Udom’s tenure has been a test of his commitment to the two ‘constituencies’ that really matter – God and the people of the state.
When Udom Emmanuel took the oath of office as Akwa Ibom State Governor on May 29, 2015, he knew that he was not just carrying out a ceremonial ritual that the occasion demanded. He fully understood the political, moral, social and spiritual responsibilities resting on his shoulders. He was doing what the occasion demanded, all right. But he was also making a solemn pledge to his creator that he would deliver on what he had promised to do for the people of the state if they gave him their mandate. They had fulfilled their part of by giving him their mandate and so the time had come for him to begin the process of fulfilling his promises to them.
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The governor has shown these past three and half years that he is not the conventional politician who would discard the oath of office the moment he leaves the inauguration grounds, as many are wont to do. He has, in words and deeds, remained guided by that oath. And this is perhaps the reason he soon found himself on a collision course with those who expected him to be the ‘normal politician’ – those who sold him to the people of the state as the best material to govern them, but who would, along the line, realize they made a ‘mistake’ in their choice, completely ignoring God’s prerogative in installing leaders as it pleases Him.
Akwa Ibom is a state that occupies a special place in God’s heart. The full name of the state (Akwa Abasi Ibom, meaning Almighty God), did not come by happenstance. Those who gave the state that name knew that they were invoking God into its affairs, and that He would always have a hand in what transpires in the state at all times. And what better choice as governor at a time like this than a man with deep religious convictions and obeisance to God in all his actions!
Udom has remained committed to God and the people of the state since assuming the reins of government. To God, he has not wavered in his religious obligations by allowing his political position to take the better part of him and wearing a toga that is different from a man of faith and a church elder that he was before he became governor. Surely, the former cannot get subsumed by the latter.
If outward commitment to carrying out religious obligations are a measure of one’s religiosity, then Udom hasn’t been found wanting, as he is said not to miss his regular Sunday services, except when the demands of office do not permit him the time to do so.
Recall that about one and half years after assuming office, the governor escaped death right inside a place of worship, when a new church building he went to inaugurate collapsed, killing quite a good number of worshipers. His plan to build a 10, 000 capacity church building is in line with his effort to keep the state on the religious path that has enabled it to triumph in the face of numerous challenges, some of which have been created by its leaders.
In 1983, while speaking at his valedictory church service at Qua Iboe Church, Edgerly Road, in Calabar, the late Dr. Clement Isong, who was about to bow out as governor of the then Cross River State, had said the greatest lesson he learnt during his four-year tenure as governor was that to be a successful politician in Nigeria, one must be able to call black white, and call white black. He vowed never to advise any of his children to go into politics in Nigeria. Isong was too decent, polished and refined a man to have dabbled into politics in the first place.
Udom has not been a ‘successful’ Nigerian politician, in the late Dr. Isong’s understanding. This is because he does not know how to call black white, or call white black. It is even more so because his quiet, calm and warm disposition is at variance with what the average Nigerian politician is known to be – all noise but little action. His has been little noise but more action.
The governor’s commitment to the people of the state has seen him execute projects that have direct impact on their lives. Perhaps the reason not much seems to be heard about his achievements outside the state is that they haven’t been accompanied by the propaganda that has become the hallmark of performance, especially at state and federal levels.
But the people of the state know the truth. They know that Udom is working. They also know that, in contrast, some of the so-called legacy projects that were supposed to have been executed with much fanfare and propaganda, which have left the state mired in huge debts, were nothing but a scam that put the state’s money in the pocket of an individual, as it has emerged.
Udom’s tenure has been a test of his commitment to the two ‘constituencies’ that really matter – God and the people of the state. In another six months or so, these two constituencies will decide whether or not he has remained true to the oath he took in his first coming. They are the ones that will judge him based on his performance so far. Thankfully, the governor knows this quite well, the reason he has remained focused on delivering on his promises.
Let nobody imagine that they hold the key to the governor’s second term in office. Akwa Ibom is not a state where an individual assumes the position of an emperor because he had the good fortune of holding office, which allowed him unfettered access to the resources of the state – a state where people hold public office at the pleasure of one individual.
We have seen it happen in other states, where somebody plays God, turning a deaf ear to pleas to allow a governor go for a second time as if he has the power of life and death. Akwa Ibom is not that state.
Etim, a retired public servant, lives in Lagos