Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State is a study in selfless leadership. Since assuming the mantle of leadership of the state that has the sobriquet of The Land of Promise over three years ago, he has practically demonstrated what it means for a leader to put the interest of his people first. It was the reason he responded to the clarion call to serve the people of the state in the capacity of governor in the first place.
A man of great conviction, Udom would not have joined politics and offer to go through the rigours of electioneering, which in Nigeria is akin to participating in a real war, if he was not sure he has what it takes to make a difference in the lives of the people of the state. And since he accepted the challenge to serve the people, the interest of the Akwa Ibomite, man and woman, young and old, has been for him something of a personal responsibility – one for which nothing can be too much to sacrifice to achieve.
The governor may not have fully understood the nature of Nigerian politics to know that it is not a calling for gentlemen, but having dabbled into it, he soon learned the ropes. And rather than do as the Romans while in Rome, he has been able to bring finesse, polish, statesmanship and selfless leadership into the art of governance. This explains why he has withstood all manner of persecution to provide purposeful leadership to a state that is blessed with enough natural and human resources to be a beacon of light in the country.
No sooner had Udom assumed office as governor than he realized that his path was strewn with thorns and thistles, with obstacles erected at every step to make him fail. But not being a man given to cowardice, despite his quiet nature that may sometimes be misunderstood to mean weakness, he soon found a way to navigate the waters of treachery and betrayal that is characteristic of politics at that level of governance. Today, the state is the better for it.
Udom loves his people, and would do anything to put their interest first. He demonstrates this in the manner he has pursued implementation of the various programmes he has put in place to uplift their standard of living, with singlemindedness of purpose. He has been able to achieve this despite the various challenges he had to deal with from his first day in office. Some of those challenges manifested in the recent political developments in the state, which were designed to give the impression of a government that had fallen apart, headed by an unpopular leader that was not in control. But the result was the opposite.
It is to the credit of Udom’s intellectual and leadership qualities, and a clear manifestation of his acceptability by the larger segment of the population, that the party on which platform he became governor has not only remained intact, but has become more united with support for his re-election, to enable him to continue to deliver on his election promises. The state legislature has thrown its weight behind him, while his cabinet has remained fiercely loyal to his administration. Simply put, what was expected to be an earthquake that would signpost the imminence of his political destruction turned out to be a non-event. Instead, it has made him more popular and endeared him more to the people who yearn for his continuity in office beyond 2019.
Udom is a man that is committed to truth. He understands that having taken an oath to serve the people of the state to the best of his ability, with his hand placed on the Holy Bible, he must be guided by the fear of God in the discharge of his responsibilities in line with that oath. Despite the shenanigans he has had to deal with as a politician and as governor, he has not forgotten the place of God in all affairs of the state thus his enjoying tremendous goodwill of the Church across all domination. His faith,uprigthness and steadfastness has proven that one can be a politician and still serve God.
His commitment to the transformation of the state in all ramifications manifests in the priority attention he gives to the execution of the various programmes he has put in place in different areas. These include education, with free basic education in all public schools; youth empowerment and capacity building; industrialization and job creation; agriculture and food sufficiency, as well as housing and urban renewal.
Udom has put in place policies for the promotion of investment, commerce and industry, with particular attention to micro, small and medium enterprises. Other areas of focus are provision of critical infrastructure through road construction and rehabilitation, in the effort to open up the state for investment, and emergency interventions to check gully erosion that threatens some parts of the state, including Uyo, the capital.
The governor’s concern for the aged has seen him provide medical support including free eye screening and treatment to people within that age bracket.
In years gone by, Akwa Ibom was noted for its prominence in culture and tourism. As a matter of fact, the first position was something of a birthright for the then South Eastern State ( as the state, together with the present Cross River State, was called up to July, 1975, when General Yakubu Gowon was military head of state) at the annual National Festival of the Arts (NAFEST).
A firm believer in the relevance of Akwa Ibom in contemporary Nigeria, Udom is promoting the revival of culture and tourism in the state, with a view to making the state Nigeria’s tourism capital. The Akwa Ibom Food and Beverage Fair, an event at which the best of food and delicacies for which the state is famous is showcased, is a novelty of his administration. It is an event that showcases the culinary expertise of the average Akwa Ibomn woman, and an avenue for raising the profile of the people of the state.
As the people of the state gear up to the important task of deciding who occupies the Hilltop Mansion from May, 2019, the choice will be between a selfless leadership like Udom for the good of the people or acquisition of power for personal aggrandizement.
By Elijah Essien