Wednesday, 23 September 2015

A’Ibom State at 28: The journey so far BY UBONG INYANG


September 23rd is always remembered by Akwa Ibomites both young and old because it was on this day that our dear state was created and despite our language, cultural and political differences, we still remain a strong and undivided unit. It is even popular among pupils in schools because it forms the lyrics of one of their marching songs. The creation of the state marked the climax of a long and sustained struggle for a separate state by the people from Cross River State.
What became known as Akwa Ibom State today was formerly a part of the old Eastern Region of Nigeria. Following the 1976 creation, it became part of Cross River State before a further restructuring of the Nigerian Federation saw the birth of Akwa Ibom through the promulgation of Decree 24 of1987 by the then military head of state General Ibrahim Babangida.
Located in the south-south geopolitical zone of Nigeria, Akwa Ibom State belongs to one of the oil producing states of the Niger Delta with a population of 3.92 million and a land area of 6,900 square kilometer. The state is made up of 31 local governments areas and these are Abak, Eket, Eastern Obolo, Esit Eket, Nsit Atai, Essien Udim, Etim Ekpo, Oron, Okobo, Mbo, Onna, Itu, Uyo, Oruk Anam, Udung Uko, Ukanafun, Uruan, Urue Offong Oruko, Ikot Abasi, Mkpat Enin, Obot Akara, Nsit Ibom, Nsit Ubium, Udung Uko, Ibesikpo, Ikot Ekpene, Ibiono Ibom, Ika, Ikono and Ini.
Akwa Ibom State is made up of a homogenous group of people believed to have originated from a single ancestral stock. The languages spoken in the state are closely related and the Annang and Ibibio languages are mostly identical with a few dialectal differences. The Ibibios are the largest group, whilst the Annang , which form the second largest group, speak a language similar to the Ibibio language. Ibeno and Eket speak a similar language, and are located by the ocean. The Ibibio language belongs to the Benue-Congo language family, which forms part of the Niger-Congo group of Languages. The people are predominantly of the Christian faith although some native African religions are in practice to some extent. The state is also endowed with rich natural deposits like limestone, gravel, salt, silver nitrate, silica and kaolin that can be commercially exploited.
Akwa Ibom also has a strong political history as well. Colonel Tunde Ogbeha became the first military administrator of the state from September 28 to July 30 1988. Godwin Abbe continued in power after Ogbeha and subsequently handed over power to the first Indigenous military administrator in the state, Wing Commander  Idongesit Nkanga from September 5th   1990 to January 2nd 1992. The Nkanga administration left a credible landmark for Akwa Ibom. This administration saw the emergence of the state secretariat which is named after him as the Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat. The call for a democratically elected governor was heard when late Obong Akpan Isemin was elected into office in 1992.  The Isemin administration heralded a new dawn in the democratic governance of the state. This regime initiated the struggle for abrogation of the obnoxious onshore/offshore dichotomy.  Following a coup at the national level, the Isemin administration only lasted for a year and also marked a return to military rule in the state. The new administrator was Colonel Yakubu Bako who ruled from December 15th to August 21st 1996. Navy Captain Joseph Adeusi became the next military administrator in the state and he administered for two years before handing over to Group Captain John Ebiye who became the last military administrator in Akwa Ibom State.
Following the return to democracy in 1999, the state elections saw Obong Victor Attah emerge winner  with Engineer Chris Ekpenyong as deputy and the mantle of leadership was handed over to them. The Attah led government laid the foundation for the developmental strides evident today. He also fought for the onshore offshore dichotomy as well as a deserved revenue allocation for the state. Other notable achievements of his administration were the building of Itam park, Ibom plaza, remodeling and construction of Nwaniba road, Olusegun Obasanjo way formerly Abak road and not forgetting the Ibom Power Plant and the Ibom International Airport and many others. His mission statement was “to create prosperity for our people and communities by developing the infrastructure and processes that will support the responsible exploitation of our natural endowments for growth and sustainable development”. As a result of his successful first term, he was re elected for a second term as well. To many, his administration was the most peaceful both politically and in terms of security. Obong Attah was seen and is still seen as a symbol of modern Akwa Ibom State due to the role he played in uniting Akwa Ibomites and carrying everyone during his administration.
After eight years, Obong Attah was succeeded by Chief Godswill Akpabio after the 2007 gubernatorial elections and it ushered in a hurricane of development in the state. Akpabio started at a very fast pace with uncommon transformation being his administration’s mantra. The transformation started with the people’s mentality because before now, Akwa Ibom citizens were seen as peripheries and their roles were that of servants, peasants and opportunists. The first step the governor took towards eliminating such perception was to start a free and compulsory education policy in the state from primary to secondary level which prompted Akwa Ibomites outside the state to return home so as to benefit from it. Books and school desks were also provided as well as restructuring and building of new classroom blocks in schools across the state. His government also commissioned projects started by his predecessor such as the Ibom International Airport and Ibom Power Plant as well. The governor also kick started a campaign called operation Zero pothole on the roads. Roads across the state had a new look and new ones were constructed and they all linked local governments to each other. A stand out was the Itam flyover which drew commendations by Nigerians and even from then president Goodluck Jonathan. He, like his predecessor, was also elected into office for a second term and things got even better. He complimented his earlier projects by building a world class e-library and the biggest of them all, the Akwa Ibom International Stadium now named after him. He made sure government’s presence was felt at every part of the state. His dedication for good governance saw him winning numerous awards within an across the state. His remarkable achievement was the rebranding of the state as a destination rather than a pedestrian city. With eye-catching projects like the Ibom Tropicana Galleria, Le Meridien Ibom Hotel and Ibaka Deep Sea Port, the state became a tourist destination.In a nutshell, Akpabio remodeled Akwa Ibom.
As we all know, there is time for everything and the Akpabio administration ended few months ago but his legacies remain evergreen. In order to compliment the transformation template laid by Chief Godswill Akpabio, Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel was chosen for the task. He was presented to the people of Akwa Ibom by his predecessor as the man who will industrialize the state, one glaring deficiency of the Akpabio administration. Deacon Udom was voted in to office and sworn in on May 29th 2015 and he has so far showed signs of promise with several people oriented programmes in areas of training and empowerment of youths, reviving of collapsed industries such as Peacock Paints in Etinan. His experience in the economic sector is unparalleled and with this experience, the state will surely be industrialized and employment opportunities provided. 
As the state marks its 28th anniversary, it is the hope of Akwa Ibomites that the present administration would   the works of our leaders past. Also, Akwa Ibom sons and daughters should build within themselves a strong sense of discipline and love for one another. Discipline they say begins at home and parents should do their best to bring up their wards in a way that will exemplify and uplift the state as a whole. We cannot be using ethnic differences to stage war and friction among ourselves because our state is named after God himself. I hereby join the rest of the people to wish my dear state a happy 28th anniversary. Mme dakkanda.

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