Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise and welcome into Nigeria’s hall of political mentoring His Excellency, Udom Gabriel Emmanuel.
In a country as politically hypersensitive as ours, someone in the opposition must be more than special to deserve let alone get a worthy mention by a member of the party in power. The man who wins bragging rights of this series today is triple special. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) member continues to draw unsolicited praise from the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led executive and legislative flanks of the government at the centre. Even at home, where the prophet attracts mostly attacks, the godly disposition of this great Nigerian is treasured across the divide.
Let’s authenticate the foregoing with a rehash of the incredible things that chieftains of Nigeria’s governing party have said publicly about the PDP man in focus. Last September, as part of activities marking the thirtieth anniversary of Akwa Ibom state, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo while inaugurating ‘the game changer for the nation’ syringe manufacturing company said the governor’s foresight in attracting the project made him one of the smartest people he had ever come across. Political opposition praise in Nigeria, nay Africa, cannot get more presidential than that. Also, senators and ministers have for once shunned politics and shamed the devil for our man.
April last year, Minister for Petroleum, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, at a gala in Uyo asked other states to get their own Udom Emmanuel in order for politics and governance to strike gold as has happened in Akwa Ibom since 2015. His Science and Technology colleague, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, is also quoted to have highly commended and recommended the pencil revolution in Akwa Ibom state. Just this year, when many APC senators joined their Akwa Ibom northeast colleague, Bassey Albert, at his Uyo constituency briefing, they moved a motion for the state governor’s re-election in 2019. Knowing how opposition politics can affect judgment in Nigeria, there’s no gainsaying that this PDP governor’s persona and projects totally overawed those APC lawmakers!
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However, and this is the icing on the cake, the potency of the Udom magic far transcends politics. Five months ago, Nigerian Television Authority named the PDP governor as winner of its integrity and national merit award. To underscore that this had the seal of the powers-that-be, the event took place right inside the inner sanctuary of Aso Rock Villa, the nation’s seat of power. What more cogent reason to prove that even President Muhammadu Buhari, who himself has a thing for integrity, is all for this banker-turned politician!
Now, who is this wonderful Nigerian? Born on July 11, 1966 into a strong Christian family in Awa Iman in Onna Local Government Area, young Udom grew up and 52 years after, with his delectable wife and children, has neither defected (sorry, departed) from his faith nor family church, United Evangelical Church (QIC) where he’s a deacon and Sunday school teacher. Educationally, he has been everywhere: Secondary Commercial School, Ikot Akpan Ishiet (in his native Onna LGA), School of Arts and Science, Uyo (the state capital), and the prestigious University of Lagos in 1988 from where he came away with a bachelor’s in accounting. This fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management has attended a number of world-famous executive leadership courses, notably the Advanced Management Programme at INSEAD, France.
This corporate-world tycoon and Associate of Chartered Institute of Taxation in Nigeria had a busy career life, variously: audit manager, PriceWaterhouseCooper; pioneer manager of the Lagos Central Branch of Diamond Bank; and at Zenith Bank, General Manager, Chief Financial Officer, Group Head and Executive Director. Suddenly, in the twilight of July, 2013 he was tapped from the zenith of the private sector and ushered on to the centre stage of the murky waters of politics. Going by all that happened before, during and after his swearing-in as Secretary to the State Government it was easy to foretell that this chartered accountant had not foregone his top banking job for just two years of political office. The following year, he proved bookmakers right when he resigned and simultaneously declared for governor.
The rest, as they say, is history. Well over three years after, he has done excellently well. The beauty of the Udom governorship years is that he has done even more than he promised, and not one of what he vowed he would not. His 5-point agenda as well as the Dakkada (can do spirit) philosophy have birthed industries, roads, hospitals, schools, citizen enterprise and the other physical stuff that many Nigerians use as yardsticks of a successful tenure. This writer prefers intangible achievements, though. I am a sticker for employment, peace, humanity, unity and all the other values that accentuate life.
This is where this state chief executive buys me wholesale. Fondly called Mr. Integrity, he is a man of his words; a man whose word you can take to the bank. Unlike an alarming percentage of Nigerian politicians, he’s also not desperate for power or anything else; he’s known to have refused to be politically correct many times over. Furthermore, he’s a tremendously respectful, peaceable, conscientious, measured and prayerful man.
His aides speak about a boss who loves, appreciates and respects them; while his extended family say he can be stubborn about his commitment but that he’s humble enough to own up when he discovers he erred. Those who worked with or encountered him prior to government insist he’s balanced-minded, hardworking, loves his state and people. Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise and welcome into Nigeria’s hall of political mentoring, the governor whose uncanny statecraft and finance wizardry insulated his home state from the economic meltdown that the country suffered for two years, His Excellency, Udom Gabriel Emmanuel. God bless Nigeria!