It is my honour and pleasure to welcome you all to our dear State; the only State that is named after God, and where the Right Hand of God has been piloting its affairs, delivering impactful democratic dividends and rousing the people to ‘Dakkada” and claim the faith of its greatness.
I want to thank the organizers of this event, for selecting our beautiful and serene city of Uyo as the venue for this interaction for the South-South zone, and I want to state here that you made the right choice. We are known for our hospitality, our rich and varied cuisine, the world class infrastructure and I hope that after this interaction, you will find time to explore the city and take in its sights and sound.
The Town Hall meeting you are having here today is a hugely important task. When the people are regularly engaged and their inputs on the mechanics of governance sought, challenges explained and solutions proffered, apathy and alienation are eliminated and the net gain is that the populace becomes better informed about the workings and direction of governance and, this may help steer them to have a more optimistic view of their government and its capacity to meet their expectations and hopes. This what democracy – being the government where the interests and desires of the people trump all other impulses is all about and, I want to commend you again for this great initiative.
Our Nation is going through a phase that most developed nations had experienced in the course of their nation–building efforts, but the challenge or the question is: can we rise to the challenge and seek solutions outside of the boundaries of conventional wisdom? Can we tackle the problems facing us, through different schemas?
America which our system of government drew its inspiration and foundational ethos went through challenging economic times severally- the most profound, being the Great Depression of 1929. From a beaten and economically forlorn population that had started to question the sanctity and workability of the twin defining ideology of democracy and capitalism, President Franklin Roosevelt injected several doses of confidence into the weary nation through a popular radio program he christened “Fireside chats”.
Regularly, President Roosevelt kept the populace informed about what he was doing to restore the sheen and the shine of democracy and capitalism, his New Deal programs and the many other innovative and creative approaches he had put in place to put people back to work, and by 1945, America did not only come out of the Great Depression, the nation, had become the sole hegemonic power of the world and has never looked back ever since.
Nigeria will come out of its current economic challenges better and bigger and like President Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chat,” this Town Hall style meeting will help engender a new thinking and deeper sense of faith in the capacity of government to meet the expectations of the people. Our democracy is working, the Nigerian people have since internalized the culture and values of a democratic society; they have shown patience and an abiding faith in its processes and in spite of the lean times, they have remained upbeat about the possibilities that lie ahead. We must continue to engage them, and thank God, you are doing just that, with this initiative.
Here in Akwa Ibom State, in spite of the paucity of funds, in spite of the dwindling resources, we have kept our eye on the ball, and have endeavoured to fulfill our obligations to our people. My campaign platform was predicated on a bold Five-Point Agenda of: Wealth Creation, Economic and Political Inclusion, Poverty Alleviation, Infrastructural Consolidation and Expansion and Job creation. So far, we have applied the lean resources available to us to fulfill our campaign promises. My major preoccupation is to rapidly industrialize this State and to wean our people off from over-dependence on government as the only means of self-actualization.
Within our first weeks in office, I set up the Technical Committees on Foreign Direct Investment and that of Agriculture and Food Sufficiency as well as that of the Realization of Ibom Deep Seaport to free us from bureaucratic bottlenecks that most times grind the processes of governance and its capacity to deliver in real time some of its obligations to the people, and so far, the results have been outstanding.
We have flagged–off numerous industries such as the Automobile Assembly Plant in Itu, the LED industry in Itam, the Metering industry in Onna, the Coco-nut plantation and refinery in Mkpat-Enin, Ikot Abasi and Eastern Obolo axis, the ground-breaking for Petrochemical/Jetty project in Ibeno. So far, work is on-going on the construction of over 200 kilometres of roads, 15 bridges across the three Senatorial Districts. Communities that were once cut off have been opened up and their economic circumstance enhanced. Work on the Second Runway at the Ibom International Airport is moving fast, and electricity supply has improved significantly and communities that did not enjoy electricity for decades now experience an average of 18 hours of constant electricity.
We have launched a moral and attitudinal rebirth predicated on the principles enunciated in the “Dakkada Creed”. My belief is that when the passion is right; when they people have faith in their ability and innate gifts to excel, when their aspirational platform has been re-engineered and wired to the impulse of success, the sky is the limit for such individuals.
We have roused our youths to look into themselves and rise up to claim the faith of greatness; we have imbued in them the need and desire to look for ways to create wealth and to go out and earn a living instead of begging for a living, and they have all risen up in critical mass and have started living up to these expectations. You needed to have seen the creative application of their talents and skills during the last Akwa Ibom Employment and Enterprise Scheme (AKEES) exhibition to see that the people have truly risen.
Our civil servants receive their salaries regularly and within the first three months of this administration, we were able to pay a ten year backlog of gratuities to local government workers and teachers. We have made significant intervention on a number of Federal roads and other infrastructures. Calabar-Itu Road, the only major road that links Cross River State and Akwa Ibom was almost cut off by gulley erosion. We intervened and the menace of erosion was checked at least temporarily.
Tried as we have, to keep our campaign promises, we still need the assistance from the Federal Government and I am sure this august body will take home our needs to the President.
Erosion is a major problem in this State, and as I had stated, we have made some significant interventions but we still need the Federal Government to come to our assistance in checking this menace. Calabar- Itu Road, Uyo-Ndon-Ebon road, a large patch of land at the Anua Hospital may cave into the ravine, and even though we have also intervened here, but we need permanent solution and that, can only come from the Federal Government through Ecological Funds.
Our environment has also been polluted and we need government to do some clean-up exercise as was recently done in Ogoniland. I am glad the Honourable Minister of Environment, Hajia Amina Mohammed is a member of this entourage.
Akwa Ibom State lacks Federal presence, and this cannot continue and should not. The East-West road is yet to be completed and other Federal roads suffer extensive neglect. We have intervened over the years to fix some Federal roads in this State and we are being owed billons of naira and we appeal to the Honourable Minister of Works, Housing and Power, His Excellency, Mr. Babatunde Fashola to help us in this regard.
Akwa Ibom is the leading oil producing State in the nation, yet we don’t have a depot in this State. We have to travel to Port Harcourt and Calabar respectively to load petroleum products and this has caused hardship to our people. I hope the Honourable Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, my good friend and Brother, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu will look into this and help us.
I wish to commend the Minister of Transport and Aviation, His Excellency, the Rt. Honourable Chibuike Amaechi for ensuring that the Maritime Academy in Oron, remains a degree awarding institution. I urge the members of the National Assembly to expedite the process towards providing the right status to the Academy. Our commitment to the realization of the Ibom Deep Seaport project remains an abiding engagement, and I am sure the Honourable Minister will assist us, in the realization of this key project
Government must do all it can to engage and dialogue with the militants in the Niger Delta as our economy is based on the resources accruable from the region. I am glad to observe that the Honourable Minister for Niger Delta, Pastor Usani Uguru, himself a son of the zone is a part of this team. Government must look into the underlying issues and address them, in consultations with the stakeholders of the area, and as I pointed our earlier, the clean-up exercise in Ogoni land is a step in the right direction.
Let me specifically thank our son of the soil, the one-time Distinguished Senator that had represented my District—Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District in the Senate of the Federal Republic, Distinguished Senator Udoma-Udo Udoma for the outstanding service he has provided his fatherland.
Finally, I pray and hope that you will have a successful Town Hall Meeting here and that this unique platform will be sustained. We are a great and industrious people, joined together by shared destiny and hopes for a greater and more prosperous, inclusive and equitable nation, and together, with our hands joined in a symphony of love and unity, we shall get there.
Thank you and God bless Nigeria, God bless Akwa Ibom State, and God bless us all.
* Being text of a speech by the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel during the Town Hall Meeting (South-South Zone) hosted by the honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed at Le Meridien Ibom Hotels and Golf Resort, Uyo, June 13, 2016