21 years? Why did we not think of this in the last administration? So, you see I think there is a total fear that the light that is shining upon Akwa Ibom State must not shine beyond certain areas. I say that this fear maybe founded because if people squandered opportunity in 21 years, I see the reason why they should be afraid. The question is, which government in Akwa Ibom State in 24 months has initiated about 170 roads, even in Nigeria?
At what level is the reconciliation process initiated by Akwa Esop Imaisong Ibibio now? We ask this question because the group said it was wading into the face-off between Obong Attah and Governor Akpabio.
Chief Akpabio has no face-off with anybody. Akwa Esop imaisong Ibibio, as the umbrella body of senior citizens o f Ibibio extraction feels it should offer advice and do certain things. It is expected at that level. But, I do not know where the face-off is. Where is the face-off? Is it in the over 170 roads?
Is it in the free and compulsory education? Is the face-off against free medical services and increase in welfare for workers? Is this face-off against the people of Akwa Ibom which this administration is committing these resources into developing? The face-off is only in the imagination of certain people, but the government of Chief Godswill Akpabio is focused and will remain so as long as God helps him to remain there.
He is going to confuse this state with development. I hear people talk about how unimportant the flyover's. I can see the poverty of social infrastructure in the minds of those who are canvassing that it is not right for a government to begin to think of how to decongest traffic at the major entry point into the city of Uyo. Now, if we do not do this today, what will happen tomorrow? What is happening to Port Harcourt. The authorities there are beginning to break houses so that they can expand roads. A visionary government must begin to think for the future. And if we do not do that today, tomorrow, posterity will not forgive us. The face of Uyo is changing and it is changing for good. Those who maybe making certain allusions have no statistics of vehicular traffic around Itam Junction.
About 2300 trucks pass through that place on a daily basis. Let us also ask ourselves, in the eight years of the last administration, what was Itam Junction? Suddenly, an administration decides to do a dualization of a federal road all the way from Ekim Itam to Ekom Iman Junction and also provide, urban infrastructure, yet some people are running their tongues over. When we go outside this country and see those things in modern cities, what impression do we get and come back with? Yet, we say to ourselves that we go abroad, what so we bring back. We don't need to go abroad, all we need to do is to import those things that bring development to Uyo. It is unfortunate that we bother ourselves with that. By the time these infrastructure are completed, some people will ask themselves, what did we do as a people in 21 years? And I also want to address another issue which you can take as a separate question. It is this issue of fanning the embers of disunity.
Like I said earlier, it is only God that will forgive those who are trying to disunite their children who have all intermarried. We must fast and pray for them so that the wrath of God will not come upon them because of the crisis they are attempting to cause in the families of their children. When their daughters are settling down as good wives and their sons are also settling down as good husbands, at some dark corners, few individuals are fanning embers of disunity in an integral government.
This is an administration that is running the biggest unity project ever in Akwa Ibom State. Let us further ask ourselves this question. Which civilian administration in Akwa Ibom has ever appointed a secretary to the state government outside his senatorial district? Now, we have the deputy governor, who is not a kinsman of the governor so to speak, because to me, they are brothers. The commissioner for finance is not from his own part of the state and the speaker of Akwa Ibom House of Assembly. This is in addition to the over 80 per cent of personal aides who are not kinsmen of the governor. In the state executive council, there is no dominance in terms of percentage from his own ethnic group. We need to lay out this statistics. The media have a duty to play there. Tell me who was the secretary to the state government in the last administration. Who were those who manned the ministry of finance and other A-graded ministries? Let us run a comparison.
We should take all the civilian administrations that run Akwa Ibom state and do a table of analysis. In the key positions in the cabinet and see who is fair to Akwa Ibom State. We must do this analysis so that Akwa Ibom people will know who is running a government of unity. The fear among those who are fanning the embers of disunity in Akwa Ibom is that having seen the unity drive of Chief Godswill Akpbio, they have come to a conclusion that if he goes on like this, no one will stop him.
Let us start telling lies. Let us start telling our drivers to carry placards, let us start making baseless insinuations. Let us start saying that people are kidnapping people. All that comes to trash, because the trend of development piloted by Chief Godswill Akapbio is running at a speed no single man can stop. Nobody can stop the collective will of Akwa Ibom people and the development he is putting on ground for them. This will berth at the desired destination designed by God. For those who are thinking it is about 2011, of that is a closed chapter. The people of Akwa Ibom state have closed that chapter. The governor is not bothered about 2011. His focus is how to complete these projects and add more to the people of Akwa Ibom because the other one is a closed matter. we are moving on to 2015 as a matter of politics. For now, it is development.
Last week, the Peoples Democratic Party met at the zonal level in Bayelsa State, what was the outcome of the meeting?
That was a party affair. I was not there. It was strictly a party meeting. They did not invite ordinary members who are working with the governor. The party will issue a statement on its meeting. The party has structure for those things. I am not competent to speak for the party. But the party is on course.
Despite the inter-ministerial direct labour jobs which are aimed at empowering certain people and other empowerment schemes of government, some people believe that there is hunger in the land. What do you say to this kind of observation?
Let me also ask you, is it because our land is no longer arable? Or are our crops no more growing?
Everywhere you sow, people are farming and our crops are growing. So, I do not know where this hunger is coming from. But let me make it clear that we must change our attitude.
The administration of Chief Godswill Akapabio has done what a responsible government should do for its people. Now, how many people has government employed in two years? The statistics are high. Look at the number of people at the grassroots working as supervisors and special advisers. Take also the number of personal aides.
Government cannot be the only employer of labour, it can only stimulate the process that enables the private sector to grow. With the massive construction work going on in the state, who are these companies employing? Are they not Akwa Ibom people? So, what are we talking about? Government cannot cook soup and bring it to the table. You canonly key into the level playing fileld that government has put in place; which is providing the right type of infrastructure. I am happy people of Ibiono Ibom, Etim Ekpo and Ika have a sense of Joy going home because of the reconstruction of Itak / Use / Ikot Amama road as well as Afaha Obong / Etim Ekpo / Ika road. We must eschew this tendency of laziness, and the thinking that the Government House or the secretariat is the only place we can go to.
We must eschew beggarly tendencies and bring back the pride our people were known for. Look at other societies, people are getting creative and developing. People are looking around to tap into opportunities, but we sit down here talking about hunger in the land. People are working and government does not owe its workers salaries. Assuming it is a state where government is owing workers salaries, maybe we would have believed that there is hunger. Government pays in December of every year an extra month salary to workers.
Government increased teachers, salaries by 27.1 per cent. I think, we need psychiatric doctors to examine certain people when they say certain things that I know does not reflect the views of the people of Akwa Ibom state. It may reflect the view of one or two persons.
Government released over 400 taxi to empower people who some of them, were commercial motorcyclists to pay back at a minimal amount, and is even working at subsiding the repayment. One hundred million naira was given to the Christian Association of Nigerian (CAN) as revolving loan to some church members and Ten Million Naira was extended to the muslim communality, then one or two persons are talking of hunger in the land.