From JOE EFFIONG, Uyo
For two days consecutive; Saturday and Sunday, Ikot Abasi, the headquarters of Ikot Abasi local government area of Akwa Ibom State was like a Mecca to politicians.
Or, who else would have been there when the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Obong Nsima Ekere, was on the first day honoured in a grand reception by his people of Edemaya clan of Ikot Abasi local government, and he followed it up the next Sunday with a thanksgiving on the premises of local government secretariat? Political associates, friends, APC members, PDP defectors or aspiring defectors, church members, traditional rulers, the press and the clergy. But in Akwa Ibom, such a listing is superfluous.
One word is enough to describe all the people: politicians. Everybody in the state is a practical or aspiring politician while everything in the state is either politics or politicised.
So on Saturday and, especially, Sunday, Ekere virtually nearly relocated the entire state and some sections of other states covered by the NDDC activities to his Ikot Abasi. Connotatively, there was no breathing space; and denotatively, there was no parking space, no walking space and even standing space. It was as if there was nobody and vehicles left in other parts of the state.
So if the two days are described as Ekere’s days of glory, judging from the array of high profile personalities who attended, most of whom, if not all, politicians, and spoke on the occasions, the description is by no means hyperbolic.
On Saturday that the NDDC boss was conferred with the chieftaincy title of Obong Unwana Edemaya by the Edemaya clan council of chiefs, the Managing Director of the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, Mr. Umana Umana, said Ekere, is a star and performer who has recorded giant strides in the commission in the last eight months.
“That is why in his first three months in office, bulldozers started moving all over Akwa Ibom State. Some people instead of celebrating it got angry. The people need development,” Umana said.
Referring to his struggle against Ekere the for Akwa Ibom State governorship in 2014, Umana, who was equally conferred with the chieftaincy of Obong Ufan Edemaya on the occasion, said; “There was a time both of us looked for the governorship of Akwa Ibom State. By some evil design, not by choice, we were made to look like adversaries, not like brothers. But we are wiser. We are not just friends but brothers. I am behind my brother, Mr. Nsima Ekere. He is a star and a performer,” he said.
As it is normal with politicians, most speakers laced their speeches with 2019 governorship election tactically urging Ekere to be ready for their support.
But in his response, the NDDC boss said the occasion was no place or time to talk politics but development especially as 2019 was still far away.
“Many speakers talked about 2019 today. My message to Akwa Ibom people is that the time for elections has not yet come. Allow me and other government officials to do the job we are doing for you. When the time for elections comes, if you make that demand again, I will respond. But for now, allow me work in NDDC,” he said.
While restating the commitment of the present board and management of the commission to complete abandoned projects as much as possible; “It is unfair to abandon government projects when money has been spent already. The current board and management of NDDC are committed to completing abandoned NDDC projects as much as possible. We don’t care who awarded them. But as long as they will touch the lives of the people, we will go ahead and complete them.”
later on Sunday at his family thanksgiving service anchored by the Methodist Church, ikot Abasi Diocese, Ekere expressed gratitude to God whom he attributed all his life achievement to.
“There is absolutely nothing I would have accomplished but for the grace of God. I am extremely grateful to God. The grace of God has always been sufficient and enormous. We have come here to give God all the adoration.”
Mr. Ekere, a Knight of John Wesley (KJW) of the MCN, thanked the church for being a pillar of support to him right from childhood. He thanked his wife, Ese, for her love, patience, tolerance and support over the years.
He recalled the long wait for their three children and encouraged other expectant parents that “God answers prayers.”
A former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, while reviewing Ekere’s the achievements as NDDC boss in the last eight months, said that he has brought joy and hope to the people of Akwa Ibom State.
“This thanksgiving is not just ordinary thanksgiving. You can see the outpouring of support for a man who has successfully restructured NDDC. Akwa Ibom people are very proud of him. Akwa Ibom people say Nsima Ekere has brought a lot of joy and hope to the people,” he said.
Attah reasoned that having done well at NDDC, Mr. Ekere could be entrusted with more responsibilities.
His words: “Nigeria is talking about restructuring today. If Nsima Ekere can successfully restructure NDDC, there is every possibility that he can restructure a few more institutions. I want to appeal to Akwa Ibom people. He has come here to thank God by himself. We must call him to appreciate him.”
Other speakers included Gov Simon Lalong of Plateau State, who was accompanied by the President of Akwa Ibom Community in Jos, the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, represented by the Deputy National Chairman (South), Mr. Segun Oni, who congratulated Mr. Ekere and his family on his success story at NDDC and expressed optimism that the NDDC boss would completely turn round the commission.
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, represented by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Senator Patrick Nwaoboshi, said Mr. Ekere’s thanksgiving service symbolized unity in the country as it brought together Nigerians from across ethnic and partisan lines.
In his homily, the Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, Dr Samuel Kalu Uche warned that any Nigerian who kills to enter public office would never outlive or enjoy the office they so assume.
Uche also warned politician to begin to strive to live a godly life alleged that the agitation by the Independent People of Biafra (IPOD) was powered and energized by bad politicians; but he called for introduction of patriotism, transparency, integrity, loyalty to the nation, civility and faith into governance.
The Niger Delta, the prelate said is the staying power of the Nigerian state, stressing that the one Nigeria being touted all over the country is because of the oil, and may cease to exist the moment the oil is dried up.
He said true federalism is the only means for true democracy where each region would keep and control their resources and remit approved tax to the centre
He said based on Ekere’s devotion to God, he assured the Niger Delta region and Nigeria as a whole would not be disappointed with his duties.”He will perform his duties with integrity, honesty, diligently, scrupulously.
“God has made you the MD to provide succour to the people of Niger Delta; endeavour to make the church, the state, the nation proud. Everyone in position of authority has to answer to God. Many in offices have disappointed the people”.
He used the occasion to encourage the federal government of Nigeria to translate its change mantra to food sufficiency, uninterrupted electricity, and job availability for the teeming unemployed youths.
“If such are achieved, the church will use prayers to destroy anybody that would come with campaign of acrimony in 2019.Only those who delivered on their promises will be returned to office. Fire those who do bad roads; fire those who build bad roads; find those who do good job; find those who have the best intentions in project execution.” The prelate said. END