Udom’s silent revolution in Akwa Ibom
KEN UDO EKONG
There is a silent revolution going on in Akwa Ibom State. And it centres on development and people empowerment. The recently released midterm report of the President Muhammadu Buhari government most eloquently attests to this. The voluminous report which captured the achievements of the present administration across the nation lent itself to the aphorism that a goldfish has no hiding place. It brought to the fore the laudable landmarks recorded not only by the Federal Government but also the milestones achieved by the state governments. The report was bipartisan and focused on all state governments irrespective of political parties.
What would strike anybody poring through the report is the state of the states. Though Nigeria has 36 states but it is all too obvious that all the states are not equal. By extrapolation, not all the states are as blessed even in leadership as others. This is where the story of Akwa Ibom looms large. A Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) state, it occupies a huge swathe in the development index recorded in the report of an All Progressives Congress (APC) government. About 30 pages of information in the document were devoted to Akwa Ibom State and achievements recorded by Governor Udom Emmanuel. So what? Well, if we consider that some state governors, especially those on the other side of the political divide, had just two pages of achievements over the same period of 30 months, then we would appreciate how remarkable this is.
Credit must go to the APC-led Federal Government and chroniclers of the report for overlooking mundane issues of party affiliation in the compilation of the achievements. But the greater credit should be reserved for Governor Udom who has consistently said that his mission in government is to offer service that engenders development. The truth of the matter is that development is not partisan, not racist, tribal or discriminatory. Development announces itself and does not need propaganda to push it through. This is evident in Akwa Ibom. Even the opposition parties in the state at the height of their show of political shenanigan do acknowledge that Udom has upped the ante in various aspects of development.
Strangely, the governor does not mount the soapbox to mouth his achievements. He does no draw undue attention to himself in showy self-aggrandisement as is customary with Nigerian public office holders. Almost self-effacing, he prefers to take the backseat while allowing his works to speak for him. Many people wonder why Udom does not throw himself into the public arena and make loud noise like the typical Nigerian politician even when he is eminently justified to do so given his stellar performance in a space of barely two-and-a-half years. The answer is historical. History has shown that most outstanding leaders in government, entrepreneurship, social change or otherwise are persons who prefer not to hug the limelight by pulling off stunts and hysterics in the public space but those who silently envision, plan and execute their programmes. They are those who lead by doing, not by talking. Great doers make great leaders. Lee Kuan Yew, the father and architect of modern Singapore alluded to such leadership style in his bestselling memoir, From Third World to First – The Singapore Story.
The success stories of nations or any people never happened by accident. They happened because at a point in their history somebody decided to lead by doing not by a show of oratorical sophistry. The late Shimon Peres is today regarded as the Father of Innovative Israel. Loathed and loved depending on which side of the divide you are, but even among his staunchest critics, nobody denies his voluble appetite to break new frontiers. His energy, optimism and inquisitiveness translated to the birthing of a new generation of innovative Jewish nation.
Recall that as prime minister in 1985, Peres presided over an economic stabilization plan which led to the birth of Israel’s modern economy. Today, Israel, a land without natural resources, is described as a ‘startup nation’ because Peres fostered an entrepreneurial culture among the people.
“All my life I have worked to ensure that Israel’s future is based on science and technology as well as on an unwavering moral commitment,” Peres once said in a speech when he laid the cornerstone for the Israeli Innovation Centre in Jaffa. “They called me a dreamer. But today, when I look at Israel, we all can see clearly that the greater the dream, the more spectacular the results.”
Without his admitting it, this is the kind of momentum driving Udom. He is a dreamer in the mould of Peres. He is an awakener of the docile mob. He believes that anything is possible, that any height is attainable. Since arriving at Government House in Uyo, he has rallied the spirit of the people to dare, to believe and to conquer. Is it any wonder that Akwa Ibom has not only become the nation’s Mecca of sports but is the home of trophy-winning Akwa United football club? Are we surprised that Akwa Ibom has attracted the highest volume of foreign direct investment (FDI), next only to Lagos State in Nigeria? The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) says so.
Deploying the Dakkada (Rise up) philosophy, Udom is building a modern economy in Akwa Ibom State which centres on agriculture, tourism, improved standard and quality of education, a culture of ICT application and innovation, improved power delivery at a time the rest of the country wobbles in gross darkness, and above all, a strong drive at industrialisation. At a time other states are still at a crossroads over salary and gratuities, Akwa Ibom is diversifying its local economy from dependence on oil proceeds from Abuja to agriculture, industrialisation and birthing of a knowledge economy.
Governor Udom’s leadership style mirrors the template of great leaders across the globe. It is the leadership that sees opportunity in every adversity; that breaks new frontiers and turns vision into reality. It is a leadership that is silent but effective.
Nigeria has had a sordid history of poor leadership typified by noise-makers, lawless military goons and a ravaging political mob. This has left the nation tethered to the manacles of under-development such that 57 years after Independence, our actions are still governed by such medieval creeds like quota system, ethnic considerations and religion. Worst of it all, Nigeria has remained a nation of immense potential and a poster-child for everything wrong with the black race especially in the aspect of leadership.
This is why Governor Udom’s leadership style provides a redemptive window for a nation that has been mired in the stasis of administrative despair. A good leader is a dealer in hope. Every good leader must at all times give hope to the people. This is where Udom towers above the class. He has given hope to his people by providing them opportunities. Democracy, Reverend Jesse Jackson once said, does not guarantee success but it guarantees opportunity. Udom’s focus on effective and affordable healthcare, infrastructural development and quality education will ultimately engender a broad spectrum of opportunities for his people. This is what good leadership is all about. Asian leaders are adept at it; they start by giving hope to their people, shifting their mind from probability to possibility. Udom has shown that good leadership is possible in Nigeria. He will do well to stay the course.
- Ekong writes from Uyo