For Akwa Ibom and Akwaibomites, these have been the very worst of times. What is holding the state back from keeling over the precipice is the uncommon resilience and the abiding faith of the people. The belief that the Promise lies ahead, not with this administration.
The State is tottering under the weight of the failures of a pathetic excuse for a government. And a pathetic excuse for a governor.
Deacon Udom Emmanuel, the governor himself, has just unwittingly confirmed this sordid state of affairs. And what he represents.
Addressing a “town hall meeting” in Abuja on Tuesday, Gov Emmanuel was quoted as blurting out words to the effect that in “the whole of Nigeria, no first term governor has performed as much as I have done in Akwa Ibom state.”
After reeling out industrialisation and infrastructural programmes that only exist in his fertile imagination, the governor actually said, “You have elected a person who raised his hands and said, ‘here I am, send me.”
Udom Emmanuel is notorious for making such insidious and embarrassing comments but for him to look at the faces of Akwaibomites, whether they are in Uyo, Abuja or anywhere else for that matter, and say this is an entirely new low, even by his own miserable standards.
It is alright for the governor to grab at some straws in the face of a looming election that Akwaibomites have already made their choice – and that choice is by no means Udom Emmanuel. The campaign season is upon us, so it is allowed. But there is a problem there: It defies all norms of decency, sensitivity and morality for the governor to speak of setting “unrivalled first term record,” regardless of the intentions of those who cast that particular headline. It smacks of the arrogance and vainglory that Udom Emmanuel wears around like shirt and trousers; like a second skin. As a character trait, this has done more to sully his image and administration that any other failures.
May be those who should really respond to Udom Emmanuel’s rant are the first term governors that he claimed to have outperformed. But I imagine they have better things to do with their time — like working on their next lifechanging projects – than to waste it debunking Udom Emmanuel.
But let’s put things in perspective.
In the first place, Udom Emmanuel has absolutely no record to tout. He has no record to speak of. He has no record to run on.
Except if the bogus claim of constructing 1,700 km of roads in the state counts as “unrivalled first term record.” People have driven around the entire state in search of Emmanuel’s 1700 km road network but drew blanks; only a few kilometres of poorly constructed and abandoned roads are visible! Our streets are now riddled with pot holes. The street and traffic lights that once adorned the state have now vanished.
Technically, a 1700-km road is the equivalence of the distance between Uyo and Lagos and back, and then to Port Harcourt. Gov Emmanuel did all this and no one has noticed it? So much for his phantom 1,700 km roads!
The construction of 1700 km of roads alone is a massive economic initiative that would have generated no fewer than 1,500 direct and indirect jobs across the state. Think of sales of cement, sand and other building materials. Think of food vendors doing brisk business around the various construction sites that would have sprung up. Think of the short and long-term economic impact on the entire state and its environs. Think of that and you will realise that the governor’s claim is not only spurious but callous.
But so also is the fact that in his address he blurted about creating jobs for youth when the statistically-backed reality is that Akwa Ibom’s unemployment rate of 36.58 per cent is also the second highest in the country.
But poverty and unemployment in the state are real, not merely a statistic.
For confirmation, visit any of the city centres in the state – Uyo, Ikot Ekpene, Eket, Abak, Oron—the thread of poverty and low economic activities runs through them. It hits you in the face! From the hordes of frustrated keke-NAPEP riders on the streets to the low-earning government workers, the destitution is all so palpable. That should give you a clear picture of the hinterlands, where jobs and opportunities are nonexistent.
Yet Gov Emmanuel looked at Akwaibomites in the face and said, “We started from the grassroots and there is development there.”
Poverty continues to ravage the hinterlands despite Gov Emmanuel’s raking in nearly N1 trillion in federal allocations and IGR since he assumed office in May 2015.
Gov Emmanuel should be ashamed of repeating the much-vaunted “industrialisation programme” in public. The so-called industries are just a collection of cottage enterprises that, all together, do not employ up to 100 people. The fertilizer ‘bleeding plant and rice mill have now been exposed as confirmed scams.
These are just some of his “unrivalled first term records.” There are others.
Udom Emmanuel also boasted about his record on education. Hear him: “There is no examination in this country that Akwa Ibom will score less than 76 percent.”
How very dishonest and convenient to reel out another rosy stat? Unlike the governor, who is papering over the untenable state of education in the state, we can volunteer a damning fact: In the 2018 WASCE ranking, Akwa Ibom is ranked No 17, having slipped from No. 16 in 2017.
Make no mistake, the young minds of Akwa Ibom are bright, studious and ambitious; they want to learn. But the Emmanuel-led administration has consistently let them down.
On his watch, education is crippled by underfunding, overcrowded classrooms, dilapidated schools, demoralised teaching staff and, lately, a subventions scam that the administration is complicit.
The Emmanuel administration allocated N10.526 billion to education in the 2018 budget, 17.9 % higher than the N8. 620 billion spent last year. But it’s still 1.4 % of the total budget of N651.500 billion. UNESCO recommends 26 % of annual budget to education.
Even more troubling is the fact that, in the matter of education, because Gov Emmanuel is burying his head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, he has no workable strategy to pull the sector out of the doldrums.
What is Udom Emmanuel’s record on health?
The most widely accepted indicator of health in a society is the infant mortality rate or IMR. It tells you all you need to know about health service delivery in the state.
In Akwa Ibom, our IMR is alarming: it is 69 per 1,000. It means that out of every 1000 births in our state, 69 will die before their first birthday. Nationally, we are in the 26th position. But compared to other oil-rich states, our IMR ranking is a disgrace: Delta – 32/1000, Edo S– 17/1000, Lagos – 29/1000, Ondo – 28/1000, Rivers – 34/1000.
And Udom Emmanuel thinks this calls for celebration?
Gov Emmanuel cannot claim ignorance of the fact that simple environmental hygiene promotes good health. But take a walk around our major cities, what do you see? Mountains of garbage everywhere. Garbage, blocked drains and litters were once alien to Akwa Ibom. But under Udom Emmanuel, they are becoming a fixture.
Akwaibomites don’t live like this. We are noted for our strict personal and environmental cleanliness. This government has rubbished all that by denying the people access to decent accommodations. Udom Emmanuel sees no need for an affordable housing programme. So for over three years, he has not initiated a programme and has no plan for one.
Udom Emmanuel cannot be boasting about “peace and security,” as he did in his Abuja address, when he is deliberately rendering the political atmosphere combustible by tearing down – and at one point, attempting to commandeer – the campaign billboards of the APC Gubernatorial Candidate Nsima Ekere.
In Akwa Ibom, three local government areas have been overrun by cultists. Emmanuel’s government has ceded control to a reign of cultism and terror, stifling economic activities and social interaction. People now live in fear of attacks, rape and abductions.
We can go on but then Akwaibomites already know that Udom Emmanuel reeks of everything that is against the collective spirit of the state. They see through the governor’s vacuous and shameful record.
They have made their decision. Soon, he will hear from them.