By Akanimo Sampson
BEYOND the surface political mobilism, a silent revolution of sorts is taking place in Akwa Ibom State, Southern Nigeria. The Revolutionary-in-Chief is Governor Udom Emmanuel. Udom, as he is popularly called across the state, is fast emerging as a populist.
For those who know better, populism is a political philosophy that supports the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite. For what has been manifesting in Akwa Ibom since May 29, 2015 when Udom took charge of the state, populism of the Udom variety is more of a political approach that seeks to disrupt the existing social order by mobilising the animosity of the popular citizenry against their oppressive social conditions.
In the social welfare sector of the state, the Udom administration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) appears to have recorded huge achievements in caring for over 800 orphans and less-privileged children in four Government Homes at Uyo and the one at Ikot Ekpene. Insiders say some of these children are at the moment, in higher institutions. The administration is also awash with the provision of N200,000.00 grant each for some 500 women organisations across the 31 local government areas of the state to enable them leverage on the public partnership Initiative of the state government.
Other high social impact deals include the provision of grants and material aids to about 600 widows and 350 mothers with multiple births across the 31 local government areas to boost their businesses and alleviate poverty. The populist Udom administration is equally implementing the Child Rights Law and prosecuting child rights offenders in collaboration with the state Judiciary, the state Ministry of Justice, security services, the police among other stakeholders. Since the inception of the administration, over 200 cases have been recorded out of which, 120 have received judgment.
In the spirit of the revolution, over 200 wheel chairs and100 special writing desks have been donated by the administration to physical challenged persons in tertiary institutions and secondary schools. The government under Governor Udom is training 20 visually impaired persons in different skills at the Nigerian Farm Craft Centre, Lagos. There is a subsequent empowerment package for them to start up their businesses in the trade learnt. Furthermore, 155 widows, according to the media handlers of the governor, are being sponsored to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage.
Governor Udom is also tactically socialising his reelection in 2019 with a donation of material aids to over 2,000 members of Market Women Frontline as well as empowerment of widows through the Widows Empowerment Scheme and Financial Empowerment to widows registered with an appropriate government agency.
On the labour front, while workers elsewhere in the country are owed salaries and pensions, in Akwa Ibom, their workers are said to be smiling to the bank at the end of every month. Just like in some parts of the federation, the commissioning of a few kilometres of road is done with pomp and pageantry, ‘’we have constructed, commissioned or work is on-going on over 1701 kilometres of good – enduring and commercially viable roads, opening up the hinterland – without any fanfare. We are on a cause for sustainable development not a fleeting or ephemeral cause for applause’’, Governor Udom said.
He is attributing their seeming success story to God. According to Udom, ‘’God is the Invisible Hand that has helped us steer the ship of development of our state, leading us to becoming the second state with the most Foreign Direct Investment as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics. It is only God that has given us one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria as published recently by the media.
‘’It is only through the grace of God and His abiding faith in our collective enterprise that has made us achieve what we have achieved so far. In the the area of roads and infrastructure, over 1,700 km of roads have been commissioned or at various stages of completion 35 bridges have been completed; and the state secretariat annex has been completed.
‘’Other projects include the 21-storey office complex which will house the international oil companies and change the skyline of Uyo metropolis; the ongoing construction of the second airport runway and the upgrade of the airport main runway to Category 2. It is noteworthy that we are the only state to own and maintain an international airport’’.
In the education sector, the administration is boasting of investing huge resources in the sector, conscious of the fact that they must prepare their children to compete with their counterparts in an increasingly shrinking globalised and highly competitive world. Though some of the schools in the state are rotting away, the administration says they are pressing on with their: Free and compulsory basic education in public schools; recruitment of 4,761 quality teachers; and provision of safe, and conducive learning environment for our pupils and students.
Contrary to the appalling huts that dot some of the rural areas as schools, the government is maintaining that Akwa Ibom pupils and students are studying under the most welcoming of surroundings, and that plans are underway by the Inter-Ministerial and Direct Labour Committee to refurbish and refit a few buildings, which are not in an acceptable state. ‘’We have taken over seven community secondary schools and turned them into model and modern schools, equipped with modern amenities; constructed and renovated 400 school blocks and we have undertaken 700 intervention projects’’, Udom said.
In the same spirit, the administration is undertaking what they described as ‘’strategic interventions’’ in tertiary institutions – roads, equipment, academic blocks, etc. In line with their populist quest, they have procured and distributed free text books and other educational materials, paid subventions to public primary and secondary schools, paid over N600 million WAEC fees for their children in public secondary schools annually, upgraded the state College of Arts & Science, Nung Ukim, in Ikono Local Government Area to a College of Science and Technology, and have provided ‘’significant support’’ for the establishment of the Nigerian Navy School in Oruk Anam Local Government Area as well as for the Army School in Etinan, Etinan Local Government Area.
Apparently determined not to leave the rural areas behind, the Udom administration has embarked on over 300 rural development projects across the state, over 400 Inter-Ministerial Rural Intervention projects spanning all the 31 local government areas; and rehabilitation/construction of over 500km of rural feeder roads on-going. According to the governor, ‘’there is no local government that we don’t have more than 10 on-going intervention projects in.We are touching the lives of our people, and improving the quality of their lives in keeping with our promise’’.
Driving home his philosophy of a healthy population as a productive population, the Udom administration has done, and still doing much job in the health sector of the state. Over 50 containers of state-of-the art medical equipment have been delivered and are currently being distributed to various hospitals. Construction and upgrading of secondary healthcare facilities across the state is on the burner. The General Hospital, Etinan, is being reconstructed and equipped. That of Ituk Mbang is also being reconstructed. The Ikono General hospital has been completely renovated and equipped with the first of its kind digital medical records facilities in the state.
The state is building what they termed the ‘’best’’ Trauma Centre in Nigeria in a joint effort with the American oil and gas major, Exxon Mobil. It is expected that this will come on stream in the next 18 months. Other on-going projects include the rehabilitation of Ikot Okoro General Hospital; Awa Cottage Hospital; relief for over 4,000 mal-nourished children; free screening and treatment of over 15,000 people for various eye diseases; training of 20 biomedical engineers; provision of residential quarters for 48 House Officers in the state hospitals and 50 in the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH); accreditation for Schools of Nursing, with 272 registered nurses; training and certification of 100 doctors and nurses in Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) with medical emergency experts from the USA; and procurement of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) and Electrocardiograph (ECG) Machines for use in emergency response currently fitted in all our ambulances.
The administration says they have trained over 20,000 youths in various skills and has undertaken the construction of 10 modern sports centres in the state. In collaboration with Exxon Mobil, they are building what they are expecting to be the best Faculty of Engineering at the University of Uyo, alongside a Skills Development Centre in Ikot Akata, in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area. The centre will train the needed manpower for the oil industry, and is affiliated to Akwa Ibom State University, Ikot Akpaden. To boost Udom’s reelection chances, the administration also gave a N2.00 billion interest free loan to small scale entrepreneurs and traders.
They successfully organised the first and the second Youth Sports Festival in the state. Under Udom, Akwa Ibom is boasting of being the Football Capital of Nigeria. This may be because they hosted the Super Eagles to become the first African team to qualify for Russia 2018 World Cup with a match still to be played. The state also appears to be the first in Nigeria to successfully host a reigning European Champion; Spanish La Liga powerhouse, Atheltico Madrid in a friendly football match against the Super Eagles in Uyo, the state capital. Akwa United equally won the Nigeria FA Cup twice in three years under Udom. Ibom Angels emerged runners up in the 2017 Nigeria Female FA Cup (The first time a female team from the state has ever qualified for the finals of a major national competition); Team Akwa Ibom finished second on the medal table at the 2017 National Sports Festival. The state received three Excellence Awards on Sports Development from the Federal Government. Ongoing is the renovation/reconstruction of Uyo, Ikot Ekpene, and Eket sports stadia and the promotion and sponsorship of four state football teams: Akwa United, Akwa Starlet, Ibom
Angels and Ibom Youth FC.
Apparently confident of massive electoral victory in 2019, Governor Udom said, ‘’we came prepared to win and not to make excuses. We came to secure our future based on the strength and promise of yesterday and the goodness of heart and ingenuity of our people. Together, we have won accolades and commendations even from leaders and institutions of the opposing political party, such as the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) who early this year, gave me the Integrity and National Service Award, right inside Aso Rock’’.