Home Opinion In Akwa Ibom, 100 days of Eno’s impact

In Akwa Ibom, 100 days of Eno’s impact

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I remember 29th May 2023. That was 100 days ago. By 9 am, I was already seated in the grandstand of the Nest of Champion Stadium, Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom State. Everywhere was jam packed and bustling with festivities by diehard loyalists and supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party. This was the day they had been waiting for. After gruelling and marathon political consultations and campaigns that stretched for 14 months, Pastor Umo Eno, was about to be sworn in as governor of Akwa Ibom State.

Everyone in the stadium was in a high spirit. From the party stalwarts in their colourful uniforms to the footmen with their flags, banners, drums and trumpets, the air was filled with satisfaction and anticipation. Intermittently, a tumult of victory songs would break out and nearly all seated in the main bowl of the 30,000 stadium were trying to make themselves heard over the din.

Amidst this jubilation, huggings, handshakes, chest thumpings and sporadic uproars, my phone rang. The call was from no one else but the man of the moment; the hero of the day, that the 7.2 million Akwa Ibom people had been waiting for. This was probably 30 minutes before he arrived at the stadium.

“Good morning Sir”, I said in a hurry, as I stood up to search in vain for a less noisy spot to talk with the Governor-elect. “Good morning Sir, how are you Sir ”, he responded with candour in his trademark, down-to-earth manner. The call lasted for three minutes or so.

The subject matter was still blowing in the wind when he arrived the stadium in long motorcade to a tumultuous welcome. Within an hour, the baton had changed hands from Governor Udom Emmanuel to Governor Umo Eno, and I became, in the famous words of David Gergen, author of the New York Times bestseller, an Eyewitness to Power.

I remember writing about his first seven days in power for many national newspapers. I called it, ‘The Advent of the Golden Governor’. I remember writing about his adventure in the farms and plantations. I called it, ‘Governor Unusual’.

I remember writing about his uncountable encounters with the poor and underprivileged street traders and orphans. I called it, ‘A Governor and his friends’. I remember writing about his encounter with a confident headmistress. The story went viral just as his encounter with the orphan who buried her two parents in one day.

The list is long enough to make a book by now! And today I remember the first road project that Governor Eno flagged off. It was on Tuesday, 6th June 2023. He was barely one week in office. It was the 11-kkilometre ural road traversing the two Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Ibesikpo and Nsit Ibom. Seen as one of the food baskets of the state, with the famous Ekpo Nwa Market which attracts traders beyond Akwa Ibom State, it was not a surprise to his close watchers that this governor would love to take off from the helipad of agriculture, rural economy and entrepreneurship. Said the governor that evening: “I seek to create access into the rural communities for the production and marketing of agricultural products”.

I remember three other roads/streets that were soon to follow, all with specific, undoubted and immediate socio-economic linkage and benefits to commerce and industry. They included the construction of Ndiya Street’s internal roads, drainages, and installation of solar lighting in Akpan Andem Market, in Uyo. The governor said his decision to target the street and environs was its value as a major driver of entrepreneurship and SMEs in Uyo. Nobody could fault him. He told the women and traders who besieged him in appreciation that the construction of Ndiya Street and the rehabilitation of Akpan Andem was in fulfilment of his promise to prioritise entrepreneurial development. Today, the project is 95 per cent completed, according to Engr. Uwem Okoko, the MD/CEO of Hensek Integrated Services Limited, the respected contractors handling the project.

I remember the flagged-off of the construction of a 2.1km Ukpong Street and 2.1km Effiong Essang Street with 800m discharge drain in Oron. For those who know, the right hand man of Governor Eno is a woman. That woman is Senator Akon Eyakenyi, the deputy governor of the State. She was at hand as usual to help out with this flag off. She sang and danced with her jubilant supporters nearly all day, even as she justified the choice of the two streets in Oron. “These two streets are of great significance to Oron people as they connect the 100 units of Federal Housing Estate with the Maritime Academy and most other residential areas of Oron”, Eyakenyi said, lavishing praises on Governor Eno in the process as the “talk and do governor and leader of our people “.

I remember 22nd August 2023. It was the day that Governor Eno arrived Ikot Ekpene to flag off the construction of Spring Road that leads to the famous Goretti Girls Secondary School. Students and teachers of this school had for years been virtually cut off from their schools because the only road to the school collapsed and the drainages leading to the school caved in as well. They had no choice but resort to multiple rigmarole of bush paths in order to access the institution.

Once the pitiable situation was brought to the attention of the governor, he had no hesitation deciding where to take off his road construction in Ikot Ekpene. “Those children can not afford to suffer any longer”, he had said.

I also remember 24th August 2023, when Governor Eno flagged off the construction of the 2.2km Tabernacle Road which traverses the two LGAs of Uyo and Itu, linking the Calabar- Itu Road as well and providing an alternative route to Itam Market, which is one of the biggest markets in the State. Said Dominic Ekanem, a caller in a phone-in programme at Confort FM Radio on Monday, 4th September 2023: “To initiate five road projects in five Local Government Areas, within 100 days in office, is a no mean feat by the governor “. Others callers agreed and one of them even suggested a productivity award be given the governor during the coming 36th anniversary of the creation of Akwa Ibom State.

However, the only quarrel the governor has had with this flag offs is that they should not attract the fanfares they do . But he was overruled by his political and media aides who needed as much mileages as possible from the projects. Last week, the governor protested publicly about the fanfare. “For me, these flag offs are like the matriculation ceremonies of my children. I don’t attend their matriculations. My wife attends their matriculation, while I attend the graduation. I am looking forward more to the commissioning and opening up of these roads, some in a few weeks from now and others in a few months, for the benefit of our people and our socio-economic agenda”, the governor said.

Governor Eno may be a kind, gentle and humble pastor to many. But this governor is a bulldozer at work, a full time workaholic, very firm and result-oriented at the helm of affairs. At 10pm, he is still in the office rummaging through proposals as if it is 10am. He is impatient with excuses for work not done. Instead he is in love with results. “Am I here to give excuses to Akwa Ibom people for a job not done”, he would say rhetorically with his voice thinning out and sometimes in vernacular.

When he said at the onset of his government three months ago that he will approach public sector governance with the mindset of a businessman, he meant everything he said. So far, his style involves minimal desk job and active engagement outside to see things for himself and get them done the way he wants it.

One day, he landed at the Victor Attah International Airport in Uyo from Abuja in the company of the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Udeme Otong and other top officials. The deputy governor and many stalwarts were at hand to receive him and escort him back to the office. But from the airport, the governor preferred to go to the farm. Out of the Green House farm, he ordered his convoy to stop midway on the expressway to enable him buy roasted corn and interact with some impoverished women selling everything from papaya to cucumbers by the roadside. From there he spotted the rare sight of ongoing burial of a husband and wife. He walked up to the venue to console the bereaved family, give out a condolence purse and undertake to train, equip and empower the orphan with a sustainable means of livelihood.

Another day, he led his team to a rural church, something he does every Sunday. This particular Sunday, it was a church in Ukanafun LGA. After the church, he said he wanted to kill two or three birds with one stone. The first stone took us to a rural Health Centre that was bare and practically unhealthy. He ordered the redesign and remodelling of the health centre as a model for the whole State. That was not all. Next. A stop over at the home of the political leader of the LGA. While his entourage is gasping for breath, the governor is rearing and revving to go elsewhere for more inspection even under the rain. This is a story for another. For now, the pace of work in the State is probably more breathtaking than the era of military rule. Of course, the governor is a soldier, albeit, for Christ.

Don’t step out to the office on a Monday morning in your corporate outfit unless you had found out from the governor his itinerary . Otherwise you can find yourself in the swamp of oil palm plantation with your three piece suit and Italian shoes, while the governor is better dressed in his blue jeans, T-shirt and rain boots. This man is the most hands-on governor you will come across in Nigeria, with a common touch that is hard to find. And Akwa Ibom people love him for this.

I remember how Pastor Bassey Daniel was eager to speak the governor when we visited a rural church in Eyulor, UrueOffong/Uruko LGA two weeks ago. Said the cleric: “His performance is not altogether surprising to me. He is our first homegrown governor since the State was created 36 years ago…From the scratch, he has built a successful business for himself from by dint of hardwork…He is like the past three governors rolled into one man…He is a rural pastor and evangelist and surely knows where this State hurts most…He will do very well”.

At the core of his hard work is his economic blueprint known as ARISE Agenda. It is the handbook and manual of his Administration, where every government department, policy and action draw its mandate and guidance. To get a buy-in into the ARISE Agenda, Governor Eno convened a three-day pan-Akwa Ibom conference tagged Akwa Ibom Dialogue and tabled the draft ARISE Agenda before experts and stakeholders drawn from home and abroad. Even the top hierarchy of his political opponents were not left out of the historic discourse. They honoured the governor with their presence and inputs to ARISE Agenda. They spoke in glowing terms about his leadership qualities.

No doubt about it, Governor Eno has shown tremendous leadership in his first 100 days in office. He won the heart and respect of millions after the election of Senator Godswill Akpabio as the Senate President. He did did not only lead a strong delegation of Akwa Ibom leaders to rejoice with the new Senate President in Abuja, he also led top hierarchy of his entire government to welcome the Senate President at the airport, when he visited his home State after his election.

His impact is already felt in the education sector, where he is currently constructing a model of what primary schools in Akwa Ibom State should be, at Christ The King Primary School , Uyo. A similar impact is felt in the Security sector, where he has created a new Ministry of Internal Security and appointed a retired but young army general to keep the peace in the State. The governor has also created a new Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation.; and in Agriculture, the center piece and anchor of his economic blueprint, he has secured partnership with both the Turkey government in green house agriculture and signed an MOU with the Benin Republic based Songhai Farms for technology driven Agric investment and food production.

For close watchers of Governor Eno, there is no doubt about the fact that the government of Akwa Ibom State is in very firm, mature and competent hands. His learning curve, if any, was short. With his disarming simplicity and candour, he has demystified governance in many ways and won the hearts of friends and foes, alike.

And I must remember the day the Umo Eno/Akon Eyakenyi Campaign Council was inaugurated on October 17,2023. Governor Udom Emmanuel shocked the mammoth crowd that jam packed the campaign headquarters with an unforgettable statement. He said “The man (Umo Eno) that is coming after me is hundred times better than me”. Many thought it was a mere political hype. In 100 days of Pastor Umo Eno as governor, many observers have come close to the same conclusion. Udom was right!

Usen is a Senior Aide to the Governor Umo Eno of Akwa Ibom State.

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