I do not expect politicians to submit to superior aspirations. No. That will not happen in our lifetime. What I however find amazing is for politicians aspiring for the same position to miraculously unite in throwing punches at just one aspirant. I am lost in wonder. The National and local media are inundated with numerous hate messages, false alarms, provocating and inciting advertorials. The one aim is to shoot Udom Emmanuel to submission. Every known weakness since he was born has been feasted on. Every point on why he should not be Governor has been highlighted. And whosoever openly supports him is at the same risk of facing the same rounds of blackmail ammunitions. The direct result of the needless attacks is the increased consciousness and popularity of Udom on the minds of the Stakeholders and the average Akwa Ibom man or woman. Even the hitherto disinterested citizen is asking, who is Udom? What are his anteceedents? Why are the others scared of his aspiration? And while these questions are answered on a second basis, the Udom Community of believers is swelling in number and strenght. In life, when you are kicked from behind, it means you are out in front.
People with momentum all share one trait; they attract criticism and sometimes hate and blackmail. How one responds to that criticism will determine the rate of ones momentum. I was reading a cover story about Billy Graham in Time magazine recently and was surprised to find in that article several criticisms of him even from fellow ministers. It just shows that nobody is immuned from a few strokes. All great people get great backlashes. That is why Udom has over the years learnt to accept and expect the unjust criticisms for his great goals and accomplishments. It can be beneficial to receive constructive criticism from those who have your best interests at heart, but you’re not
responsible to respond to those who don’t. My advice to people generally is, don’t ever give time to a critic; instead, invest it with a friend. That is why I like what Edward Gibbon said: “I never make the mistake of arguing with people for whose opinions I have no respect.” It’s a thousand times easier to criticize than create. That’s why critics are never problem solvers. My submission is that the person who says it cannot be done, should not interrupt the one who is doing it. Udom is an Akwa Ibom man and entitled to run for the Governorship. He has convinced his supporters to believe he has the capacity to deliver and the required experience to inject fresh air into the polity. The funny reality is that critics know the answers without having probed deep enough to know the questions. In this case, the criticisms are laced with bile, hatred, blackmail, and the intention is to dismantle the peaceful electoral structures. The clerics of mudslinging are convinced that the chief purpose of sunshine is to cast shadows. They doesn’t believe anything, but yet the want others to believe them. Like famous thinker, Oscar Wilde described them , as people who know the “price of everything and the value of nothing”. Julia Seton has provided the perfect answer, “We have no more right to put our discordant states of mind into the lives of those around us and rob them of their sunshine and brightness that we have to enter their houses and steal their silverware”. But, will they heed?
Udom’s eyes are on the ball, permanently fixed without wavering. His ambition is to ensure that all people, I mean all Akwa Ibom people, benefit from the endowments which God gave us. His goal is to develop a healthier state; build better schools, better hospitals, and better roads; provide greater prosperity; and give power to the
people. Akwa Ibom like most parts of the world faces challenges of unemployment especially for the youth population. As is the case in every economy, while direct employment by the State can contribute towards addressing the problem, the availability of sustainable employment is very much dependent on growth in the private sector.
Udom’s government will continue to attract investment in the economy from the private sector, and as a responsible government, will take specific actions to offer opportunities to our people especially the youth, to access both self and waged employment. On a daily basis, he surrounds himself with young bright minds and critically identifies the core challenges of unemployment. They are; creating more opportunities for formal employment. Reducing over dependence on the State for employment. Expanding national spread of technical and vocational training centres. Scaling up opportunities for entrepreneurship and self employment. Providing progressive skills development for hardcore unemployed and new entrants into the job market. And Cushioning the difficult transition from University and training institutions to the job market. Udom’s objective is to have a reduced rate of unemployment then have an effective career and employment advisory, Progressively expand and boost more efficient middle level manpower. Lay greater emphasis on training in employable skills for the hard core unemployed. Build and Increase the spread of well resourced Vocational and Technical Training centres across the state. He will go ahead to ensure a Progressive scale-up of “local content” in existing and new companies. Ensure the availability of well targeted micro-enterprise schemes and ultimately perfect a Smoother transition from University and Training Institutions to the job market. He is also developing concrete strategies to achieving this; From the work force in the civil service, functioning career and employment advisory centres at state and local council levels can be created. This will be complimented by establishing a reliable unemployment tracking mechanism and Identifying and setting up well targeted Special Schemes for employment creation at various levels.
Government is not about doing massive projects that may not touch the lives of the people. Udom’s government will raise awareness and increase focus on service industry skills acquisition, Encourage acquisition of skills in technology including modern auto mechanics, assembling and maintenance of mobile phones, computers, solar panels assembly and installation, installation of washing machines, dryers and cooling system and so much more in the pipeline. Udom is that typical mango tree receiving sticks from the multitude of passers by who are only interested in plucking and eating. Whoever wants to engage him should challenge him to a debate of issues not a series of criminations and re-criminations.
Our agricultural sectorwill need greater attention in the future. It is the ready alternative to oil. The core challenges in that sector is how to phase out subsistence agriculture, motivate higher indigenous private sector investment in value addition, large scale
agriculture and agro-marketing. It entails opening up rural areas to increase access to market and services. A vibrant Agricultural policy will increase crop yields and reduce post-harvest losses. The Udom Emmanuel i know will change farmers’ attitudes and perceptions towards farming as a business by adopting new skills and strategies to increase economic returns, expand farmer services especially research and extension delivery systems. He will partner with the relevant stakeholders and the Federal Government to build a comprehensive agricultural database and an early warning system for forecasting climatic conditions, pests and diseases, and food security situation in the country. The strategies to achieving this will be to continue to provide investment incentives to the agricultural private sector including foreign direct investors.
Improve research and extension service delivery. Continue promoting efficient and effective resource management both human and material in the sector. Provide Cash Reserves in order to help cope with food emergencies and natural disasters,
to stabilize grain prices during price hikes. Encourage community banking state- wide and rehabilitate and construct more feeder roads to link production areas to markets.
Promote cash/export crop plantations in appropriate areas. Rehabilitate and establish new feed mills to stimulate the expansion of the pig and poultry industry. Expand the tractor hire purchase scheme and complement that with an effective hire scheme for poor farmers who cannot afford hire purchase. Expand research institutions to cater for all the sub-sectors and specialized thematic issues of the agricultural sector of Akwa Ibom State.
Industrilization may sound like such a big monumental enterprise. A steady commitment and purposeful vision can bring it to fruition. A limited number of our people invest very little in industry with the majority engaged in retail trade. One of the major reasons for this is the dearth of capital with financial institutions demanding impossible collaterals. Where finance is available, interest rates are very high and returns from investments low and slow thus leading to high rates of default by borrowers. Consequently, banks became reluctant to provide more loans. The absence of standardized products also contributes to the difficulty our local products have to successfully compete with products from other parts of the country and imported goods. The core challenges to trade and industrilization around here are transforming the largely informal activities to formal operations. Increasing access to venture capital. Motivating indigenous participation in industrial operations. Ensuring adequate legal protection for partnerships and joint ventures. Creating business centres to accommodate small business operators. And the strategies to help improve the situation are: to encourage public-private partnerships. Encourage banks to provide more favourable financing for businesses. Establish better market and business centers especially in urban centers
Strengthen the business climate for indigenous participation. Support the establishment of agro-based and other industries that use local materials. Encourage and provide support for value addition enterprises.
I have a feeling too that Udom’s critics are scared of the unpreceedented change he will bring into the system, revamping and re-invigorating the public and civil service. Turning the state’s circumstances around required a systemic approach at the centre of which is the modernization of service delivery by the public sector. The Public Service is part of the State and the channel through which any Government fulfils its responsibilities to its people. In spite of the reforms already undertaken, lapses remain that will compel Udom’s Government to further address the situation through a step-wise modernization of the systems, processes and structures of service delivery to make them more effectively and efficiently responsive to the needs of our people. Could that be what some people are afraid of?
The core challenges are improving efficiency and effectiveness across Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies. Correcting the unacceptable female-male-youth ratio in the public service workforce. De-politicizing the Civil Service. Addressing the improper handling and maintenance of public assets. Continuously updating conditions of service for Public Service workers. The targeted objectives are: More efficient and higher quality of service delivery. Functioning and predictable administrative and management systems, structures and procedures. Improved human resources management and discipline. Progressive improvement in the female-male-youth ratio within the Public Service workforce. Ultimately having a non-politicized Civil Service. Achieving far better conditions of service and work environment for public servants. Creating productivity mindset and improved professional standards within the public service.
The ceaseless fire of bad press and the unification by sworn political enemies against Udom could only point to the fact that he is the man to beat. Udom has everything going well for him and he is unperturbed about it. He is a thorough home grown Akwa Ibom who has conquered his world and recorded tremendous success. He is from Eket Senatorial District, that part of the state that deserves the next shot. He is a true Ibibio man. A God fearing and practising christian and cleric. A proven technocrat with the capacity to deliver. An amiable gentleman with a generous disposition. When the Right man arrives, you dont need a pair of binaculars to recognize him. As long as this mango tree keeps bearing fruits, we will expect a few hungry folks to keep throwing sticks up here.
Aniekeme Finbarr is a Public Affairs Analyst