By Dominic Effiong
In 2014, as the administration of Governor Godswil Akpabio was gradually winding down, pundits were concerned about the quality of successor that will replace the “uncommon transformer” in the Hilltop Mansion. The concerns were borne out of the need to have a successor whose interest would be to consolidate on the gains of the incumbent, and not one who would attempt to outdo his predecessor. Anyone familiar with the Nigerian politics of “political performance” can tell you for free, that once some incumbent political office holders take the reins of power, the rat race to outdo their predecessors commence. On the surface, it may look like the ultimate beneficiary of this unfair rivalry would be the citizens, but a closer look beyond the periphery reveals these efforts to be self-serving, wasteful and ultimately anti-people. The result, for instance, is often seen in decayed infrastructures, left to rot away because maintaining same will amount to servicing a predecessor’s legacy which ultimately attract little or no accolades and praise-singing to the incumbent.
And so, when Udom Emmanuel emerged as the state’s Chief Executive, many looked on to see, if he would tow the lines of some self- serving politicians in the country. In his case, the collateral damage would have been massive. The Akpabio Administration had left a number of projects uncompleted, while some were also at the various stages of completion.
A self-serving Udom Emmanuel would have been catastrophic not just to the state, but indeed to the country. For instance, the Godswil Akpabio international stadium, currently adjudged to be the best in the country is still in a pristine state, owing to prompt maintenance efforts by the Udom administration. Suffice it to say, that a self-serving politician would have easily channeled the huge funds invested in either maintaining these projects or continuing old ones to do what many term as “legacy projects”. This would help the politician to score cheap political points, but would ultimately trash all the collective efforts advanced by previous administrations.
Enter 2023: perhaps more than ever needed, Akwa Ibom State requires a successor to the incumbent who will not be the typical Nigerian politician. Emmanuel has committed huge state resources to his signature “Industrialization drive”. Whether it’s in outright state owned enterprises like the Ibom Air, Ibom Cottage Industries or the numerous PPP modeled industries littered around the state, Akwa Ibom State has parted ways with huge funds. The next occupant of the hilltop mansion, must therefore be one who understands the import of these investments and is ready to nurture them to profit point. Also, futuristic projects like the Ibom Industrial City, which houses what will be Nigeria’s most innovative seaport – the Ibom deep seaport, must neither be compromised nor politicized. Akwa Ibom’s next Governor must therefore be one who has experience in nurturing nascent projects to maturity, who has the capacity and right connect to attract and sustain investments in key sectors that will guarantee massive employments while and ultimately the prosperity of Akwa Ibomites.
A perusal of the list of aspirants who are either rumoured to be interested or have indicated outright interest in contesting for the state’s top job is reflective of the massive reserve of human resources that Akwa Ibom State boasts of. Almost everyone in this imminent “class of 2023” is worth the hype. From seasoned politicians to topnotch industry bigwigs, the race ahead looks interesting. However, against the backdrop of consolidating the gains recorded in Udom’s Industrialization drive, in practical concrete terms, pundits opine that the CEO of Desicon Ltd, Mr Akanimo Udofia is our best bet. Udofia, a seasoned businessman, is reputed to have a penchant for excellence, creativity and style. Having taken Desicon, a company inherited from his father from humble beginnings to being an industry giant, providing employment for about 5000 persons, Udofia is no stranger to consolidation. He would rather work in the background and achieve success, than take credits for futile braggadocio. Many believe that Udofia’s business connect garnered over several years of international trade and transactions will prove useful in sustaining the Udom Emmanuel’s industrialization tempo, while forging new paths with the Ibom Industrial City, Ibom Deep Seaport, and other huge investments.
2023 will not just be an election year. 2023 will prove to be the turning point year. The year where Akwa Ibom will either evolve to becoming an industrial powerhouse in the country or plunge disastrously as a highly polarized and wasteful entity. This makes the choice before Akwa Ibomites, a critical one. Without any doubts, Akwa Ibom electorate who are known to be some of the smartest in the country will go for a man who represents prosperity and affluence – Akanimo Udofia.
* Effiong, a public affairs commentator, lives in Uyo.