Cross River state birthed Akwa Ibom some 30 years ago. As someone who moved to Calabar at about that time, I have been opportune to watch the gradual weaning and subsequent growth process of Akwa Ibom state in the years that followed and I must confess that it has been commendable especially from the turn of the fourth republic. Their 1st Governor of that era, Victor Attah, was a thoroughbred technocrat of international repute. A first class and erudite one for that matter. I overhead somewhere that he was one of the handful of consultant architects that designed the FCT(Abuja) master plan.
Apart from being one of those who pushed for the creation of Akwa Ibom, the architectural master plans of several key capital projects embarked upon by his successors were his brainchild. Projects like the Airport, stadium, Ibom Tropicana, Ibaka deep seaport etc. After Attah, his successor, Godswill Akpabio was more of a politician than anything else. Luckily, he came at a time of plenty- at a time when Akwa Ibom’s average monthly allocation from FAAC was 50 billion Naira. Godswill being a man of goodwill and a progressive, made proper use of this windfall; he did what had to be done- he brought much of what his predecessor had put on paper, to life. And instead of choosing a traditional politician(Umana, Ekere) like himself as successor, he went for another well bred technocrat, in the mould of his predecessor. Governor Udom Emmanuel before leaving Zenith Bank had risen to the level of an Executive Director. He also doubled as a non executive Director and Chief Financial Officer of the bank. Now, anyone with a knowledge and understanding of the banking sector in Nigeria would attest to the fact that Zenith Bank is a citadel of excellence and has been a top three player in the sector in the last 20 years. Its founder, Jim Ovia is a sucker for excellence- Udom being trusted with the aforementioned positions wasn’t in anyway a coincidence. It has shown in the way he has managed the affairs of his state in the last five years- consolidating on his predecessors works as well as charting his own course. Last(February this year) I was in Uyo, I could feel the Akwa Ibom brand in the air and I think it has come to stay- thanks especially to the efforts of these three Patriots. There are very strong indications that Udom plans to hand over to another thoroughbred technocrat. One Mr Inoyo Udom- a recently retired ExxonMobil honcho. From my findings, Inoyo Udom retired from ExxonMobil as a Vice President- the first host community aborigine to rise up to such a position. If Emmanuel Udom can pull this through in 2023, it will be yet another masterstroke. Akwa Ibom would be in for another eight years of blissful leadership. I am already savouring the wealth of experience he would bring to the table. Not to mention his vast network of high networth friends and associates that he can always reach out to for all kinds of support. People like his former boss, Rex Tillerson who resigned as Secretary of state to the American government(Trump) only a couple of years ago.
This template of choosing seasoned, well connected technocrats to pilot state affairs, is worthy of applause and emulation. Now than ever before, Cross River state needs to follow suite. Apart from his other administrative (personal) limitations, the books of the state are in bad shape and that’s majorly why Governor Ayade has found it very difficult to get money from the open market for his numerous lofty capital projects. It’s also one of the reasons why Ayade has found it difficult to attract serious investors. Ayade, Imoke, the local APC and every other notable bloc of decision makers should have this at the back of their minds when picking a choice for 2023. And please, no one should emphasize on the youth. Of what good is a youthful Governorship aspirant without exposure, experience, grit or capacity & connection, to the state at a time like this? A commissioner who cant by hard & smart work, make himself the cynosure of all eyes after serving for five years, who is media shy, who brooks criticism, who only comes to life at social gatherings! Such a youth doesn’t deserve to be elevated to such an office at a critical time like in 2023- unless of course he pulls out the magic wand and starts performing wonders overnight.
Not to talk of the evasive, recalcitrant old horse, currently in the Senate or even his other colleague, a first time senator who keeps speaking bogus grammar during plenary even as he struggles to find his footing in the red chambers.
Cross River state needs an injection of fresh ideas and methods; it should borrow a leaf from the playbook of its daughter state.
By Simon Utsu