My Fellow Akwaibomites
My wife, Her Excellency, Dr. Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel and I felicitate with you on the joyous occasion of our State’s Anniversary.
33 years ago today, this State, a blessed Land of Promise, a land adorned with lush green vegetation, rich in various agricultural produce, blessed with other vital mineral resources, such as oil and gas, and above all, a land of great and God-fearing people, united in love and brotherhood was finally presented to us through a proclamation by the then Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd).
The happiness and excitement that attended this wonderful gift was deep, and the echoes of joy had reverberated through the nooks and crannies of the new land. There were wild dancing on the streets, as the trumpets of melodious music filled the air. The piece of real estate was appropriately named God’s Own Property (Akwa Ibom State.)
My dear compatriots, 33 years after her birth, I stand here today to proclaim with a deep sense of humility and responsibility that the land, nurtured and shaped by shared love and endless possibilities has become a shining City on the Hill, looked upon with deep admiration for what we have become, for what we are and for what we would become.
Today, the Akwa Ibom story, has been chronicled in thirty three spectacular chapters, each chapter, a celebration of a people’s faith in their capacity to fulfil the dreams of their Founding Fathers; each chapter, an acknowledgment of the fact that the awesome love and blessings from the ONLY GOD whom the State is named after is ever present and enduring, standing guard over her, protecting her vital assets and defining the course of her growth and development.
My fellow compatriots, I stand here today as I have done in the past five years, humbled and grateful for the opportunity you have given me to be the Team- Lead of this great Land of Promise.
For more than five years, and counting, with your prayers and support, and in spite of the turbulent economic climate that has defined most of the years I have been in the saddle, we have experienced great and wonderful years of renaissance, of the reawakening of the Akwa Ibom identity. We have seen five and half years of great developmental strides that have confounded the cynics, and drawn admirations even from those on the opposite side of the political divide. It could only have been God!
My dear Akwa Ibomites, permit me to pause at this moment, to pay glowing tributes to all the leaders who in the last 33 years have had the privilege and the onerous task of leading this blessed and wonderful State. Through the leadership they provided, they helped transform the State from a once rural landscape, whose Capital City of Uyo, was a dusty provincial town into what today, has become a destination of choice by Nigerians and indeed foreigners. Let me use this opportunity on behalf of all of us, to thank them for the great service they rendered to our State. May God bless them all abundantly!
My fellow Akwaibomites, we do not intend to render a report card on this joyous occasion and reel off all we have been able to achieve in the past five and a half year. Doing so, would take hours but suffice it to say that you can check our Website or the publications of the Ministry of Information for the complete package. For the purposes of today’s anniversary, we will limit ourselves to mentioning a few. Essentially, this speech is designed to thank God for His mercies, to ask for more grace, and to urge us to remain united in our commitment to celebrate and cherish all that we have, all that we stand for and all that we hope for: the Akwa Ibom Renaissance.
As you may have observed, this year’s event is low- key and devoid of the usual celebrations and fanfare. This is so, because we are living in unusual times, where all known norms and mechanics of our daily human interactions and engagements have changed.
From March of this year, we have fought and deployed resources to stem the spread of the deadly pandemic that has brought the world to a virtual standstill-the Covid-19 pandemic which first hit the Chinese city of Wuhan, but today has spread to all parts of the universe.
Let me use this opportunity to thank you for the understanding and cooperation you have shown in our determined efforts to manage this deadly virus. You have endured some discomforts, a restriction of some of your fundamental rights, but we did that, as a responsible government whose eternal and most sacred responsibility is the protection of life and property.
Because we are a proactive Government, the Covid- 19 pandemic did not meet us unprepared. Our huge investments in healthcare delivery system came in handy. Before the world was confronted with this pandemic, we had already set up a fully functional Isolation centre equipped with the most modern amenities at the Ibom Specialist Hospital, supported by a functional Intensive Care Unit (ICU.) We did that, because long before Covid-19 had arrived our shores, we were prepared for other deadly diseases such as Lassa fever, Chicken Pox, monkey pox etc.
From March this year until recently when we moved the case management of Covid- 19 to our 300 bed Infectious Disease and Control Centre at Ituk Mbang, Uruan Local Government Area- another testimony to our vision in healthcare delivery, all cases were handled at the Ibom Specialty Hospital.
Compatriots, In healthcare delivery, I am proud to announce that our investments have paid off. Today, because of the leadership we have provided, our State has recorded one of the lowest rates of infections and fatalities in the nation. It might interest you to know that since April 1, this year, the Covid-19 Management Committee headed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) has met every night, working late into the morning, with me, leading the charge.
We have established two PCR laboratories, one of the most by any State Government in the nation and one which the Director General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu commended as the best in the nation.
Let me again, express our heartfelt gratitude to the medical professionals who worked and are still working tirelessly day and night to ensure that we have effective management processes for the deadly virus. You are all heroes and heroines of this huge effort.
As you may have already observed, we have relaxed some of the restrictions we had earlier imposed. We will keep you updated on further developments. I, however, urge you to continue to observe the protocols the World Health Organization (WHO)) and the NCDC have introduced, especially the wearing of face masks, regular washing of hands and social distancing. Together, with your support, we will win the fight against this pandemic.
Our commitment to reconstructing hospitals in all the 10 Federal constituencies is on-going and well on course. In the course of marking our 33rd anniversary, we will commission two (2) world-class health care facilities at the old Immanuel Hospital at Eket and old Cottage Hospital in ONNA respectively.
Our imported world class medical equipment have arrived and most have been cleared and ready for distribution to various hospitals. As part of our Completion Agenda, healthcare will remain a key priority of this Government because as I have always said, we need a healthy population to drive our industrialization agenda.
In Education, we have constructed hundreds of classroom blocks through the Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Co-ordinating Committee and equipped them with standard desks and other amenities. Last year, we held our first Education Summit and the recommendations have been received and are about to be implemented. We have brought education specialists from all over the world, led by Professor Hilary Inyang- a globally celebrated educationist as consultant. Soon, you will see in broad and practical terms, the impact and import of that Summit through the rijiging of our curriculum.
We want to prepare our children to be competitive in the technology driven world of the 21 Century economy. We believe that much as the social sciences remain the basis of understanding the human condition and relations, our students should be exposed to curricular that would make them future employers of labour, which countries like India, China and the Asian Tigers have already demonstrated. Our free and compulsory education complete with the payment of WAEC fees and other generous grants remain in place. Earlier on Monday, this week, we commenced the process of staggered resumption of schools with pupils in Primary 6, in time for their Common Entrance examination coming up in October. Dates for the resumption of secondary schools have been announced soon.
In the areas of agriculture and food sufficiency, we have worked hard to ensure that the staple foods we consume here are produced in our State. These strategic investments have helped us a great deal, especially during the months we experienced the almost total lockdown. We went into our reserves and brought out staple food for the palliatives we gave our people. Our rice fields in Ini, our cassava mills, the fertilizer blending factory, the flour mill and the conscious efforts made to crash the price of garri and rice remain testimony to a government that cares. We are not only producing food for local consumption, we are also determined to ensure that we have a thriving agro-allied business sector manned by dedicated professionals to drive our export agenda.
In Aviation development we have achieved huge strides. June last year, Ibom Air began its commercial flight operations with two aircrafts. Today, a little over a year after it commenced operations, we have added three almost brand new aircrafts, bringing the total fleet to five. Ibom Air has become a national sensation and a testimony to vision grounded in strategic planning. Just last week, we expanded our route to cover Enugu. Plans are afoot to expand our routes to cover our West and Eastern African sub regions, such as Doula in the Cameroons. Ibom Air has proved the cynics wrong and it is an achievement every Akwaibomite should be mightily proud of. We are determined to become the aviation hub in the Gulf of Guinea and our terminal building which work is on-going promises to be a model in this part of Africa. Work too is on-going on our MRO facility.
The industrialisation policy of this administration remains on course and in spite of the challenges posed by the Covid -19 pandemic, we have continued to expand our industrial base. In the next few days, we will be commissioning the tissue paper making factory, which stands out in terms of being the latest in technology and the first in Africa. Other industries are in the pipeline. So far, we have attracted over 18 industries to this State, almost all of which you are well familiar with and do not bear repeating. If we had not been slowed down by the Covid-19 pandemic, we would have had more than 25 industries by now. We hope to bring in more industries next year as the nation and the world open up once again for business.
In the area of infrastructure, our commitment to expanding our infrastructure through land, sea and air remains abiding article of faith. Not only have we constructed numerous kilometres of very economically strategic roads across the State’s three senatorial districts. The Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road which we met at less than 5 kilometres is expected to be commissioned soon. Other dualized roads include: Uyo-Etinan Road, Etinan-East-West Road and Eket-Ibeno Road, Airport-Okobo road. In addition, Ring road II and the ten lane Ring road III in Uyo Metropolis are in advance stages of completion, while contract has been awarded for construction of surface and underground drains structure for collection and final discharge of Uyo metropolis flood water at IBB Way, Uyo. The Expansion of the Airport Road is on-going. Shortly after we were sworn in for our First Term, we took the bold and decisive step to end the perennial flooding at Nsikak Eduok Avenue and other flood-prone areas as well as our emergency intervention with gulley erosion on Calabar-Itu Road. Today, the flood that was once a nightmare to motorists is now history.
In the next few days, we will commission some internal roads in some Local Government Areas. Apart from the some of the major roads I have mentioned, we have done hundreds of internal roads in Uyo metropolis, Ikot Ekpene and Oron respectively. Today, our State is linked by a rich network of roads across the three senatorial districts. Ours have been a promise made and promise kept in the area of infrastructural consolidation and more will come.
We remain hopeful and optimistic that Ibom Deep Seaport project will be realized in the course of this Government and we are working hard to ensure that we cooperate with all the regulatory agencies in fulfilment of this desire. We thank His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR for kindly approving the grant of license for the Liberty Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone which spans 5 Local Government Areas in Akwa Ibom State. This will be major gas hub in the gulf of Guinea.
Our plan for electricity for all by 31st December, 2021 remains in focus and we hope that the stakeholders in that sector will cooperate more with us to ensure the realization of this lofty goal.
Let me use this moment to thank FEYReP, my dear wife, Her Excellency Dr. Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel’s signature pet project for working hard to advance the issues of women empowerment, the future of the girl child, the incidence of rape and other humanitarian undertakings executed by her Office. Our market women are happy, we remain dedicated to providing small loans to aid their businesses and to date, we are happy that the interest free loans extended to them by this Administration have been properly utilized.
Our rural development schemes signpost greater things to come. Thousands of kilometres of feeder roads have been constructed and most villages now enjoy regular electricity. This has in no small measure stemmed the volume of rural-urban migration.
Permit me to use this opportunity to salute our youths for shunning cultism and other anti-social tendencies and for channelling their energies to using the works of their hands to earn a living. Most of our youths have embraced agriculture and are reaping the benefits bountifully.
Others have found expressions in creative arts and this has further brought to the fore the philosophical underpinnings of our Dakkada philosophy. To use the very aptly reflective campaign slogan by our Social Re-Orientation campaign “Mkpo Ama a-Change”. Truly things have changed for the better in our dear State and it is forward ever, backward never and our youths are in the vanguard of this great movement.
Let me again ask you my dear people to de-emphasize the flaming passion of partisan politics and come together to build a solid State where our children will look back and say “thank God that we once had a revolutionary and visionary leader who saw things through the prism of the common good as opposed to doing so, through political lenses.”
I call on our stakeholders across the political divide not to de-market the State or to sponsor spurious and false allegations against those they disagree with politically. We should not poison the well of our brotherhood with vitriolic attacks on our leaders using blackmail and other unwholesome tendencies.
There is no need to heat up the system with unnecessary and unhelpful agitations for 2023 succession plans. When the time comes, our God, to whom all power belong will guide and direct our footsteps. Let me use this opportunity to caution all those who may entertain certain devious political ambitions to refrain from some of the antics which we already are aware of. Akwa Ibom people will be monitoring you to see if you are executing the task for which you were selected out of seven million people or you are busy using government’s time to indulge in a project which time has not yet come.
To our dear compatriots in the Fourth Estate of the realm, our gallant journalists, I thank you for the cooperation you have extended to my administration since we came on board in 2015 and urge you to continue to exercise the utmost level of circumspection and objectivity in your reportage. We do not have any other state to call ours except this blessed land of ours.
My dear Compatriots, 33 is a very significant number. It was the year our Lord Jesus died on the Cross in order to set us free of our sins. On this 33 years of our Anniversary, may it mark the beginning of our release to experience the fulfilment of our huge potentials as a State, and may whatever sins we may have committed be forgiven and a new chapter of development, of continuous peaceful co-existence, of enduring love for one another, of the respect to our Emblem, Flag and Creed of our collective identity which would be launched later this morning, remain the cords that bind us all. May God continue to remember us as a people and as a State with His enduring favour, grace and His salvation.
Once again let us share the joy of this milestone. But let us remember that when the children of Isreal occupied the promised land, Caleb was not satisfied. He said that as his strength was in the days of Moses so was his strength in the days of Joshua and he demanded for a mountain to be given to him. As our strength was when this State was created so is it now and he who brought us into this land shall give us every mountain that we want in this country -mountains of entrepreneurship, mountains of peace, mountains of prosperity, mountains of professional excellence and mountains of spiritual glory. Let’s celebrate while praying for the mountains tomorrow.
Finally, let me end this speech by quoting from the refreshingly memorable letter penned to J.S Allison on April 22, 1848 by the 12th President of the United State, Zachary Taylor “I have no private purpose to accomplish, no enemies to punish—nothing to serve but my country.”
Fellow Akwa Ibomites, I have no private purpose to accomplish, no enemies to punish, no axe to grind, no animosity to entertain, no hatred to nurture, no other propelling impulses than to serve this State to the best of my God’s given ability and ensure a greater future for us and our children-so help me God!
Thank you and Happy Akwa Ibom Day. Akwa Ibom idakaida,Ami mme dakkanda.