One of my favorite things to look forward to on my visits home to Akwa Ibom was the leisurely time spent at the Ibom Golf Resort at the Le Meridien Hotel at Nwaniba. From the checking in process to the room service at the five-star hotel, the service was not different from any that most of us who travel frequently for a living experience in New York, London, Paris or Washington DC. The breakfast and dinner buffet spent at Le Meridien was indeed a social event among friends. Where else could you experience such international hospitality while engaging in a conversation with your waiter who speaks your language? Starwood Hotels, brought in to manage Le Meridien was no stranger to such high level of hospitality. They manage top hotels around the world including some in Lagos and Abuja. Now they counted Uyo among the cities that their high level of hospitality was experienced. But that was before Udom Emmanuel took over as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State. Starwood Hotels complained that they were not being paid and that under Udom, the Government ignored the agreement entered into with the previous administration. Udom Emmamnuel reportedly owed millions of dollars to the Starwood management and so the company had to lay off workers and eventually left Le Meridien. Udom as usual called “his boys” to take over the management of the hotel . With no training and no expertise in running an international Hotel and resort, the service there has gone to the dogs and what was once a jewel of the state where international conferences were once held has now become another sit-out joint.
The story is the same with the specialist hospital in Uyo that the Akpabio administration built with billions of Naira in public funds. The idea was to open Akwa Ibom for medical tourism and to bring back many Akwa Ibom experts practicing specialized medicine abroad. Udom Emmamnuel claimed that honoring a previous arrangement made by his predecessor was beneath him. And so a few months after he took over the governorship of the state, many experts brought in by the Akpabio administration left the hospital for non-payment. Udom claimed that the specialist hospital was not making money as if the function of government was to make money for shareholders, proving once again that Udom has no basic grasp of the role of government in society.
Do not get me started about the Four Point Sheraton Hotel in Ikot Ekpene. A few weeks ago on my visit home, that magnificent edifice was overgrown with weeds and the entry way known as Control Post had barriers erected to prevent motorists and cyclists from falling into the ditches and gulley created by erosion. So any right-thinking person should wonder about the assertion by Akan Okon, Udom’s Commissioner for special duties, that a road leading to the Four-Point Sheraton at Ikot Ekpene has been constructed. The Ibakka Deep Sea Port with its promises to create jobs and transform Akwa Ibom as a shipping mecca is now just a dream. Like everything, Akpabio thought about and employed his hands, Udom Emmanuel, with his politics of plunder, destruction and vindictiveness against enemies real or imagined has made us all poorer and has turned the clock of our progress backward.
Think about this for a moment and be reminded of the news conference purportedly given by the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Special Duties and Aviation Development, Akan Okon. Asked about the achievement of Udom’s administration, Mr. Okon spoke in generalities without mentioning one specific thing done by this administration. He mentioned the payment of salaries as if that is an achievement. Anyone who is employed whether in the private or public sector, by law must be paid and hardly has obedience to the law is counted as an achievement except by criminal elements who are used to breaking the law. Ordinary citizens do not jubilate for not stealing, mugging or killing. The fact is that the wealth of Akwa Ibom has not reflected in the standard of living of its citizens. Many people still live on less than a dollar a day while state funds are doled out to those who are well connected. Many individuals with certificates in hand can hardly find jobs. Many go to bed hungry and finding the next meal is difficult indeed. I spoke with several young people at home about the current condition that they found themselves. Unfortunately, some do not understand the issues and how such issues affect them. Some think more about political parties rather than their own lives and the role of bad policies by the Udom Adiministration to the current plight. They do not know that keeping and funding past programs can create jobs downstream. Very few could articulate the concept of continuity and its importance in a democracy. Our Governor too has no idea of the importance of this concept. Imagine the number of employment related to the Ibaka Seaport? Imagine the service jobs from the hotels? Imagine and just imagine medical trainings and jobs from the specialist hospital? We pay the price and will continue to suffer if Udom is re-elected. Udom must go in order for us as a state and as a people to regain our wealth and prosperity. We have the power and that power is in our votes. We must, as a matter of pride and need to chart our future, bring in someone to clean up the mess that Udom has created, and the person to do it is Obong Nsima Ekere!