“True Heroes are those that go that extra mile for someone; that put their heart and soul in helping others. They have a heart of gold”. Anonymous
It is true that the State Executive Council of Akwa Ibom State has been dissolved few weeks back but the successes and failures of former council members have remained a topical issue on the front burner of the media especially on the social media platform. All manner of articles and posts have been churned out in a bid to appreciate commissioners that did well and those that failed to live up to expectation. I have even seen permutations on which commissioner will be re-appointed and those to be given red card. Suffice to say that all these are good as they may or may not form part of decision making process on who the governor will choose at the end of the day. If performance is anything to go by, then commissioners who did well will be asked to return to their positions. Well that is for the state governor to decide. One Public Servant whose presence in the State Executive Council has been eventful is Prince Godwin Ntuk Udeh, PhD, the immediate past Transport Commissioner. He stands out as a hero in the transport sector of the state having gone the extra mile in popularizing the Ministry, adding value to what he met on ground and ensuring that there is sanity in that sector. For me he came, saw, served the state with a heart of gold and left it better.
Let me say that the essence of government is to service the welfare of the people. It therefore follows that anybody who takes up an elective or appointive position in government must work to attain the mandate of ensuring that the peoples’ welfare is adequately catered for. I am not oblivious of the fact that there are persons who accept appointments or elective posts to enrich themselves or line their pockets. As a renowned entrepreneur in the furniture industry, the first international President of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, one-time Special Adviser in charge of Political and Legislative Affairs Bureau and a two-term transport Commissioner and one who fully understands the nuances of governance, Udeh fully understands the essence of government and has contributed his quota to the Akwa Ibom project by leaving a lasting legacy. Mahatma Gandhi exemplified the god-heartedness of Ntuk Udeh when he opined that, “There can be no higher religion than service” all the offices he has occupied; it has been service, service and service.
As President of Mboho, we saw selfless service in action. All the things he did were geared towards empowering the people. For example, he set up micro credit scheme for Mboho members, expanded the structure and chapters of the body even outside the shores of Nigeria. To promote education and discourage the scourge of house boys and girls syndrome, he not only established Mboho unity schools, but built structures, provided amenities such as borehole, school buses and other facilities free of charge. Thus, Udeh was among the first individuals to champion and support free education in the state before it became an official government policy. He would always stands on the path of truth and was always on the vanguard of promoting worthy course of the society. He was one who looked the other way or fiddled while Rome is burning. He will proffer solutions and nip problems in the bud before they occur. That was why through Mboho, Udeh would question the rationale behind certain government policies and scrutinize persons who stood for elections or were to be given appointments in a bid to ensure that only credible persons were selected.
Politically, Prince Udeh has left no one in doubt that he is not just grounded in it but knows how to play the game according to the rules. As the helmsman in charge of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, he judiciously used the platform to project the cause of the Akwa Ibom people even at the national level of National Assembly where he championed the resource control issue. For equity and fairness, Udeh was among those who pleaded with other zones of the state to allow Eket Senatorial District produce the next governor. He visited all radio and TV stations in Akwa Ibom and used every available public platform to market the credentials of Udom also known as Mr. Right. Between 2002 and 2013, he was always speaking for others, not about himself. There are elective and appointive office holders both past and present who owe such elevation to the large-heartedness of Ntuk Udeh. He never holds back his support from such persons for he fully understands the law of loyalty. If he has an opportunity to speak on somebody’s behalf, he does so without qualms. One thing we need to know is that the charities of life are scattered everywhere, enameling the values of human beings as the flower paints the meadows. They are not the fruit of study, nor the privilege of refinement, but a natural instinct. For there is scarcely a man who is not conscious of the benefits, which his own mind has received from the performance of single act of charity.
On the home front, he has assisted tremendously in attracting well meaning projects to Uruan. He was instrumental to the creation of additional clan for Uruan. He has always ensured fair play in the distribution of amenities and political offices in Uruan. During the last Peoples Democratic Party State Congress, he ensured that party offices were evenly distributed among the 11 wards of Uruan and that the people chose their leaders. Also, during the constitution of the Caretaker Committee for Local Governments in the State, Udeh made the voice of the people count by ensuring that those chosen were from the people thus giving them a sense of belonging and participation. He has organized free medical outreach for his people and provided scholarship for indigent students and job opportunities for graduates. He has allowed his munificence spread across the nook and cranny of Uruan. When inter-ministerial projects were distributed to local government areas of the state, Ntuk Udeh teamed up with other leaders of Uruan and ensured that beneficiaries were those who were not salary earners or on government payroll. This was not the case in other local governments as political leaders feasted on the largesse without recourse to others. All he wants is the greatest good for the greatest number of people as propounded by Geremy Bentham in his Utilitarian theory.
Prince Udeh contributed selflessly to the defeat of the opposition in a Local Government that was hitherto termed opposition area. He championed the ideals of Udom Emmanuel and sold his candidature to the world by showing loyalty, dedication, selflessness, commitment, diligence, dexterity and sagacity. He was called all sorts of names as local media was awash with all manner of insults on him. Udeh was even caricatured with a goat bearing the inscription NTUKUDEH RIP during the 2015 general elections. He was accused of committing all manner of electoral offences but that did not deter him from delivering Uruan to PDP. He sponsored the formation of Five over Five Projects just to ensure that nothing was left to chance. Of course PDP won overwhelmingly in Uruan and for the first time, Uruan joined mainstream politics. So for the first time since 1999, Prince Udeh teamed up with others to vote massively for a ruling party. Today, the area is massively enjoying government patronage. He did his best to bring into one indivisible fold dissenting voices.
You cannot judge a man by the clothing he wears or the way he looks! You have to look deeper in the book, for all you know he may have a heart of gold and a good soul. I have worked closely with him for 14 years and I see his passion for the state grow by the day. He spends his time thinking of what he would do to make the state better. Knowing that governance is about placing service before self, Ntuk Udeh propounded a leadership theory called Leadership Theory of Waste Basket. The Leadership theory of Wastebasket posits that true leadership represents most of the time pains, stress, agony, selflessness, giving up of all for the sake of the people and having little or no time for yourself. This has been exhibited in Ntuk Udeh’s life who does not seek for benefits or gains but what it can offer or contribute to make life meaningful and society better. Udeh does not seek to amass wealth or siphon public funds but tries to create wealth and empower his followers to economically independent.
The reforms introduced by Ntuk Udeh and innovations employed no doubt has brought sanity to our roads in terms of orderliness and the guarantee of the safety of lives on our roads. His resolve to make the transport sector a model is hinged on two reasons why society concerns themselves managing road traffic and the entire transport sector. They include to ensure orderliness on our roads and to prevent all preventable loss of lives. It therefore follows that any society that neglects this important sector does so at its perils. No one believed Udeh would spring such feat given the fact that we have had 3 other commissioners there. Perhaps no one believed he was armed with such far-reaching reform strategies that made the sector blossom.
Prince Udeh did not need a magic wand but a good head and he possesses one. Of course having been a taxi driver himself, he understands the workings of the transport sector. He talks forcefully and does the needful in the same manner. He knows that sometimes changing an old order would require inflicting a little pain and he does that tactically; explaining at every step what stakeholders might need to sacrifice in order to get things straightened up. One recalls how he daily goes to the road to dialogue with keke operators in order to acquaint themselves with the changes to come. He applied words and persuasions as major ingredients in managing human beings. His selflessness was brought to bear during the relocation of illegal motor parks, distribution of 70 buses donated by the former government of Chief Akpabio and the reduction of keke road tax. As a typical Nigerian politician, one would have thought he would connive with operators to stall government policies; but he ensured that the right thing was done not minding whose ox was gored. He operated an open door policy and gave every stakeholder a sense of belonging including the Ndito Edidianso who were productively engaged by Ntuk Udeh thus bringing the rate of crime and other social vices to a modicum. This must have accounted for the relative peace experienced in the sector throughout his stay as Commissioner. The sector that is reputed for constant conflagration became peaceful even till date because of the human-centred policies Udeh put in place. For me one of Udeh’s greatest legacies is perhaps the bill for a law to establish Akwa Ibom State Road Traffic Management Authority. This and others are what he has bequeathed to Akwa Ibom people which if well managed will present a new model for transport sector management in Nigeria.
Prince Ntuk Udeh may have made mistakes here and there. Truth is he not infallible as we are all mortals replete with human frailty. Those who criticize him do so out of ignorance or the usual Pull-Him-Down Syndrome which has characterized politics of late. This is expected especially coming from the background of performance. If he were not a performer, nobody would dare look his way. Because he is on top of his job, he has given critics a run for their money. While he is being criticized, vilified and called all sort of names, his good works has not go unnoticed both within and outside the state as he was variously honoured. In 2014 for instance, Senator Godswill Akpabio, the immediate past Governor of the state personally recommended Prince Udeh for an Award as the Most Outstanding State Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State by the House of Representative Committee on Inter-governmental Affairs. This recommendation did not come on a platter but based on superlative performance and result-oriented service to the people of Akwa Ibom State.
Truth be told, Udeh is not only popular but he gives popularity to whatever he touches. Even in dead and moribund environment, Udeh will perform wonders and bring such places to life. Take a trip to Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, One for Eight Initiative Bureau of Political and Legislative Affairs and Transport Ministry. That is why all the organizations and public institutions he has been privileged to head have all experienced change. In all these places, he has established solid reputation as an inspiring teacher, distinguished and prolific scholar, proactive administrator and institution builder. He was able translate and implement the transport policy of the Udom-led government and created a congenial environment for travelers and tourists in the state.
It was the late Steve Jobs who said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michel Angelo painted, Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say here lived a great sweeper who did his job well”. Ntuk Udeh has not only done well but has left a lasting legacy on the sands of time such that people begin to wonder if we could ever have a Commissioner like him. His meaning of excellence is simply that whatever he tries to do in life, he tries it with all his heart to do well; that whatever he devotes himself to do, he completely gives himself to it; that in great aims and in small, he has always been thoroughly earnest. If public servants, political leaders and opinion molders will learn to display dexterity, ingenuity, innovativeness, strength of character and thinking out of the box, Nigeria will be a better place for all of us. Akwa Ibom State needs more of Udeh’s type. There is more to come from Prince Godwin Udeh, the man with a heart of gold.
Ka Chineke Mezie Okwu. Let God be the Judge.
* Deacon Aluu Vincent, an HR/Media Consultant writes from Uyo. firstname.lastname@example.org 08036688375