by Ken Ugbechei
In a matter of days, it would be one calendar year since the President Muhammadu Buhari government was inaugurated. It would also be same for most state governments. At the centre, it is difficult to convince the generality of Nigerians that the Buhari government is the change they want to see. It is a hard sell, even for diehard supporters and fans of Mr. Buhari to convince their neighbours that the incumbent federal government, has it is currently constituted with all its nondescript policies, is what is best for the nation at this moment.
Even for the fancy of blind patriotism, the indicators speak to the contrary. Job cuts, rising inflation, growing crime rate, and insufferable conditions of life and living have come to define Buhari’s first 12 months in office. But, Nigerians are incurable optimists. The people still cleave to that strand of hope that the pains of today would morph to pleasure tomorrow. It may well be.
However, in the pervading formation of doom and gloom, in the expansive and widening wastelands of despair and despondency, there are still bright spots of hope; of substance without subterfuge and of motion of real movement. We see this in some states where the governors, in spite of dwindling revenues from the central government, have forged ahead with bold innovative initiatives that have impacted positively on the people and lifted their spirit to dare, to dream, and to overawe the excruciating circumstances of the moment.
Some Nigerian leaders including ministers and governors have used the dwindling receipts from crude oil as a perfect alibi for their incompetence and otiose inefficiency. They talk and talk, and keep talking about why things cannot get any better; they are full of explanation for their inertia and obvious operational lethargy. Yet, they forget that “the way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing”, apologies to Walt Disney.
It is gratifying that a few of our leaders have refrained from being talkative about the failings of the economy. This is not the time to mount the soapbox and sermonize about the political economy. When those in power today were yesterday seeking and soliciting for votes from the electorate, talk and much talk was permissible. But not anymore! What is needed at this time is governance, turning yesterday’s rhetoric to action. True governance is not in verbal persuasion, it is demonstrated by action, by tangibles and landmarks.
The governor of Akwa Ibom State, Deacon Udom Emmanuel, seems to understand this critical essence of governance. Since his inauguration and later legal battles at the tribunal and Supreme Court, he has maintained a ‘do it’ not ‘say it’ disposition. While other governors clatter about insufficient funds, the man who sees himself as a professional in politics as against the banal tag of professional politician which some persons in his position wear as a tag, has maintained a dignified silence preferring to let his deeds speak for him.
Certainly not your regular politician, Emmanuel Udom, an astute investment banker with international clout, has since his arrival at Akwa Ibom Government House demonstrated that leadership whether in the private sector or in the often fuzzy public sector is about connecting with the people.
In the first 12 months in office, the governor has awakened the spirit of the people of Akwa Ibom with the Dakkada (Rise Up) philosophy; a concept that has transformed into a mass movement driving the people of the state to conquer new heights.
From the comfort of marbled offices to the streets, the verdict of the people is a resounding approval of the style of leadership of this professional in politics. It’s obvious that his private sector mentorship and tutelage has prepared him for the exigencies of public service.
He once said, “The concept of the best governance Nigeria never had is always in my head and I know I have to contend with some forces to achieve that. Be that as it may, we have been able to analyse various issues and progress and so the whole problems I have are the same the country is having and some other European countries of the world today; which is challenges of the world economy”.
Knowing and realizing these challenges has given him a head-start especially on his campaign promise to industrialise his state. It has to be said that Akwa Ibom State has been lucky with leadership since the return of democracy. Emmanuel’s predecessor, Senators Godswill Akpabio, still resonates till this day as the best infrastructure governor of his time.
Governor Emmanuel has chosen an uncharted path; the path to industrialisation, capacity building through qualitative education and and most of all a re-orientation of the inert spirit of the Akwa Ibomites through the Dakkada value system.
The vision to create pockets of industries in the state sits well with the mantra of economic diversification which the federal government has been struggling to evolve. Several memoranda of understanding (MOUs) have been inked with strategic investors and industrialists paving the way to making Akwa Ibom an industrial hub out of Africa.
If all goes well, the automobile assembly plant in Itu whose flag-off was performed shortly after his inauguration will soon buzz to life. The assembly plant will feed off from the rich petrochemical ambience which is what the state offers aplenty. It will also create buzz of economy of scale as the water resource prevalent in the state will give fillip to export. And to this metering factory in Awa-Ima in Onna which is primed to start production soon.
Yes, Nigeria is broke. A nation that borrows to pay salary of its workers is actually insolvent. But that is not an excuse to do nothing. History reminds us of people who turned adversity to advantage. The likes of Lee Kuan Yew, the father of modern Singapore and Deng Xiaoping of China arrested retrogression in their climes and placed their nations on the path of glory.
Other nations like Israel, Japan, and India are recent examples can re-discover themselves and reactivate their collective destiny. The common denominator in the transformational stories of these nations is that at a point in their histories, a leader emerged and broke the chain of cyclic leadership failure, plugged the bureaucratic leakages, reverses the retrogressive value system, and arrest the drift to perdition. It is about the quality of leadership and nothing else.
Governor Emmanuel’s leadership style mirrors this pattern. He wants to add value to people in a manner that would make them creators of wealth and jobs rather than being job-seekers.
Ken Ugbechie is a columnist with The Sun where this article was first published.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.