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2023: Deconstructing the next governor of Akwa Ibom state

2023: Deconstructing the next governor of Akwa Ibom state
May 21
18:01 2022

BY MICHAEL EFFIONG

We are just five months into the year but the fever of the 2023 elections is already enveloping and gripping every part of our polity. There is no doubt that there are mixed feelings among our citizenry regarding the performance of our federal and state governments. One thing is sure however, like spilt milk, it will be impossible to get our past back but we have the chance to determine the look, feel and shape of our future by our action or inaction in the next couple of months.

Just like in a few other states, 2023 will be a defining moment in Akwa Ibom state because once again, there will be a transfer of power after an eight-year reign of an incumbent. Expect drama, hire-wire politicking and more.

As expected, a few gladiators have indicated interest in occupying the Hilltop Mansion, but what exactly should Akwa Ibom people be looking for in the man who will occupy such a high office?

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Before I am crucified by gender activists, I have used the word “man” here because as of the time of writing this, no woman has thrown her hat into the ring.

Being one of Nigeria’s oil-rich states, Akwa Ibom is well positioned for greatness, but a lot of creative thinking and sacrifice is required to take it from where it is presently to where it should be.

The present Udom Emmanuel government has laid a strong foundation in infrastructure and investments, some of which may take years to bear fruits. That is the reason the people need a steady hand to steer the ship at this time.

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It is my considered opinion that the next governor of Akwa Ibom should not be a dyed-in-the-wool politician. The state should not be left in the hands of the ex-this, ex-that class, those whose only claim to fame is holding public office for donkey years with little or nothing to show for it.

This is not the time to compensate anyone; it is not time to think of men who only discuss today, but a time to choose a visionary leader, the kind of leader that loves his people and passionate about their welfare.

It is time to get the kind of leader that we can trace his trajectory, not one with questionable wealth who throws handouts left, right and centre or one who is just desperate for power just for the sake of bearing the toga “governor”.

The next governor of the Land of Promise must act as a corporate titan/CEO, someone with the ability to manage men and resources.

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He should be someone who has shown the capacity, character and competence to run a successful business. Someone who understands the dynamics of profit and loss, someone who has built an enterprise from zero to its Zenith, someone with a track record of performance. Like it is said, you cannot give what you don’t have or as they say on the streets “if e didn’t dey, e didn’t dey”.

Why is it necessary for the next governor to be private-sector driven? Everyone knows that the greatest problem in the world today is paucity of funds available to nations and by extension states. A state governor who only knows how to spend and does not know how to create wealth is not a good fit in today’s world that has been hit by recession.

Apart from funds, anyone who has run a business before will know what it is to be innovative and would have developed the penchant for adapting to new realities. Again, anyone who has run a business will know the pains and needs of SMEs — who are the major drivers of any economy.

What the state needs is the kind of leader highlighted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, one who is able to crystalise his vision, define its objectives, navigate its development and supervise its implementation. He should have clearly-defined ideas for agriculture, tourism and hospitality, rural development, health care and education. He should have a plan for the elderly and women.

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The best man for the job should be one who envisions an Akwa Ibom beyond oil. He should be the man who has been outlining his ideas, and not the one who has been grandstanding on the soap box. I am not a fan of abandoned projects. It is therefore good that there should be some form of continuity in vision. After all, it is a common saying that government is a continuum.

Nothing exemplifies the truism of continuity than the birth of Ibom Air. Governor Udom Emmanuel did not build the Victor Attah International Airport. What he did was to improve on it and then expand the use of the facility by creating an airline. Each time I board the airline, I cannot help but commend Emmanuel and the team that dreamt and executed this project. Apart from its excellent corporate culture and efficiency, this is one government investment that is a job-creating machine.

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The other day, I was having an argument with a friend who said the airline was a misadventure. I knew immediately that this was a sour grape and I took time to highlight what such an enterprise means for the state. Apart from creating easy access for investors and tourists, today, it flies to six destinations.

Now check this out. At all its destinations, it will have ticketing officers, people at the check-in counters, ground staff from cargo handlers, cleaners to engineers. It will have a full compliment of crew for shifts. It will serve refreshments which means that producers of bottled water, beverages and bites will have an outlet for their products. Imagine this kind of multiplier effect from just one business. That certainly is no misplaced priority!

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Another area that Emmanuel should receive kudos for is his decision to have a database for all farmers. I am told that at the touch of a button, you can find out specific details and number of maize, poultry, cassava farmers etc. in the state. That is not all. He midwifed the Akwa Ibom Geographical Information System (AkwaGIS), which will enable the state manage her land in an organised and digitalised manner.

We all know that data is king; without the right data, proper planning becomes like groping in the dark. In deed, these two projects show the forward-thinking nature of the present governor and it is therefore necessary for someone who shares this kind of vision to continue in 2023.

Furthermore, His Eminence, Sunday Mbang, an Akwa Ibom indigene, had once said that the next governor of Akwa Ibom should not be a cultist or someone who is associated with violence. I totally agree with him. He must be a man of proven integrity with impeccable character. Not one who has an EFCC case hanging over his neck or one who has been running in and out of courtrooms over past misdeeds.

In addition, the next governor must dare to tread where others dread. He should be the kind of man who is not afraid to have his hands dirty.

He should be dogged, tenacious, courageous and resilient, yet humble and amiable. He should be open-minded and be able to bring the best and the brightest stars together for the common good of the state. I therefore, call on the people of Akwa Ibom to take these points to heart as they head to the primaries and eventually to the polls to choose their next chief executive.

Effiong, a journalist, writes from Lagos.

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