“Write the vision; make it plain upon tablets, so he may run that reads it” Habbakuk 2:2
I am not writing this piece as if I have any love whatever lost for the party in power in Akwa Ibom State today, by the inscrutable ways of God. I have often described myself as a zero-party democrat. I am not, and cannot be a card-carrying member of any political party. I only cherish the belief in effectual opposition as the palm oil with which the democracy yam is eaten (if I may parody Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart), as a minority in Eastern Nigeria of old who had been weaned in opposition.
I am writing this because somehow I have caught myself haunted by the unfortunate development in erstwhile Cross River State in 1983. That was the year in which my kinsman from Awa Iman Ibom, a consummate cerebral Nigerian of Ibibio extraction, Dr. Clement Nyong Isong (peace on his ashes) who, as Governor of Central Bank during the civil war, so husbanded the economy of the nation that Nigeria left a record of not borrowing to finance war of that magnitude, could not earn a second term as first Civilian Governor of Cross River State. It is a long story, but the short of it is that as a neophyte in politics Nigeria style, he could not survive the political tsunami that blew against him, and which had gathered right from his swearing-in as Governor.
Here is another kinsman from the same Awa Iman Ibom, Governor Udom Emmanuel. Whether anybody accepts it or not, the feeling among the generality of the people of the State is that he got foisted on the state through all subtle manoeuvres and chicanery by the ex-Governor, for obvious agenda that have already started playing out. The fact, however, is that Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel is Governor of Akwa Ibom State today. The INEC said so; the tribunal concurred, so did the Appeal Court and the apex Court of the land, the Supreme Court. What remains now is that he does himself good credit all round to show he was divinely mandated. All one can say is that so far, so good, but there is a Jordan ahead of him, which is second term and this is my concern as his God-brother and kinsman. And this is my motivation for writing this piece. Whether I love his party or leave it alone, my obsession is that there be no repeat of the unfortunate experience of 1983 in Cross River State aforestated. That singular misfortune was a telling slap on the Ibibio nation in Cross River State, though some prominent Ibibio also figured prominently in the saga of infamy. In God’s good way some of these Ibibio still living, have also tasted the hemlock that they helped brew in Cross River State. Affliction, as Governor Udom Emmanuel himself often says, must not arise a second time.
Furthermore, whether Governor Udom Emmanuel believes it or not, there has been palpable disenchantment among the people with the generality of the administration before his. Only those who profited directly or indirectly, vicariously, still sing resounding praise about it.
Because the people closest to him, except a few, are the same as called the shots in the previous administration, he may not be opportuned to accurately gauge the tempo of the people, the level of disenchantment with the past. Not that it has not left shouting infra- and superstructures to its memory, but these are not the sole parameters for judging governance. Human development, Roman Peace (Pax Romana), the general psyche of the people are also taken into account among other inalienable factors – the dessiderata.
Expressing his views about one of the most fancied projects of the past administration, the Tropicana Galleria, ensconced in a Banking District, ex-Governor Arc. (Obong) Victor Attah, had this to say: “History has records of leaders who have used architecture and other edifices in ways both subtle and grandiose to impress, glorify or intimidate, as an expression of ego or a bid for immortality. Nobody can deny that there is something ennobling about the Sphinxes and Pyramids of the Pharaohs, but can the same be said about Hitler’s Germania and his planned reconstruction of Berlin and other German cities; Stalins reconstruction of Moscow and other Russian towns, or Mussolini’s Rome and other Italian towns? History has not been kind to these despotic leaders who used architecture and other edifices purely for self-adulation and vainglory or as weapons of intimidation and as expressions of extreme egotism, emanating from dictatorial dementia”. These are the views of a man who had travelled virtually all over the world before he ever became governor.
Perhaps unknown to many, part of the widespread disenchantment with the immediate past administration of the state is the levity with which it treated its predecessor administration. Subtle ways were sought, if not to utterly discredit it, or show it off as the eight locust years of Akwa Ibom State; but to appropriate every dream of the past administration as the radical novelty of the succeeding administration. Of ready mention are the Akwa Ibom State University of Technology which had its scope, content and concepts completely altered to give the state another conventional university that we are having today.
The next is the Ibom Science Park that got premeditatedly, maliciously, vindictively, mischievously abandoned and tagged a failed project, whatever they meant by that. Another is Ibom International Airport which people are clamouring should be named after its dreamer and sod turner. Governor Udom Emmanuel first opened his mouth as Governor of the State with christening the Akwa Ibom International football stadium after its builder. I now wish to hitch my wagon on Ibom Science Park, from my gleanings from other sources.
A Washington Post Reporter on a visit to Akwa Ibom State, had written in that newspaper edition of July 27, 2006, that: “Out of all the possible choices on the continent, and largely due to the Science Park’s presence, Akwa Ibom State has been selected to lead all of Africa in cellular technology”.
My good friend, Editor–in–Chief of Insight newspaper and a lawyer, David Augustine, eloquently corroborated this view of the Washington Post Reporter in his brilliant article with the title: “Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg in Nigeria: Rueing Akwa Ibom Losses”, written in some local newspaper early September, 2016 as follows: “When former Governor Victor Attah conceived the idea of a Science Park, some people had no idea what it was all about. They never really cared to find out what the economic and social benefits of such a project holds for the State and her people. But as a visionary, Attah saw tomorrow and the incredible potentialities embedded in the project. He envisioned an idea based economy for the State, with an eye on the California model. He planned a purely technological university, after the success story of Stanford University in California, and a replication of that American state’s Silicon Valley in the form of the Science Park and his early interest in, and investment in ECONET Nigeria. He looked forward to the day the State would reap from the Indian experience in knowledge industry. The Science and Technology Ministry became a virile ministry and beehive of activities.
“But a king who knew not Joseph came. The lofty dreams and ideas made no sense…The Science Park was abandoned on the pretext that corruption runs deep in its veins. They said so much was paid out without commensurate work done. They didn’t really know what the components of the Park were and how it would work and how it was going to benefit the State, so they allowed it to die… If we had used one-twentieth of the amount of money wasted in the cinema project we frivolously call the Tropicana project, maybe, just maybe, Mark Zuckerberg (the facebook whiz kid who visited Nigeria recently) would be itching to visit Akwa Ibom State (to see Africa’s own equivalent of the American Silicon Valley). If we had just paid a little attention to building human capacity in the place of the so-called infrastructure, maybe, just maybe, we would be benefiting from the multiplier effect of the ideas industry”.
So copious a quote but not yet done. May I humbly suggest that the Governor’s image makers make this eloquent piece by David Augustine available to him.
Still on Ibom Science Park before I proceed to do justice to this title. Further gleaning led me to a piece that appeared on the Editorial page of Newslink edition of Monday 11th January, 2016, and contributed by one Margaret Edet. Said she: “ObongAttah in his wisdom knew too well that the key to prosperity in this digital age is technology. When our oil will be losing its value as it is reported recently, technology can be used to elevate the economic status of the State”.
I have, therefore, been reflecting with stunned amazement, how a Governor widely touted as “digital”could not see through the complementary role of a Science Park that drives digital technology, but rather abandoned the one already in the works and on signing off mocked it as a failed project.
Still from my gleanings, an Editorial in The Sensor edition of Wednesday April 13, 2016, with the title: “Revisiting Ibom Science Park”, stated; “AkwaIbom State was the first State in Nigeria to embrace ICT by establishing a full-fledged ministry to articulate policies toward the promotion of Science and Technology. The Ibom Science Park was the brain child of the former Governor of the State, Obong Victor Attah as a demonstration of his commitment to use ICT as a vehicle for rapid transformation of the State in all sectors. The Ibom Science Park was to serve as a platform for knowledge and wealth creation, Research and Development (R & D) and commercialization of research findings to boost the economy of the State and create employment for the people. Whatever were the reasons, Ibom Science Park could not be completed within the tenure of ObongAttah’sadministration even after more than ninety percent of the contract sum was said to have been paid to the contractor. Since then, Ibom Science Park has become a political project that has been used by successive administrations to castigate the initiator of the project… It is not in the interest of AkwaIbom to allow this visionary investment which serves as a bed rock for the future economic prosperity of the State to die because of political differences… We condemn continued abandonment of this viable venture in this age which Science and Technology are being used to develop and drive the economy of nations the world over…”
Once again, so long a quote but still remains to be quoted. Once again, I urge the image makers of the present Governor to draw his attention to the write-ups on the Ibom Science Park. The spontaneous overflow of animated concern from various quarters with the fate of this gold mine of a project which abandonment was purely as political vendetta and one of the bids to blur the government that conceived it from the purview of the people, should stir up the conscience of the incumbent administration to rise and do something without further prevarication.
The topic of this essay is “That APC May Not Take OverAkwaIbom State in 2019” which would consequently mean a loss of second term to my God-brother and kinsman, Gov. Udom Emmanuel, and a jinx.
Governor Udom Emmanuel can hit the bull’s eye, create a stunt with just a few things by which he can wend his way to the hearts of even the most disenchanted people, especially the aware and the knowledgable and launch himself on the sure way to second term. I am talking of what can be done right away since miracles, as the frstNtisong of AkwaEsopImaisong Ibibio, Sir Vincent Uwemedimo (peace on his ashes) used to say, will take a little longer.
Whatever Aristotle, the great teacher taught Alexander, the times and circumstances have since changed and no two days are the same. Alexander needs to carve his own niche after his own fashion to place himself on song, just as the great teacher Aristotle has done.
In the first stanza of this piece I alluded to the palpable disenchantment among the people with the immediate past government of the State. When people therefore urge Governor Udom Emmanuel to rid himself of Akpabiosm in all its tainted breath, they are certainly not prompting him to a fight with his predecessor, since it has been said that when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. What the people had been and are still looking forward to is a new song with fresh lyrics not a new tune; a new play, not a new plot.
In spite of the depression that has grown into recession, which the Buhari administration merely inherited, there are visible developments that have gladdened the hearts of many in AkwaIbom State. However some people may try to look askance at themfor self consolation, the three strategic APC federal government appointments from this State which glorifies itself as “PDP State” have made a real impact on the psyche of the people. Going by precedents, yesterday all the appointments would have gone to people, not even from the Senatorial District of the Governor, with two aboriginal Ibibio Local Government Areas of IkonoNdoIni, but from his own ethnic stock.There is no point listing those precedents for they were an open book.
Before 2019, the recession with which the Buhari administration has been ridiculed even by the very people whose omissions and commissions of the past have brought it about, will appreciably recede. Said the film narrator in an epic on the assassination of John F. Kennedy “you cannot end many years of lightning with a single day of drums.” The rulers of the land shall have outgrown the initial shock and put measures in place to cushion the recession. The people shall then witness a season of refreshing, shine their eyes to chart the way forward for themselves. The good times they had yearned for shall be around the bend. When this happens, those who are right now composing and rehearsing soap box oration based on recession as sub theme for 2018 – 2019 will think up something new to tell their campaign crowd. Make no mistake, election 2019 shall not be business as usual for the best kitted for war.
I would have preferred to steer clear of adverting to the whirl wind blowing through the Nigerian Judiciary, since found as one of the Augean Stables of the nation begging for cleansing. My heart is grieved however, that the only and second AkwaIbomJustice of the Supreme Court has been caught in the whirl wind. This is a sure pointer to the fact that no segment of the polity caught in infraction of the Law shall be spared from the positive wind of change that is blowing across the nation for only those who see to take off their shoes. I am also grieved that our dear ex-Governor and Senator has, through his aides perhaps, chosen to pick upthe gauntlet where silence would have been golden for now.
Let Governor Udom Emmanuel arise and start moves to first of all, name Ibom International Airport after its originator, Victor Attah, just as he hastened to name Ibom International football Stadium after its builder, GodswillAkpabio. Secondly, work should start vigorously on the abandoned Ibom Science Park now found would have served the State more than a thousand other infrastructures. He should do a few more visible things that will gladden the hearts of the people and let them forget the past, that APC may not take over AkwaIbom State in 2019. These are the words of a chronological Elder.
* Eno Ikpe wrote in from Etinan. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org, 08023560727