Viewpoint - September 26, 2021

SUNDAY MUSINGS: A’Ibom 2023: Beyond the Desire to Serve

By Innocent Okon

Once upon a serial military interregnum in Nigeria’s leadership space, there  was a  self-styled Military President called General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.

For the eight years he held sway, he  created, recreated; built, rebuilt; dismantled and destroyed many things!

History shall surely oblige him with more than a chapter in the chequered political evolution of Nigeria.

During his duty tour as a political leader, he established a Mass Mobilisation Agency called MAMSER (Mass Mobilization for Self Reliance, Zero Justice, and Economic Recovery).

He smoked out some egg heads from  the Academia and Media as well as some well known critics of the administration, to implement the various aspects of his vision.

Fiery critics and civic society activists like Professor Wole Soyinka and Dr. Tai Solarin were appointed to head the Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC) and Peoples Bank respectively, while Professor Jerry Gana was asked to head MAMSER.

MAMSER was well-funded by the government. With that the agency was able to attract professionals, who arguably gave their their best shot of the job of social mobilisation!

One jingle  MAMSER produced  that pricked many a conscience  was the one that was always aired  in the morning before the 7 O’ clock national network News captioned: WHAT DID YOU DO?

It is was a clarion call for patriotism and damning condemnation of complacency and indulgence!

Nigerians were told every morning on Radio Nigeria that generations yet unborn would ask the role we played when Nigeria was going through a serious socio-economic and political rebirth!

³The nexus between this evergreen jingle and this MUSING is that the brain behind the Agency that created this jingle was General Babangida himself, who also approved and announced the creation of Akwa Ibom State on September 23, 1987.

That state clocked 34 last week, and I am not only older than Akwa Ibom, but old enough to make meaningful socio-economic and political contributions, eventhough unsolicited!

Mine here is not to ask the hackneyed question of Akwa Ibom: How far so far? But to throw up pertinent issues that could guide our journey into both our immediate and distant future as a distinct political entity.

As expected , the battle for the soul of Akwa Ibom come 2023 has sincd begun in earnest! There’s already a motley crowd of contenders and pretenders for the political  diadem, which is the gubernatorial seat at the Hilltop Mansion at the terminal end of Wellington Bassey Street in Uyo, the State capital.

Associations and Groups under different nomenclatures and guises are sprouting like mushrooms!

Aspirants for the exalted office are audacious, but short on mission and vision for the prized job!

What am hearing in my hidden  corner are issues on macro and micro zoning of the Governorship ticket.

Am also treated to tales of the rat race by aspirants  to secure  and retain the  ‘anointing’ of the incumbent state Governor, Udom Emmanuel!

It may appear ridiculous since power in a democracy is domiciled with the people. But in Nigeria, ridiculous permutations could become realities when mid-wifed by complacency!

Akwa Ibom is our common patrimony, and no select group must and should be allowed to permanently control the traffic to leadership positions on grounds of wealth, ethnic nationality and political proficiency.

Let our gubernatorial aspirants unveil their vision for the state on  education, health, infrastructure development, job creation, transparency and accountability in the management of public funds and reduction in the cost of governance!

I want to see and analyse how education in public schools can move from quantity to quality with model schools as  centres of excellence.

I want to be confronted with independent statistics of performances of our students in external examinations, like West African Examination Council Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, since the introduction of the free and compulsory education more than a decade ago.

And the roadmap for quality education with verifiable benchmarks!

This is the time to  know how Akwa Ibom economy can remain afloat and insulated from the vagaries and swings in thd pendelum of crude oil price movements at the international crude oil market and monthly allocations from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee in Abuja.

All over the world, leaders are now  identified with economic blueprints from superior knowledge canvassed at high profile economic summits and round tables and circles on the development of their economies.

Political sagacity maybe one, but not a priority index in the selection process in contemporary leadership matrix! 

Akwa Ibom deserves a governor who has an economic foresight and agenda that can give birth to a zero deficit state budget within  two or three years in office.

A serious aspirant should be able to tell Akwa Ibom people the measures he will put in place in the first 100 days in office to reduce the cost of governance and plough the saved funds into social services that would contribute to improved quality of life for the people.

I  expect gubernatorial aspirants to address the vision to grow the state capital to become a Greater or New  Uyo.

There should be a master plan to develop satellite towns and decongest the state capital.

The Obong Victor Attah administration developed a master plan for the state. Successive administrations appear to have deviated significantly from the original idea of the master plan.

We need a government that will the master plan back and ensure the state capital continues to develop with some measure of order.

There’s no economic sense in demolishing houses and dislocating the socio-economic lives of thousands all in the name of urban renewal and construction  of new roads!

We have come of age to have old and new Uyo.

Health  care is equally important. What is the blueprint for effective and efficient healthcare delivery system, which is different from what is on ground now?

Is attention going to be on the provision of infrastructures for primary or tertiary health care? What are the plans to increase the patient-doctor ratio in the state  between 2023 and 2027? 

The Ibeno beach is a tourist haven ignored and under-utilised! Where are  the  implementable ideas and connections to bring investors to develop this paradise of leisure and modern  cash cow nature has blessed the state with?

It is high time we moved from clanish and partisan concerns in the next leadership recruitment process . Knowledge driven ideas, integrity, strategic planning and knack  for  selection of a pool of committed human capital are ingredients for a better tomorrow for Akwa Ibom state.  And  the choice of one man with  these qualities cannot and should not be gratuitously  conceded  or arrogantly  arrogated to one privileged mortal or select political cartel !
God bless Akwa Ibom.

Okon, a lawyer and former Chairman of NUJ, Akwa Ibom State Council, wrote from Uyo

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