Akwa Ibom: Forward ever backward Never- Governor Udom Emmanuel
My fellowAkwa Ibomites
Six yearsago, under the inviting ambience of the clear skies of our beautiful City of Uyo, and enveloped in love and gratitude to God and to you my dear people, I took the Oath of Office to serve you to the best of my ability.
I recall that, shortly after I was sworn in, the first major act I performed was to go down on my knees and make supplications to the Lord. As I prayed for the sanctification of the Land, I asked God to show us His mercies, to heal our land and restore unto us, the joy of His salvation. I told him we were in a hurry to industrialize our Land and change the narratives of development and growth from being a purely Civil Service State to an industrialized entity.
I beseeched God Almighty to deepen our cords of unity and love; to keep the Akwa Ibom spirit alive and make it soar to greater heights, because this Land belongs to Him and whatever and whoever belongs to the Lord will, and cannot not suffer attrition.
Today, six years later, despite the challenges we have faced in the course of governance, two major recessions, a dip in oil prices and a pandemic of historic proportions, I make bold to say that across sectors and all layers of the developmental paradigm, we have done exceedingly well. God has been faithful and to Him ALONE we give thanks.
As I speak about our score card, let me again use this moment to make a few remarks about an issue that seems to have driven everyone in this State to a near frenzy: The issue of my successor.
In the last six years, our State has become the fountain of peace and sustainable development. Today, the colours of Akwa Ibom State adorn the Nigerian aviation space with our Ibom Air.
Today, one of the most sturdy and intelligent buildings on this side of the Atlantic , the 21-Storey “Dakkada Tower” stands as a testament to our increasing profile as a fast industrializing State. As I speak, we have attracted over 20 industries with enduring economic benefits alongside other legacy projects to this State. We attracted all these industries at a time Foreign Direct Investments have been difficult to attract, which means we are doing the right things here. We have imbued in our youths the spirit of entrepreneurship and the need to positively dream and dare, necessitated by our Dakkada philosophy.
We have tackled our healthcare delivery services and shown that when funds are strategically utilized, great results can be achieved. Our people today consume the staple food items we produce here. We have declared an emergency on our education sector and are poised to shape the leaders of tomorrow with the necessary
skills-set to compete in the market place of ideas needed to succeed in the 21st Century globalized world.
Throughout the State, economically viable road networks are being constructed, a lot have already been commissioned and more will be commissioned in the months ahead. Our investments in social infrastructure, women empowerment, trainings and the deepening of the fountains of knowledge and skills of our workforce remain sacrosanct.
The tone and tenor of governance has changed from an all-knowing, all hectoring potentate to one based on humility in strength and Christ-centric disposition in execution and direction.
Let me now ask you my dear Akwaibomites: Do you want a successor who will cancel out all the great strides in industrialization we have started? The peace we currently enjoy and return us to the years when violence and kidnapping reigned and sowed fear in the hearts and minds of the people? Do you want a successor who will come with anger towards all we have done, as opposed to continuing with the great works we have started? Do you want a leader whose approach to testing his popularity would be to drive in a long convoy to “Ibom Plaza” and throw money at the hapless people, watching them scramble for the money and the people would say that’s “Ano owo Mkpo”! Is that the kind of a successor you want? Is that the kind of empowerment our people deserve? Someone who will bring out the worst in our youths rather than challenge them to seize the future and unleash their potentials? Do you want a successor who will relegate God to the background and assume an all-knowing power? Or do you desire a successor with a known e-mail address that the International business community recognises? Do you want a leader who will fritter away our commonwealth in search of cheap popularity or one who would utilize the resources and continue investing in projects with enduring value? Do you want a successor who would see Government as a cabal where our commonwealth would be shared among a privileged few or do you desire a leader who would continue to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of our people, a successor who understands the economic dynamics that shape our globalized space and would utilize those skills to advance our well-being? These are questions you have to provide answers, and the answers you provide would determine the type of a successor you deserve.
But let me state here that the Old Testament in Isaiah 43:16 aptly captures what we started in May 2015 and the direction of where we should be heading.
Using the New Living Translation, it says ”Behold, I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create a river in the dry wasteland”
Fellow Akwa Ibomites, God has started doing a new thing in our State. He has already made a pathway through the wilderness and has already created rivers in the dry land, and mark my words, we will not return to the type of leadership that is big on noise and small in the execution of the big picture items. We will never go backward on the peace in our land, the steady and focused developments we have started. The line in our State anthem has made this faith manifestly clear: Forward ever and backward never!
So my dear Akwa Ibomites, if what you are desiring is a successor who will not have the capacity and the discipline to build a State where you and your children will live in peace and strive to excel, if you are desiring a successor who will turn back the clock of our developmental strides, if you are desiring a successor who will bring out the worst in our youths as opposed to galvanizing their energies and challenging them to be the best they can be, if you are desiring a leader who would not efficiently utilize the resources of this State on projects that have redeeming value then I am sorry to disappoint you, God will not give us such a successor.
We have gone too far ahead to retreat backward. So as you are engaging in prognostications, creating camps of loyalty and getting consumed by who you think my successor would be, always bear these thoughts in your mind. God is doing great things in our State and that invisible Hands will continue to steer the ship of this State and will not bring anyone who will negate our gains.
I do not intend to use this speech to reel off our score card, as doing so would take hundreds of pages to distil and collate. But let me repeat the title of this speech – ‘God is doing a new thing in Akwa Ibom State’, and here’s why: Recently a journalist asked me how I would score the Five Point Agenda which was the governing philosophy of our First Term in Office. I recall telling the journalist that without sounding boastful, that I will score us 85 percent, given the challenging economic conditions that greeted us in 2015 when we first came in.
In the critical areas of agriculture, I have kept our promise to ensure that we produce enough food at affordable prices to feed our people. You will recall that one of the first ever tasks I performed was the inauguration of the Technical Committee on Agriculture and Food Sufficiency. My desire in doing so was predicated on my long-held belief that a society that cannot feed its people loses the crucial bond of the Social Contract.
Today, our investments in agriculture have borne incredible fruits. Our staple food items such as garri, rice, yam etc are produced mostly by our people here. From the rice mill in Ini Local Government Area, to the numerous garri processing mills scattered all over the three senatorial districts, to our low interest loans given to farmers, to the cassava plantation through the FADAMA 3 scheme, we are working to ensure that our people have enough food to eat at quite affordable prices.
Our investments in this critical sector goes beyond making food available for all, we are also leveraging in on our comparative advantage in agriculture through the establishment of a fully functional Directorate of Agriculture and Agro-Allied Investments.
Our passionate dedication to this sector came in handy during the lockdown last year occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic when our food reserves were given to our people as palliatives. Imagine where we would have been, if we were not proactive especially when movements were restricted nationwide. Before now, most people thought we couldn’t produce such essential items as tomatoes or onions, but today, most of the tomatoes and onions we consume are produced here. Our investments in Green House technology has made this possible, again reemphasizing the point that once there is a will there must be a way!
In healthcare delivery services, I make bold to say unequivocally that we have done extremely well. When we came in, most of the general hospitals were derelict and I recall with horror when one of my aides told me of an inspection he made at a general hospital and was told that patients and hospital staff were battling snakes and other reptiles every day. Today, because of our belief that a healthy population is a good measurement range of a working Government, we have refurbished, remodelled and equipped with the most modern amenities the general hospitals in all the Ten Federal constituencies. The ones in Ikot Abasi and Ikot Ekpene respectively are scheduled to be commissioned soon. From Etinan General Hospital, to the one in Iquita, Oron, to Ikot Okoro, to Ituk Mbang, to Awa, to Emmanuel Hospital, these general hospitals today can compete favourably and be compared with any such facility anywhere in the world.
We have equally equipped the Ibom Specialist Hospital with the most modern medical facilities compete with an ICU and these huge investments came in handy during the challenging months of the Covid-19 pandemic as the highly trained medical professionals performed exceedingly well to stem the spread of the deadly virus.
We had, also in the course of the pandemic performed what has been generally described as the ‘Miracle of Ituk Mbang’, when we constructed and commissioned in a record time the 300 –bed Infectious Diseases Control Centre equipped with one of the best PCR laboratories and an 18-bed ICU and HDU centres. Later today, I will commission the Medical Gas and Vacuum Plant, with the capacity to supply one thousand beds with oxygen and perform suction functions for one thousand patients at the same time. This facility I must add, is the largest in size in the nation as at today. A few days ago, we performed a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of Akwa Ibom State University Teaching Hospital in collaboration with ASR an BUA Group of Companies. Our medical professionals are scheduled on regular trainings to bring them at par with modern approaches in health care management.
Concerning education, we have taken a hard look at this very important sector and convinced that a lot must be done to prepare our children for the 21st Century market place of ideas and stiff competition, decided to rejig our curriculum and align it more with science and technology which are the pathways for the future. Seizing on the recommendations of the first ever Education Summit we held in 2020, and the recommendations of the Education – tank headed by one of our nationally and internationally celebrated sons, Professor Hilary Inyang, we have rightfully declared an emergency on our education sector.
As you may have seen, we have deployed huge resources to this sector. Brand new school blocks with the most modern science laboratories have been commissioned through the Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee. In the last three weeks, we have commissioned these facilities across the three senatorial districts.
We are in the process of completing the recruitment exercise for one thousand new teachers and another one thousand through SUBEB, bringing to two thousand, the new teachers we are adding to the system. Above all, I have directed that majority of the Youth Corpers posted to this State be made to teach in our schools. We are constantly training and retraining our teachers so they would be up to par with the modern teaching tools available.
I have always said that I am a product of public education, and the foundations they provided helped push me to seeking greater heights in my career and further intellectual and professional developments at some Ivy League colleges scattered all over the world and therefore, I will not rest until our children also are exposed to such opportunities. We are doing all we can to ensure that our children study and acquire knowledge in the best possible environment we can provide.
The central focus of our initial Five Point Agenda which we have now condensed into the 8 Point Agenda, was to rapidly industrialize this State and change our narrative as a purely civil service orientated State to an industrializing one with robust manufacturing base. I think, again, without sounding boastful, we have delivered huge gains in this area.
Through the contacts we had established in our prior careers in the private sector, both local and international, and through the highly commendable efforts of the Technical Committee on Foreign Direct Investments which I had set up shortly after I was sworn in, in 2015, we have attracted to this State, over twenty economically viable and employment – generating Industries. Today, our State boasts of the largest syringes manufacturing company in our Sub-Continent. We no longer import in wholesale fashion from China the syringes used in our hospitals. In fact, most of the hospitals in Nigeria now use the syringes made from our State. To me, and all of us, this is gladdening, and a total break from the past.
Early last week, I went on an inspection of our Coconut Virgin Oil Refinery and I recall being asked by a prominent national journalist how I was able to conceptualize such a huge project. I told him ideas and careful planning today rules the world. The coconut refinery which is almost at the final stages of completion will provide one thousand instant jobs for our youths and another one thousand at the coconut planation and the associated value chains. God is indeed doing new things in this State.
Today, our State boasts of the first digitalized flour mill which produces the flour we need for our confectioneries industry. Several hundreds of our youths too have been employed along with other ancillary gains.
The meters that electricity consumers use in accurately billing their consumption of electricity is also produced in our State and several hundreds of jobs have also been created, same with the plywood manufacturing company.
Last week, we had signed the MoU for the commencement of the Liberty Oil and Gas Free Zone, having previously received all the approvals from the Federal Government. Once this project comes on stream, thousands of our people would be gainfully employed.
You will recall that the Federal Executive Council under the leadership of our President, Muhammad Buhari (GCFR) had finally given the approvals for the commencement of work on our long desired Ibom deep Seaport project. We thank God that it was under this administration that this huge project of deep economic benefits would be realized. This project will generate hundreds of thousands of jobs for our people and other wealth-creating opportunities. The Ground breaking ceremony for the construction of Sterling petrochemicals and Fertilizer production factory was performed a few days ago, in Eastern Obolo. Again, this is another huge employment-generating project we have attracted to the State.
Early this year, we attracted one of the most significant foreign investments yet, the $1.4 billion Ammonia and Fertilizer plant and subsequently signed an MoU with our Moroccan counterparts. The ground-breaking ceremony of this huge project will be performed soon by President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR). This gigantic project will again provide thousands of job for our people.
We have several industrial clusters which produce such items as pencils and toothpicks, plastics, tissue papers etc. We have the rice mills in Ini Local Government Area, and several cassava processing mills. The narrative is changing and God is doing new things in our State.
Early in the life of this administration, I gathered some stakeholders in the aviation industry and revealed to them my plans to establish a thriving airline. We went to work quietly and once I made our plans public, the usual naysayers said the project couldn’t be done; that if countries in Africa couldn’t set up an airline, how then could we, a State achieve such a feat. We ignored their pessimism and went to work. Today, Ibom Air has become a national sensation. The colours of Akwa Ibom State now dominate the Nigerian aviation space. We were recently named the Best Airline in the Nation.
We started with three CRJ 900 series, later added two more CRJs bringing the total aircrafts in its fleet to five. In the next few days, we will commission two newly acquired brand new Airbuses (A220-300 series) bringing the total fleet of aircrafts to seven. We are not just concentrating only on Ibom Air, ours is a total dedication to aviation development. Our international terminal once completed, would be the best in the nation and you can quote me on this. It would also be the smartest. Our MRO is on-going; the pace of work only got slowed down, due to the restrictions placed on international travels due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our taxiway, the new Category 2 runaway, these are huge investments that prime our State as an emerging industrial hub. Fellow Akwaibomites, this huge achievement in aviation should gladden the hearts of everyone, irrespective of one’s political affiliations. Ibom Air carries the collective pride of Akwa Ibom people and we should all celebrate it. God is indeed doing great things here!
One of the pillars of our industrialization drive has been the need to consolidate and expand our hard infrastructure. As you have seen and experienced, we have constructed and commissioned hundreds of kilometres of economically viable roads spread across the entire State. These roads are all there for everyone to see, so I do not need to name them one after the other. But it bears repeating that Uyo- Ikot Ekpene Road, we inherited at less than a kilometre of execution is about to be commissioned. The Ring Road 3 which is almost near completion stands as a testament to great vision in urban planning, the multi-lane Airport road, is on-going, same with Uyo-Etinan Road. In the lead-up to our Anniversary, I have commissioned several roads across the State and other internal roads in Uyo and Oron respectively. The Ikot Oku Ikono Flyover Bridge, the longest in the South South is on-going and would be commissioned soon. The IBB outfalls drainage is on-going; the Nsiskak Eduok erosion control has helped deflood that part of our State which was perennially flooded as so much money has been sunk into that project. We have done several kilometres of internal roads in Oron, (most of which were commissioned early this week) Eket, and Ikot Ekpene etc. Our vision is to develop all parts of the State and open it up for commerce and industry. Therefore, fellow Akwa Ibomites, when the perennial cynics and social media blackmailers tell you we have not done any infrastructure, tell them that God is indeed doing great things in Akwa Ibom State.
We have spent huge resources in the power sector. We have upgraded and rebuilt such injection substations as the one in Four Lanes, Uyo, Afaha Ube, Ekim in Mkpat Enin and the one in Ikot Ekpene. We have created several dedicated lines which has helped in our drive to industrialise the State. Our vision of “Power for all” by December 31st, 2021 remains an abiding article of faith. Our residents can testify that we have enjoyed constant electricity supply across the State and this has significantly helped with the quality of life we have enjoyed especially in the hinterlands.
Sports development is a critical element of our Completion Agenda. Today, our State boasts of two teams in the National Soccer Premier League. The ultra-modern Eket Stadium will soon be commissioned. We are encouraging our youths to see sports as an avenue to express their talents and derive the corresponding benefits . This is one of the issues we are tackling holistically in our educational curriculum: The need to identify those who are uniquely shaped for great exploits in sports and to make available for their use, the necessary facilities and support we can muster.
Akwa Ibom today is the destination of choice for numerous national seminars and conferences. That’s why we are nationally known as “Nigeria’s Best Kept secret”. You only have to look at the developments in tourism, the number of people who have not only visited us, but have decided to come live and invest. Look at the numerous smart buildings popping up all over the State, look at estates that are expanding, and look at the quality of homes that are springing up, and then you will know that God is indeed doing great things. Hotels all over the State, especially in Uyo enjoy an almost 100 percent occupancy rate. Our cuisines remain the pride of the nation. Our Flagship Hotel, the Ibom Icon Hotels and Golf Resorts, formerly known as “Five Star”, the Sheraton by Four Point in Ikot Ekpene which was a mere building without the corresponding features of a fully functional hotel in line with the standards of the Star world Group, today has been raised to its proper standards. God indeed is doing great things here and is “Forward ever backward Never.”
Let me use this opportunity to celebrate and thank our youths for tapping into our call for them to rise to the faith of their greatness and utilize their God’s given abilities to create wealth for themselves. The Dakkada philosophy has been welcomed and accepted by our youths across the State, and in fact, embraced nationwide.
Let me Commend and appreciate the tremendous impact my Wife’s (Her Excellency, Dr. (Mrs.) Martha Udom Emmanuel) pet Project, the Family Empowerment & Youth Reorientation Path Initiative (FEYReP,) has created for the Family units across the State in the past six years. These include, but not limited to, women empowerment State-wide, economic assistance to widows via the provision of trade grants, the championing of the rights of the girl child and her dignity, the fight against gender-based crimes such as rapes and genital mutilation, the numerous enlightenment and sensitisation campaigns on such easily preventable diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and other diseases associated with life style.
Let me specially thank our security agencies for being great and dependable partners in our determined efforts to make this State an oasis of peace and development.
Finally, let me appeal to our leaders to continue to let peace and love shape and distil their hearts. Let us live as brothers and sisters and not to allow politics divide us. Akwa Ibom State is all we have and we must do all we can to deepen and cement the bonds of our unity and brotherhood.
I hereby reiterate my unflinching commitment to utilizing the remaining two years of my God-given mandate to solidify the foundation of a New Akwa Ibom – politically, industrially and
socio-economically, with our unwavering faith in God to actualize what He began in 2015, and His promise to continually do a new thing in our dear State.
I therefore, implore you my dear brothers and sisters to please join hands with me to sustain and deepen all that God Almighty has used me this far to achieve for our dear State.
For me, it is “FORWARD EVER, BACKWARD NEVER’’
Under God Almighty! God bless you all!
Akwa Ibom, Edakkkeda!!! Ami mme dakkandah!!!