Franklyn ISONG

I am driven by passion to see the growth of Akwa Ibom state. It is time to start cross examination, as lawyers would say, on some key projects executed by the Chief Godswill Akpabio’s administration. I know this piece will not go down well with sycophants roving around Akwa Ibom politicians.

They will misconstrue my intention to mean probing into the Akpabio’s 8 years rule of the state. However, at least, Akwa Ibom people should know how far, and how well most projects that swallowed their monthly federal allocations including their hard earned resources have fared after the exit of Chief Akpabio from the saddle of stewardship.

Akwa Ibom people should see the economic viability, sustainability and functionability of most of these multibillion naira projects. Some of these projects are “first in West Africa,” according to former Governor Akpabio.

The e-library is one of the “First in West Africa” projects of the Akpabio’s administration. Up till now, the actual billions sank into the project is not known to Akwa Ibom. We are leaving in a state where projects meant for the people are conceived in the minds of individuals in authority, planned in their bedrooms, and executed without recourse to the people and without ascertaining if such projects can add any economic value to either the state or its people.

Ideally, anyone occupying the office of Governor of a state, ought to see his/herself as the “Chief Servant of the people”, apologies to former Governor of Niger state, Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu. But this is the revised. That is why even the so called “Chief Servant of the people” former Governor Babangida Aliyu has some questions to answer in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC’s) headquarters after his tenure.

Akpabio conceived, planned, executed and invited former President Goodluck Jonathan to commission the e-library project on June, 2012. I still remember the flamboyant ceremony marking the event. There was a hyped in the international, national and local media.
At the commissioning, I recalled Chief Akpabio telling then President Jonathan that the library’s utilities were accessible from any location.
He also called on Jonathan to host a conference of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at the e-library. Because the facility has a state-of-the-art 1000 capacity conference centre; language translators, board rooms and offices.

“A children multi-media resource centre, 1,260 educational games for children; 1,000 simulations and mathematics practice tools were also ready at the time of commissioning, as well as a large external playground, open and private reading areas and children reading areas with story-telling/play facilities as well as 80,000 question and answer series for tertiary examinations. It has digital collections to avail users access to about 16.5 million e-documents, over two million electronic books and 14.5 million electronic research e-journals,” Akpabio said during the commissioning.

That is why, it would not be wrong, five years after, for anyone to do a review of the facility vis-a-vis with all what was said about it by the Godswill Akpabio’s administration. I took a trip to catch another glimpse of our “first in West Africa,” edifice, but what I saw, left me asking; “Is this not our first in West Africa e-library?,” off course, none of my colleagues who went with me could believe what we saw. An almost dilapidated and dying facility begging for maintenance. A facility with faulty architectural design.

For God sake, how can anyone think of building such a three-storey structures without thinking of adequate ventilation and illumination of the building? Menn! The 47 minutes we spent inside one of the facility’s board room, was likened to the biblical hell fire. I cannot tell what would have happened, if I had stayed any longer in the glass house.

Other than serving its original purpose and adding economic value to the state internally generated revenue at this time of recession, it has become one of the event hosting centres in Uyo. Where traditional marriages and wedding/reception take place; child naming/dedication amongst others take place.

JAMB students doing their registration at the facility had to make “good” use of the fallen solar lighting poles as their seats.
The premises was overgrown with grass. OMG! ‘I don’t want to talk about’ (apologies to Akpabio) heat and sweat inside the facility. I had compassion for workers in the facility and students using it for whatever purpose. It was suffocating and a complete darkness in a broad daylight. No electricity power supply and the generating set was out of function begging for maintenance and/diesel.

Moral lesson:
Maybe, if Akwa Ibom people were consulted and carried along by the government through town hall meetings and regular interface, on the types and choices of projects to be executed with the people’s resources, this waste of billions of naira on a project not needed by the people would have been avoided. It is not enough for projects to pass through the 26-member Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly via budgets. The people should be carried along, consulted through Town Hall meetings and constituency briefings by the state governor and officials of government.

*Franklyn Isong is a public affairs commentator

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