By Michael Obinna
The eight-year tenure of Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State still has a little over two years to run out. But the landmark achievements that have been recorded by his administration are such that make it obvious that when the curtain finally falls on his era on May 29, 2023, the people of the state, indeed, Nigerians, would be unanimous in agreement that he has left the state better then he met it.
The governor came into office on a mission to change the status of Akwa Ibom from a predominantly civil service to a private sector-driven state that would not only be Nigeria’s industrial hub, but would also be a major player in the economy of the West African sub-region. He made industrialization a major plank of his Five-point Agenda, with focus on making the state less dependent on monthly allocations from Abuja, but one that would be made economically self-reliant by a strong and vibrant private sector.
With a rich pedigree that was built by more than two decades of hands-on experience in the private sector, he knew what needed to be done to bring about the transformation of not just the status of the state, but the standard of living of the people as well. He made a promise to give the state a new face, and the people, a new lease of life through job creation, wealth creation and poverty alleviation.
“We hope to make Akwa Ibom State an industrial hub in our country”, the governor had said in one of his budget presentations to the state house of assembly. “In this regard, more energy and vigour will be given to small and medium enterprises to act as drivers of our viable economy. We will make sure that adequate and sufficient modern infrastructural facilities are provided which are quite necessary for effective and efficient industrialization”.
He explained how the goal of industrialization would be achieved. “This will be achieved by creating more job opportunities through opening up the state to encourage private investments, creating a welcoming environment for investors, strengthening existing industries and establishing new ones, as well as improving our IGR processes and drive. It is expected that these, as well as the provision of basic infrastructures, enhancement of security, development of human capital and boosting services in education and health care, will lead to an overall improvement in the living standard of our people”.
Today, barely six years down the road, Akwa Ibom has shed the toga of a civil service state and is gradually emerging as an investment destination. Industrial establishments that employ thousands of indigenes now dot the landscape, signaling a revolution that is gathering momentum. The immediate fallout of this revolution is the improvement in the standard of living of the people in terms of job creation, as well as wealth creation through increased participation in small and medium scale entrepreneurship in all sectors of the state’s economy. The multiplier effect of this type of development in a state where government was hitherto the only source of livelihood is improvement in the general well-being of the people.
One of the iconic industrial establishments of the administration is the flagship 450 million-capacity Syringe Manufacturing Company, reputed to be the biggest in Africa. The company has, since coming on stream, been making contributions to healthcare delivery in the country with its product that is being used in health facilities, apart from boosting the economy of the state. The Kings Flour Mills located in ONNA Local Government Area, with production capacity of 400 and 500 metric tonnes, respectively, of flour and wheat daily, has been providing raw materials to big and small scale bakers and confectioneries. Other industrial establishments are the Toothpick and Pencil Manufacturing Company in Itu Local Government Area (the first of its kind in Nigeria) and Greenwell Technologies, a fertilizer blending company, in Abak Local Government Area. Some industries are either nearing completion or are about being set up, an indication of the administration’s recognition of the fact that it is still a long way before it reaches the finish line.
Popular opinion in Akwa Ibom suggests that the governor enjoys the trust and confidence of the people of the state because he is generally seen as a man of integrity who makes his word his bond – a virtue most people find lacking in many politicians. This, they say, is not unconnected with the fact that he sees himself more as a servant than a politician and governor. Added to this is the fact that he is known to be a deeply religious man.
“The governor is more religious than he is political”, says Effiong Bassey, an Uyo-based estate surveyor who has seen many administrations in the state. “He is a man that can be trusted, and is also dependable and reliable. He has been able to fulfil most of the promises he made because he has the fear of God in him. Since he came into office he has been doing more of working than talking; and the results are there for all to see, especially in the area of industrialization. This is an area that was non-existent before he came into office”.
Bassey said evidence in the state shows that the governor did not promise what he could not deliver. “You can see the number of industries his government has built; and all this was done under four years – mostly in his first term. I’m not sure you can look around the country today and see state governors that have achieved so much in so short a period in the area of industrialization. Despite what he has achieved, we haven’t seen the end of industrialization by his administration. It takes a man of integrity and someone that has the fear of God to be able to do that. If the constitution allowed for a third term, I’m very sure the governor would get another term”
At an anniversary to mark the creation of Akwa Ibom, Governor Emmanuel had told Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was guest of honour, his own understanding and definition of governance. It was a definition that left no one in doubt about why his style of governance is different, and the driving force behind the soaring performance of his administration in the area of industrialization.
“We are trying to make governance touch the heart of the grassroots”, he had told Osinbajo. “We want to make people to understand that politics has moved from blackmail, propaganda, mischief and falsehood into development all over the world”.
The transformation that is going on in the industrial sector in Akwa Ibom is such that will change the story of the state permanently. The results of the transformation are beginning to manifest in the changing socio-economic life of the people. Direct and indirect jobs are being created. Families are being empowered to be able to provide decent living through food and healthcare (education is free at primary and secondary levels).
This has fostered a new spirit of commitment by everybody to the overall progress of the state, which is a response to the clarion call by the governor on the people to collectively move forward and not look back.
Obinna, an investment analyst, writes from Lagos