…”That the labour of our heroes past, shall not be in vain”

Dan Etokidem

Akwa Ibomites are incurably religious, notoriously spiritual and acutely God loving. Let’s now reflect this in our political culture as we begin the countdown to the celebration of the state’s 30th anniversary. Will we? Can we? 

As I have always said, every society has a past that shames their present and a history that embarrasses. It is what is done to shape a present narrative to ensure a glorious future that separates one from the other.

Even though human societies are prone to rapid decay and decadence as a result of accelerating contradictions, it is only in human societies that people have the prodigious intellectual capacity and exceptional will to change the order of society and the natural order itself.

We have come a long way as a state and people. We have made progress and mistakes. Going forward we must think and act differently to achieve our potentials. Akwa Ibom is today in dire need of redeemers and they abound in all spectrum. All that is needed is a bipartisan synergy where teamwork replaces disunity, diplomacy replaces hostility, collaboration replaces conspiracy, partnership replaces hatred , and mutual respect replaces antagonism, pull him down syndrome and character assassination etc, as currently witnessed at a magnitude the state has never witnessed before. Unprecedentedly absurd!

More importantly and urgently too, now is the time to wear our thinking cap and diversify our economy away from oil. Human Capital Development should be the next target for policy makers. Many of the most developed countries and economies like Japan, have no or inconsequential deposits of natural resources. Conversely, countries like DR Congo with abundant deposits of natural resources have remained down the index of human development. What has made the difference and will continue to make the difference is Human Capital Development.

In America for instance, the desert state of Nevada, hosting the famous City of Las Vegas is richer than Texas, an oil state. What made the difference across the Atlantic was the resolve of the people of the state of Nevada not to look down in search of natural resources, but to look up to their natural brain power which they have used to create immeasurable wealth. 

Oil regrettable seems to be our doom than destiny in Akwa Ibom. But we must realise that some parts of the world are richer even though they don’t tap their oil resources. The US, despite the oil reserves, imports oil. It is the richest country in the world because of its leadership innovation, entrepreneurial brio of its people, a sense that wealth is a product of what is in the head and not in the ground. We have failed as a state to fully maximize the opportunities that we had as a people for the past ten years of oil boom. While we have made considerable progress no doubt, our efforts have not being commensurate with the opportunities that abound. 

Sadly, we can’t turn back the hand of time on those missed opportunities. Imagine if the vision of the Ibaka Deep Sea Port was realised. Imagine an Akwa Ibom with a functional Science Park as envisaged. Imagine a state with a fully functional MRO at the airport and many more.

We all saw how Lagos state, through resourcefulness, has moved from about #600 million in monthly IGR in 1999, to about #30 billion today. It is the power of ideas. At 30, we must stop behaving like a seer who cannot predict his own future.

As we celebrate Akwa Ibom at 30, the best gift we can give our founding fathers most of whom are turning in their graves with dismay, disgust and consternation is to seize the current political war between “Hades” and “Hell” before it consumes us all. Our leaders and elites must dream dreams and see visions that brings about development, peace and progress, provide leadership that inspires not divide.

What a joy it will be and a kudos to the state if the AKSG’s fixation on crippling the NDDC today because the present occupant is perceived as the greatest threat to the hope of a renewed tenancy of the occupant of the Hilltop Mansion is replaced with a new brotherly love and disposition that places the greater good of the  state above personal ambition. While some folks are benefiting from the goal to cripple the NDDC in the hope that a weakened and discredited NDDC will break to the AKSG’s advantage, the end losers remain the state and her people. Will today’s prayers move mountains and crush these vices that divides and tears us apart?

Our history of the last 30 years reminds us all of our mistake as a people. But we have also made commendable progress too. We could have done more if we had set for ourselves and followed the right parameters. It is not late to start charting a new course that clearly and unambiguously departs from the past.

The unemployment crisis we face as a state for example is a time bomb waiting to go off and there is a nexus between youth unemployment and the recent rise in violent crimes witnessed across the state. For 30 years in the name of politics, we have destroyed ourselves than we have built. The consequences is that Akwa Ibom is forced to function at a level far below her economic possibilities and potentials. What excites a typical Akwa Ibom youth in 2017 is not what will make him be at par with his peers in other parts of the globe. This is a tragedy that must be halted and reversed.

We must take off our rose- coloured glasses and take a critical look at ourselves, that way, we’ll be compelled to jettison the flamboyant impression that we’re doing well either as the highest oil producing state or the state with the second highest Direct Foreign Investment (DFI). A honest look at our dilemma will help us see the approaching hurricane and be forced to come together towards redeeming ourselves if not for ourselves then for the sake of future generations. 

At 30, we should by now anticipate our tragedy caused by missed opportunity, learn our bitter lessons and resolve to forge ahead with renewed vigour and commitment. Our leadership must anticipate the future, prevent conflict, unite us the more and envision where we should be in decades to come and work conscientiously and assiduously towards achieving that future. 

Akwa Ibom is an economic miracle waiting to happen. The missing link is the right framework and the commitment to succeed. We must realise that to make progress, we must henceforth always put forward our best foot if we are to make any showing in the comity of nations and must constantly showcase our great exemplars if we must cultivate a cult of heroic examples. What you plant is what you harvest. 

Our leaders too need to climb down from their high horses to acknowledge that it is time to sit down and discuss not only where we should go and how, but also who we really are, the resilience of the ties that binds us, and the nature of the factors that disunites us.

Our elites must stop living in denial that all is well and rise up to halt this ship from drifting and sinking due to the looming Apocalypse. We need leadership that inspires, that unites, one the younger generation can emulate positively.

In the late 30’s for instance, Britain was amenable to appeasing Hitler’s irredentism. It took Winston Churchill’s bitter challenge to galvanise his country in the opposite direction. France was, after defeat in the same war, resigned to fate. It took the single mindedness of Charles de Gaulle to convince them otherwise. Anywhere, anytime, change for the greater good is delivered only by the few for the many. 

In our case, the few appointees we have, irrespective of party affiliation can make that change by coming together to stir the ship of state and create that pathway to a desirous and prosperous future. Our problem moving forward is not inability but willingness, or to put it correctly, having the patriotic political will.

Akwa Ibom is not only in ferment, it is seething. It is time our leaders recognise that these problems will not go away on their own accord or succumb to exhaustion. It will have to be more proactive, imaginative and aggressive to arrest what seems like a looming Apocalypse. Worse, there is nothing to show that these problems are receiving the intelligent attention that gives hope the state would overcome its affliction soon.

Understandably, because of the politics of 2019, these are indeed trying times for Akwa Ibom. Hardly does a day pass in the heart of the state without an episode or event that makes one wonder aloud: What kind of a people are we? What principles drives us? What are our priorities? What do we cherish as a collective? Do we have a collective sense of honour and shame? We forget or pretend not to know that whoever God has chosen to be Governor come 2019 will ascend that throne effortlessly. If God say it is Nsima no one can stop it. If God says Udom no one can stop it. If God says none of the two no one can also stop God’s will. But why act as if either of these two illustrious son of ours is guilty of a crime against humanity that warrants their being banished? Sadly, some Akwa Ibom youth needs deliverance which prayer, fasting and olive oil alone may not cure.

As a state, like an individual, we must have a sense of honour and shame. A true patriot with a sense of belonging naturally feels proud when her nation excels in the discharge of responsibilities integral to the reason of its existence and is considered a member in good standing in the comity of nations. 

The state in the last few months have lost its moral bearing and every citizen is implicated in the morass. To be troubled by such a demeaning standard of decency requires a concerted effort to combat the perpetrators. That it why when the dim of political commotion has receded, when tempers have cooled, when frayed nerves have calmed considerably, we will have to resume the dialogue, if not for our sake, for the sake of generations yet unborn.

Slowly but inexorably, the entire state has been placed in a war footing in recent months. It speaks to the continuing inability (or unwillingness) of the political elite to internalise the elementary norms of democracy. We can still look back, not in anger but for truth. History, unfortunately, continues to mean different things to different people.

When a child falters and falls, it looks instinctively at what lies in front. But when elders stumble and fall, they cast a glance backwards. Now is the time for that backward glance by Akwa Ibom’s political elites. Sadly, we see democracy only as election. It is beyond that. It is about a culture. What part of our culture are we ready to let die in order to enjoy the fruits of democracy?

At 30 a new Akwa Ibom is possible. But it will take a lot of incentives and disincentives. Incentives for good, civil and civilized behaviours and disincentives in the form of harsh and swift retribution for uncivil and uncivilized  conduct, particularly in the public arena.

Lest we forget, the de-civilization and dehumanization of Akwa Ibom, the regression into the stark ethos of the stone age society did not begin in one day or in one era. It has been a slow excruciating process. Proverbially and symbolically, a fish starts rotting from the head. It is when the elite of a nation lose the cerebral capacity for a visionary conception of a better society and the capacity for moral imagination that a society begins to nosedive. If we are not at the rock bottom yet, we cannot be that far away.

Yet despite the vision of Armageddon, there are moments when something to cheer up crops up in the ethical fiasco of contemporary Akwa Ibom. These nuggets of hope may well be the last snapshots of derailed possibilities. Or they may be the seeds of regeneration and miraculous redemption. The die is cast. The posturing is over. Now is the time for for the real thing.

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