By Sylvester Inyang
During the 2014/2015 election season, some of those who supported the Godswill Akpabio-orchestrated attempt to impose Udom Emmanuel as governor in Akwa Ibom State, made a big deal of his work experience as an accountant and banker. A man of his professional background, it was repeatedly asserted, would bring to governance in the state, the rational and calculated ‘technocratic’ touch that politicians were thought to lack (as if a so-called professional could not be a politician or vice versa).
Some 27 months into his term as governor however, the much-touted ‘professional’ touch is yet to be seen in Udom Emmanuel’s approach to the job of governor. If anything, Emmanuel is shaping up to be the most archetypal Nigerian politician to ever preside over the affairs of Akwa Ibom State. Udom Emmanuel as governor has been uncompromisingly partisan, truculently arrogant and brazenly duplicitous in matters big and small. Neither the adoption of the title of deacon nor his pretentious religiosity has served to induce in him the Christian virtues of humility, selfless service and fidelity to the oath of his office. Increasingly, in demeanour and speech, Udom Emmanuel gives the impression of a man who would think nothing of casting off the garb of dignity the high office of governor has bestowed on him and taking on his opponents with his bare fists! Such pugnacity is as far removed from professionalism as you can get.
Seeking to excuse the thuggish nature of Udom’s politics and governance style, some observers have suggested that he has little choice in the matter. They say that the illegitimacy of the route through which he reached the Hilltop Mansion in Uyo, his abject dependence on a political structure erected and controlled by a Godswill Akpabio he dare not trust completely; his corresponding lack of any meaningful political base of his own save for the inconsequential backing of a much-despised band of Lagos returnees; all, work to bring out the worst in Udom Emmanuel, the politician. It is also pointed out that the uncertainty of the outcome of his likely re-election bid in 2019 and the existence of an APC government at the centre which may deny him access to the rigging machinery that ensured his declaration as governor in the first instance, have done little to improve the temperament of his government.. Udom Emmanuel, even his most ardent supporters acknowledge, is truly between a rock and a hard place (or many hard places, in fact).
While correct, none of the reasons adduced for Emmanuel’s adoption of what, in contemporary terms, is a “Wikesian” style of governance is sufficiently exculpatory of a man whose only claim to distinction, ab initio, was his so-called professionalism. It speaks to the essential character of the man that boorishness has come so easily to him. If Udom Emmanuel has found himself between rocks and so many hard places (to extend the metaphor), he willingly and consciously put himself there. And he did so despite warnings that he was putting himself in a position that no deacon should willingly enter. Chief Assam E. Assam (SAN), it will be recalled, did warn Emmanuel when Godswill Akpabio threatened death to anyone and everyone who dared to oppose his (Emmanuel’) imposition on Akwa Ibom, that by accepting to be governor even over the corpses of the innocent, he was entering a Faustian bargain that would come back to haunt him one day. Any man who would accept without obvious coercion, a chalice so poisoned must be himself possessed of a deep character flaw. It is that flaw and its unedifying ugliness that have now been revealed for the entire world to see.
Character and temperament apart, gubernatorial professionalism is in no way indicated even in such practical matters of governance like policies and projects; matters in which an astute banker should demonstrate unparalleled brilliance and professional discernment. How could a professional accountant allow himself to be misled into promoting the scam behind the revived Peacock Paint Industry that was no revival at all? Or the obvious unviability of an armoured car factory that would be dead on arrival? Or the pipe dream of a range of Mexican Cattle that will likely not survive the hostile and peculiar tropical environment of Uruan?
Where is the professionalism expected of an experienced banker who would ignore billions of the peoples’ investments in the Tropicana, Ibom Specialist Hospital, Ikot Ekpene Four-Point by Sheraton Hotel, Le Meridien Hotel, the MRO and the Ibom International Airport and lift not a finger to salvage such investments? Where indeed is the financial wizardry in a man reputed for same when his government cannot make up its mind if a planned Lodge in Lagos is N1.2 billion or N9.1 billion or even if it was budgeted for?
No professional worth the paper his certificate is printed on would celebrate the last stage assembly of electricity meters as the pinnacle of industrialisation. Or the production in Uyo of Made-in-China pencils. Or the syringe factory which does no more than make plastic barrels and plungers from moulds in much the same manner as small scale entrepreneurs have been making plastic water bottles in the state all these years.
If Udom Emmanuel was the professional his boosters once claimed he was, in 27 months in government house, his professionalism has abandoned him or he has abandoned professionalism. He has since become a garden-variety politician and a none-too-competent one at that.
Posted by: Edet Bassey