I have just come back from a trip to Akwa Ibom where I had gone to start work on my new Play, Ufok Ibaan. Ufok Ibaan depicts the 1929 women’s uprising- I hate to call it riots. The Uprising saw Ikot Abasi women trigger a major stand against the brutish Colonial Policies especially as it affected their trade and livelihoods.
The uprising led to the killings of some of these women, cascading towards Aba and some other parts of the Nation. In Ikot Abasi, I saw the spot the first set of women were murdered, I saw the Divisional Colonial officer’s office, I saw the building where the Amalgamation of Nigeria was sealed in 1914 and I also saw the House where Lord Lugard lived. Tormented history of our people, just lying there and in plain sight but a story to be told another time.
Today, I want to look at the delicate politics that is in succession planning in a state that has for all intent and purposes stood out in a nation that has been wobbled by leprous leadership leading to a decayed National fabric.
As you drive into town, you are enveloped by a feeling of safety. The strong network of roads, the neatness that is Uyo, and the projects that stare you in the face, marks Akwa Ibom out as an oasis in a country under siege.
That Udom Emmanuel is working or has delivered on his mandate cannot be doubted even by the cruelest of critics. On this day, the Vice President of the Country is in town to cut the tape on the novel 21story smart building. This is a landmark structure in the Nation. Everywhere you go, you are met with strategic projects – from the 300-bed isolation Centre in Ituk Mbang where incidentally, my mother was trained as a nurse, to the syringe manufacturing firm and then you are told of the marvelous deep-sea port coming up in Oron you begin to fill yourself with pride.
My journey takes me to the home of an influential Professional. Far removed from politics but close enough to power to understand the inner working of the system. Swigging wine and chewing on the well-cooked pieces of Goat meat, I ask him the question that is on the mind of most onlookers- I say, Bro who is the successor?
He takes a long sip of the expensive wine, looks at me squarely, and says – nobody knows. He continues, His Excellency has kept this very close to his heart because of the consequences an early endorsement would have on the business of Government. Wise, I think.
In a state that is run mostly by career politicians who watch the body language of the Head, an early endorsement in expert estimation would throw interest towards the direction of the new man, crippling the business of Government. This the state cannot afford especially with the amount of work that is going on. The State Airline I hear has just ordered 10 Airbuses to push for a massive expansion in Aviation, massive infrastructural projects are ongoing as we speak especially in the areas of Roads as earlier mentioned, Human capacity development is being deepened and Agriculture which is a mainstay of the State is receiving very serious State attention and as such all hands must be on deck if possible to the very end.
So, the pressure I see is on the incumbent to ensure not only a smooth transition but also fostering on the State a devolved succession process that would ensure a certain continuity. I hear the fear in some high circles is not handing over the State to people that will now take it back another 20years. My hosts tell me that the relative peace we see in Akwa Ibom costs so much and is woven around an intricate labyrinth of security network that involves the military, Police, and locals who working together and coordinated from the very top ensures the peace that is allowing for whatever development we see in the State.
So, I cast my eyes on the successors. I see an influential internationally renowned Businessman with very strong charisma and popularity amongst the sophisticated and well-heeled citizenry. I see a popular grassroots politician who is present at the National Assembly but with very strong grassroots credibility and a massive hold on the 1.3 million students of tertiary institutions in the state has been an influential Student leader in his day. I see a well-heeled, well-connected thorough career politician who is a major runner and who perfectly understands the terrain. I see two light-footed maybe lightweight technocrats who having peaked at international multinationals but believing very strongly and rightly so that they could impact on the system hence their candidature. Finally, I also see two cabinet members who holding very strategic positions could play very critical roles in continuity if given the mandate.
These in my estimation are the forerunners. Any of these can leverage very effectively on the developmental strides of the incumbent to continue pushing the state towards the direction Udom has well-positioned it. Thus, making Udom’s work very easy at the level of choice but still herculean because of the unpredictability of human nature once power is thrown into the equation.
I hear His Excellency is taking his time to throw his hat towards a candidate. But I ask, why do we wait for Udom to lift a hand and the answer is simple. Udom remains very popular across all strata of the state. He has fostered on the state a different kind of leadership. Leaning heavily on his background being a celebrated banker and accountant, he has dropped on the state a novel sense of accountability.
He has attracted some of the most brilliant minds Akwa Ibom has produced to work with him in the state. I have met people like Gabriel Ukpe who is an extremely brilliant professional who has had to make personal sacrifices to be part of the Udom vision. His involvement, especially in the attraction of foreign direct investments, has impacted Udom’s policy of attracting Infrastructural development to the state thereby impacting Human Capital development, job creation amongst others. I have heard that his team is working with the Sovereign Wealth Fund to locate a huge Industrial Layout in the State working with a huge firm located in a North African state.
I have met with Udeme Ufot who is considered one of the most brilliant communications experts in Africa. Udeme who is internationally revered has worked with Udom especially in the areas of communications and marketing. A case in point being the promo on the consolidation agenda of Udom in Akwa Ibom.
I had shown the footage to a stellar audience at my last Play – Awo in Lagos. In the Audience were the Vice President Prof Osinbajo, His Excellency Gov. Sanwo-Olu, and the Speaker Mr. Gajabimialia. The promo which was well packaged extolled the achievements of the State under Governor Udom and after it all, you could see the excitement in the audience that this was happening in Nigeria.
Other professionals that I have seen contributing their bit include former NBA president Paul Usoro SAN, Tony Ndah the Surveyor King, and a host of others. All of these people and more would not be in the state today if the environment was not conducive for professional inputs.
So I see clearly the intricate deliberateness that has to be factored in when choosing a successor. This present administration has devolved on the state far reaching advancement that must be protected otherwise we begin to see the sorry situation in our sister state begin to emerge.
As the days go by, strategic clarity will emerge and I am very sure that the best candidate fit for the purpose will emerge. A candidate that will continue in the same direction that Udom has put the State will certainly be thrown up by the popular choice of the people.
So, as I check out of the lovely Monty Suite and head for the Airport, we drive past the magnificent Tropicana Mall and site the state-of-the-Art Smart Building, I beam with pride. This is my state and the state is being well-governed.
On the beautiful Ibom Air flight, we smoothly take to the skies and the announcer welcomes us in Ibibio, I swell with pride because my State is truly an oasis in a Nation of confusion.
God bless Akwa Ibom.