Leadership Challenges: To Get Nigeria Out Of The Doldrums, We Need To Break The Circle Of Mediocrity


Mr. Ephraim Inyang-eyen is the Honourable Commissioner for works Akwa ibom state. A very outspoken, pragmatic and result oriented fellow who is detailed, meticulous and hard working. The works Commissioner on Tuesday addressed some burning Contemporary issues within state and the Country at large.

How do we confront the several problems plaguing the country at the moment?

If you are talking about economic or political solutions to our problems, let me tell you that the day our leaders, the few elite who run the nation, decide that they want solutions to our problems it will be done. They will go for the best hands to be involved in the affairs of the nation. The problem now is that if you bring those who don’t have the capacity and place them on top of those with capacity, you have simply destroyed the system. When I was in the service at the Nigeria Customs, if you brought someone with less knowledge of customs theories and principles on top of me, then you would have given me a good opportunity to enjoy myself because he would not understand the language I will speak. We must get back to the drawing board where we have to get leaders who have exceptional qualities. Governor Udom Emmanuel today sits in a cabinet in which every member knows that the governor has an idea of every sector and area of development. Therefore, it is impossible for you to tell him cock and bull stories. You’ll be wasting your time if you lie to him, because at the press of the button on his phone, he will get the facts and confront you with them. What we need at this point are bridge builders, men with character and distinction, men of capacity, men who cannot be deceived by followers.

What I am trying to say here is that the day we decide as a people that enough is enough of mediocrity, and we begin to push forward our very best who have capacity and whose personalities and names can open doors beyond the boundary of Nigeria, then things will change for good. The Nigerian situation is not impossible to overcome. The problem is just that by omission or commission we got ourselves where we are today.

But the day we decide to move forward we will look for the best. In Akwa Ibom State, I’ll advise that people should always only send their first eleven to represent them or else their second eleven will be swallowed up by other people’s first eleven. At the international arena, if your leaders are not men of capacity, they will be swallowed up by leaders of other nations who have immeasurable capacities. They won’t even allow them speak because they know that they have nothing to offer. What I am saying is that Akwa Ibom is quite privileged to have Governor Emmanuel as governor and there will be nothing wrong if kingmakers in Nigeria decide that it is enough of mediocrity and that we should have this man change our story.

The story of Nigeria can be changed by men of capacity and character who will say no to wrong doings, men of character who will refuse to do that which will deny the greater majority the benefits, those who will say no to godfathers so that the right things will be done, men of capacity who understand the present global trend, and how other nations of the world succeeded and they are able to toe the same line. For Nigeria to get out of the doldrums, we need to break the circle of mediocrity.

Governor Emmanuel’s achievements are so glaring that what former governor Godswill Akpabio said about him being God-send to the people has been proven. Will you say that God actually spoke to the former governor when he made the pronouncement?

I don’t know if God spoke to Chief Godswill Akpabio or he got an understanding or revelations, because God can open the eyes of anyone to see. Everything former Governor Akpabio said has actually come to pass. He gave a prophecy which was about getting to fruition but walked away. He didn’t sit back to see the fulfilment of the prophecy. But wherever he is today, he knows that all he said was inspired by God. I think our former governor, Senator Akpabio disobeyed God which was why he did not sit back to see the fruition of his prophecies. “A child will be born who is called Emmanuel, meaning God with us, and that the government shall be on his shoulders” former Governor Akpabio said at that time in early 2015.

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God does not make mistakes. Look at 2019 for instance, it was a done deal in the other camp but God did not see it that way because He is God who says what He will do and never says what He will not do. It is clearly established that Akpabio spoke the mind of the people but walked away at the critical moment when he ought to have sat back and enjoy the dividends of what he prophesied. God is great. I remember God using a donkey to speak when a prophet disobeyed him. According to him (Akpabio) he said a son was given and that the government of Akwa Ibom will be upon his shoulder and he shall be called Emmanuel. The rest is now history. I believe that today Senator Akpabio, wherever he is, will remember the proclamation. I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t show up in Onna during the burial of Governor Emmanuel’s late father. He ought to have been there to join the leadership of Nigeria and international community that assembled at Awa Iman.

When Chief Akpabio said that the coming child will have the government of Akwa Ibom thrust upon his shoulder, it was a very deep saying. Remember also that when Christ came, John the Baptist took a back seat and there is nothing you can do about it. That man has a bond with God for season and time. John the Baptist asked Christ: are you the one being expected or do we wait for another one? But Jesus replied: by the things you see, there is no doubt that I am the one that God has sent and John took a back seat. Whenever a new leader shows up, the one anointed for the season and appointed for the time, everyone else who existed or was popular before goes back. For three and a half years of Jesus Christ’s ministry on earth, there was no one as popular as Him and till today, 2000 years after His death, He is still the most popular one. He will remain so and nobody can take his place that is the way God works.

It was during an interview like this that you prophesied that Calabar- Itu Road will not be constructed. Do you feel justified today?

Any discerning mind in the construction industry would have known by the way and manner the story and handling of the Calabar-Odukpani-Itu Road is being done; that there was no intention of constructing that road. How do you get a road you have not budgeted for done in the first place? A minister came and said it will be funded from Sukuk fund, what is it all about? If you are taking a loan, it must be budgeted for and that applies on whatever you want to expend public funds on. It must form part of government expenditure profile. If government is unable to fund it from other sources of income, you then take a loan. How can you say you are funding it from Sukuk in the month of February/ March without anything on ground, and this is the only season one can go into serious construction because we are in a tropical rainforest belt. Will the Federal Government send extra budgetary provision to the National Assembly for approval? I don’t believe what they are saying. Senator Ita Enang came on propaganda mission. The same month when he was earlier boxed to a corner, he descended on Julius Berger too but I earlier warned Julius Berger not to join them in the deceitful game because the same Senator Enang will come after them.

When he said that they were not performing even when they were not given money, they came back to me but I reminded them of my earlier warning. Road construction is not political but development and you don’t politicize it. The same Federal Government has been constructing roads in Kaduna, Katsina, Kano without noise. If you don’t fund road contracts, you can’t say you are doing construction. Construction is more of funding than talking. I have not seen any proper preposition for the funding of Calabar-Itu Highway. Few days ago, I said there was no single federal project in Akwa Ibom and I think that brought the Minister of Works and Housing to the state for inspection. But how do you inspect a road you have awarded and even the contractors are yet to be mobilized to site.

The contractor doing the Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road is yet to be mobilized to site and the Honourable minster came for inspection. What is he inspecting? He came to Ikot Ekpene-Itu- Odukpani- Calabar Road and I am asking like others are doing what was the inspection about. We inspect roads that the construction processes is on. Julius Berger will not return to Calabar- Itu-Odukpani Road except they are funded. As far as I am concerned, the only road connecting Akwa Ibom and Cross River states is on political not developmental programme.

It is alleged that you give so many jobs to Hensek Engineering services to the detriment of other indigenous firms. Isn’t it?

When we came to office in 2015, it was said that the previous government led by Senator Akpabio earlier used the local contractors and they failed the state. But I said it could be that funds were not allowed to fully get to the indigenous contractors. Civil engineering is a global practice and the contractors use the same machines and manpower. Now with support and encouragement, they are all performing. The five local contractors we are using have the same number of jobs. Hensek did Nkpok-Ukat Road 5km; Ikot Oku Ikono road between old and new Ikono Road 6.41 kilometers; the next contract he has is Ring Road 3 that is three jobs.

Elder Benjamin Udobia of Benest has also jobs in Ikot Usop-Ikot Edehe roads in Mkpat-Enin. He got 11km road in Onna and 17km road in Esit Eket. He too has three jobs. The next contractor is Verini. He did the first 5km job at Ibiono Ibom and a 17km job in Uruan from Ishiet to Anua which he is about to complete. We also took him to Ibiono Ibom to do the 7km Cardinal Ekanem Road. In all he has three roads. There was a delay in funding for him in Uruan and it was a longer stretch of road. For Seyang, we gave him Nto Edino-Ekwereazu road 6.14km which he completed. We have also given the contractor two other jobs in the same Obot Akara.

If you now add Nsik Engineering that I brought in on the instructions of the governor, we started to test run him on direct labour jobs of 2km 3km. The first major jobs was the 4.99km Ibesit-Okpokoro Road in Oruk Anam Local Government Area. As we speak, he is asphalting the road. We just gave him a 7km road in Abak to link Afe Annang Road to Essien Udim. So I will tell you that the five local contractors working with the state Ministry of Works have equal number of roads. Even the ones that claim to be foreign contractors are only foreign in terms of their leader as a large component of their workforce is made up of our people.

The question now should not be that one is favoured more than the other but whether the person given the job is doing a great job? We brought a foreigner for Ring Road 2 and he told us he has the resources to do the job, so we gave it to his company, Qumecs, as alternative funding approach but he could not deliver. We adjusted the job to 50/50 on each side. We brought ours yet he couldn’t deliver and now government is funding the road 100 per cent. That road has taken three years and the contractor is barely seen. If that is what we call foreign contractor, I Ephraim Inyang, son of the soil, will choose local contractors 10 times over such foreign-based contractors because in less than one year of Hensek handling the Ring Road 3, you will agree with me that the difference is clear.

Akwa Ibom people should be more interested in delivery capacity of the contractors than people getting offended that their sons are being patronized by their government. Those foreign firms we are going after started small and were built by their people. All the materials used for construction from red earth, stone base to binder to asphalt are the same. The machine used is the same and technology is of global standard. If you don’t expose your people, empower and strengthen their hands, they will never become global champions. So if the question is why is Hensek being over- favoured? Then I will ask whether he is doing the job well. If he is, then he should be given more jobs.

Senator Ita Enang has just released a fresh press statement thanking President Buhari for awarding the Calabar-Odukpani-Itu Road and also thanking other Nigerians who worked with him to get the road awarded. What is your take?

I have three comments to make. One, is the Calabar Odukpani-Itu Road the only road in Nigeria being handled by the present government? Why is the road singled out for mockery? Why is he thanking them for awarding the contract? But awarding of contract is cheap, funding of contract is more critical. Which one is being awarded? Is it the single lane or dualised road because the initial one they awarded was an embarrassment? The former one has some portions dualised, some single lane and some not awarded. He has messed up the entire thing. If the Federal Government has awarded the road under the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, is it now the duty of Senator Enang to be thanking the President on behalf of the people of Niger Delta because we have a minister of the Niger Delta, senators and members of the House of Representatives who would have written to thank the President? Senator Enang is not in the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing handling the project, he is no longer in the Presidency , he is a staff of the ministry under Senator Akapbio. Is he the one to be signing such releases or Senator Akpabio? The truth of the matter is that the Calabar-Odukpani-Itu Road is an embarrassment to Senator Enang and also an embarrassment to the Federal Government. The people of Akwa Ibom and Cross River states are very frustrated that they have been abandoned in road development. Senator Enang as our son should stop embarrassing us; he is not coordinated in what he is saying. The roads that are awarded and constructed in Nigeria don’t carry such stories. I have not seen it in other federal roads like Lagos-Ibadan. He should stop and work under Senator Akpabio, be submissive and properly guided. He should stop issuing press statements without the approval of his boss the minister, so that he will not make mistakes.

There are still pockets of agitations for compensation to be paid by your ministry for structures on the right of way. What is your take?

I want to assure Akwa Ibom people that government will not take down any structure except it has been paid for, unless in situations you begin to discuss unreasonable compensation. I am not a valuer but my job is to ensure that what was valued is paid. If it is the part being constructed by Zenith Construction, I can assure you that once funds are ready; we will come and pay before taking down any structure. Again, in Eket, we have awarded 21 new roads through direct labour and the contactors are very well funded. The one in Nung Atai, off Shelter Afrique is direct labour and we have some constraints presently in funding. I trust God that the efforts the governor is making in sourcing funds for these projects will come to fruition soon. Now that we have finished what took us off for some time now, we will fully return to the streets by next week.

Why has compensation not been paid on Ndue Otong Oku Road?

People affected along Ndue Otong Oku Road have not been paid because we adjusted the alignment. The initial alignment of the road as awarded ran into the ravine which would have been too expensive for government and thus the new alignment is good. I want to let the people know that until a contractor is funded and is working that is when compensation comes from what government has given to the contractor. So once the governor provides funds for the contractors to resume, we will come for payment of compensation. Houses or structures can only be taken down when the owners are fully compensated.

What is the fate of the only access roads to Ekom group of villages in Udung Uko Local Government Area of the state?

When we started Udung Uko Road, it was just 9km but at the end of the 9km, we realised that the two fingers of the road terminated in the bush and I wrote to the governor, and Finance and General Purpose Committee (FGPC) requesting for additional 3km to take the left leg of the road to EyoAbasi in Oron and I just got approval last year to take the right leg of 4.3km of the road to Mbo Local Government Area. So neither of the legs of Udung Uko Road is terminated in the bush. Now, at the completion of the road which goes from Udung Uko to Oron and Udung Uko to Mbo, that translates to 16.5km of roads for Udung Uko people. We will commission the first 12 kilometers by May.

Oruk Anam Local Government Area never benefitted road infrastructure-wise from previous administration. What is the situation at present?

For the good people of Oruk Anam Local Government Area, the state government under Governor Emmanuel is doing the highest number of roads there outside Uyo, the capital city. Ikot Ika- Ibe Oruanwan- Ikot Okoro- Ikot Ibritam Road which is 23.75km is being handled by Total Engineering. Ikot Ibritam Ekefre Road done by Almadal will be ready in May this year. Nsik Engineering is doing the 4.99km of Ikot Ibritam- Ibesit Okpokoro. JNK which is just being funded is doing Ibesit Okporoko to Ikot Eka- East West Road. The roads put together will almost be more than 50 kilometres. I want to tell the people in that community that I am conscious of Ibesit Okpokoro- Ikot Ebak culvert that collapsed and government will like to complete ongoing projects before taking up new one.

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The people of Odoro and Abak 10 community should be a little patient as the road is being funded. I will go personally to that road in the next one or two weeks and will not say much on it till then. I want to assure Akwa Ibom people that all road projects undertaken by the state government is going to get renewed attention. From next week, you will see the renewed presence of my team on the road to ensure that every contractor funded has got to use the money for what it was meant for. So while we return, we will take more questions from the people.

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