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Governor Emmanuel Has Shown That Leadership Is Not By Ranting But Performance – Orman Esin



Exuding profound knowledge of his portfolio, Mr. Orman Esin, Commissioner for Culture and Tourism is a delightful administrator. With a broad-based background in private and public spheres, Esin is undertaking his mandate at the ministry inventively. He was a former Executive Chairman, and later Transition Chairman of Oron Local Government Council; former Commissioner, Ministry of Transport and Petroleum Resources as well as the immediate past chairman, Transport Commissioners Forum Nigeria and Grand Commander of VIO Nigeria.
In this exclusive interview with Crystal Express, the ebullient Commissioner for Culture and Tourism speaks on Governor Udom Emmanuel’s drive towards turning around the tourism potentials of Akwa Ibom and the milestones he recorded as Commissioner for Transport and Petroleum Resources. Esin also dovetails into the great future which awaits Akwa Ibom State with the coming of a specialized App codenamed the ‘Orange State’ – a one stop App that will make Akwa Ibom State to be easily accessible, understood and appreciated as a destination of choice. Excepts:

Please, can you give us a glimpse of the man, Orman Esin?
I am Honourable Orman Esin from Eyo Abasi Community in Oron Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. I am a grassroot politician and have served as Personal Assistant to the then Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Arc. Otu Ita Toyo. After that, I became the Executive Chairman of Oron Local Government Area and moved on to become the Transition Chairman of Oron Local Government Area for the second time.
The Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State found me worthy and appointed me into the State Executive Council as Commissioner for Transport and Petroleum Resources in 2017 and during my tenure as commissioner there, we carried out a lot of reforms in that subsector. Then as transport commissioner, I was elected chairman, Transport Commissioner’s Forum of Nigeria which placed the body in Nigeria under my leadership. I was also appointed as the Grand Commander of V.I.O in the country.
In the petroleum sector, we did a lot to bridge the gap between the IOCs; the servicing companies and their host communities. In my two and half years in the Ministry of Transport and Petroleum Resources, we did our very best to make a difference. Presently, I am the Commissioner in charge of Culture and Tourism.

Before we go into your activities at the Culture and Tourism Ministry, let us know some of the changes you made in Transport and Petroleum Ministry.
Well on assumption of office at that time, the transport sector seriously needed reinvigoration. We saw some lapses and of course you know the nature of the operators in the transport sector, which people usually refer to them as being ‘touts’ and many believe that anything that has to do with them is hazardous. But I thought differently. For me, I saw them as Akwa Ibom people, our kith and kins, friends of the State or other Nigerians doing business in the State and I believed we could rejig the sector and make it better. One of the first few things I did in the sector was to embark on the collation of data which was paramount. That deepened our knowledge of the people in the sector and their activities. So we registered all transporters in the state which also helped us for good security checks.
We also went further to ensure that we organized them into units to become functional and effective. We started with keke riders who constituted the highest volume of transporters in Uyo Capital City and other major cities by recognizing four unions for them and announced that every keke in the State must join one of the unions for the purpose of recognition, inclusiveness, and security and to carry them along, which they obliged. It really helped us to know the operators. Really, that exercise enabled us to network them together including those riding okadas and mini buses. It also enabled the massive co-ordination and support enjoyed by the Governor from that sector during the last general elections. They were actually happy when they saw that the Governor meant well for them. We also reduced the high cost of tariff in the sector, we gave them free tax days on Saturdays and Public holidays which to me is political inclusion. They were very happy and excited and partnered the government and other stakeholders in the sector to ensure peace in the transport sector.
During that period, we also organized a body known as Transporters Wives Association which brought out their wives from their homes and teach them skills to get them busy which was handled by my wife for the purpose of ensuring that they manage their homes well in addition to supporting and praying for their husbands who are always on the roads to make ends meet. You know that if there are any set of people that needs prayers more, they are the transporters because of the risks involved in their busy schedules along major roads in the state. So apart from urging their wives to pray for them ceaselessly, we taught them that idleness should never be part of their lives. Accordingly, we gave them further training on things to do to support their spouses. The women were very excited and we have over 8,000 of them in that Association.
We reorganized the taskforce from what it used to be which people described then as monsters. Then we had lots of people masquerading as members of taskforces under the transport ministry with none of them listed in our data at the ministry. So we decided to put together a taskforce team, well-schooled on their job and with the approval of the Governor, gave them uniforms for easy identification. That redefined the relationships between the monitoring officers and the transport operators. Before then, it used to be fighting everyday but today they have robust and cordial relationship and things are moving smoothly. I gave glory to God for giving us the initiative to bring sanity to the Transport sector in the state.

Akwa Ibom has a large tourism scope mostly untapped, what are you doing to bring the world to take advantage of this tourism potentials here?
Well for me, I think tourism is a very sensitive part of our day-to-day lives, thus every location that actually attracts tourists needs to be carefully and properly guarded. We have a whole lots of tourist’s sites in our State and to mention a few, starting with four major signature projects in comparison with Lagos State. First, Akwa Ibom has an International Airport likewise Lagos. Secondly, Akwa Ibom has the finest and the biggest stadium in the country and Lagos has a stadium but not as modern as ours. Thirdly, Akwa Ibom State has five star hotel known as Ibom Hotel and Lagos has a whole lots of hotels too but again Akwa Ibom State has Ibom Airline but Lagos has none. So if Lagos State has three out of four, Akwa Ibom has four out of four. Most States in Nigeria can’t compete with Akwa Ibom and today Akwa Ibom is the easiest State to access today from every part of the country. Three flights into the state daily and we are set to take the bull by the horn in tourism sector. We must now create a product out of Akwa Ibom and thereby market the State as a product.
So our heads should be preoccupied with the thoughts of businesses and tourism. Other destinations we have in the State includes the Airports, the Tropicana, the Plaza, the Ibom hotels, even our e-Library is a tourist destination because it is one of the biggest and best we have in this country. We also have the Bridge of no Return, Ididep Beauty Lake, and Lord Lugard’s House. We have about the best cuisines you can think of in Nigeria today; no state can compete with Akwa Ibom in this regard. Nigerians come here to have a taste of what we have as cuisines. We also have Itu Rolling Hills, Ibom Air Line, an International Stadium that can host any International event, even the ambience of Uyo capital city is a tourist attraction. Akwa Ibom State is one of the few states in the country that you can drive for more than forty five minutes on her roads without a pot hole. We need the world to know this. Ibom Hotels and Golf Resorts in our State happens to be the hotel with the largest land mass in the whole of Africa. We need to market this too. I don’t think if there are up to ten hotels in the whole world that have the land mass which Ibom Hotels has and I think the world needs to know this. We have the Ibibio Museum, Oron Museum, and Ibeno Beach which is one of the best natural beaches in the country. Even without any dredging, it stands out as the best. We must market this to the world. We also have the Amalgamation House in Akwa Ibom State, Mary Slessor Memorial Home, and she was here in Itu Local Government Area before moving to Calabar and stayed for some time. All these and many more are here in Akwa Ibom State.
Our state is ready to host the world. So the potentials are already in place – these are the potentials God freely gave to the state. The issue now is how to bring the world to appreciate this God given potentials which brings us to the issue of technology. For me technology is now key since most of our tourism potentially have always been there even before the creation of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. So, to use technology to market these potentials, we are building the very first App for the State which will soon be launched. This App is accumulation of all the popular social media Apps in one form. The application will functions as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The App called Orange State teaches you even the state language. So many Akwa Ibom people living aboard have kids who don’t know how to speak the language and we have solution to the problem even if you are in America. Even as Akwa Ibom indigene, all you need to do is to download the App and it will teach you how to speak Akwa Ibom language because we have over 20,000 recorded Akwa Ibom sentences, words, nouns and etc. For instance if you want to know the translation of “I want to go to school” in Ibibio and you type and press yes, you will hear a voice note that will tell you “Nyem ika ufok nwed” and if you type “good morning” and press yes, you will hear “amesiere”. If you type “I am hungry” and press yes, you will hear “Mbion odong”. It is just one aspect and another being its ability to effectively bridge the gap between Akwa Ibom people here and those in Diaspora. Wherever you are, you can connect the orange state as an Akwa Ibomite, and while the internet makes the world a global village, I want to say that the orange state will make Akwa Ibom State a compound. With a mere push of a button, you can know everything about Akwa Ibom State and see the entire tourist destination; the business places, hotels, supermarkets, stores, restaurants, etc. The App can teach you how to cook any Akwa Ibom cuisine by just pressing the relevant button. The App is a one stop destination for Akwa Ibom people. Akwa Ibom is always the first in Nigeria to bring in good innovations and this is one from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to market our potentials to the world and let it be known that Akwa Ibom is No.1 destination when it comes to tourism. The App will give you orange points which after sometimes you will qualify to get a smart card which makes you a member of the orange club. So the moment you get the smart card which is called the blue eyes once you get it you are exposed to any business on that platform to patronize. It is very flexible and easy for everybody. For instance, a Corp member coming to serve in Akwa Ibom State can rent a house before coming through Home Agents on the App. You can be anywhere in the country and rent a house in Akwa Ibom State and come over straight to your house upon arrival. We are ready to market the potentials we have in the state using technology to drive the narrative, that is what we are doing now and it will soon go full blown.

The zeal with which you served at Transport and Petroleum appeared to have been reduced in your new ministry. Could it be that you have less passion for the latter.
No, I am barely two and half months in the new ministry and it is intentional. You don’t just wake up in the morning and start building a house. You have to design it. Modern Akwa Ibom State was designed by Obong Victor Attah, Senator Godswill Akpabio built on it and Governor Udom Emmanuel consolidated everything that was put together and you have a viable Akwa Ibom State. So for you to build sustainable structures, you don’t start from the day of your appointment to make noise. As I said earlier, we are building the orange App and nobody knows until now. So you do a design, build the foundation and when you see the building start rising, know at that point that a lot of things have been done underground so you don’t see a rising building and conclude it started same day.
Tourism and Culture is a very strategic ministry in which you need to be careful in your approach so that whatever you present as the narrative and new thinking can be appreciated. Tourism has a lot to do with content and you must develop contents. We are now developing contents that will drive the tourism sector. So you watch out from this December and see what the ministry has for the people of Akwa Ibom. Ibom Hotels and Golf Resorts is now fully managed by Akwa Ibom government since the exit of the Marriott Group and things are better off than when Marriott was here. The government is ready to overhaul the entire Ibom Hotel. So expect a brand new Ibom Hotel that can host any kind of personality or group from any part of the world.

You have just mentioned Ibom Hotels among others as some of the tourist sites under renovation; can we know others being upgraded?
Ok, if you visit the Unity Park now, where we have the Ibibio Museum, you see improvement. Before now, you discover it was virtually empty except for some pictures there but today by the time you move round the museum you will see that it tells the full Akwa Ibom story. We have set up committee to put together artefacts and materials that depict the Akwa Ibom story – what we have been through. It will give you our comprehensive story as a people. The museum will be upgraded to a research centre for the history of Akwa Ibom as a people. By the next quarter, the museum will be adequately equipped to cater for all required services and the entire area housing the museum will be secured with perimeter fence with adequate security to protect the facilities.
Though under the supervision of Federal Government, what is the fate of Oron Museum and is there any plan for your ministry to take over its management?
Though under Federal Ministry, it is our responsibility to ensure it functions maximally because the items in the museum talks about Akwa Ibom. So what we intend to do next year is to interface with the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture on how best we can partner to redevelop the museum. The museum is like a forgotten investment and we must draw the attention of the Federal Ministry of Information to the importance of the museum in the state. The museum have materials on the evolution of the country, Nigeria being one of the areas the British landed and carried out their experiments. Oron is an important location in history, the song Amazing Grace was sang at the beach of Oron. So we will interface with the ministry to see how best we can reactivate the Oron museum and make it functional.

Your ministry has been giving Akwa Ibom people what to celebrate in the past and what is in stock for them this December?
Ours for now is in form of proposal awaiting the approval of our Governor. But speaking as a Commissioner, our proposal is that for the first time in Nigeria, I want to see people celebrate Christmas in its true sense. Christmas celebrations are not about masquerades and clowns all over the place. The true essence of Christmas and the reason for the season should be Jesus Christ. We should begin to understand that celebrating Christmas is celebrating the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ and this should be the only reason for the season. The carnivals we have during Christmas like we have in Calabar are completely out of the true sense of carnival. Carnival is an event that takes place before lent in the Roman Catholic Church. It comes with parade, music, etc and purely a religious thing. Carnival is religious and people going naked, nude during such event beats the spirit of carnival. Please if you Google the true meaning of carnival, it reveals that it is a religious exercise done by Catholics before lent.
Now the carnival is an ambience where the body of Christ can come together and celebrate Christmas and in doing so, we will have a carnival in which every child, every young person and every visitor will be looking forward to.
The background, Ibom Christmas festival is an initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism particularly and strategically designed to entrench the true essence of Christmas and to showcase the true meaning of the birth of Christ. The event is designed to bring to the consciousness of the Akwa Ibom people that the birth of Jesus Christ is a true gift to humanity. As a state named after God, this year’s festival will serve as a veritable tool for evangelism and soul winning. So the theme for this year’s carnival is the “Birth of Christ, a Gift to Humanity” and the reason why Akwa Ibom must celebrate Jesus is because this is the only state named after God. This year’s festival will serve as a veritable tool event for evangelism. We are 99 percent Christian and we must use the exercise to win souls for Christ. The carnival is called Ibom Carnival Parade which the different bands will tell in their own way. It will be a costume, music and dance processions, a fusion of theatre in motion, a portrayal of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ labelled in colourful costume and dance steps sending the message of salvation to the world. The band will tell the story of Christmas. We will have seven bands; victory band, glory band, praise band, alleluia band and divine band, etc., with all labelled in their different colourful costumes to portray the birth of Jesus Christ. If you want to celebrate carnival, the ambience where you are parading is important and Akwa Ibom State has a natural carnival location which is the four lanes; Edet Akpan Avenue. We are taking the carnival to the stretch of the four lanes and back and use the service land for the vendors. The entire stretch of the four lanes will be decorated with spectators on the service lanes watching the carnival, so you can imagine the ambience when you put into visuals. It will be the most perfect carnival east of the Niger to be done in serene environment. The service lane will serve as place for vendors’ seat, people selling Christmas stuff and other spectators. The Christmas village will be done like never before. For instance the Unity Park will be dressed with Lightening and Decorations for Children and Adults to enjoy themselves. It will be a complete scenario of all that can make you happy during Christmas season. There will be children’s Christmas parade, to give them a sense of belonging. They are expected to come in their colours from the churches, schools and homes and from their local governments, etc., and all of us will celebrate.
The Christmas village is a decorative, miniature-scale village often set up during the Christmas season. This will serve as leisure/entertainment spot for visitors during the Christmas season as a wide assortment of traditional arts and craft, cuisine, music, dance, etc., will be on display in the Christmas village. The village shall run from the 1st of December, 2019 through 1st of January, 2020. Ibom Carnival Parade is a costume, music and dance procession aimed at telling the story in a pantomime presentation; A fusion of theatre on motion. A portrayal of the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ, revelled in colourful costumes and dance significantly sending the message of salvation to the world.
The “Christmas Story” always has and will always be a wonder beyond imagination and must be told as the band(s) process and parade, performing in synchronization with the carnival theme “The Christmas Story” enacting antecedence of the promise of Christ as it is written in the Holy Bible, the appearance of the Angel to Mary and to the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The event is structured to accommodate and bring together the body of Christ.
The revelling bands have tentatively been named and structured for competition amongst themselves, so as to spur wits, creativity and challenge to outshine one another in telling the Christmas Story in its best way possible.
Children Christmas Parade
The Children Christmas Parade seeks to bring together in the same environment and activity children across the Thirty One (31) Local Government Areas who are privileged and those who are not, so as to teach them how to cohabit together, how to develop basic values such as solidarity and friendship amongst other shared ideas.
It will go a long way to give the children hope and also let them know that they have a future in the society while encouraging them to learn and play as part of their development.
The theme of the parade will be “Healthy Children – Healthy Society” with emphasis on quality nutrition which is a foundation for the development and happiness of a child as well as a factor that engenders confidence and proficiency at learning and socializing.
The Miss Akwa Ibom (Uyai Ibom) Beauty Pageant will assemble intelligent and purpose driven young Girls to be used as the Girl Child Ambassadors.
The project will enhance self-discovery and personal growth which will contribute majorly in the promotion of self-confidence, good leadership models, good morals values, and strong public relations amongst the Young Girls in our dear State.
It will be another strategy for mental/ moral empowerment as it will put the Young Girls in a position to influence the larger society in order to ensure overall peace, socio-economic and political stability and on the other hand evoke a sense of value and provide a platform for recognizing and rewarding hard work and intelligence in the girl child.
Ibom Food Festival
Ibom Food Festival (Usen Ndia) is an opportunity to bring together and promote our diverse delicacies and recipes.
It seeks to also bring together farmers, food manufacturers, vendors, caterers and end users in direct contact with each other – at the same time offer an unparalleled and ideal opportunity to showcase our local products (foodstuffs) and corresponding recipe.
The Ibom food festival (usen ndia) will play host to over 1000 industry stakeholders and nutritional experts who will coordinate technical sessions aimed at discussing ways to handle our enormous agricultural bio-diversities and to promote our local cuisines continentally and internationally.
The economic benefits of a food festival are enormous and most often attract visitors which stimulate the growth of tourism and other businesses in the State.
Our Local Cuisines stand out amongst other cuisines therefore there is need to give it optimum marketing and advertisement.
Ibeno Beach Fiesta
Ibeno Beach enhances increased economic activities and is also a major tourism potential in Akwa Ibom State owing to its endless natural and physical endowments.
The Ibeno Beach Fiesta will consist of an array of Beach Carnival Games such as beach Volley-Ball, Water Sporting, Beach Soccer, General Boating, Sunbathing etc., that will surely give our surfers from the South East, South South, South West and even those from the North Central part of Nigeria a good time and a sense of belonging this yuletide.
Beyond the fiesta, there is need to market and advertise the beach to the world by organizing events which in turn contributes to boosting the economy of the State.

For 2020, what do the Governor has in stock for the Culture and Tourism sector?

Moving forward in 2020, the dynamics will change a little bit towards his Excellency’s industrialization. And we believe that in the things that will drive industrialization which is organizing the first international Raffia week. Raffia works is synonymous with Akwa Ibom State. Our people are into raffia. We are exploring ways to showcase and network with other tourism board across Africa and the world, to come in and experience what raffia means to Akwa Ibom. There will be an industry in Akwa Ibom where we have our people produce different kinds of stuff using the raffia. Remember, we already have a platform for marketing, which is the orange state platform. People will now order raffia product from Akwa Ibom and we will begin to sell our raffia to the world. I was in Ghana recently and observed that their Kente materials is everywhere, even in Marriot Hotels where we stayed, so if you go to Ghana, one of their identities is the beautiful Kente materials. They use it everywhere and if you are in any part of the world and wish to buy original Kente, people will refer you to Ghana and the same applies to raffia.
If you want to get the best, it will be in Akwa Ibom State Nigeria, which also will create both direct and indirect job opportunities for our people. We also intend to create what I call internal tourism or localized tourism. If you go to a place like Kenya, the locals understands you are a tourist and they already know what to do with you; how to manage you to enjoy your stay in the country and spend your money in Kenya. So, as Akwa Ibom is a tourist destination in Nigeria, one of the best if not the best, we intend to prepare our people to understand that we are host to tourists and should be equipped on how best to manage these people to create more opportunities for ourselves. In Kenya, you have people who serve as interpreters.
We should also have Akwa Ibomites who develop such skills of interpreting languages and make good money from it. We should have people who can conveniently take tourists from Ibom hotels to sites and explain things for them. Tourism has a lot of potentials to create direct and indirect jobs for our people.

Talking about culture now, we discovered that our children are taught foreign languages more than the indigenous language. Most children today can’t speak their dialect, how can we reverse this?
Well I am happy you are talking about culture and not tradition, There is a difference between culture and tradition. Sometimes our people tend to mix the two even when they are two different things. Culture is a way of life of the people while tradition involves their rituals. I am interested in the culture and not in the tradition. The culture involves our language and our heritage. Our language is our heritage and we cannot for any reason lose our heritage. Most of our future leaders or next generation are in diaspora and don’t know how to speak the language and that’s why the App, orange state will be very important to us. We must ensure that our local languages is vital part of our curriculum and must be taken seriously because it is our heritage. We must also identify and promote our dress code as the Ibibio man, Oro man, Obollo man, Annang man etc. we must be properly identified by our dressings, we must do thorough research and come up with the proper dress code for our various ethnic nationalities, the issue is such that even the ways people tie their wrappers are significant. The way the Ibibios tie their wrapper is different from the way the Oros tie theirs and these are all important in order to change the narrative and improve on our cultural heritage.

The Governor in his 2020 budget presentations acknowledged the importance of tourism in revenue generation and had assured of his determination to improve the standard of over 50 hotels in the state and to help boost the sector. Can you speak more on this?
Well I must tell you that in the proposed estimate, there’s holistic approach and not for that purpose alone. Akwa Ibom is a fast growing state with many hotels emerging. The Governor in moving tourism forward with the intent to create an enabling environment for these hotels to thrive. Hotel and Tourism board will be rating these hotels in terms of what they can offer. As a ministry, we can also market them as a product of Akwa Ibom State. Government is creating an environment which will promote their businesses. Remember that power remains a major challenge confronting most hotels, so government is desirous of ensuring power for all in 2020/2021. That means that their overhead will crash by over 50 percent and I tell you that power supply takes the overhead cost of most hotels by over 50 percent. High cost of diesel remains their bane. Thirdly, security is very important and people desired it. The Governor has done much in this regard and still doing more. People needs assurances of adequate securities to lodge in their facilities. So if we have secured environment, tourists will troop to the state and the first point of tourism is the Hotels and hospitality and that will create full capacity for the hotels in the state. This will result to high revenue for them too. So far more than the 50 hotels mentioned will enjoy the benefits of what the Governor is planning in the tourism sector for 2020.

What is your understanding of the man you are working with as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State?
I will describe Governor Udom Emmanuel in one sentence. He is a phenomenon; he is dynamic in nature and a fixer. What I love most about him is that he is a quiet achiever. He is like the Bruce Lee of the old who knows he is powerful but will rather keep to himself until you push him to the limit. He is so focused and hardly distracted. Udom is a great and silent achiever. The arrival of Ibom Air took a lot of people unaware but that was a project he was quietly handling till fruition. Those who described it as a gimmick or fluke are today enjoying the good services of the Airline. Ibom Air is one of the major milestones in the revolution of the economy of Akwa Ibom State. It is a gate way to the State.
Transportation is a major thing that drives any economy, moving goods and people from one point to another but Ibom Air is not just moving ordinary people but people with capacity to transform the economic narrative of Akwa Ibom State. So business men know they can dash into the state in the morning from any part of the country and go back in the evening. People will be convinced that they can invest here and actually monitor the growth of their investment. Governor Emmanuel is a smooth operator; he has shown that leadership is not by ranting but by performance. Gov. Emmanuel told us that efforts are not results and it is results that are needed to move anything forward.

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