Nothing more pathetically projects to the world that the Udom Emmanuel administration is a distressing footnote to history than the entire episode of the friendly football match between Nigeria’s national football team, the Super Eagles and the Spanish top club, Atletico de Madrid, which took place on 22 May at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
The journey of the two football teams through the state traced the modern history of physical development of Akwa Ibom State. Right from the time the Super Eagles and Atletico Madrid players touched down on the soil of Akwa Ibom International Airport till they were done with their assignment in the state, what was in visual display was the physical history of modern Akwa Ibom State. Interestingly, the signature of Udom Emmanuel, the current governor of the state, was missing in all the chapters of that history.
The footballers and their handlers feathered into a modern airport started by former Governor Obong (Arc.) Victor Attah and completed by his successor, Senator Godswill Akpabio. From the airport the footballers rode on a double-lane express way, again built in parts by Attah and Akpabio, to the 5-star Ibom Hotel and Golf Resorts, another monument to Akwa Ibom hard infrastructure development, built by Attah.
At the hotel, the visitors rested and soaked in the refreshing ambience of the 250-room facility, nestled on the banks of Nwniba-Ifiayong River, 10 kilometers south of Uyo town, while those among them who are aficionados of the elite sport, indulged in a bit of golfing on Nigeria’s best golf course.
On match day, 22 May, the players and their officials were bused to the Godswill Akpabio Stadium for the friendly match. In the VIP section, Governor Udom Emmanuel was already seated, grinning sheepishly from ear to ear, with no tinge of embarrassment that in all this celebration of Nigeria’s most popular sport, his signature was not there in any of the iconic infrastructure in the state used in the feast. Udom’s sole contribution was that of a cheer leader from the stands.
Udom Emmanuel missed it. He would have been part of the mosaic of the modern infrastructure on display in the state in the course of the football friendly if he had thought of governance as a serious business and directed his energy into the construction of the international terminal building of the Ibom Airport, whose contract had been awarded by his predecessor. If he had done that, the visitors would inevitably have used that facility and Udom’s name would have been part of the story of that football fiesta. But he didn’t. Udom’s preoccupation is not about that which endures and is historic. He is concerned with the zany and fleeting flow of razzmatazz such as the dakada drivel, the whimsical tomato gardening by the Ibom Airport and the utopian coconut refinery humbug.
The story of Udom Emmanuel’s place in the physical history of Akwa Ibom State with reference to the Super Eagles friendly match is in all respects representative of the man’s place in the overall history of the state. His administration is a pathetic footnote to the history of my beloved state.
A footnote is a margin to the main thing, an afterthought—explanatory note to address a query. That is what the Udom Emmanuel administration is. Historians would use it to explain what went wrong from 2015 to 2018 in my state. His government would be that note on the margin to help people handle questions such as how an enlightened people miss out on progress for four long years within a surfeit of resources necessary to achieve success.
The explanation would not be for lack of material resources; it would be because the people ended up with such a dumb government that was determined to fail in spite of everything.
Yes, determined to fail in spite of everything! The environment in which Attah and Akpabio operated and made their marks is virtually the same under Udom Emmanuel—except his mediocrity. I think I need to rephrase the point about the operating environment for proper evaluation of and due credit to the dramatic personae in this story.
Attah had much less to work with—the story is well known. But what he lacked in physical resources he more than made up for it in superabundant imagination and creativity. And that made the difference. He left behind a legacy of a power plant, a 5-star hotel, an airport project, a state university project, roads. Akpabio’s legacy is equally well known: a stadium that has become the best advertiser for the Akwa Ibom brand; the completion of the state airport; a specialist hospital; an e-library; a hotel in Ikot Ekpene; completion of a state university; many, many roads and bridges.
Agreed some of Akpabio’s signature projects have attracted criticisms as to their usefulness and functionality. Such criticisms are pointing to questions that a succeeding government ought to address. Udom Emmanuel has not averted his mind to the issues of perfecting disarticulated development or completing projects inherited from his predecessor. Yet Mr Emmanuel had campaigned on the platform of continuity.
The fact is that whether a politician running for public office promises it or not, continuity is the socio-political glue needed to bind all transitions between governments because it almost always takes more than one government to build the mass of critical assets required to turn the tanker in the development process.
Besides the campaign promise of continuity which binds Udom Emmanuel to making sure that the steam of progress built up by the Akpabio administration did not dissipate, there is the inevitability compelling a look at the two governments through the same prism because they share similar attributes.
From data released by the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) for the first quarter of 2018, the Udom Emmanuel administration received nearly N17 billion per month in the first quarter of the year. The financial flow has been similarly strong in the last three years, save for the early part of this government when the nation was in the throes of recession.
The monthly inflow from the federation accounts into the coffers of the Udom administration approximates the amount that accrued to the Akpabio administration within the same time frame. Given internally generated revenue, Parish debt refunds, bailouts from the federal government and commercial loans, the Udom Emmanuel administration is virtually at par with the Akpabio administration in terms of financial fortune.
Why then is the current administration in the state such a rank failure? Those who have attempted to address that query have bought up all manner of excuses. Some of them have blamed paucity of resources. But empirical data show that financial resources cannot be an excuse. The administration is well provided for. Others have talked about debts left behind by the immediate past administration that have hamstrung Udom’s government. But the truth is that there is no former government that has not left behind debts. Governor Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos State inherited the highest pile of debts by any state government in the federation, yet his government is powering away with game-changing projects and programmes for the people of Lagos State. He has brought leadership to bear on the debt challenge. Ambode is an accountant like Udom.
So where are Udom’s skills in financial management? Udom came to Akwa Ibom deafeningly touted as a financial wizard with international boardroom experience and global business school training under his belt. Why has he not deployed this skills set to the benefit of his state?
The reason is that Udom was criminally over-rated. He has not what he was credited with. He was not ready for the job; he was hauled into a position he was not prepared for, to serve as a stooge to the Akpabio family. His is a classic case of the Peter Principle. Above all else, Udom Emmanuel does not have the heart of a leader; he is not sincere, does not come clean with his people on the management of their resources.
That is why at three years as governor of the richest oil state in Nigeria Udom has no monument to show for his time at the Hilltop Mansion, except his personal palace at Awa Iman.