WHERE UDOEDEHE GOT IT WRONG ON GOVERNOR AKPABIO
Last week, I was at Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital for the wedding of my former colleague and school mate when I read the interview granted to one of the national dailies by a former Minister of State for the FCT and a PDP stalwart in Akwa Ibom State, Senator Akpan Udoedehe. It was all thumbs down, a hard knock for the administration of Governor Godswill Akpabio. In summary, he scored the PDP administration a cipher, an unmitigated failure, hence his decision to contest the 2011 governorship election to enable him 'give freedom to his people who are in captivity.'
Akwa Ibom State should ordinarily be of least concern to me. After all, Udoedehe has every right to challenge the incumbent governor for the ticket of the PDP. There is nothing wrong with it. It is in fact, a right nobody can annul. Democracy will easily lose its essentials without such a plural contest and the usual accompanying panjandrum. However, I am a card carrying member of the PDP and for long, the party has been the butt of criticism over the issue of performance. While the blanket judgment of most Nigerians especially those in the opposition has been unsparing of the PDP flagship of Nigeria's democracy: easily reducing it a below average, others are willing to concede to significant gains that democracy has availed Nigerians.
I have steadily maintained that a fair and objective assessment of the failure or success of the PDP must not exclude the contributions of various states and local governments, some of which have acquitted selves in service to the people. It therefore repulses silence that a distinguishing example of credible state leadership as I saw in Akwa Ibom is being erroneously tarred with the Arcadian brush of non- performance.
This explains the gravitas, my interest in dabbling into the unfolding political scheming in the state. I dare say humbly though, that it is not yet Uhuru as the challenge of infrastructural development is proportional to time and resources. However, I acquiesce easily that Akwa Ibom is one of the states where the PDP has recorded commendable success in meeting the needs and aspirations of the people. But Senator Udoedehe did argue with furious emphasis to the contrary. Desirous therefore to convince myself that the information I have on the brilliant stewardship of the Governor is not a computer simulation, I convinced my host to take me round his state and what I saw was doubly reassuring.
It is tangential to add at this point that it is normal that people should challenge Governor Akpabio for the ticket of the party but the reason for such will cower if it is confected on the hunch-back of technicalities that repudiate quality performance. I am sure that beyond politics, most of the people of the state will take the same stand not because Akpabio has done everything there is to do in the state; rather, he has shown that he can lead the way and that with time and continued support of his people, the desired destination is assured.
I disagree with Udoedehe, therefore that the people of Akwa Ibom on whose land I found the most modern and sophisticated infrastructures of contemporary civilization (in our instance) are in chains. Let's dwell a little on this. However, it will be injurious to history if do without acknowledging that Obong Victor Attah as governor laid a solid foundation for the development of the state. This Governor Akpabio admits very often. However, it should resonate in no uncertain terms that the succeeding administration of Akpabio has in three years translated this vision of greatness beyond what his predecessors envisaged.
It is to his credit that he did not only complete all the projects he met on ground such as the Ibom Power Plant which currently produces about 30magawatts of electricity in one of the three units of the total installed 199 megawatts capacity, the Akwa Ibom International Airport with the longest runway in the country, the Akwa Ibom E-library, the first in the country among others, he has also initiated other unrivalled mega projects which is positioning Akwa Ibom as modern state in the federation and a competitive frontrunner for the actualization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
For sure, this is much the function of the revenue available to the state, some will argue, but it is more about the sensitivity of the leadership to accountability and judicious deployment of resources. With roads comparable only to ones in the FCT, the rapid urbanization of the once sleepy state capital with extensive exit fly overs and bridges is a futuristic urban planning intended to check congestion in later years. Lack of such has been the bane of most cities round the world. The idea of a state road maintenance agency buoyed by the state of the art road building equipment and asphalt plant will not only ensure a speedy maintenance of roads but also minimize the cost of doing it.
In Uyo, there is a 10-diameter, four-kilometer tunnel, lying 40-feet below the earth which guzzles the flood from all points of the city in a jiffy to a waiting catchment centre at city outskirt. This is modern flood channeling and control mechanism never found anywhere around. The government I reliably gathered, intends to convert the catchment centre into a hydro electric dam that can produce about 40megawatts of electricity.
Surprisingly, Senator Udoedehe made an issue over the 200 kilometres of federal road re-built by the Governor. I think he should rather be commended for delivering the people of the state from the valley of death that federal roads are. During the 2007 presidential election campaign at Uyo, some members of our publicity crew in the PDP National Secretariat nearly lost their lives in the gully that was Uyo end of the Calabar- Uyo Express road while travelling to catch their flight in Calabar. Today, the same road is traversed up to the Cross River boundary in less than 30 minutes on quality asphalt with stones underlay. Should Governor Akpabio not be commended for using the state resources to save his people from the jaws of death?
In my Anambra for example, over fifty people were roasted alive last November, along Enugu - Onitsha Express Road at Umunya, just about 4 kilometers from Awka capital circumference as a petrol tanker unable to negotiate a gully at that axis of the road ran into oncoming vehicles roasting helpless citizens of Anambra!
We shall conclude this matter some other day.
•Ngige, a public affairs analyst lives in Abuja.