Akpabio in the eyes of history
By Dominic Umoren
When Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State started this year with commissioning of over 550 people-oriented rural projects, it took very people by surprise. This is management experts have argued that with careful planning, the sublime is achievable within the shortest possible time. It is also said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Therefore, following Akpabio’s plans, policies and projects, it may not be difficult to understand how he could achieve the feat.
Taking a retrospective look at the out gone year, it can safely be concluded that Akwa Ibom state fared better, taking into consideration the down turn in global economy and the challenges of restiveness in the oil rich Niger Delta region. Akpabio said that much, recently, at the Item Day celebration in Bende, Abia state, where Akpabio was honoured for his role in community development. While revealing that another set of developmental projects worth N9 billion had been executed and would be commissioned in the first quarter of this year, the governor said his administration was not keen on reducing its speed at providing infrastructural development in the state.
It was Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza who stated that “To give aid to every poor man is far beyond the reach and power of every man…. Care for the poor is incumbent on the society as a whole.” However, Governor Akpabio has used the instrumentality of the state to affect the lives of everyman in this state. Though it is not yet Uhuru, he is however worthy of commendation for taking government to the door steps of the common man; a promise he made when he was sworn-in as the 3 rd democratically elected Governor of Akwa Ibom State. As part of activities marking his second year in office, he’s currently commissioning over 550 people-oriented projects executed by his administration through the Inter-ministerial Direct Labour Committee - including the construction and reconstruction of over 1,600 secondary and primary schools across the state. He has fixed over 270 electricity projects, 250 mini water projects and rehabilitation of health facilities in the 329 wards across the state.
Construction work on such roads as Afaha Obong/Etim Ekpo/Urue Inyang/Iwukem Road ; Etebi/Ewang road (with the longest bridge in the state); Nung Udo/Itak/ Use Ikot Amama, the dualization of Ekim Itam to Ikot Oku Ikono, from Abak round about to Itam Peace Column are at the advanced stages of construction.
When the foundation for the ultra modern library complex along Babangida Avenue was laid in September, 2007 as part of activities marking the 20th Anniversary celebration of the creation of Akwa Ibom State , it was widely speculated that the project may not be completed with the shortest possible time. However, a visit to the library site reveals that the project is at its advanced stage, and if the pace is sustained, the entire project will be completed.
Last year, in his determined effort to provide employment and encouraged public-private partnership, the administration went into partnership with renowned entertainment company, the Silverbird Entertainment Limited to establish the Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Center . The ground breaking ceremony of the center; envisioned to house a 16-storey building with a 250-bedroom five - star hotel, galleria with cinema with six viewing centers; a 10,000 sitting capacity dome as well as a theme/water park was performed by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua when he visited the state for the PDP national stakeholders forum.
Apart from the tourism value of the center, Chief Akpabio had explained that the project would effect drastic and positive changes on the economic and infrastructural landscape of the state in line with Yar’adua’s seven point agenda - for the development of all sectors of the state economy. He stated that the Tropicana centre on completion will create more than 5000 job opportunities for the teeming youths of Niger Delta and Nigeria at large. Besides, its branding alone is expected to yield over N7 billion yearly to the state. His focus on tourism expansion is no doubt in the right step and nothing less is expected of an administration that is determined to alleviate poverty and ensure that its citizens experience the much talked about dividends of democracy.
Moreover, the administration has also doubled its effort at providing employment citizens of the state. Employment exercise has just begun for over 1,000 indigenes into the state civil service to fill the positions of those set for retirement. He has attracted the interest of companies like Petrogenesis, CCC, Federal Mortgage Bank, Statoil Hydra, Sentrica, Union Bank, etc has moved in with full force to partner with the governor in the effort to develop the state and create employment opportunities for the inhabitants of the state. Even oil companies like Mobil, Shell, etc that never did direct business with the state indicated interest last year to come in to the state and deal with the government. In fact, the erstwhile Managing Director of Exxon Mobil, Mr. John Chaplin had while publicly commending Governor Akpabio for bringing about the magic of peace and stability thereby allowing the expatriates to walk around and work without fear of molestation, had assured that very soon the company deal more with the state. The bottom line of these is that Akpabio has laid a solid foundation to improve on the employment capacity of the state.
In the health sector, the administration employed an additional 301 nurses to complement the existing ones and put in place modalities to employ 20 medical consultants to man the general hospitals in across the state. To enhance grass root medical delivery, Akpabio directed that 160 utility vehicles be distributed to medical doctors in the state services.
Work has progressed at the site of the 20 th Anniversary Specialist Hospital . This is another wonderful initiative of the Akpabio administration last year; the first of its kind in this region which will serve as a referral hospital for women and children. Having tied all the loose end of the contract, the hospital project will no doubt meets its target date of completion.
The Judiciary has also fared well under the administration of Chief Akpabio as he made history as the first Governor of Akwa Ibom State to appoint two female Chief Judges, consecutively, to man the third tier of government. Justice Idongesit Ntem-Isua has just been sworn in to replace Justice Eno B. Out, who was appointed last year but had to exit on reaching the compulsory age retirement age. Last year, four new judges were swore –in; five magistrates and new presidents and members of the 31 customary courts in the state appointed. Also, the year witness the introduction of a new judiciary structure in the state as Governor Akpabio commissioned the “Multi-door” Court in the state. The new court is well equipped with staff and equipment for the effective dispensing of justice to all who goes before it.
In his avowed commitment to provide conducive environment for judicial officers in the state, Governor Akpabio provided different brands of vehicles to judges and magistrates in the state service.
Another sector of the state that has witnessed tremendous improvement is the transport sector. The administration has changed the face of metropolitan transport by introducing the Ibom Taxi scheme and the inter city bus project. The state government deployed 400 units of air conditioned Hyundai saloon cars for the purpose of providing inter and intra-city transport in the state and beyond. Also, apart from the Uyo urban bus scheme, buses were procured to convey civil servants to their places of work at a very subsidized rate.
The best legacy a leader can give to its citizens, it is said, is education. Conscious of this time-tested fact, mostly from personal experience, Governor Akpabio did not only declare free and compulsory education, but has allayed fears of its failure.
Akpabio, who lost his father when he was barely six months, grew up in a difficult environment and at some point stopped school because he could not raise N10 to pay school fees. Backed by such harrowing experience, he swore on assumption of office to ensure that millions of Akwa Ibom children are elevated from that level of poverty. In his words, “let us commit ourselves to building our future and bequeathing to our children the greatest legacy a future can give –education”.
His argument has been that illiteracy compounds poverty; while education does not only enlightens but also empowers. So, as a birthday gift to the state (Akwa Ibom recently celebrated 21 st anniversary of its creation) and its future leaders, he abolished all fees –including ‘hidden’ ones.
Another landmark of the Akpabio administration in 2008 is the signing of the Child Rights Bill to law – to protect the rights of children. Now, in Akwa Ibom State, “every person under the age of 16 years is classified as a child and shall be entitled to rights we consider inalienable. Among such rights, is his or her parent’s responsibility to ensure that he or she benefits from our free education program by attending and completing his primary and senior secondary school education. A parent who runs afoul of this law shall on first conviction be liable to a fine of not more than N5000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two months or both.
The law also prohibits child labour which includes buying, selling, hiring, begging for alms, prostitution, domestic or sexual labour, slave or practices similar to slavery such as trafficking and compulsory labour, etc. Contravention of this law attracts an imprisonment of the terms which has been enhanced in the law. The law also prohibits sexual intercourse with children and classifies same as rape and also harmful publication of materials like books, magazines, film, pictures, video or audio tape which contain harmful information and which children could have access to.
The law makes it punishable with an imprisonment term of 10 years to fifteen years without an option of fine for a child to be accused of witchcraft”. All taken, Akpabio deserves commendation and support as his performance speak for him.
.Umoren, a public affairs commentator, sent this piece from Uyo