October 02, (THEWILL) – As Akwa Ibom State Celebrates 36 Years of the State’s Creation, The Senior Special Assistant to the State Governor, Pastor Umo Eno, on Research and Documentation, Mr Essien Ekefre Ndueso, takes UDEME UTIP down memory lane; from creation, the Military Era to the leadership of Pastor Umo Eno, the fifth democratically elected governor of the state.
We must tell our story. If we don’t tell our story then nobody else will. It is important that our People and generations have avenues where they can get acquainted with the journey of Akwa Ibom State. Akwa Ibom is so special and we have many reasons to celebrate. Some of us were here when the state was created. on that fateful day 36 years ago. We have enough reason to say God has been so faithful to Akwa Ibom State.
As a matter of fact, when the state was created, it wasn’t the only state that was created that day. It was the second of two states created. The first was Katsina State, created out of Kaduna State. That was the 20th state of Nigeria while Akwa Ibom State was the 21st, state with our capital being Uyo. Before that, we were a part of Cross River State which had Calabar as its capital. Then we used to speak Efik. Many of us were still in Nursery. School at the time. We just witnessed all the excitement but we didn’t really know what it meant to have a state of our own but then we were in other parts of our people who came down to the state to also join to form the Government. Before the state was created,
We used Efik reading books in our schools. After the state was created, we began to have transitions from Efik to Ibibio. It was interesting. Beyond that is the fact that we have been blessed with leaders who have come to an understanding that Akwa Ibom people are peace-loving and hospitable people and they worked for the progress and growth of the state. And you know that Akwa Ibom State is about the first set of agitators for state creation. They knew that once we have a state of our own; the potential we have, with our mindset, and our nature, we will be able to make this state the best in the country and the envy of other parts of the country. The yearning could not materialise until 1987.
The Military Era:
The first Governor of the state, The then Colonel Tunde Ogbeha, who came in, started the AKTC, AKBC. After his tenure, the following year, 1988, we. had Colonel Godwin Abbe from Edo State, coming in to lead Akwa Ibom State.
I still remember that tenure. The first dualised road we had in Akwa Ibom State was executed during that tenure. That is the Ikot Ekpene Road. It was just a single road but he was the one who dualized the road. And of course, those two landmarks, the Itam Peace Column and of course the Ibom Connection were both built by him. Then, he started some other landmark projects, but his tenure also ended after just two years. because in 1990, we had the first indigenous governor of Akwa Ibom State, also a military man from the Airforce, then Commander Idongesit Nkanga, coming to take over the mantle of leadership. It was also a very short tenure. Don’t forget that we also had the hype of the then First Ladies Pet projects; from Mrs. Uduak Nkanga. That was ‘The Better Life for Rural Women. That was also used to stimulate the enterprising spirit of our women. It was still in Commander Idongesit Nkanga’s tenure that we had the Centre for Women Development. Then it was built as the Better Life Mansion along Babangida Avenue and of course, Babangida Avenue itself was the second dualised road in Akwa Ibom State. During that tenure of Idongesit Nkanga, we also had the State Secretariat Complex now known as Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat. We had Ibom Hall also built during that tenure and several projects executed. The College of Education Afagha Nsit, formerly a Teachers Training College, was also established. We also had the Teaching Hospital Inauguration Ceremony performed by President Babangida. We had quite a number of things! So, the state witnessed massive growth. We also had the Government House, We had the commissioning of the AKBC Radio Service FM Station. This was in 1991, during Idongesit Nkanga’s tenure as Governor. It was commissioned by then-President, Ibrahim Babangida. Those were some Of the things we witnessed during that tenure and he was the one who handed over to Governor Akpan Isemin in 1992.
The Short Democratic Interlude:
Following a general election, we had Obong Akpan Isemin, as the first civilian governor of Akwa Ibom State. And when we had Isemin coming in, of course, the Civilian government coming in after years of dictatorship, we had much hope. And of course, when he came in, he had his own style of governance. He was a grassrooter. Those philosophies that they brought to bear. He tried to wage a war on the “Etuk-etuk” syndrome. That is when we try to limit our potential with our own mindset. He urged us to think big. Unfortunately by 1993, following the coup d’etat, we had an end to that rule. Of Course, we also did quite a lot. Remember that in those days, we had a Governor going around commissioning Community Banks in Local Government Areas. All this was for people to engage in cooperative activities and gain access to funds that they could use for their enterprises. The enterprising spirit was rekindled at that period. And then, of course, we had the construction of that road from Etinan down to Uyo by the Government.
Another Military Interception:
Following the abrupt end of that tenure, we had the military come in again. Before then we had a police commissioner in the State who had handled the affairs of state for about two months. *was the Commissioner of police and the signal by the then Military Head of States, Sani Abacha was that heads of military commissions at the rank of Colonel (*Luitenant) should take over in the respective states and where there is none at that level, then Police Commissioners. will take over. So, the Police Commissioner was the highest officer in the state and he handled the affairs of the state until Yakubu Bako was set to become the next Military Administrator of Аkwа Ibom State. He held this position from 1993 to 1996 and was succeeded by Navy Captain Joseph Adeusi. Remember that during the time of Adeusi, we had to fight against economic challenges. That period was when we had several sanctions against Nigeria by the global community, because of the continuous detention of Sani Abacha and other issues.. And then the military decided to use FIATS so they enforced sound economic policies. They refused to allow the price of the dollar to rise above the naira. They also made it very compulsory that fuel must be sold at the government-recommended price. These were things that were done against the wish of the people, of the market forces. The military government was in place in the state to enforce these policies. After his tenure in 1998, following the death of General Sani Abacha and the Ascendency of General Abdul Salami Abubakar, Adeusi was succeeded by another Air Force person sent to the state. It was handed over to John Ebiye, in 1998. He handed over to Victor Attah in 1999. Before doing that, he was able to build the Ebiye Heavens, the 100-unit Housing Estate.
The Democratic Era:
Following Obong Victor Attah’s ascendency to office, we had massive infrastructural growth in Akwa Ibom State. The dualized Nwaniba road was completed during his time. Also, the Uyo Village Road, Abak Road, which he named Olusegun Obasanjo Way, was also constructed during his time. We had the Atiku Abubakar dual carriage road, done by him and commissioned by the then Vice President, Atiku Abubakar. Of course, we have the ring roads, Nsikak Eduok Avenue, Edet Akpan Avenue, and Udo Udoma Avenue. He was, of course, following the blueprint that he himself designed when he handled the design of the Uyo city master plan. Then we had the Ibom Plaza Project also done in his tenure. He was able to cooperate with National Assembly members from Akwa Ibom State to put the final nail in the coffin of the obnoxious Onshore Offshore case and we had the 13% oil diversion fund during that tenure. So he’s the man who made Akwa Ibom State finally enjoy, to a large extent, the benefits of his establishment. Don’t forget that Akwa Ibom State sits on over 40% of the entire cash reserve we have in Nigeria. After the tenure of Obong Victor Attah (which brought about the Institution of the Ibom Airport and the five-star hotel, Ibom Icon, formerly known as Le Meridien Hotel and Golf Resort, came Governor Godswill Akpabio. He brought about further expansion of the infrastructural development of the state. We had the construction of the four flyovers. We had several roads as well as The International Stadium Complex, the completion of the Airport project, completion of the Airport dual-carriage road. There was also the road between Abak and Ikot Ekpene built during his tenure and many more. So, we had this touch of infrastructural development during his tenure as Governor of Akwa Ibom State. He was even known as the Uncommon Transformer. We also had the establishment of the state university under that administration. The people of Akwa Ibom State were really impressed with the things that Obong Godswill Akpabio had done and they wondered if anyone would ever be able to do so well again. Fortunately, God blessed Akwa Ibom State with another Leader, in the person of Governor Udom Emmanuel. He quietly brought a lot of infrastructural development to the state. People who go to see the works of Gov. Udom Emmanuel are always surprised at how he did so much but spoke so little about his accomplishments. For the first time in the history of Akwa Ibom State, we had a governor completing road projects in all the Local Government Areas of the state. His projects were massive. Even the Federal Government did not execute such a project in this part of the country. The 20km road from Uyo to Etinan, the 23km road from Etinan, dual-carriage also, to Eket, The three bridges, the 29km road with two cable bridges from Etinan. We had the airport road expand further from four lanes to eight lanes. We have a ten-lane 9.5km road built in the heart of the state that connects to Uyo and Ibesikpo Asutan. We had a 19km road from Eket down to Ibeno, a dual-carriage road with four bridges built by that government, So, for him, road projects were a given. Any government with money and a sound mind would be able to execute road projects, so he didn’t count those as achievements. The most important thing was the fact that he was able to institute industrialization in Akwa Ibom State. We had industries that employed Akwa Ibom people like the flour mill, the rice mill, the syringe factory, and many more. The chief among all is Ibom Air, the pride of Nigeria. Ibom Air is the only airline formed by a sub-national in Africa. That is quite remarkable. Beyond that, he also went ahead to build more Sporting Complexes in Akwa Ibom State. The dilapidated Uyo Township Stadium. was remodelled and a modern sports complex was built in Eket. Of course, we had a school’s sports facility built at West Itam of Itu Local Government Area. He also held a school’s sports competition where young talents were developed, discovered, and harnessed, enough for them to represent Nigeria in international Competitions. We had peace also, as a project because Like Gov Udom Emmanuel would always say, money is a coward and doesn’t go where he feels unsafe. Peace became a very important asset of his government. That is why the state, during his tenure, became a hosting ground for all manners of events, and so on.
Akwa Ibom Today:
Currently, we have Pastor Umo Eno as the governor of Akwa Ibom State. sworn in on May 29th, 2023 and with him came the Arise Agenda, the project that comes both as a wakeup call and an acronym for his blueprints manifesto in Akwa Ibom State. This is a wake-up call for people to rise up, embrace opportunities and join hands in developing Akwa Ibom State. The ARISE acronym stands for Agricultural Development, Infrastructure Development, Security, and Education. Everything comes under that. To even make it much more implementable, he also instituted a dialogue program where all stakeholders in the state and outside the state were brought in to examine the manifesto and make input to it. To also take ownership of the manifesto, to become part of the execution of the manifesto. That is what has now made it possible for the state to be on a steady track. Since May 29, 2023, we can see that the governor has continued to endear himself to the people of Akwa Ibom State by virtue of his disposition to government. He has demystified governance. He has made people know that they can see the Governor, touch the Governor, we can even wake up on a Sunday morning without expecting and we will see the Governor worshipping at our Church. In going around the rural communities under these guises, he is able to see much and more of the strengths and the weaknesses of these rural communities to ensure that all the Wards in Akwa Ibom State produce a personal assistant to work with him. In that way, no part of the state will be left behind in the development spree that he has in stock for the state.
Written By Essien Ndueso