Akwa Ibom: I’ll work hard for more private sector-driven ventures

Umo Eno

By Umo Eno

Umo Eno, a pastor and governorship candidate of PDP in Akwa Ibom State, pledges to continue on the path of peace, security and development

On May 25 this year, after I had won the nomination to be the governorship candidate of PDP in Akwa Ibom State, I made a solemn pledge to run an issue-based campaign, that would be devoid of mudslinging, resort to vile and incendiary rhetoric, where people’s character and integrity would be mindlessly attacked, instead of proposals and plans to alleviate the sufferings of our people and advance the fortunes of our State. I pledged to run a campaign where propaganda and blackmail would have no seat in our victory train.

Today, on this same ground, I stand here again to unveil our contract with Akwa Ibom people at home and in the diaspora; a contract to continue on the path of peace, security and development that we have steadily enjoyed in the last seven years, under Governor Udom Emmanuel. This is contract to create jobs for our people and enlarge our path for economic prosperity; a contract to maintain and advance our world class infrastructure, a contract to ensure food security through agricultural revolution, a contract to ensure that our children are made ready and equipped to compete favourably with their counterparts all over the world, through advancements in educational curricular and the provision of the necessary tools to help drive the vision. This is a contract to stem rural urban migration through robust investments in rural development, a contract to ensure that our people continue to live in peace and that the sanctity of human life would be protected through our security management.

Fellow Akwa people, I am here to unveil a contract for peace, for unity, for brotherhood, a contract whose finer details are couched in Christian virtues and values, and above all, a contract with God as the Author and Finisher of our lives. There is no doubt that in the last seven-plus years under the able leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel, our State has become a reference point of excellence in governance and how a leader can utilise and apply the resources available to an entity to achieve the most for his people.

Today, because we have a Five- Star leader, a doer in Governor Udom Emmanuel, Akwa Ibom State has become a national paragon and prototype. Our story is told all over the nation of Nigeria and beyond our shores. Our Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, (GCON,) captured this so succinctly and eloquently when he said during the last Presidential Campaign flag-off in Uyo that given the developmental strides recorded in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria needs to take a cue from this State.

In aviation development today, Ibom Air, is the most preferred airline in Nigeria, the first ever commercial airline to be owned by a sub national. This is a testament to vision, creativity and ingenuity. Today, our international terminal, the smartest in the nation signposts our resolve to become an aviation and tourism hub of the Gulf of Guinea. My Administration will build on these legacies is the Aviation sector and ensure that IbomAir gains are further consolidated to maintain its pacesetting role in the Nigeria’s Aviation industry and expand to commence regional flights to other countries in the nearest future. We will build cargo terminals and begin cargo flights along the West coast, in order to attract and fast-track additional development to the State.

Today, Akwa Ibom State has about the best road network in Nigeria, constructed and commissioned solely by the State Government. I don’t need to start mentioning all the roads constructed and commissioned across the three Senatorial Districts and the 10 Federal Constituencies, but who can miss the 10-Lane Idongesit Nkanga/ Clement Isong Avenue, a beauty-to-behold and a grand testament to what an indigenous contractor can achieve! The 29- kilometre dualized Etinan-Ndon-Eyo Road, with two cable bridges, the spectacular Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road, among others. We will continue to provide road infrastructure and maintain the existing ones so as to provide the connections needed to bring people closer to our development goals.

Today, the narrative of our State as a previously purely Civil Service-oriented State has changed with over 25 commercially viable industries that have provided jobs and wealth creation opportunities for our people. Our Jubilee Syringes Manufacturing Company is the largest syringe maker in Africa, where distributors would have to wait for months to have their shipments, despite producing at full capacity. Our flour mill, the most automated and finest brand, where distributors too, would wait for months to get their consignments, despite also producing at full capacity. The St. Gabriel Coconut Refinery, which is positioned to lift our fortunes away from over dependence on crude oil, is the first of its kind in Africa; not to mention several other cottage industries in the State. We have been lucky to have a purpose-driven leader in Governor Udom Emmanuel.

As a private sector person myself, I will work hard to ensure that more private sector driven ventures are established here with the attendance benefits to the State especially in the creation of employment for our teaming youths.

Today, while insecurity has assumed a worrisome dimension in many parts of the nation, Akwa Ibom State has been an oasis of peace and tranquility. From the fishing creeks in Mbo to the Raffia City of Ikot Ekpene, and from the sandy beaches of Ibeno to the inviting boulevards in Uyo, our people can go about their businesses unhindered any time, any hour, in peace and in absolute security. We will work tirelessly to ensure that our people continue to live in peace as we strive to create a tourist haven and promote our creative industry to make Akwa Ibom the destination of choice in Nigeria.

Today, our people go to bed and sleep soundly with both eyes closed. It was not always like this. Not too long ago, our people were kidnapped, murdered and politically muscled and killed in this State before our eyes. People were removed even from churches and killed in the most brutal of manners. A lot of Nigerians did not desire to visit our State for fear of being kidnapped, but today, that ugly narrative has changed. Akwa Ibom is blessed because a God-fearing leader, a people-centric leader came on the scene and brought about a different tone of humility and godly influence on governance.

It is this peace, these seeds of prosperity and growth that the Udom Emmanuel administration has planted, that calls for continuity and further advancements, a forward movement as opposed to backward slide. That is what this election is all about!

It is about capacity, character, competence, integrity, and transparency in governance, which, as the American Consul General to Nigeria, Wills Stevens said recently, Akwa Ibom under Governor Emmanuel, leads the nation. This election is not about the arrogance of power, of playing God, of violence that we don’t wish to see make a return to our State. Akwa Ibom people desire a continuity of peace and progress, not a return to the ugly spectre of violence and kidnapping or politically-motivated assassinations. Those years are gone, Akwa Ibom people have since rejected those years and as the line in our State Anthem so proudly proclaims: Forward Ever Backward Never!

The Udom Emmanuel Administration has already given us many world class infrastructure. We will now use the resources available to build people, attract more industries, create jobs, open up our rural areas and spread prosperity to our people. This is the standard all over the world. In the 1950s, General Eisenhower as the President of the United States created the best road network –the interlocking network of roads that connects the 48 contiguous States in the US. Subsequent administrations have been maintaining those roads and other infrastructure while deploying the resources to create jobs, building people and capacity, ensuring prosperity through education, healthcare, food security and internal security. That is what I am promising Akwa Ibom people. My Contract with Akwa Ibom people is captured boldly and clearly in my A.R.I.S.E. Agenda. We will spend our resources to water the seeds of our collective prosperity. That is what the A.R.I.S.E. Agenda is all about.

Let me say here that one of the familiar sayings by Governor Udom Emmanuel that strikes me most is that “if you have not managed a kiosk successfully, you cannot manage a multinational”. This election is about capacity, and without sounding boastful, I make bold to say that I have enormous capacity to build on the successes of our past governors and lift this State to enviable status in Nigeria and beyond. In 1997, I saw an opportunity in the Hospitality Industry and I relocated from Lagos to Eket and started the Royalty Hotels with just five rooms. Today, the Royalty Group has become a conglomerate with a diverse interest in the hotels and hospitality industry, Akwa Fresh Water Production Company, industrial catering, eateries, etc. For over 12 years, I was the second largest employer of labour after the State Government and I ran a monthly wage bill of more than 25 million Naira, have changed people’s destinies, trained their children, unify the family units through employment and won souls for Christ as a Pastor.

I can safely and humbly say without any fear of equivocation that among all those who today are aspiring for the leadership of this State, I am the one that has invested mostly in this State by creating jobs for our people and creating commercial assets that have adorned the skylines of our dear State. I have directly impacted on the lives of many of our people over the past 25 years, either spiritually as an Under-Shepherd of God’s flock or economically, financially as an employer of labour or educationally as a philanthropist. I have lived and invested my resources in Akwa Ibom State. Anyone is welcome to put my record in these areas side by side with others, using their personal resources not our collective commonwealth to deceive the people and the facts will speak for itself.

Accordingly, this election is beyond populism, rhetoric and vague promises. It is all about pragmatism, capacity and making hard choices. It is your choice to have a proven leader who has created jobs for many of our youths versus those who only use the youths for thuggery and violence when it suits their selfish purposes.

This election too is about continuity, the need to deepen and expand what has already been planted and turn the seeds into a healthy harvest for our people versus those who wish to turn back the tide of growth, just to satisfy their egoistical desires.

This election is about humility, and Godliness, and the need to respect our common humanity and govern with Christian values, versus those who see power as a sense of entitlement.

Power is given to those whom God has qualified and not those who arrogantly qualify themselves. This election is a choice between those who have produced a robust and easy-to-digest Economic Blueprint as we have done through our A.R.I.S.E. agenda versus those who only, daily talk the talk, but lack the capacity and the competence to work the talk and positively affect lives in the long run. Again, if you haven’t run a kiosk, you can’t run a multinational.

This election is about giving our citizens a sustainable source of livelihood and not throwing crumbs at them during an election year and leaving them to wallow in extreme poverty afterwards. Running a State government is not a learning process; it is not an affair based on trial and error. We cannot gamble with the destiny of about eight million people and entrust the same in unsteady and shaky hands. We have proven over the years to be a steady and safe hand, driven by a clear-cut vision of governance, which we have captured in the A.R.I.S.E. Agenda.

A.R.I.S.E., stands for: A – Agricultural Revolution.

R – Rural Development. I – Infrastructural Maintenance/Advancement. S – Security Management

E – Educational Management.

This Agenda is easy and deals with issues that impact our daily lives.

As the world and indeed the nation is battling flooding and other natural disasters, coupled with the Russian war in Ukraine, which has unfortunately affected the price of wheat and other staple foods, the need for the government to be proactive and ensure food security becomes even more urgent. We will, through our agricultural revolution, ensure that we have enough food for our people at affordable prices. We will tap into our comparative advantage in this area and create wealth. It might interest us to know that most of today’s richest people all over the world have their hands in agriculture.

We will continue to provide soft loans to our farmers, provide the tools to aid them grow and provide the channels for their produce to be sold at competitive prices. We will encourage our fishermen to use our natural blessings to create wealth, by providing the institutional mechanism to achieve this purpose. We will turn our recently revived Akwa Palm Estate into a wealth-generating enterprise. As a former Executive Director of Agric Investments and former Chairman of the Ibom FADAMA Micro-Finance Bank, I know the issues in agriculture and I will ensure that we bring about a revolution in that critical sector of our economic development and growth.

A key component of any government is to reduce rural urban migration. We hope to continue from where this current administration will stop. We will build more roads in the rural areas and ensure that the remaining five percent of the 2,274 gazetted villages that are yet to be hooked to the National Grid, (which itself is a giant achievement of this current administration,) is achieved. We will provide clean water to our rural dwellers as a way to prevent easily transmitted diseases.

We will use the resources available to us to grow our people, provide avenues for growth through SMEs, ensure quality education and healthcare, food security, build human capacity and open the tap of economic prosperity, because we already have world-class infrastructure. This is the standard in developed societies. We will continue to invest and prioritise the welfare of our civil servants by developing their capacity and paying their wages and entitlements as At when due including the gratuities of our retirees who have served our State meritoriously.

One of the cardinal responsibilities of government as enshrined in the principles of “The Social Contract” is the protection of lives and property of its citizens. We have lived in peace and security in the last seven-plus years; our children have lived in a secured environment, free from harm and hurt. No one has been kidnapped or assassinated based on his or her political affiliation or aspiration.

It was not always like this. We must maintain this peace, and use it to attract more investments to our State. No investor goes to an unsafe place, which is why we are second only next to Lagos according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in attracting Foreign Direct Investments. The A.R.I.S.E. Agenda will connect the dots and ensure that, on peace and security we stand. It is forward ever, backward never!

The future of any nation is predicated on the standard of education and human capacity it has engendered. Today, the Indian and Chinese examples have been held up as success stories. The Silicon Valley in California is shaped and dominated by Indian Americans, same with Chinese who today have used their soft power to influence nations. We will strategically develop our youths in the areas of ICT, and other layers that would make them competitive with their counterparts elsewhere.

Through IbomAir, we are already the tourism destination of choice in the country. We will ensure that our hospitality industry, our cuisine and our rich cultural heritage are translated into wealth and job creation avenues. The Caribbean nations today earn billions of dollars through their hospitality industry. We will replicate the same in Akwa Ibom.

Our youths would be incentivized and motivated to go entrepreneurial. I have done it before for myself and I will duplicate myself in the lives of many Akwa Ibom youths. I will create deeper and more expansive avenues for our people to follow this path. The future that we are seeing today looks even more exciting, because we will further expand the scope and pace of development and harvest the low hanging fruits immediately for the good of our people. We will create wealth for as many as are willing to work hard in various areas of entrepreneurship.

We should not allow politics to divide us. Politics and political parties are merely vehicles to aspire for power, but our cord of unity remains sacrosanct. When by the grace of God, I become your Governor next year; I will be a Governor for all. We will run an inclusive government that will accommodate all our supporters, and even members of other political persuasions and inclinations.

We will strive at all times to be development-focused, prosperity-focused, wealth creation–focused, shaped by faith in the Almighty God. We will always lean towards what Abraham Maslow calls “The Human Side of Enterprise” which is the provision of tools that brings about wealth and prosperity.

This is my Contract with Akwa Ibom people. May God lead us to a Golden Future.

* Eno is a pastor and governorship candidate of PDP in Akwa Ibom State