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Governor Udom Emmanuel: A transcendental leader who came at the right time

By Ekerete Udoh

At every point in a nation’s trajectory, a leader would be thrust forward who will look conventional wisdom in the face and through the force of his or her personality rouse the people from their comfort zones and inspire them to see the endless possibilities that nature so generously wired us to appropriate . These are usually transcendental and transformative leaders and they don’t materialize often.
Key characteristic of this unique leader include: a deep sense of love and belief in the people and the infinite capacity for them to fulfil their purpose in life if nudged gently and in the right direction, a moral disposition that puts service above self, an abiding faith in his or her capacity to effect and affect change; humility that pleasantly shocks and confounds, a spiritual grounding that appears transparent and inviting, and above all, a sense of confidence that is not in your face and a youthfulness that is both appealing and engaging.
Certain elements conspire to facilitate the emergence of this leader and they include: a downturn in the socio-political fortunes of the given state or entity, a loss of faith or apathy on the part of the people in the capacity of the government to meet their needs, a ferment or fertile ground for change, the honesty and transparency displayed by the intrepid candidate and a set of governance ideals and platform that connects with the electorate.
Leaders shaped and furnace with these qualities have helped reinvent the wheels of development and mobility when the wheels had almost fallen off; they usually restore hope and faith when the people were sized by a paroxysm of fear and uncertainty, they often work to bring back the shine and sheen- a winning disposition in the people when a grim and forlorn cloud hovered around their psychological space.

In the United States, the bastion of democracy and the custodian of a political system that has been copied extensively all over the world- democracy and the presidential system, notable leaders who changed the contours and tenor of governance have emerged at every junction. When the American enterprise was in serious jeopardy, Abraham Lincoln defied the dire warning of the south and ended slavery, plunging the nation into a civil war and the south declaring a confederacy Lincoln stood ramrod tall and fought for the unification of the nation. Today, he is celebrated as one of the most consequential presidents in the pantheon of the United States history.

Theodore Roosevelt, though a child of privilege and wealth, fought the agents of the Gilded Age who had seen the common people as mere pawns in the laboratories of big business and helped usher in the Progressive Era in American politics. The reforms of the Theodore Roosevelt administration- from breaking down the monopoly of big business, to conservation, to fair labour practices, today still shape how domestic policies are formulated in the United States.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, restored faith in the American people and its twin ideological ideals founded on democracy and capitalism when the people had lost faith and had started romanticizing socialism as a result of the collapse of the Stock market that brought about the Great Depression in 1929.

Historians have unanimously concluded that were America not blessed with a leader in the mould of FDR, probably the history of American would have taken a different trajectory and a unipolar world based on the hegimonistic hold of the world that America currently exerts would not have happened. John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and most recently, Barack Obama are other American presidents who came in at critical moments and left strong and enduring legacies.
The emergence of Governor Udom Emmanuel as Governor of Akwa Ibom State has all the imprimatur and signature of the great leaders I have mentioned above. In late 2012, the nation had started experiencing some contraction in economic growth due to the steep fall in oil prices. Akwa Ibom state had been lucky to have a leader who had greatly transformed the once idyllic landscape into a rich network of great and world class road network. The then Governor, and now Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpbaio had worked to transform the state with a sense of anger. He had run a good race and needed to hand over the baton to another leader who would take the state to another layer of development and growth. Given the economic downturn the nation had been experiencing, it was almost divine that a proven financial services expert in the person of Deacon Udom Emmanuel, then an Executive Director with a leading financial institution in Nigeria- Zenith bank be brought in first as the Secretary to the State Government and later as the overwhelmingly elected Governor of the State.

Since May 29th 2015 when Governor Udom Emmanuel was sworn in as Governor of Akwa Ibom State, he has worked tirelessly to implement his vision encapsulated in his Five -Point Agenda of: Job Creation, Poverty Alleviation, Wealth Creation, Economic and Political Inclusion and Infrastructural Consolidation and Expansion.
A man of proven Christian masculinity, the first set of things he did upon being sworn in, was to pay a backlog of pensions and gratuities to workers, and the labour leaders were so stunned by this gesture that they wrote letters of appreciation, effusively praising him for his magnanimity. While other states were struggling to pay salaries of workers, through a prudent application of scarce resources, Governor Emmanuel has endeavoured to pay the salary of workers promptly. The Governor has sustained the free and compulsory education from primary to secondary and free medical services to the aged and children between the ages 1-5 and pregnant mothers remains sacrosanct.

Last year, he paid over 600 million WAEC fees to indigent students because of his avowed belief that no child should be left behind in their determined effort to pursue knowledge and education that would stand them in good stead to pursue the jobs of the 21 First Century.

As a way of fulfilling his campaign promise of infrastructural consolidation, over 200 kilometres of roads have either been commissioned or are on-going and in various stages of completion. He has been able to achieve this giant feat, again through judicious application of the lean resources at his disposal. Governor Emmanuel, determined to wean the state off of her dependence on oil, has made huge investments in agriculture. Through Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Employment Scheme (AKEES) great things are happening in the agriculture sector. The state is well on its way to becoming a major producer of tomatoes and onions- two produce items that were once though not suitable for growing in these parts of the country. Some decades ago, Akwa Ibom State was the fourth largest prouder of cocoa in the country, we lost that position and cocoa all but disappeared from our economic radar. Today, through training in pruning and shedding that the Governor had introduced and personally supervised, we are well on our way to returning to our premier position as a major cocoa producer in the country. The Coco -nut refinery is on course. The biggest joy in all of this is that our youths have embraced agriculture wholeheartedly.
The central plank of Governor Emmanuel’s campaign was based solely on the need to rapidly industrialize the state and create jobs for our teeming youths. The administration is on course in this direction. Sometime last year, scandalized by the knowledge that we import even such items as pencils and toothpick, the Governor directed that we must have a toothpick and pencil making factory ready before the end of the year. Today, that factory is almost ready for commissioning. Work is also on-going in the metering factory the Governor had promised to build during our campaign. Other industries are coming up the pike.
Youths as the future leaders of the state have been variously empowered and trained in various vocational skills, they have been imbued with a new mind-set predicated on the ‘dakkada’ philosophy to see the joy in having an ownership society, to strive to build things, to own things, and to utilize the talents and skills that God has embedded in us all. Through this moral re-awakening and rebirth or the ‘dakkada’ philosophy, the youths are filled with a new sense of hope and optimism and no longer believe in the cradle to grave entitlement mind-set.
Governor Emmanuel has brought a touch or culture of corporatism into governance, civil servants and office holders now show up to work on time, same at public events, because Governor Emmanuel – a keen believer in Christian time management shows up to functions on the dot of time. He has introduced a tone and tenor in governance based on Christ-like humility and forbearance and the people have followed suit.
As Leadership newspaper confers on him the publication’s “Governor of the Year, 2016,” I can only say with pride that I am honoured to have been given a little space to be a part of what in 2023, at the end of this intrepid journey would be defined as a transcendental administration that turned Akwa Ibom State on the trajectory of economic growth and opportunity and a sense of pride and identity in the people that no clock can ever turn back. Congratulations my Boss and my Brother! May your tribe multiply.

Ekerete Udoh is the Chief Press Secretary and Senior Special Assistant, Media to Governor Udom Emmanuel

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