Governor Umo Eno in a handshake with Senator Godswill Akpabio.
By ETIM ETIM
I have been reliably informed that the Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio and Gov. Umo Eno are currently working together on a number of significant initiatives that would be included in the 2024 Federal Budget for the benefit of AKwa Ibom State. Such projects will span infrastructure, environment and many more, and would be the first time in a long while that Akwa Ibom interests are captured in the Appropriation Bill of the federal government.
I commend the two gentlemen for tossing aside partisan politics to collaborate in the interest of our people, and I thank all those working behind the scenes to make this new era possible. From the enthusiastic airport reception last Friday and the massive turnouts at his thank you visits to the various constituencies in his district, it is clear that Akwa Ibom people are pleased to have one of their own as Senate President.
In addition to the whatever the governor and the SP are working on, I should mention the four major federal roads that lead into Akwa Ibom state which require urgent attention from Abuja. They are: Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene Expressway; Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road; Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene Road and a section of the East-West Road. The Senate President should ensure that these roads are adequately provided for in the budgets in the next four years and contractors adequately funded for their reconstruction. Although the Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road is funded directly from the tax proceeds paid by NNPCL, it is important for us to keep a close eye on it. Of course, the Ibaka Deep sea port project is very dear to our people. The SP and the state government should work closely to close deal before the next general elections.
Akwa Ibom was completely forgotten by the Buhari administration, partly due to the arrogant aloofness of the former governor. He felt too important to go and see the Minister of Works and other relevant officials in Abuja who were in a position to help. In a complex federation like ours, a governor must come down from his high horse and seek help, even from lowly places. Now, that we have our son as the Senate President, it is important that we close ranks and work earnestly to cover lost grounds. Umo Eno is off to a good start on this.
On his part, Senator Akpabio is bent on leaving an enduring legacy as the most prominent politician from the state. Whosoever emerges as a minister from the state should quickly fall in as part of the political trinity for the development of the state. For now, the Senate President is taking steps to endear himself to his supporters and deepen his grassroots networks. His homecoming and the series of thanksgiving events he’s been holding in his senatorial district testify to his sense of gratitude. His people are now satisfied that the dream of his becoming the Senate President which dominated discussions during the campaign season has not turned out to be a hoax. They would be justified to expect some dividends from his exalted office.
In terms of appointments, Chief Sylvester Okonkwo is a solid pick as the Chief of Staff. I knew him way back in 2006 as a member of Akpabio’s inner circle who worked with others for his gubernatorial election. Okonkwo was the intermediary between some of us in Lagos and the campaign in Uyo. He is very knowledgeable about Akwa Ibom and its politics. That he is not from Akwa Ibom should be an advantage. It will help insulate him from our peculiar ethnic issues in the course of his work. Okonkwo should not pay attention to such idle talks like ‘’enyem ado owo Attah, or enyem odo owo Etiebet’’.
Finally, as we continue to savour the shifting alliances in the state, I wish to draw the governor’s attention to the long line-up of abandoned projects in the state. The important ones are: The Worship Center; Airport Road expansion; Airport Terminal Building; the hotel and water parks at the Tropicana entertainment complex and the Science Park. I am told that the former governor received another tranche of N250 billion from the federal government as payment for Derivation shortfall in the last one month of his administration. Nobody knows how he spent all that money, but it is now up to Gov. Umo Eno to complete these abandoned projects and put them to use in the interest of Akwa Ibom people.