By Uwemedimoh Umanah
In the last few months, the social media has been inundated with stories and arguments bothering on the performances of Governor Udom Emmanuel. This is particularly occasioned by the 2019 gubernatorial elections.
These stories are conjured the APC wing of Godswill Akpabio, the immediate past Governor of Akwa Ibom State to diminish the unparalleled strides of the Governor. One doltish arguments projected by this group is that Governor Udom does not have a signature project in the mould of the Nest of Champions and the secretariat named after Idongesit Nkanga.
A signature project is one’s greatest accomplishment which in most cases, is associated with his name. This asinine thought is founded on the lopsided and oppressive nature of the Nigerian society where greater emphasis is placed on the strength of an individual- leader than on the institutions and structures of society. It perhaps informs why the Nigerian paradox – sufferings in the midst of plenty.
As one trained by some of the best brains in the discipline of History, Development Studies and Political Economy such as Professors Okon Uya, Monday Abasiattai, Ben Naanen, Dominus Essien, and the Brazilian sage, Jose Murilo De Carvalho, it begs to ask, does Akwa Ibom really need a white elephant signature projects or sustainable livelihood signature projects ?
I was taught that Africans, South of the Sahara are the poorest in the world and live on less than $1 per day. I was also taught that the most ravaging problems facing us as a people are those of poverty, unemployment and inequalities. Therefore addressing these “evil triplets”, the way Governor Emmanuel is doing , is the way out for Akwa Ibom, Nigeria and Africa.
What was Clement Isong’s signature project? The answer is, ‘the people’. Does the fact that he played down on the ego- tripe of building a white- elephant signature project at a time his people were languishing in joblessness erode the fact that he’s the best governor we ever had? He simply knew that what his people needed was a better living conditions, hence the numerous industries he built to engender the sustainable livelihood of the people the old Cross River State?
Signature projects? Oh yes, a signature project should be people- centered. In the US, ObamaCare was Barrack Obama’s signature project. In the UK, BREXIT is Theresa May’s Signature Project. In Akwa Ibom, Industrialization for Wealth and Job Creation is Governor Udom’s Signature Project.
In the context of sustainable livelihood, one may inquire further the economic viability of the white- elephant Tropicana, Four- Point By Sheraton and the moribund e- library? What correlation do these projects have the sustainable livelihood? What’s the return on investment and how many jobs have they created for the state? The picture is getting clearer!
Now, the industrial phantasm of Godswill Akpabio. During the 2011 gubernatorial campaigns, then Governor Godswill Akpabio, in his usual flamboyant- style made industrialization his campaign thrust. “…we have kept 20 billion Naira to establish 31 industries in all the LGAs of the state…”. That he ruled the state from 2007 – 2015 without using the N20 billion to build or attract a single industry is known to all.
Truth is, there’s no way he could have built or attracted an industry because of the nature of international capital- whose moment is selective and racist. International Capital only goes to an area that is conducive for profit maximization.
With the killings and instability in Akwa Ibom, no FDI could have come to the state. Again, the integrity and the character profile of leaders determine the movement of international capital. It’s a prerequisite for investors’ confidence but unfortunately, the Akpabio era had none of these.
Udom Emmanuel’s approach to industrialization represents a paradigm shift from his predecessor’s which was merely rhetorical. An internationally -acclaimed banker with a stint at Price WaterHouse Cooper, Udom Emmanuel’s name is a ‘pull factor’ for Foreign Investors.
Barely 3 years in office, Governor Emmanuel has turned Akwa Ibom into an industrial hub, because the world is going the way of industrialization. He has demonstrated that leadership is not about rhetorics and demagoguery; it’s too serious a business to be left in the hands of a mediocre.
The history of industrialization in the state is traceable to Dr Clement Isong administration in the old Cross River State (179-1983). Under his watch, Industries such as Qua Steel Eket, Quality Ceramics Limited Itu, Sunshine Battery Ikot Ekpene, Limited, International Biscuit Ikot Ekpene, Pamil Industries Limited Abak, among others, berthed and took thousands of youths off the street and led to the emergence of a middle class in the state.
It’s instructive to note that no subsequent administration had seen the need to sustain the great strides recorded by Dr Clement Isong until the coming of Governor Udom Emmanuel. Udom has brought back the ‘good old days’ of industrialization. He envisages an Akwa Ibom where every person is gainfully employed, because in his belief, employment/ jobs shrinks poverty and inequality gaps . It also creates the enablers for creativity and inventiveness.
Udom’s new factories’ output would stimulate more economic activity across the state. As factory output grows, it requires more input from mining and utilities and suppliers and creates jobs and investment opportunities in all other sectors such that use its products, such as transportation, construction and retail. The factories would spur growth in services such as finance, transportation and logistics.
It must be noted the Jubilee Syringe, Metering Solution, Coconut Industry, Flour Mill and AKEES Industries, among others, are a departure from the 31 phantom industries promised Akwa Ibom In 2011. Being realistic, touchable and seeable projects, the industries are a major step in the development of Nigeria’s real sector sector and the political economy
By October 2016, the Syringe factory had 130 direct employees while the Metering Solutions employed 100 workers. It’s projected that the 12 industries on ground in the state would generate over 1000 direct and over 3000 indirect employments in the state.
When one looks at the multiplier effect of this (not the number), the great leap by the Superior Performer, Governor Udom Emmanuel would be seem beyond the realm of phantasmagoria.
Udom’s syringe factory, has a production capacity of 400 million syringes to be expanded to 1 billion and 4 billion in a year and in the next 5years respectively. This leap is again different from Akpabio’s fantasy. Isn’t it amazing that a state that highly reckoned as a civil service state, incapable of surviving without federal allocation from Abuja, has created a new economy?
Unlike the fantasy of 2011, Udom’s new Industries would result in the emergence of a middle class. The importance of this project was summarized by Nigeria’s Vice President , Yemi Osinbajo, ‘the syringe factory is a landmark project not just for Akwa Ibom but the whole of Nigeria. The factory is a game changer and a very smart thing to do…’
The syringe, Metering, Coconut and Flour Industries would create wealth for the people of Akwa Ibom and Nigeria in general. They are expected too, to have substantial impact on the Gross Domestic Product and Net Income of Nigeria.
Suffice it to say that wealth creation is major agendum in Governor Udom Emmanuel’s point of agenda and the factories were tailored to reinforce the agendum, as noted by the managing director of the jubilee syringe factory, Onur Kumral, “the syringe factory is a bullet that will assist to end the poor run of the country’s economy as it has already created job & opportunities for indigenes of the state… We aim to deliver superior growth and profitability and lowering cost”.
So far, Governor Udom Emmanuel has not derailed from his electioneering promises, particularly, to industrialize the state in order to create jobs and wealth for the citizenry. This is in sharp contrast with his predecessor who promised 31 industries during his reelection campaign but ended building/ attracting none. This unparalleled feat would shape the 2019 gubernatorial elections in the state.