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Governor Emmanuel Has Fast-tracked Development In Akwa Ibom – Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem


Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem is the

Secretary to the State Government of Akwa Ibom State. A technocrat, university teacher and businessman, Ekuwem is a former National President, Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), and CEO, Teledom Group. He Hails from Ofi Uda in Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
Ekuwem is an old boy of the Queen of Apostles Seminary, Afaha Obong, Abak and an alumnus of Obafemi Awolowo University (former University of Ife) Ile-Ife. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering Physics, Master’s Degree in Physics, Master’s Degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering (Microcomputer-based Instrumentation and Control Engineering) and a PhD in Electronic and Electrical Engineering (Computer-based Instrumentation and Control Engineering). He did his Post-PhD fellowship research work (Computer-based Real-Time Data Communication in PSTN) in the Networking and Radio Propagation Laboratory of the UNESCO ICTP, Trieste, Italy.
In this interview with Crystal Express, the cerebral administrator espouses the transformation that has taken place since the creation of Akwa Ibom 32 years ago, the great performance posted so far by Governor Udom Emmanuel, and the leadership problem confronting Nigeria among other salient issues. Excerpts:

Recently Akwa Ibom turned 32 years. Can you review the journey so far and give your verdict on the progress?
In all things the Lord said give thanks, for us to survive as a State for thirty two solid years as a united people calls for thanksgiving first to Almighty God after whom the state is named. And in thanksgiving, we must not forget the labours of our heroes past. I remember my father fighting yearning and struggling for the then COR-states from the old eastern region. So for us to have come all the way from the South Eastern State to Cross River State to the main land state which is the present Akwa Ibom State is worthy glorifying. If you then look at the trajectory or path of movement, you must give thanksgiving to God, the father of all and the giver of all gifts. After this, what interests me as an Engineer and Scientist is the transformation of Uyo the state capital. In 1981 to 83, I was privileged to be the President of the then NACRISS with Dr. Clement Isong as the Governor of old Cross River state who was also Mr Industrialization who floated several companies then in the state having served earlier as the Governor of Central Bank and we expected nothing less. That is the same thing with our Incumbent Governor, a consummate Professional an Investment Banker of repute, Executive director at Zenith Bank, Price Water House Coopers. The way our Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel does things and his passion for the progress of the state is phenomenal. His desire to transform the state like Singapore overnight is as a result of his commitment. What we are doing today in terms of development is the totality of the background God has endowed Governor Udom Emmanuel with. .so then as the National President of the then National Association of Cross River Students under Governor Clement Isong, he knew that democracy can only be strengthened and freedom enjoyed when everyone is gainfully employed and people have sense of belonging. And also when everyone is active and innovative. Now recall what our Governor said recently. “That for you to assemble between 5-10 thousand youths on a working day for any political rally in a polity speaks volume of the unemployment situation there. On a working day you should not be able to assemble young people between ages 25/35 within working hours if they are in factories, offices and other places of gainful employment. So when you listen to our Governor’s statement and linked it to his background, then he understands why he is so desirous and passionate to change the economic fortunes of our State for better.
Today I feel nostalgic; with a sense of fulfillment that what my father prayed, wished, yearned and worked hard for is fulfilled which was to have a state of our own; is today a reality. Look at Uyo, when I was the National President of NACRISS, we had only 17 Local Government Areas in the entire old Cross River State and Governor Isong had about six hundred plus jobs vacancies available for all the students of the then Cross River State extraction in all the Universities in Nigeria. That number was grossly insufficient so we have to do job balloting for everyone to have a fair shot in the 632 vacancies available to ensure justice and fair play, my National Deputy President moved towards Obubra Ikom, Akamkpa axis of northern cross river state while I came towards the present day Akwa Ibom state with my then secretary, Mr. Moses Archibong. We have seven local government areas down here then which I covered them in 24 hours, posted the job vacancies in each of the notice boards of the council secretariat which was important so that students on holidays will also see and come for the balloting. I recalled this history not because of the vacancies that were insufficient but because Uyo that is today our State Capital city was a simple Local Government headquarters then. At the creation of Akwa Ibom State, our people moved from Calabar to establish the Akwa Ibom State Civil Service and many people moved to Uyo. Now between 1987 and today, a lot of transformation have taken place in Uyo and what trips me is the power of human mind, the power of knowledge, the power of innovation, the power of creativity and power of imagination, the power of dogged tenacity, the power of being focused and you can see that in Uyo rising from a mere local Government headquarters to a cosmopolitan city. You see expatriates from across the world working here to make it an international city. With the arrival of Ibom Airport, Ibom Air, the Deep Seaport, the city will assume international status with people from all nationalities working here. Today look round, you will see the flyovers, dual carriage ways, different Housing Estates before then none was in existence in the then simple council headquarters.
There were no dualised roads and the road to Ibesikpo Asutan then barely stopped after Champion Breweries. Neither Ikot Ekpene, Oron nor Abak roads was dualised. I used to tell my friends from Abak that one day someone will come from outside the state and say that he is going to Abak area of Uyo city, people thought I was being anti-Abak but that is not true. I was talking about the sheer reality of city expansion, economic growth, and economic prosperity that one day we will have people say that they are living in Abak area of uyo. This is not a disparity statement but a reality. Someday you will hear Uruan area of Uyo, Itu is already part of Uyo, Etinan is already part of Uyo, Ibesikpo, Okobo and Nsit Atai are already parts of Uyo city. Okobo with the ongoing dualisation of roads will take only 10 minutes to the city centre. Lagos State where I once lived was like this earlier but it’s built up now. Lagos is today building towards Epe. So also will Uyo witness the same transformation like Lagos. One day Okobo, Uruan, Itu, Ibesikpo, Etinan, Ibiono Ibom will be veritable components of Uyo metropolitan city and that is the stark socio-economic expansion of Uyo city which is a fact. Even Ikot Ekpene now given the dualised highway, people can live there and come to work in few minutes to Uyo. It will be much easier when the Government succed to introduce rail line, electric metro line for people. So there is power in creativity, innovation, ingenuity of human mind and that is what tickles me. A journey of a thousand miles starts with one single step forward in the right direction. If the direction is wrong, you will never arrive your destination. I saw Uyo as a young chap with my family living in Anua area of the state and as national President of NACRISS and today I can only raise up my hand in thanksgiving to God for these transformation.
Again Governor Emmanuel is dualising the road from Uyo to Etinan down to Atlantic Ocean, from Uyo to Oron to Ibom Deep Seaport and the Liberty Free Trade Zone in Ikot Abasi to the Power-For-All-Project in Mkpat Enin including the ongoing Industrialisation, making it one cool, beautiful God own state. We have come a long way as a people and we have to be thankful for the consistency of our leaders in the development of the State.
Again I must say that no predecessor must strive to pull down the incumbent because the Akwa Ibom project is a relay match. In a relay there are four segments and once an athlete hands over the baton, he urges his successor to strive on and prays for his success. The baton keeps exchanging hands till the last segment and in each, the predecessor keeps praying for the successor to succeed. For the athletes to achieve common success all must aid, support and pray for each other and that applies to all former Governors of our state. That is why we see Obong Victor Attah attending state functions to encourage Governor Emmanuel and that is the expectation otherwise all his efforts at ensuring on/off shore dichotomy abolition and struggle for resource control and many others would have been wasted and efforts in vain today. There is high level of peace and security in our dear state because of the personality of the Governor we have. He is an intellectual, very cerebral, very foresighted far visioned, highly committed, very patriotic person. I feel for him, when I see him yearning for funds to develop the state. To define the person of Governor Udom Emmanuel is simply great head; great heart and tiny pocket and that could be very frustrating for a governor with great vision for his people. We have come a long way for good and now cruising towards the Land of Promise and Fulfillment.
One of the landmark achievements of the Governor Udom Emmanuel administration is the establishment of Ibom Airlines. But the people’s worry is that Government business hardly survives owing to bureaucratic interference. What do you think?
The government is very careful about the establishment of the Airlines and has clearly spelt out what must be done and not be done about the Airlines. He who knows not where he is coming from may not know where he is going . Those who don’t learn from the mistakes of history will always repeat such mistakes. Nigerian Airways died, Nigerian Shipping Line died, Nigerian Railway Corporation died, NEPA died, NITEL died, Five Federal Owned Parastatals and Companies died and the question: Is the Ibom Air a Government owned company? The answer is yes. Then another is, if this five Federal Government companies died why go into a business you know will die? But only a mediocre will stop at the death of the five companies but intellectual giants like our governor will give you reasons why such entities died and tell you what to do to avoid what led to the death of the five companies. What led to their death is as follows: meddlesomeness of our government in their activities, the corporate governance post payments instead of pre-payments, ministers and government officials do not pay for services. You find out that the bills accumulated overtime and no company will survive under heavy debts. That is why in telecommunications, companies opt for pre-paid cards to make calls. If it is postpaid, people will owe and the company will collapse. Another reason is employment on the basis of mercy rather than merit. Governor Udom Emmanuel will tell you to always insist on merit not mercy to achieve results. There should not be any primordial sentiment in corporate Governance. It must be employment on the basis of merit, promotion on the basis of merit and encourage one another on the basis of merit. Once that is done, you will have the best of brains join your organization. The same merit criteria should be used for promotion within the organization then you will see creative competition among people to excel in order to be promoted. With creative competition, the enterprise must necessarily grow. So at Ibom Air, the Governor told management to employ on merit and not on mercy. If they avoid the above pitfalls, Ibom Air will be a success story. Many Airlines across the world are Government owned- Ethiopian Air lines, Emirates, even Air Cote de-Voire, Kenyan Airways. etc, are all government owned. Today why do Emirates with three aircraft when Nigerian Airways had five aircraft then, now have a fleet of aircraft today going to all corners of the world but sadly Nigeria Airways died owing to the five mentioned reasons above. Governor Emmanuel deplores mediocrity and to tell you the truth the Governor does not know the people working in Ibom Air and has no hand in recommending anybody for recruitment. The other day in Lagos, I was to travel down to Uyo with Ibom Air and joined the queue at the Murtala Mohammed Airport MM2 and someone rushed to me and said SSG please come over, leave the queue. But I rejected the offer. I have about six persons in front of me and I was a passenger like others. The way I would have queued if it were Air Peace, Aero, Dana and other commercial Airlines, so must I queue to get my boarding pass from Ibom Air. Commissioners, SAs and other Government officials watching will know that if the SSG queued to get boarding pass, they must also show good example.
Today all Akwa Ibomites know that Ibom Air is here to excel and ready to show how to run successful business. So if you have a good system in place with good corporate governance, the business will thrive.
The future holds greatness for this state based on what Governor Udom Emmanuel is doing.
Your Emergence as the SSG brought a big relief to Oro people. What has this Government done to change the fortunes of Oro nation since inception in 2015?
Good, we have a Senator for Eket Senatorial District of Oro extraction and you might say no it is Oro time but I must tell you that this senator is different. Senator (Mrs.) Akon Eyakenyi has already opened her constituency office in Eket and has already done her constituency briefing in Eket. So quality is important, the person the system has enabled to emerge as a senator is a plus for this administration. A graceful woman, former Minister and already doing things in the right way. Secondly, I did not emerge accidentally as the SSG but a deliberate decision of the Governor which is a plus and credit goes to the Governor. Thirdly, the ongoing dualisation of the highway to Oron which stopped earlier is ongoing now, from Oron market to the beach is being worked upon now by a construction firm Wizchino.
Ibom Deep Seaport and industrial city have 80 per cent of the projects in Oro nation. Ibom Super Highway is also under construction starting from Ibeno and stretching to Mbo and Oron with 8 lanes, 4-4 for a start and T Junction to the shoreline with about 7 terminals. When the terminals are up and running, you could hardly pin point which local government area you are when driving through that axis. Governor Udom visit to Oro in his first term alone is more than what other past Governors have done in their 8 years. One would have thought that owning to Oro interest in the governorship before his eventual emergence as Governor, that he would have been reluctant todevelop the area. But today Oro nation is like his second home. During his last visit, he walked from the Hilltop to the beach to inspect projects and sympathized with families that suffered flood disaster. He has shown that he is a father to all and free with all. So the facts speak for itself as the lawyers will say.
Notwithstanding Government’s modest achievements on industrialization, some people still believe it’s a fluke or mirage. What is your take on this?
Please go to Lagos or any other state, visit any pharmacy or medicine shop, you will see jubilee syringe manufactured in Akwa Ibom State. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo commissioned the factory. Secondly, the metering factory is here too. NEPA died because of post payment and estimation of bills but pre –paid meters are for you to pay as-you-go. So with pre-paid meters, people manage their electricity consumption according to their pockets. People troop down from other states to buy meters from here. Third, the Vice President recently commissioned Kings Flour Mills which is widely used in hotels, restaurants, eateries and homes for bread, chin chin etc.
The factories are working and their products are everywhere. Therefore, I will ask God to forgive those who said the industrialization in our dear state is a fluke. When Ibom Air came they said no, the governor just went and rented two or three aircraft which he planned to use and confuse us and return back after election. The documents for the Airlines were prepared in my office and it was no fluke. Before I became SSG, we all went to the DSS headquarters for due diligence because they don’t want terrorists to have airlines and this was done before I became SSG. Most people who criticized the Ibom Air today fly the airlinea. Some of them were with me in the aircraft during my recent visit to Abuja. And when I asked them to rate the flight, they responded “so good, smooth and almost new” and I said that’s correct.
The coconut plantation is less than one hour drive from here and that is the next big deal, even a barrel of palm oil is costlier than crude oil not to talk of coconut oil. God bless Governor Emmanuel, is that one also a fluke? I was there at rice processing mill in INI to ensure that everything is set before its commissioning. Is the rice coming in from there also a fluke? Cassava processing mills are located in Ibesikpo Asutan and we have Dakadaa garri everywhere. We have garri processing mill also in Okobo. The green houses are there along Airport Road incubating tomatoes among many others. Are they also fluke? We have to accept the reality that this administration means well for the state.
You earlier said you sympathized with the Governor over his lean pocket or lack of funds. How come he is executing all these projects?
The Governor has no option than to execute projects for the benefit of the people. The projects are ongoing but the speed has been affected by insufficient funds. If the Governor has large pocket with his large heart, Akwa Ibom would have been Singapore by now. My sympathy for him is that it is very frustrating for a good Christian like him, patriotic, God fearing, visionary, development minded, caring without requisite funds to fully implement his vision for the state.
With lean resources, no borrowing, no taking of bailout funds yet still paying salaries and pensions up to date. What’s his magic wand?
The magic is in his prudence with resources. The Governor is disciplined, honest with a sincerity of purpose and above all, has the fear of God and love for his people. The Governor is quick to remind you that salaries are not only for the direct beneficiaries but also for the wife, children and extended relations in accordance with our communal lifestyle in Africa. Governor Emmanuel pays high premium to the prompt payment of salaries because of his large heart. He is a very disciplined spender and ensure proper prioritization of expenditures. If you see the way he scrutinizes any breakdown from anybody, and the way he asks probing questions, as an accountant by training and finance guru. Then what kind of numbers will you joggle that he won’t analyze in few minutes. With his background, if you are not sincere and straight forward, then you will be meeting the wrong person.
Gov Emmanuel has done well and few years from now will bow out leaving behind a big shoe. Are you worried about who takes over and if the successor will maintain the standard?
I am worried as a patriot and Akwa Ibomite, am also concerned. But it must come to pass. Sustainability is key, prudent management is key, Godliness is key, security of lives and property is key so I am interested and believed the Lord who has seen us this far will see us through. The Lord who has taken us out of Egypt will never allow us return to Egypt. But since God made us in his image and gave us free will, so our prayers is let the person who will take over from Governor Emmanuel have same quality. The Governor himself wants someone better than him to take over the state when the time comes.

The state unlike in the recent past, is witnessing unprecedented peace and security of lives and property. We hardly hear of armed robbery, kidnappings among other vices again, How did the government achieve this?
It is nothing but prayers. Governor Emmanuel is deeply prayerful. He takes the state to God in prayers and God answers prayers. He is a forgiving person who doesn’t take offence from people having contrary views to his opinion. He is self confident, brilliant, and hardworking. It is said that a bad workman quarrels with his work tools but a good workman jumps at a good tools, because he is interested in getting the job done. The Governor does not feel intimidated, frightened or sad with any brilliant mind. America is leading the world today because the leadership goes for brilliant persons in all fields; Governor Emmanuel does same here.
Another reason is that he goes on tours of the state to see things for himself, securitywise; he verifies everything may be because of his background as an Accountant. He hardly swallows things hook, line and sinker. The Governor doesn’t listen to gossips or give room to blackmailers and that ensures he is at him peace with people. The Governor is a lover of people. We have just finished the education summit geared towards preparing our people to face the world after a beneficial education with quality curriculum. He is interested in the future of our youths. Look at the Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo scenario where the militant boys on their own surrendered and the confessed. They said they did so based on the honesty and strength of character of the Governor. They confessed, they laid down their arms because the Governor is sincere. The magic wand is that the Governor came for the people and is living for the people. Even when the Governor doesn’t have money to give you, he will welcome and counsel you like a brother with love. The cumulative effects of all I have said helped calmed the polity.

Nigeria just clocked 59 years. What is your take on the journey so far?
A man at 59 is already grandfather; Nigeria is a country where neither the best nor the worst happens (in the words of Andrew Young). When you think that heavens will fall here, God will intervene and spare us the disaster. When we are moving towards the best then suddenly something happens and it’s thwarted. Nigeria’s number one problem is leadership and in the language of Frederick Forsyth, “A leader is that person who will gather people to do the best for themselves which ordinarily they could not do”. And that is a leader.
It is good to acknowledge here that there are leaders in other parts of the world, some of them late now, whom when they speak, people will be in tears. One American President said in 1962 that by 1990, Americans would have gone to the moon meaning that plans were already on stage for the realization even when the then President’s tenure was to end in 1968 or there about said, “Leaders think of the next generation while politicians think of the next election”. Real statesmen are not allowed to access power in Nigeria so they die with their vision. Nigeria’s problem remains leadership and nothing but leadership.

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