Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A’Ibom at 27: How far, so far

A’Ibom at 27: How far, so far

Last week marked a major milestone in Akwa Abasi Ibom State. It is even more unique on grounds that it is the only State in the federation named after God.

This appellation in many ways, places huge responsibility on the citizens of this great enclave carved out of the old Cross River State way back in 1987.

The events leading up to the creation of the State did not come on a platter of gold. It is instructive to note that it took the ingenuity and bravery of patriots to see to the creation of Akwa Ibom State. The road was tortuous and riddled with hiccups both natural and man-made. They were such that could easily cow the lily-livered and uninitiated into submission. Many remained tucked in their cocoons; others who could muster good enough courage according to their elastic limit fell by the way side when the chips were down. Some others who had genuine love built on concrete faith, uncommon grit and vim stood their grounds and never wavered in the face of terror, tension and telling difficulties. Such were those who laid the solid foundation upon which we are celebrating today with so much pomp and panoply. They went out of their way to draw the map that has culminated into one of the choice destinations in sub Saharan Africa. They deserve our endless showers of encomiums and accolades. They deserve a standing ovation without any compulsion whatsoever.

They are men and women of honour that should be revered by all and sundry to no end. They have made unprecedented strides that have led to their names being perpetually inscribed in gold in the annals of our history. They were visionary and futuristic. They thought out of the box and looked beyond their noses.
Today, as we roll out the drums to celebrate our dear State at a ripe age of 27, having been created on the 23rd day of September, 1987, through the instrumentality of Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and our revered elder statesman, Arch. Obong Victor Attah. Without any iota of doubt, it will be a slight on his person and grave injustice on our part if we downplay the instrumental role the former Nigeria Governor’s Forum Chairman played in the creation of Akwa Ibom State. He is just one of the men we should doff our hats for. Several times, I have wondered within the innermost recesses of my heart how these patriots remained unperturbed in spite of the strain of the time. Were they extraordinarily blessed by nature to weather the storm at the time they did? Could it be that a different blood ran through their veins as they displayed uncommon bravado and gusto to triumph above the devises of evil forces and their co-travellers? My fellow Akwa Ibomites, these posers have continued to agitate my mind and have to a very large extent suffused me with awe and feelings of wonderment so much that it has compelled me to goggle through history to unearth the ‘special’ attributes that our early parents possessed. 

I feel too, that this should also prick our conscience as we wonder and reflect through our history and continued existence.
Each of us, from our closet should be able to think of what we can do to immortalise these patriots. We must rise above the myopic inclination to ethnicity, religious intolerance and other inimical postures that threaten our collective existence to its very foundations. Today, we must take a stand as a people and reflect deeply on how far we have gone as a people, what we can do to impact further on the present and the formula to adopt as we project into the future. It is no time to point fingers or engage in warped thoughts that will only create tension and division among all and sundry. In more ways than one, it is a time for sober reflection. A time to reminisce on the past and attempt to fix the loopholes we have left behind by act of omission or commission. It’s of no use for us to stand by and spit on the tomb of our late heroes ostensibly on what we feel they did not do. The time to move away from such baseless expedition has come at no better time than now.

Hitting 27 is no mean feat. It shows that we are no longer toddlers who should be spoon-fed or over-pampered. We must take our destiny in our hands and strive towards the unity of our people. We may have been thrown into different lines because of interests, choices and aspirations but, we can proof to those poking fun at us that we can live in concord in spite of these setbacks. A saying goes that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. This age-long dictum is germane at a time like this for us to reflect upon. Fighting, quarrelling, name-calling and engaging in campaign of calumny and mudslinging of another fellow is tantamount to shooting ourselves in the foot. We cannot afford to continue these divisive trends that only predispose us to failure and retardation on all fronts. We must abhor hateful feelings towards our brothers and sisters and imbibe the spirit of love and brotherliness.

Akwa Ibom State has come a long way in areas of economy, tourism, politics, commerce, education etc. As we revel in this auspicious occasion of our 27th anniversary, it is fitting that we cross-examine how good or less we have fared in these areas and also seek ways through which we can better our efforts.
This time does not call for blame game. It is not time to fly the ethnic flag to the detriment of the overall peace and unity of the State. It’s time to critically examine our cultural values, our moral system, our beliefs, unity, love for one another, our value system and what have you— the time to come together and wage a fierce war against bitterness, hate, evil practices that only deplete us, unforgiving hearts and injurious pride.

Today, it’s imperative for the government to see governance as a sacred call to galvanize the people and her economy for the wellbeing of the citizens. The era of financial malfeasance and reckless pilfering of the public till must give way to financial propriety and efficient management of resources.

Our leaders should as a matter of moral responsibility and urgency think more of the people who stood by them through thick and thin to vote them into the various offices they occupy together with so much swagger. These people were those who foraged the nook and cranny of their various communities to woo fellow voters to queue behind the ogas and madams. They stood in the sun, got drenched in the rain to ensure they cast their vote for candidates. So, why then are they treated as flotsam and jetsam of the society? Why do we see them as dregs of the society that should be milked, tortured and done away with the wave of the hand? Where lies our love for one another? Why have we reduced politics to a level that only splashes mud on us? Why have we turned the political terrain into one cauldron where human life means little or nothing to us? Where is the love for our neighbour as the Holy Scriptures advocates? Does the Christian doctrine which we profess with so much fervour and éclat not warn us against being disunited? Do we need to be preached to every now and then to know that a house divided against itself cannot stand? Do we not know what unity built on a solid rock can do for our collective habitation? I don’t want to belief we do not. Still on politics, why have the youths of our time given themselves so cheap for desperate and blood-guzzling politicians to thwart, mortgage and slaughter their future on the altar of ephemeral crispy notes? Do we not know that sacrificing innocent souls in order to achieve one objective or the other only serves to darken and put our future in jeopardy?

As the march to the next general elections gathers steam and in line with Akwa Abasi Ibom’s twenty-seventh anniversary, we must say no to acts and conducts that are capable of destroying the walls of that unity our forefathers painstakingly put in place for posterity to savour. We must courageously and conscientiously work against allowing some politicians with no good pedigree and egalitarian fervour to hoodwink us into murdering our future for a piece of meal.
No sane father will arm his son/daughter to take to the battle field with quest to kill and maim. They will never conscript their wards into thuggery and other sundry crimes to achieve their mandate. It’s only those they see as disposable appendage that they gleefully embolden to go and perpetuate evil and vile against humanity.

Election is not a do or die affair that should compel us to reduce our worth for filthy lucre. As the much vaunted 2015 polls inches ever closer, the youths must take a stand and critically examine the plethora of candidates that are daily springing up like grass seeking our votes. Let us look at the future more closely, and not be blinded by the gratification of today at the detriment of the long-lasting joy and bliss that awaits us if we make good use of our senses. A stitch in time they say, saves nine. I hope the youths will hearken to these imperatives and put their future on a sound footing.

Akwa Ibom State is a land overflowing with agricultural and mineral resources. The abundance of these resources makes the State a goldmine for investors. Investment opportunities abound in the areas of commerce, agriculture, housing and tourism.

Akwa Ibom is the largest producer of crude petroleum in Nigeria, followed by Rivers and Delta States. In terms of agriculture, the State is blessed with rivers and tropical trees. Her location places it in favourable climate for all-year season for agricultural activities. The State has potential for investments in Agro-Allied industries, food processing, fishing and the production of fertilizers. There are also abundant mineral resources in the State. 

Apart from oil and natural gas; mineral resources like limestone, clay, gold, salt, silver, nitrate, aluminium, glass and sand also exist. This unarguably can lead to the development of industries in petrochemical, glass manufacturing, ceramics and cement. Akwa Ibom has a coastline of 129km and is endowed with mangrove swamps, rivers, creeks and flood plains. All of these offer great investment opportunities for trawling fishes and shrimps; fish processing and canning industries, fish meal production, fish oil and glue industries.

The State has high density of oil palm belt on the West African coast which can sustain oil mills, allied industries and feed mills. The raw materials research and development council office in the State provides information on raw materials available in the State to potential investors. There are many reasons to invest in Akwa Ibom State. In terms of location, she is positioned midway between the two cities of Calabar and Port Harcourt and has unlimited access to the world either by air or sea. The State is also served by three export zones in terms of market prospects for her products. Nigeria, with over 150million people is a lucrative market for seafood. The country enjoys favourable trade relations with Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) members. Export opportunities to Europe and US also exist. With a workforce population of over four million people, Akwa Ibom State has an abundance of skilled and unskilled labour. From the foregoing, it is gratifying to be reminded of the abundant human and natural resources abiding in the state. 

The government, both past and present have done their bit in creating an enabling environment for the economy to thrive. It is then let left for the experts and indeed the entire good people of the state to tap into these abundance for the betterment of our lives. The government should also do more to create a conducive atmosphere for businesses to thrive.

The gas plant at Uquo is highly commendable as it will create employment aplenty for the teaming unemployed. 

The Ibaka Deep Sea Port is another area government should expedite action on so that it can rightly serve its purpose. The need for building industries cannot be over stressed. Government should intensify efforts in this regard as it has the potential of absorbing the unemployed ones among us and thus, alleviate poverty in our land. The time to act is now. Less rhetorics, more actions please.
The educational sector of the state has indeed taken a quantum leap in the past few years. With the introduction of free and compulsory education by the Godswill Akpabio administration, it’s been a new lease of life in this all-important sector of the state and the country at large. Before now, most children of school age could not go to school partly because of lack of funds by their parents and other sundry issues. But today, the story has changed significantly. Parents have been saved the hassles of paying their wards school fees from their meagre resources as the state government has lifted the burden off their shoulders. But there’s still room for improvement. There have been complaints that most of the facilities and infrastructure in the schools are worn out as a result of years of over-usage as well as a dearth in some of these facilities. Government should therefore fashion out ways of tackling these immediate and clear challenges and other short comings like poor staffing, remuneration, books and also ensure that a sound and conducive environment is provided for qualitative education to be imparted on all and sundry.

In the area of religion, it is no longer a news item that Akwa Ibom state has the highest number of churches in Nigeria. In fact, it is believed that almost every compound has one or two churches. Analysts say that it has gradually become the most thriving industry in the state with little or no corresponding positive impact on her adherents. Today, the overwhelming belief is that floating a church is the easiest way to financial freedom. Little wonder then the sermons dished out by our General-Overseers and their subordinates is predominantly on prosperity instead of the gospel of salvation and repentance as propounded by our Lord Jesus Christ. Flamboyant and showy lifestyle has become the order of the day among our men of God. Some have made the church appear so commercial that you will wonder if that’s the sole purpose of erecting those structures.

When ministers of the gospel preach with so much passion about God being in charge of His children; move about in convoys with watertight security details, they only bring to bear a stark contrast of what they mouth daily to their gullible followers. Regrettably too, worshipers are almost deifying their stupendously rich pastors and arrogating the honour, reverence and respect that is solely God’s to these men. In the past, churches were out to redeem, heal and support her faithful in any way possible. Today, it’s the other way round. You are to ‘sow seed’, support the ministry and contribute to almost everything including the shoe lace of a minister. It has become one massive rip-off. While helping or supporting the preaching of the gospel is no crime, what this writer is out to correct is the money-gospel that is gradually taking over the sole aim of winning souls for the kingdom of God. Why are our pastors so rich and her members so poor? Why do churches run schools that her members can’t afford? Why do some of our so-called pastors move around with armed security personnel? Is it the example that was set by Christ? What are they afraid of? Death? Does the scripture not guarantee those who die in righteousness a swell ride to heaven, more so, preachers of the gospel? Today, our men of God must re-connect to their original calling, that word again! They should extricate themselves from too much attachment to materialism and rather put on the garb of exemplary lifestyle while channelling their energy, gifting and charisma to preaching the gospel of salvation for her numerous followers. 

It is ironic that a faithful church attendee is lamentingly poor, struggles to feed, has no meaningful means of livelihood while his pastor boasts of fleet of cars in his garage and even has remnants of food to feed his dog but the faithful; the faithfuls cannot send their children to the school built by their money on account of high fees. It’s high time these anomalies are corrected in the system. Moral rectitude, value system and the good ideals that we have almost lost on the altar of the allure of crispy notes must be resurrected with dispatch. Our men of God should see their ministry as divine and not an avenue to enrich themselves while impoverishing the worshipping public. Hobnobbing with politics beyond limit must be done away with pronto. Their preoccupation should be how to deliver soul-uplifting sermons that will touch the hearts that have been hardened on account of excruciating poverty, social dislocation and limited knowledge. Our men in shining pastoral armour can do more. There’s no better time to turn a new leaf than now. Some others are doing well and we commend their efforts while urging them not to relent in their efforts. It is our prayer that God helps them to keep the fire aflame ad infinitum.

It is no longer a topic of debate that Akwa Ibom stands on a tripod of Ibibio, Annang and Oro. Though, Ibibio has the majority population and in other indices. There have been deep-seated animosity, tribal sentiments and disunity among these three tribes in the land. From time immemorial, these tripartite have been at daggers drawn over who should hold the ace, decide on major issues, claim political power and prestige. These attitudes have never augured well for the people. It’s often a drawback on her march to prosperity thereby leading to wars, hatred and senseless killings. 
But due to the dynamic dimension the world has taken, it is imperative that we sheath our sword and jaw-jaw for peace to reign. Our unity is sacrosanct at no better time than now. Drawing few lines from an address to the people of the state by His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Ekuwem and Archbishop of Calabar, during the reception in honour of former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Arch. Obong Victor Attah, “Akwa Ibom State is a family. The common bond is the love that ties all together into one. It is that love that binds better than the blood relationship; after all, where there is no love, a brother can rise and slaughter a brother like Cain did to his brother, Abel. Akwa Ibom therefore, is like a body. We are one body with many members. The Ibibios cannot say they do not need the Annangs or the Annangs say they do not need Oron or the Orons the same. We need one another individually and collectively for a unified, happy and loving Akwa Ibom in which the success of one is the success of all; the victory of one is the victory of all; and the success story of one is the joy and happiness of all the members.” He is admonished.

From the above, it is deducible that peace and unity is a panacea to collective prosperity as against ethnic bigotry and bickering as the 2015 polls looms large. Many candidates from different ethic blocs have indicated interest in vying for various elective offices as the constitution demands, it is good as Archbishop Ekuwem rightly observed at Asan Ibibio. But as we angle for these positions, care must be taken so that we don’t lose our identity and essence as a people. In the fight for the topmost seat in the state, majority say the position should go to Eket Senatorial District for the sake of balance of power. Others have advocated for a level playing field for all aspirants. While all these opinions are normal in a democratic setting, it is important that we avoid actions and utterances that will plunge us into the abyss of shame. We should, as a matter of equity and moral obligation allow power to pass through the channel that had long been laid by those who fought for the creation of Akwa Ibom State.  

In the area of holding the reins of power, the efforts of both our military and civilian administrators have ensured our success. We had Tunde Ogbeha from 28th September 1987-30th July 1988; Godwin Abbe, 31st July 1988-5th September 1990; Idongesit Nkanga, 5th September 1990-2nd January 1992; Obong Akpan Isemin, 2nd January 1992- 18th November 1993; Yakubu Bako, 15th December 1993-21st August 1996; Joseph Adeusi 21st August 1996- 8th August 1998; John Ebiye, 9th August 1998-29th May 1999; Obong Victor Attah, 29th May 1999-29th May 2007 and Chief Godswill Akpabio 29th May 2007 till date. Speaking at the Asan Ibibio grounds on the 5th of September 2014 on the occasion of his civic reception by Ibibio people, Obong Victor Attah stated that due to the sequential logic that power should rotate round the three Senatorial districts and on the account that Uyo and Ikot Ekpene have had their turn, equity demands that the next governor should come from Eket Senatorial District. He however observed that due to the compelling need to reposition Akwa Ibom State; good governance will not be sacrificed on the altar of zoning. He advocated for an open contest where all aspirants will be given a level playing field to test their might at the polls. While many have read diverse meanings to this speech, one thing that remains true is that Obong Victor Attah just as Chief Godswill Akpabio supports the zoning of the governorship position to Eket. That is just the point. That he advocated for an open contest was to make other aspirants not to lose hope or feel that Attah incited the people against their aspiration.

Furthermore, he was indirectly saying no to imposition of any kind. That is why he called for a level playing field for all aspirants. It is commendable and good for democracy. Now as the race gathers pace, all the aspirants must understand that it is one man that will win the contest. At no time will we have two governors occupy one seat, No. Every contestants should go about their aspiration and campaign when the time is nigh in line with democratic ethos. We must not put our state in reverse gear. The wheel of the state must keep moving until we reach the destination we all crave. We are predominantly of the Christian faith although some native African religions are practised by some of the people. This nuanced difference or so we think should not divide us in anyway.

Let us get united so that we can reap the fruits of the land that abound. In the tourism sector, we are blessed with the Ibeno Sand Beach/Natural/Manmade Ibom Mobil Oil treatment, Ekpo Masquerade festival, Oron Museum/ Monument, Mary Slessor House/Monument Tomb etc. These are great and significant attributes that makes us unique. Let us uphold them tenaciously so that posterity will have something to hold on to.

We should also look at our fast-fading languages of Ibibio, Annang, Oron, Eket and Ibeno. It is absurd that the so-called modern parents have not done enough to teach their children our mother tongue thus, leading to their inability to express themselves in their native language. This is a bad precedent that has the tendency of putting our cherished language into extinction if not checked. Let us be proud of what we have so that our culture and essence will not be thrown out of the window. We should revive our cultural values and ensure that we teach our children what they should know and not bombard their brain with imported cultures that only leaves them in the lurch when discourses about their land are being deliberated upon.  

In all we do, we should earnestly pray that only the will of God should be done in our polity. We must live in peace and harmony and love one another as it is the surest way through which we can fully enjoy the good of the land. May the 2015 polls not tear us apart but rather strengthen our unity and resolve to co-exist in spite of the powers and forces fighting against our collective existence. 
Our prayer should be that God blesses us with leaders that will care for the masses and undertake programmes that will be of benefit to the people. That is our wish, we cannot fold our arms and allow charlatans run rings round us. Akwa Ibom State must take it pride of place in the comity of states in the federation come what may. Long live Akwa Ibom State.... Long Live Nigeria!

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