This is a text of a broadcast speech by His Excellency, Pastor Umo Eno, Governor, Akwa Ibom State, during the 36th anniversary of the State’s creation on September 23, 2023.
My Fellow Akwa Ibomites
1. My wife, Her Excellency, Pastor (Mrs.) Patience Umo Eno and I send our hearty congratulations to you all on the occasion of the 36th Anniversary of the creation of our dear State, the Land of Promise, Akwa Ibom State.
2. It was exactly 36 years ago, today, that God hearkened to the prayers of our forebears with the creation of this great Land of Promise that was fittingly named after Him.
3. 36 years later, it has been a story of God’s awesome grace, of stupendous lifting up even when there was a casting down. Today, the State that, upon her creation, thirty-six years ago, was a dusty rural backwater, where the roads were narrow and at most looked like bush tracks, now enjoys the enviable position of being the sub-national with possibly the best road network in the nation.
4. Today, a mere 36 years after her creation, the capital City of Uyo which was a dusty provincial headquarters with homes that composed of some smattering of thatched houses, boasts of some of the most elegant estates with beautiful homes you will find anywhere in the world.
5. Today, 36 years later, our children are smashing records, and our reading culture has been ignited, with the recent Guinness World Record attempt by one of our great sons, John Obot for the longest hours spent reading aloud. Life expectancy has improved considerably, because of the improvements in Primary and Secondary, even quaternary healthcare facilities.
6. Today, our State, has become the destination of choice for conferences, seminars and other national events, with a thriving social and creative life. Thanks to our hospitable nature, peace and tranquillity we enjoy, our rich cuisines which earlier this year, gained further national and international acclaim with the exploits of our daughter, Hilda Baci, who won the Guinness World Record for the longest hours of cooking by an individual, our State is attracting visitors in thousands with most deciding to live and work here.
7. Our State, 36 years later, is the only sub-national with a thriving commercial airline, Ibom Air, that has become the nation’s most preferred airline, thus cementing our position as both a tourism magnet and a destination for investors.
8. Fellow Akwa Ibomites, you will agree with me, that in 36 years, we have made giant leaps in every sector of the human experience. We give God the glory for the leadership He has blessed us with, leaders who came with such a ferocious appetite to develop, lift and ensure sustainable development for our people.
9. Permit me at this point to pay our glowing tributes to the man whom God used to give us this priceless Land of Promise, our revered former President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Thank you Sir, for this gift and on behalf of the ever grateful people of Akwa Ibom State, we wish you continuous good health and God’s immeasurable blessings.
10. Let me also thank all the past Governors of this State, from the Military era, led by our first military Governor, Brigadier General Tunde Ogbeha (rtd), Major General Godwin Abbe (rtd), Late Air Commodore (Otuekong) Idongesit Nkanga (rtd), Late Obong Akpan Isemin, Colonel Yakubu Bako (rtd), Late Navy Captain Joseph Adeusi, (rtd), Group Captain John Ebiye (rtd). to the father of modern Akwa Ibom State, (Arc.) Obong Victor Attah, laid the foundation for the growth and development we are currently experiencing. To the Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Distinguished Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, CON, for the fervour and hunger for the physical development of our state he exhibited in the course of his eight-year tenure,
11. Particular mention must be made of my political father, the immediate past Governor of this State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, CON, who saw in me what others may not have seen, and through the will of God and his faith in my capacity, competence, character, Christian values and your overwhelming and unassailable support at the polls, I am today, addressing you as the Governor of this State.
12. Today, because of his passionate dedication to the advancement of our infrastructure, Akwa Ibom State, has about the best road network in the nation, and the best commercial airline in the nation, Ibom Air.
13. It is because of the performance of our past leaders that I am daily being motivated to continue from where they had stopped.
It has been a little over 100 days since I was sworn in as your Governor. Today, my fellow Akwa Ibomites, I can say that we have hit the ground running and God has been an ever-present Guide as we work to translate our vision into practical, measurable and impactful forms.
14. While you elected me for the first four years, with the hopes of gaining your trust for a continuous journey of our shared prosperity, as I stated in my message to mark the 100 Days, the ship of our State is anchored and moored on a solid shoreline, the energy is over- charged, the vision is clear and distinct, the hands on the Ship of State is firm and the gaze for what lies ahead is focused and unwavering. I remain deeply committed to ushering in a vibrant, inclusive, diversified and highly industrialized economy through the use of highly developed human and material resources. As such, the achievement of the 8 goals of my Blueprint for Economic Consolidation and Expansion remains a daily priority. Besides, my 8 goals are in sync with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nation’s 2023 Agenda for Development. Therefore, achieving these goals will translate into achieving the SGDs in Akwa Ibom State.
15. The ARISE Agenda, which is the flagship programme of my administration is still being used to deploy sector-wide strategies and actions within the purview of our 5-group aspiration. I am unapologetically committed to prioritizing Agricultural Revolution, Tourism Development, Environmental Management, Rural Development, Women and Youth Empowerment, Infrastructural Maintenance, Security, Education, Health Management, and Economic, Industrial and Social Advancement.
16. Our key focus is on rural development which aligns with the United Nation’s SDG 5 on improved standard of living. This is so, because our past leaders, followed the approach that mature democracies have adopted, which is to provide enduring and solid infrastructure especially road networks and other hard infrastructure so the succeeding administrations can deploy resources to develop and improve the standard of living of the people in the hinterlands.
17. This is exactly what we are determined to do. The key elements of the ARISE Agenda are to open up our rural areas, provide access roads, ignite agricultural revolution and reduce the push and desire for people to migrate from rural to urban areas.
18. Once we improve the quality of life of our rural dwellers, embark upon the One Local Government One Project (OLOP,) and create neighbourhood watchers to provide both employment to our youths in Local Government Areas and to maintain the peace and security we have been enjoying, improve primary healthcare service delivery, establish model primary schools, and link the over 2, 272 gazetted villages with electricity, we would be right on track with our rural development agenda.
19. To activate this vision, we have established the State Rural Access Road Agency (RARA) an off-shoot of the Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Projects (RAAMP) – a World Bank Development Project led by competent professionals. We are optimistic that sooner, the entire nook and crannies of Akwa Ibom State will be one gigantic land of very hardworking, self-sufficient and happy people, rising in one accord to fulfil the dreams of our founding fathers and God’s plans for us all.
20. So far, we have flagged off critical roads in all three senatorial districts and the first we flagged off, a little over two months ago, the internal road complete with solar-powered street light (Ndiya Street) in Urua Akpan Andem, has been completed ahead of schedule by our very own HENSEK Integrated Services.
21. Work is ongoing on the 1.1 km Spring Road in Ikot Ekpene, same as the 2.1km Ukpong Street and 2.1 km Effiong Essang Street with 800m length of discharge drain in Oron Local Government Area. Work is also ongoing in the 11km Owot Uta-Nung Oku Ekere-Afaha Udo Eyop-Edebom by Ekponwa Market roads connecting Ibesikpo Asutan with Nsit Ibom Local Government Areas respectively.
22. We are constructing a 2.2 Km Tabernacle Road with 0.97km underground drain that will empty into the Calabar-Itu Road drainage in Itu Local Government Area. Several erosion intervention works are currently ongoing in the state, especially on Atiku Abubakar Way, and the Udo Inwang, Ewet Offot, Eniang Offot in Uyo.
23. To ignite our agricultural revolution in line with our ARISE Agenda, we have acquired over 50 hectares of land in each of the 31 Local Government Areas, to ensure food security and to get our people to be involved in agro-allied enterprises.
24. As a practical demonstration of this resolve, we recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the world-renowned Songhai Farms to start a model farm in our State, and have already sent dozens of our people for training so they could form the nucleus of the skilled workers to drive this exercise. A little over two weeks ago, I led a delegation of some members of the EXCO on a working tour of the farm in Cotonou and it was quite a revealing experience. We are on the cusp of truly igniting the agricultural revolution and food security in line with our Arise Agenda.
25. We have steadily paid gratuities to Local Government, Primary School Teachers and State Workers. Over 3 Billion Naira has so far been released for this exercise. We have commenced an initial five-month payment of Leave Grants in the State Civil Service. This exercise started in my second month in office, and the first phase will end in December. You will agree with me, that, this has been bold steps taken to address this issue.
26. We are constructing model primary schools and primary healthcare facilities across the three senatorial districts and work is ongoing at a fast pace at the location of the first of these model primary schools, the Christ the King School, (CKS) on Wellington Bassey Way, Uyo.
27. Education remains free and compulsory at Primary and Secondary School levels and as part of the palliatives we are rolling out, we intend to support parents with school uniforms, shoes and the payment of bursaries to students in tertiary institutions after proper verifications.
28. To cushion the effect of the removal of fuel subsidy in line with the palliatives of 5 Billion Naira of which 2 Billion has already been received, in the form of a loan, we have commenced the distribution of the palliatives of 40 bags of rice to each of the gazetted 2,272 villages, cash transfers to 53 thousand civil servants, across the state, the additional bags of rice we have bought from our rice millers, all these have raised our contributions to the palliatives scheme to over 5 Billion Naira. Our commitment to the payment of WAEC fees is irrevocable and we have already done so since we came in. We have also instituted a 100 Million Naira Intervention Fund for students with disabilities
29. Our Ibom Leadership and Entrepreneurial Development Centre (LED) will soon be up and running aimed at equipping our people with the right entrepreneurial and leadership skills, thus preparing them to compete with their peers elsewhere, in line with SDG’s goal Number 7, which is aimed at producing highly educated and skilled populace
30. To ensure that we continue to enjoy the peace we are known for, we have created a full-fledged new ministry-the Ministry of Internal Security and Waterways headed by a retired general of the Nigerian Army, General Koko Essien again, in line with the SDG’s goal no 8, which is on safety and security. Our security architecture is robust and remains committed to working collaboratively to ensure our safety. We thank the Security agencies immensely for this deep sense of collaboration.
31. In the course of my campaign, I had pledged to demystify governance and make myself available to the common people, since it is from that segment of the society that God raised me through the instrumentality of my political father to be the Governor of this blessed State today.
32. Against conventional wisdom, I have stopped by various roadside shops as I traverse the length and breadth of this State, and have patronized roadside vendors, and empowered them with seed funds to expand their trade. I will continue to do so, because if I can overcome adversities to fulfil God’s plans in my life, others too, can!
33. We are determined to ensure that our comparative advantage in the blue economy is utilized to improve the quality of lives of our fishermen as well as our tourism sector, which is a critical sector in our ARISE Agenda. We recently flagged off the construction of ARISE City Estate in Mbierebe Akpawat, Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area.
34. Our first, made-in-Akwa Ibom Trade Fair will be opened later today and we want to unfurl the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of our people. This is a platform for our fashion designers, shoemakers and other creative people to come and showcase their products. We will support and encourage them with seed money, and equipment and we will also buy from them, especially those who will make the uniforms and shoes that we are giving to our people as part of our palliatives packages.
35. In my inaugural address, concerned about the political polarization in our dear State, I had stated that “Elections are over, and our kindred spirit must be renewed and deepened. We are all Akwa Ibomites first before politics. Politics therefore must not separate or sever the ties of our brotherhood and common heritage and aspirations, I pledge to you that I will be Governor for all Akwa Ibomites, irrespective of political persuasions or affiliations. Instead of war-war on critical issues of our development, unity and brotherhood.”
36. So far, as demonstrated during our hugely successful Ibom Dialogue, and other important events, we have worked across party lines to advance the development of our State, since politics must give way to governance.
37. Let me at this point thank President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his kind invitation for me to be a part of his delegation at the recently concluded 78 United Nations General Assembly. In New York. This is the spirit of inclusivity and bipartisanship that we need in this state and in our nation.
38. I was elected as the Governor of this state, and we have citizens who did not vote for me, because they belong to other parties. I put my hands on the Bible and swore an oath to serve you all, and I will continue to do so, as long as I am on this seat. So naysayers please take note.
39. I call on our people to sheath their political swords and let us work together to advance the growth of our State and our Nation.
40. Let me end this broadcast by quoting from the Book of Jeremiah, Chapter 29: 11 “ for I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” May these plans come to pass in the Name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ Amen.
41. Happy 36th Anniversary to us all!