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GIVING AKWA IBOM INTEREST PRECEDENT

By Joe Iniodu
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Nothing has given impetus to one of the five points agenda of the Udom administration being political inclusiveness like the recent visit to Government House by Obong Umana O. Umana and the planned collaboration between the State Government under Governor Udom Emmanuel and Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) under Umana as the Managing Director.

For reminiscence, Udom and Umana were the leading contenders in the 2015 gubernatorial election. But the dust refused to settle after the election was won and lost. A legal battle ensued all the way down to the Supreme Court where Udom was confirmed the winner of that much fought election. But the pronouncement of the apex court did not rest the grumblings as those opposed to the duly elected and judiciary confirmed Governor Udom Emmanuel continued to hurl tirades at him and the exalted office. Even those expected to know better could not submit to the dictates of sound reasoning as they frequently deployed various mass media platforms especially Planet Radio to cast aspersions at the governor and the office.

In the past 19-months, this has remained the stock in trade of these people that one can safely say have scant love for their State of origin. It is trite knowledge that we have only one State called Akwa Ibom. Those who are natives of the State owe allegiance to it and should as a moral obligation seek its development. If the trite knowledge is stretched further, it is realized that no development can be attained under the atmosphere of chaos. But these touted “political gladiators” have since the inception of the Udom administration refused to submit to this superior reasoning. They have used either the privilege of their offices or economic fortunes to heat up the polity in the State with the intent to distract the governor and frustrate him in the onerous task of delivering democracy profits to the people. The question is, when one plots to suffocate the process of governance through blackmail not minding government’s good intentions, whose interest is he or she serving? Certainly, not the people as such mischievous contrivance can only increase their ones.

It is in the light of the above that one can with delight describe the courtesy call by Umana and officials of Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority to Governor Emmanuel at Governor’s Office in Uyo on January 4, 2017 as a new year gift to Akwa Ibom people. The gift that unfurled from that visit is peace, it is brotherhood, it is love and a reinvention of our common heritage. God is infallible. He, therefore, could not have made any mistake to have put us in one geographical space with an intelligible language to interact and even marry if he had no purpose. But often times, we watch with sadness and trepidation as politicians cast a pall of divisiveness that undermines the one tongue identity that God had in His infinite wisdom graciously given to us thereby unwittingly eroding His purpose.

A man on his dying bed called the children and requested each of them to come with one broom stick. Obediently, they arrived his presence as requested. He then asked each of them to break the broom stick and they did as he had instructed. After they had all successfully performed that ritual, the old man brought from under his bed one bunch of broom. He asked each of them to take turns to break the bunch of broom. All of them tried but none was successful in the task of breaking the bunch. The dying man used that physical act to admonish them on the need for unity. He warned that if they are divided, they risked being made mince meats by enemies who are always on the prowl but if they are united, they can never be vanquished.

The experience of Akwa Ibom as a State during the onshore off-shore imbroglio provides a clear perspicacity of the fact that between our State and some of the neighboring States, there is no love lost. Of course, this was made eloquent in the era of disputed oil wells. It is on record that one of our neighbouring States went to the ridiculous length of surreptitiously funding litigations for the abrogation of the Onshore Offshore Act which enshrines Akwa Ibom State with the right to benefit from oil exploited from offshore but within its environment. That State did that to deprive our State of revenue from the Federation Account and such other revenues that accrue to oil producing States. The lesson here is that, we can only rise to the occasion of protecting ourselves and our rights if we are a united people, joined together in love with the common good as our objective.

The collaboration between Governor Emmanuel and Obong Umana is obviously an acknowledgment of this principle of common good as the objective. This was encapsulated when he briefed the governor at that historic courtesy call. He said that he was there with the management and staff of the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority to discuss the establishment of Oil and Gas Free Zones in Akwa Ibom State. The erstwhile governorship candidate identified the benefits of establishing the Zone to include deepening the economy of the nation and invariably the state, attracting investments, creating jobs and fast tracking economic development in the State.

The truth is that when all these come to bear, it is the Akwa Ibom people that would benefit. Such development would provide Udom and Umana fulfillment as they would through joint efforts alleviate the burdens of some our people. It would be increased joy for them to realize that they are expanding the economic frontiers of the State nay the people. We cannot continue to play politics that relegates the human needs while upholding desperately an obnoxious quest for power which translates to power for power sake and not for the people.

The new Udom/Umana partnership must be commended and henceforth begin to serve as the new phase of our politics. Supporters of the two gladiators must also take a cue by internalizing the civilized behaviours exhibited by the duo. It is time to sheath the sword. It is time for public office holders to maximize the offices God has graciously extended to them for the benefit of the people. Let them come to terms with the fact that they would be remembered by the positive impact they used the office to achieve for the people and not by how much they vilified government and its leaders. This is the time to find a place of history and not ignominy. Umana by the action of the courtesy call has begun to carve one for himself. Our prayer for him is that he finds the moral health to sustain this rebirth.

We must commend Governor Emmanuel for his humility. When he continually echoed the words, “politics is over, come let us build Akwa Ibom together”, many thought he was just playing to the gallery. Many even said that he was beginning to sound like a broken record or one overwhelmed with fear from the opposition. One cannot therefore but be enthused that he demonstrated his openness and altruism with the opportunity of Umana’s visit. Many who saw them as sworn enemies must be very disappointed at the camaraderie that defined that visit. Let them learn the lesson that it is morally wrong to stoke fires of discord for our leaders. And that we stand to gain a lot if they are united.

Joe Iniodu is a public affairs analyst