For a second time in five years, another global elite has been sworn in as Secretary to Akwa Ibom State Government (SSG).
The first was Deacon Udom Emmanuel (now governor) who was appointed by the then Governor Godswill Akpabio to succeed Mr. Umana Umana as SSG in 20I3.
Udom was a shining star in the banking Industry having held top positions in different African countries, climaxing with the position of Executive Director in Zenith Bank PLC.
The new SSG is Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem who replaces Mr. Eteakamba Umoren, a retired permanent secretary, a former Chief of Staff to Ex-Governor Godswill Akpabio who was appointed to the office in 20I5.
Unlike Umoren and Umana Umana who climbed the ladder of civil service to become permanent secretaries prior to their appointments, Ekuwem like Udom is from the private sector.
Dr Ekuwem is a strategic thinker, a technocrat, a public intellectual and a politician. He is the first among equals in the IT industry both in Nigeria and the world at large.
Educated in Nigeria, United States and Europe, Dr Ekuwem is a man of ideas- highly travelled, highly exposed, highly educated and highly skilled. With a PhD in Electronic and Electrical Engineering and a Post-Doctoral Fellowship from Italy-based The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), he has had a successful career in engineering and IT industry, having risen to the apex of his career in Nigeria and the world at large.
His curriculum vitae is very intimidating. Among the many leadership positions he has held include the Presidency of Nigeria Internet Group and Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria respectively. He has however very unsuccessfully contested election twice into the Nigerian Senate.
So, what has Ekuwem brought into Udom Emmanuel’s government? What difference will his presence make in fast-tracking the development of Akwa Ibom State?
Ekuwem has brought into Akwa Ibom government excellence, integrity and global connections. He is globally respected in the engineering and IT world. This could be a boost to Governor Emmanuel’s industrialization policy.
Together with the governor, this man of vision can facilitate the transformation of Akwa Ibom State from a civil service-centred economy to the one driven by the private sector. This dynamic personage on world stage can in tandem with the deputy governor ( who is another world class personality) collaborate with the governor to shore up the industrialization potential of the state.
One way of doing this is by advising the governor to revisit the science park which ex-Governor Attah started but was abandoned by the immediate past administration. The completion of the science park would have created massive employment opportunities for the youths of Akwa Ibom State even as it would have afforded the state the opportunity of producing handsets and other IT accessories right in the heart of Uyo.
The tens of billions of Naira spent on Tropicana which is now abandoned if spent on the science park would have seen the state competing with Lagos as the IT hub of Nigeria today.
Therefore, if Udom truly wants to develop Akwa Ibom State, his appointment of Engineer Ekuwem signals a good start. But appointing SSG of Ekuwem’s clout is one thing and listening to him is another.
One hopes that being an indigene of Mbo LGA where the proposed Ibaka Deep Sea Port is to be located, Ekuwem’s appointment will speed up the realization of the sea port project, himself being a member of the technical committee.
Ekuwem has a lot of expectation from his Oron ethnic tribe which has been marginalized and sidelined both in appointment and development in the last eleven years. His people will expect him to put pressure on Governor Emmanuel to locate development projects there, extend Oron-Uyo road from Okobo where it currently terminates to Oron town. They will also expect to see the road to Ibaka, the world’s acclaimed natural harbor which is currently a death trap, constructed and dualised.
The Ibibio and Annang people will benefit from Ekuwem’s detribalized policy which has seen him soar quite high at national cum global levels. For instance, his company (TELEDOM) based in Ikeja, Lagos is a microcosm of Nigeria as IT professionals across ethnic divides in Nigeria are employed and given opportunities to make a living.
Ekuwem is a sticker for excellence. On that level, he treats everybody who excels the same way. Infact, if you want to be Ekuwem’s friend, excel in your chosen field and he will fish you out. He believes in the Chinese maxim that “all scholars are brethren.”
This is so because if this son of a Catechist, who as a boy was was trained with “koboko at home, koboko at school and koboko in the Church” by his disciplinarian- father did not excel in the professional and academic world, he would not have been elected by the telecom providers in Nigeria to lead them.
He would not have been appointed by the immediate past government at federal level to become Chairman of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEZPA).
He would not have won a UN fellowship to undertake a post-doctoral research on the “effect of meteorological phenomena on radio communication (VHF/UHF) in the lower troposphere.” His successful completion of this programme conveyed the title of a ‘public intellectual’ of global acclaim on Ekuwem.
He would not have been appointed Chairman of Technical Committee on Nigerian Universities Network (NUNet) and Nigerian Universities Management Information System (NUMS).
He would not have been appointed member of Nigerian Cybercrime Working Group; Member, Infrastructure Sub-Committee of the National IT Strategic Action Plan; Member, Nigerian Communication Commission Telecom Industry Consultative Forum; External Member of his Alma-mata (Obafemi Awolowo University) Faculty Board etc etc.
Dr Ekuwem would not have won the IT and Telecom Personality of the year 2005 if he did not excel. He would not have won the broadband Personality/ ICT Fame Award in 2004.
He would not have been a fellow of International Atomic Energy Agency nor would he have consulted for UNESCO and other UN Specialized Agencies if he did not excel. He would not have won the ‘most productive individual award’ conferred on him by President Obasanjo in 200I.
Governor Udom Emmanuel would not have extolled his virtues as “the pride of Akwa Ibom people and a man of integrity” on the day he was sworn in as SSG if he did not excel.
Finally, Governor Emmanuel’s guts in appointing a global elite and a public intellectual as his SSG, demonstrates, ad infinito an uncommon courage and a signal indeed that he is ready to industrialise Akwa Ibom State. It also signals the fact that he is ready to be his own man rather than remaining a puppet of another man.
Effiong Edeke is Editor-In-Chief of EDUCATION TODAY INTERNATIONAL magazine based in Lagos. He can be reached though: 070I0655337