By Raph Edem
The 1981 movie, The man who saw tomorrow narrates the story of the French-born physicist and seer, Michel de Nostredame, known more popularly by the Latinized version of his name, Nostradamus. He was reputed to have the uncanny, metaphysical ability to predict what will happen in the future. There is a long list of happenings around the globe that he was said to have foreseen. Despite contention in some quarters about the exactitude of his predictions, he is still reputed to be one of the greatest seers that ever lived.
Some 500 years have gone by since Nostradamus passed on. He still occupies a prime place in the pantheon of seers. But history is littered with three kinds of persons who see the future. In the first category, you have men like Nostradamus who use metaphysical methods. In the second category, you have those cast in the mould of the wise men who saw the star when Jesus was born and went to look for him. These persons study the universe and read the stars. Thirdly, you have those who, like the men of Issachar in the time of civil war and national crisis in ancient Israel, had an understanding of the times and knew what Israel ought to do for the benefit of their future. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel belongs to the last two categories. He has seen the star of Akwa Ibom rising and he understands what Akwa Ibom ought to do to achieve the future he has seen in the stars. He is making plans for that future because he knows that the best way to predict the future is to create it.
A tested and trusted corporate titan, with over 25 years experience in financial services in different parts of the world, Governor Emmanuel assumed office at a very auspicious time in the history of Akwa Ibom state. With dwindling Federal receipts and a gloomy economic outlook, Emmanuel’s famed integrity and management sagacity were some of the factors that stood him in good stead with the electorate, leading to his being voted for by an overwhelming majority, and being entrusted with the onerous task of leading the State.
In his inaugural speech, Emmanuel had promised to transform the economy of Akwa Ibom State via industrialization and to sustain public-private sector initiatives, thereby opening opportunities for growth and improved living standards. Two years down the line, and in line with his 5-point agenda of job creation, poverty alleviation, wealth creation, economic and political inclusion and infrastructure consolidation and expansion, he has initiated policies and taken actions that stand him out as a leader who came into office prepared for the task at hand. The programmes and projects he is embarking on are designed to cater not only for the Akwa Ibom of today, but also the Akwa Ibom of the future.
A case in point is the infrastructure expansion and consolidation agenda of the Udom Emmanuel administration, which takes into consideration not just current demands but also the demands of the future. Facilities at the state-owned airport, Akwa Ibom International Airport are being upgraded to meet the projected flight and passenger traffic in the years to come. The closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja and the attendant difficulty to passengers has exposed the limitations of a mono-runway airport. Governor Emmanuel had already envisaged this challenge and as far back as the year 2015, he had begun the construction of the second runway at the airport. The runway, which is at an advanced stage of completion, will have the capacity to serve any size of aircraft, including the Airbus A-380. The runway will also make it possible for cargo operations to commence in the near future. This is another bit of evidence of the futuristic mindset of a man who has an understanding of the times and knows what Akwa Ibom ought to do. He had already envisioned the airport as a hub for both passenger and cargo operations.
The Industrialization policy of the Udom Emmanuel administration is a looking glass into the future. The electricity meter assembly plant in Onna Local Government Area will cater for the needs of electricity consumers almost ad infinitum. The syringe production factory will harness raw materials available in the State and will provide gainful employment to a lot of our citizens. As syringes are a vital consumable in the health services sector, with hundreds of millions of them being imported into the country yearly, the factory is guaranteed to be a thriving venture, as there will be an almost endless demand for its products from within and outside the country.
The global sports industry is worth hundreds of billions of dollars and provides gainful employment to millions of people all over the world. There is an almost limitless value chain associated with it that traverses almost every sector of the economy. Governor Emmanuel is positioning Akwa Ibom to key into this multi-billion dollar industry by providing the enabling environment and infrastructure to support the development of sporting talents within the state. He has embarked on the construction of 10 standard sports centres, one in each federal constituency. These centres, one of which is already commissioned and in use, boast of facilities for basketball, handball, football, hockey, tennis and tartan tracks for athletics. These facilities have rekindled the interest of our children in sporting activities and with the re-introduction of school sports, these centres will serve as nurseries where sporting talents would be discovered. Already, the State has produced a common wealth junior champion in the 100 and 200 metres in the person of Aniekeme Alphonsus. These sports centres would surely produce many more national and global stars with the attendant benefits that come with their status.
Add the case of the development of logistic centres within the State to the futuristic model and another gavel drops. With Akwa Ibom boasting the longest shoreline in the country of 129 kilometres, it is mind boggling that a major seaport hasn’t been sited in the State thus far. Numerous studies by maritime exerts have identified Ibaka in Mbo Local Government Area, which has a natural draught of seventeen knots as the best location for a seaport in Nigeria. The actualization of the Ibom deep seaport is therefore one of the priority projects of the administration. Already, the State Government is working on providing appropriate access by road to the location of the seaport, and is also partnering with the Federal Government and private investors to see to the actualization of this dream. There is no gainsaying that when the seaport project is completed, it will create numerous direct and indirect jobs for people in the State. It will also reboot the economy of the State in a way never seen before as there will be an influx of investments attracted by the maritime potentials of the State. The medium to long term benefits of this project on the citizenry are so vast that they task one’s imagination.
The jetty at Ikot Abasi Local Government Area, tank farms in Mbo Local Government Area, and other downstream operations in the oil and gas sector of the economy, which he is currently attracting to the State are a testimony to his foresight. As the largest producer of crude oil in the country, Akwa Ibom is being primed to attract investment that is commensurate with its status. The coconut plantation and refinery which is ongoing will see a revolution in the agricultural sector of the state. It will not only create lots of employment opportunities but it will also provide an outlet for farmers to dispose of their products at international market rates. There is definitely a new dawn in the industrialization of the state, and the electorate, citizens and residents bask in the expectation of bright and colorful future.
Recently, there was much hue and cry about the recruitment of 5000 additional teachers into the State’s school system. When it would have been more politically expedient and popular to absorb these `teachers’ into the service, Governor Emmanuel decided to act on the tons of petitions that trailed the recruitment exercise. Mindful of the role played by teachers in moulding our future leaders, he directed a screening exercise to be conducted on all those who had received appointment letters. This exercise which consisted of simple, multiple-choice English language questions revealed that a large number of the prospective teachers were either unqualified or underqualified. According to Emmanuel, “If I cannot allow a particular teacher to teach my children, it would be unconscionable to allow such a teacher to teach any Akwa Ibom child irrespective of who his parents are.” This is the trait of a compassionate and focused leader who wants the best for his people and is not shy to take difficult decisions, knowing that in the long run, those decisions will augur well for his people.
Governor Udom Emmanuel has proven to be a leader who has seen the future and is serving his people with the future in mind. He is conscious that the future belongs to those who prepare for it today, therefore, he is laying a solid foundation for the economic well-being of his people. When it would have been popular for him to pander to short-termism, he is thinking ahead and using the resources of today to correct the mistakes of yesterday while building for tomorrow. His lifelong passion is to create a generation of people who earn a living, rather than beg for a living. He is focusing more on sound economic policies than politics, for he understands that for political power to be fulfilling and enduring, it has to stand on a strong economic foundation.
The dakkada philosophy, which is his reveille for the people of the State to rise and take their destiny in their hands, is yielding a lot of positive results. It has engendered in our people an attitudinal and moral rebirth. He has imbued in his people a renewed spirit of enterprise and creativity, and an abiding faith in their capacity to be all that God had destined them to be.
Governor Emmanuel is the kind of leader John Quincy Adams had in mind when he said “a leader is he whose actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.” His actions inspire Akwa Ibomites to dream more of what the future holds, learn more about how to fit into that future, do more to prepare for that future and in the process, become more of what the future requires. A leader for all times, Governor Udom Emmanuel is indeed the man who has seen the star of Akwa Ibom and has an understanding of where that star is leading to and what the state ought to do to get there.
Raphael Edem is a public affairs analyst
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