By Bassey Otu
With the advent of democratic rule in 1999, there has been dearth in qualitative and purposeful leadership by the ruling class. It has been a case of selfish, rudderless and uninspiring leadership which Nigerians have been experiencing. The style of leadership and governance offered Nigerians by these leaders is myopic and primitive. This is not to say the crop of leaders we have had since 1999 are all bad, there are few examples who have demonstrated exemplary leadership and selflessness.
Since 1999, it has been a norm for most public office holders especially governors to be “clannish” in project(s) execution, policy and decision making and even with appointments. Many governors at the expiration of their tenure amass questionable wealth and are often subject of investigation due to allegations of abuse of office and corrupt enrichment. Another endemic trait of these set of leaders is the pettiness with which they play “their” politics. They are always at war with either their predecessors or successors. The cases of Ganduje-Kwankwaso and Oshiomole-Obaseki readily come to mind.
While many may call for caution, I will be audacious with my claims that Emmanuel Udom the Governor of Akwa Ibom State is a unique example of good leadership and governance past and future leaders should emulate. The reasons are not far-fetched and I will like to highlight few of it.
When his predecessor, Senator Godswill Akpabio left the Peoples Democratic Party for the All Progressive Congress, rather than the expected campaign of calumny against him either overtly or covertly, neither happened under Udom Emmanuel’s watch. This is a simple demonstration of matured knowledge that democracy is about popularity and scorecard appraisal by the electorates in place of bile-full and instigated attacks. It further reveals the stock the gentleman is made of – a man who will not heat up the polity of his state for personal or political interests. Rather, he was focused and went about discharging his duties to the electorates and even conducted a peaceful election in the state.
As we speak, we are yet to see any leaked or sponsored articles maligning his predecessor. There have been no Press Conferences, or advertorials by known or faceless groups attacking the reputation of the former Governor either. Udom left the political fate of his predecessor to God and the electorates. Unlike the situation of the former Governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso who cried out that he could not visit the state he governed for eight (8) years as a result of bitter politics being played out by his successor. Pundits posit that the Former Emir of Kano, HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi can be said to be a casualty of the ongoing political feud. Adams Oshiomole was expelled from the party. He was the National Chairman at some point having lost control of the party at both national and state level. There is a touted yet similar political war in Ogun State between former Governor Ibikunle Amosun and Governor Dapo Abiodun and in Niger State between Governor Sani Bello and former Governor Babangida Aliyu.
Lagos State is another classical example. At some point, it was widely rumoured that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was against Babatunde Raji Fashola’s re-election bid irrespective of the fact that he (Tinubu) had foisted Fashola on his party in 2007. His successor, Akinwunmi Ambode also went about ambushing him. It soon became messy as there were major policy reversals and sponsored reportage. Many projects were abandoned and Lagosians suffered for it. It was not any different when Tinubu and party chieftains moved against Akinwunmi Ambode and supported Governor Sanwo-Olu, who the moment he got into office, we started reading of many allegations of corrupt practices and many projects initiated during his administration were abandoned. His person and what he stood for was dragged to public disrepute. This was evident during the commissioning of the Agege Bridge when Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was reported to have said “Lagos was heading towards the wrong direction until Sanwo-Olu came on board.” Too many examples of this practice abound in our politics and you must agree with me that they leave the average citizen in staggering gaze.
A reason for my assertion of Governor Udom is the sort of projects executed so far by his administration. These projects obviously informed from an economic value and of enormous importance in improving the level of self generated fortunes for the state thus reducing its reliance on federal allocation with a boost in the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and IGR (Internally Generated Revenue). The Ibom Agricom Rice Processing Mill, King Flour Mill, Lion Plywood Factory, the Syringe Production factory, Greenwell Fertiliser Plant, Awka Prime Hatchery, and the toothpick and pencil making factory are examples of project which is turning the fortunes of the state around for good, and will do for a long time..
Without a doubt, Gov. Udom strategy on security seems to be paying off. Akwa Ibom is about the only state in South-South region and the only oil producing state with no presence of militants or economic saboteurs under the guise of demanding a fair deal for the oil producing communities. He is a leader who has refused to weaponize poverty or keep his people in the grip of socio-economic hardship in a bid to consolidate his hold onto political power, dominance and relevance, but has created job opportunities, access to quality education, genuine empowerment schemes and economically viable initiatives. Today, there is said to be a large population of enlightened residents and indigenes committed to personal development and that of the State too. There is no population to recruit criminals, political thugs and miscreants from to disturb the peace and tranquillity in the State. Akwa Ibom is the only state in the region with no heightened tension or considered a flash point for acts of criminality by all relevant security agencies. The indigenes of the state are committed to moving the state forward and sparing no one or agenda that could back track their achievements or positive aspirations.
Udom Emmanuel is a man whose values and sterling leadership qualities are appreciated and celebrated by prominent persons from both the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressive Congress. Two notable instances are when Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State described him as a man of integrity as his words is his bond, and Vice President Yemi Osibanjo described him as “ a game changer for the nation, effusively described him as “one of the cleverest people I have ever come across” during a project commissioning exercise at the state.
Udom Emmanuel always readily preaches service as the first law of God, citing the story of the Good Samaritan. “He believes that everyone should stoop down to help anyone who is down,” he says. With him (Udom Emmanuel), service is not a habit but a character. This must explain why selfless service to the good people of Akwa Ibom is the hallmark of his administration.
I will recommend with all sense of responsibility, that all aspiring public office holders understudy Udom Emmanuel and get a great perspective on selflessness in leadership. It will surely be a good model to emulate and always celebrate.
Otu writes from Uyo