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As Akwa Ibom awaits President Jonathan...
14 Jul 2010: Gill Nsa-Abasi

President Goodluck Jonathan is scheduled to visit Akwa Ibom State between July 15 and 16 July. It would be his first state visit to the state, since he became president. Gill Nsa-Abasi writes on the climate of expectation which has enveloped the state.

Preparations for President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to Akwa Ibom State are in top gear within official circles in Akwa Ibom State. While the state government is ensuring that all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed, the police and other security agencies are on top of their duties ahead of the visit.

The residents are not left out, as  their expectation to listen to the president’s  remarks on projects the state government is presenting for either inauguration or inspection remained palpable.

It is not out of place that Akwa Ibom State is governed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),  in which its leadership is presently headed by  President Jonathan. Also, the state is one of the states within the Niger Delta region, where Jonathan hails from.

The story of the region’s experience in Nigeria’s political history and development is known far and wide. Therefore, the visit of President Jonathan to the state is historical, bearing in mind that he is the first president from the Niger Delta region. As Akwa Ibom is a PDP-controlled state and the party leader is visiting, stakeholders within and outside the party are politicking to prove one point or the other, even  as the next general election approaches in a few months.

The projects lined up for the president to either inaugurate or inspect are many. Within three years in office, the state governor, Dr. Godswill Akpabio, has completed and inaugurated over 2,500 projects across the state. They include over a hundred rural electrification projects, health centres, classroom blocks in schools, and about 650 kilometres of roads, among others.

There have been massive infrastructure developments in the state. The international airport, which was initiated by the previous administration of the state, had been taken up from about the 20 per cent stage of completion to the current stage, where commercial flights are now operating.

What makes the airport is that it has Nigeria’s first MRO (maintain, repair and overhaul) facilities. The MRO phase of development in the airport is at an advanced stage, with the facilities already on ground and the building of the main terminal is one activity whose groundbreaking the president will perform.

During Jonathan’s last visit to Akwa Ibom state in 2008, while he was the vice president, he flew into Akwa Ibom State through the Calabar Airport in Cross River State and took over a hour’s drive by road to arrive Uyo.

Today, the story is different. Mr. President will fly direct from Abuja and land in Akwa Ibom State International Airport, which has been running daily flight schedules since last year.

Another multi-billion naira project lined up for the president’s inspection and inauguration is the first flyover in the state, initiated and completed by Governor Akpabio to address traffic congestion in the state. There are three flyovers which cost the state over N11billion and two are ready for inauguration by the president, while the other has reached over 80 per cent completion stage.

To address the perennial flooding problem in the state capital, the state government also initiated Nigeria’s first underground flood control project with 21st century technology at the cost of N13.8billion. The project is progressing at a good pace with so much work done underground, and is billed for the president’s inspection.

Other projects billed for the president’s inspection and inauguration are the Airport Road linking Uyo; Banking District Road networks in Uyo;  the e-library project; waste management equipment and workshop; Ekid Itam dual carriage way, Phase I; the 21 km Ekid Itam-Idoro-Ekom Iman dual carriage way Phase I; state- of- the- art fire service equipment; the Governor’s Lodge, 25km Abak-Ikot Ekpene dual carriage way; the 56 km Afaha Obong- Etim Ekpo-Iwukem Road; Etim Ekpo bridge; 12 km Top Faith Road; Police Secondary School; Mobil Police base; the Independent Power Plant, and Cottage Hospital, Ibeno. The projects are numerous and the schedule for the president looks quite hectic. But the programme of the president’s activity was approved by the presidency.

Many see the president’s visit as an opportunity the government would use  not only to showcase and flaunt the achievements of Governor Akpabio within three years to President Jonathan and other top-guns in the presidency as well as the ruling PDP, but to silence critics.  

Critics of Governor Akpabio’s administration are few, according to the state information commissioner, Mr. Aniekan Umanah. However, though few, they are vocal and influential to an extent within and outside the state.  

The immediate past governor, Obong Victor Attah, is one. Captain Sam Ewang (rtd), who has been a military governor in both Rivers and Ogun states, is another. He is also aspiring to contest again in the governorship race of the state by 2011, having lost in 2007.

Former Minister of State in the Federal Capital Territory, Senator John James Akpanudodehe, is also among the said opposition who believe the governor has done nothing.   These critics accuse him of sponsoring kidnapping, cultism, violence and paying lip service to the increasing level of insecurity in the state. They also accuse him of wasteful expenditure as well as misappropriation of state funds.

But to many residents of the state, who have seen and benefited from what Akpabio has done in the state, the critics are just battling to keep alive their political relevance.

Nse Inyang Ekong, a university graduate who is seeking employment  into the state civil service after completing his national youth service recently, said “with what I have come back to see in my state after being out for about two years, I think some of are leaders are just used to regarding the rest of us as fools. How can they say Governor Akpabio has not developed the state? The roads I have seen constructed in Uyo, Eket, Abak and Ikot Ekpene are commendable.

“Imagine the Uyo-International Airport Road, now dualised; Ekid Itam -Idoro-Ekom Iman dual carriage way. It’s a federal road and many can still recall the pains they went through when going to and coming from Calabar. I believe the governor has done a lot in the state.”

Apart from the road projects w, there are other salient achievements of the administration in the education sector in the state. Education has been declared free, compulsory and qualitative in the state since 2008.  In terms of health, there is also free prenatal and antenatal services for pregnant mothers, as well as free medical care for children under five years and others above 65 years of age.

Nigerian Tribune also gathered that the government has, so far, linked 850 villages to the national electricity grid through the efforts of the Ministry of Rural Development and the state Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee. The programme of activities for the president’s visit released by the state ministry of information also revealed that the president will have direct contact with the people. He will meet with the state council of chiefs in their chambers after a courtesy call on the chairman of the council.

A civic reception is also in the schedule, where, already, many from the hinterland are preparing to arrive the state capital for what would likely be a carnival-like celebration of their son, brother and father.

Speaking on the significance of President Jonathan’s visit, Commissioner for Information in the state, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, said, “I think it’s significant that President Jonathan, the leader of the country and the ruling party, the PDP, is coming to the state to indentify with the state and with the laudable achievements of Governor Akpabio-led administration, and also to do the state the honour of commissioning some of the numerous projects by the Akpabio-led administration for the good people of Akwa Ibom State.

“For us its a great honour, I know people are very excited and they are looking forward to seeing President Jonathan in the state. When he comes here, the president will be happy that he has a PDP state, well managed and run by a visionary governor who is result-oriented. He, however,  cautioned the personages using destructive criticism against Governor Akpabio and his administration to turn a new leaf and work also towards the development of the state.
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