By Sam Loco Smith
Since its creation on September 23, 1987, Akwa Ibom State has been fortunate to be governed by a most dynamic set of high-flying individuals who have left indelible governance marks on the state. Since the emergence of the Fourth Republic, the state has been particularly fortunate as it has witnessed massive developmental strides, following the seed planted by the highly progressive Gov. Obong Victor Attah, the state’s first Fourth Republic governor.
And as it gears up for another gubernatorial election in 2023, there is strong hope that Akwa Ibom will be lucky the fourth time as Bassey Umo Eno enters the race as a frontline contender. The 58-year-old pastor and businessman had grown up in a police barracks—the prestigious Police College, Ikeja, Lagos. Like most barracks boys, he gained good knowledge of the value of communal inter-tribal coexistence while navigating the rough roads of life.
“Being a barracks boy that started from the lowest of the low,” he said, “I have good understanding and appreciation of community living. I have a good understanding of inter-tribal living.”
Bassey Eno’s police officer father was a huge influence on him. In a recent interview, he said: “My father was one of the finest police gentlemen I have ever seen. He was trained by the British…very clean, very strict disciplinarian. He would never take no for an answer. He was a man who brought us up under very strict conditions and paid very strict attention to details.”
It is no wonder, therefore, that Gov. Udom Emmanuel and other key Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stakeholders have thought it wise to present this humble, God-fearing man of enormous capacity, competence and character to Akwa Ibomites in next year’s election. With this public endorsement of this stickler for excellence, Gov. Emmanuel has now ended months of speculation on his likely successor.
When he was about to leave office, Gov. Obong Victor Attah had launched a spirited search for a worthy replacement who would continue with the stellar delivery of democratic dividends for which Akwa Ibom had now been known. At that time, Godswill Akpabio, who was then a member of the state cabinet and a prominent part of the success story, became the beautiful bride that was eventually the chosen one.
As envisaged, Akpabio did not disappoint on assumption of office. Indeed, he watered the seed of development so well that Akwa Ibom became synonymous with socioeconomic transformation. Akpabio’s achievements have remained a reference point to this day. And when it was time for Akpabio to leave the stage, he launched a serious search for a go-getting successor—and Gov. Emmanuel became that successor. Incidentally, Emmanuel had also been a member of Akpabio’s cabinet and one of the leading executors of his Uncommon Transformation Agenda. It was Akpabio’s performance appraisal status that Gov. Emmanuel equally latched on to launch the Dakkada Project, which has made Akwa Ibom the envy of other Nigerian states.
In fact, one can confidently say that, since the creation of Akwa Ibom State, a convention has been in place that allows a worthy cabinet member to succeed the incumbent governor under consensus arrangements. From Attah to Akpabio to Udom and, now, hopefully, Eno, the practice has worked in favour of the state and the people are the ultimate beneficiaries.
Commenting on Bassey Umo Eno’s emergence, Gov. Emmanuel has recently explained: “Let me say this emphatically, I mean well for this state; that is why I waited for God to show me the man who would continue with the pace of development strides we have started in the last six plus years and then move the needle even further.” The governor continued: “Pastor Umo Eno is a highly respected person; he has enormous capacity. He is an epitome of humility and is blessed with the common touch, a compelling story and he is God-fearing.”
As a highly successful entrepreneur, Bassey Umo Eno has provided employment for Akwa Ibomites and lifted thousands from poverty to prosperity. Consequently, the state can rest assured of the readiness of an economic blueprint that will guarantee more employment, development and economic prosperity for the state and its people.
Gov. Emmanuel speaks on: “He is a man of peace and will ensure that the peace and security of life we have enjoyed in the last six plus years will be maintained. His life story resonates with the story of most ordinary Akwa Ibom people. He came from the police barracks, where, as he said during his thanksgiving service last year, life was dreary and hope seemed a distant ingredient. Though hard work, he summoned hope and overcame his early difficulties and ended up as the biggest employer of labour in our state. His story is a testament to our Dakkada philosophy, one that will inspire and motivate our youths.”
Since the public presentation of Bassey Eno Umo by the sitting governor, endorsement has followed from other important quarters, including Deputy Governor Moses Ekpo, the Akwa Ibom State National Assembly Caucus, the Akwa Ibom State Executive Council and the ten local government areas making up Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.
After Bassey Umo Eno’s secondary school education, he took up employment with Union Bank to complement his father’s meagre salary, which could not feed the large family of six children and their parents. He later left the bank for Bertola Machine Tools and then Norman Holdings Limited, where he rose to the position of chief executive officer before setting up his own business, Royalty Group. As the CEO of Royalty Group, a conglomerate of businesses across the hospitality, manufacturing, ICT and oil and gas industries, Eno continues to provide employment opportunities for thousands of youths across Akwa Ibom. He was once chairman of Akwa Ibom Hotels and Tourism Board and most recently Commissioner for Lands and Water Resources in the state.
Bassey Umo Eno was educated at Local Authority Primary School in Ikeja, Lagos, a school located within the Ikeja Police College. He later attended St. Francis Secondary School, Ikot Ataku, in Eket Local Government, and afterwards Victory High School, Ikeja, Lagos. For university education, he attended University of Uyo, where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree and later a Master’s degree in Public Administration. He is studying for a PhD at the University of Uyo. He is married to Pastor (Mrs.) Patience Eno and they are blessed with children.
Bassey Umo Eno, the general overseer of All Action Christian Ministry International, surely has the hand of God upon him as he approaches Akwa Ibomites for their votes on the platform of the ruling PDP with its unbeatable record of achievements in the state.