Here again, comes the ritual of September 23; the day of the year when Nigerians of the South Southern bloc roll out their drums in ecstasy over the advent of their socio-political identity as a state of the Federal Republic. It was September 23, twenty nine years ago that the Ibrahim Babangida led military administration created Akwa Ibom State out of the former Cross River State. It is worth celebrating, especially as the people look back at the tortuous trip to statehood; hence, the talking drums, the clatters of unique dance steps, the finely brewed oratory and the cultural colours that characterize the day are usually reminiscent of September 23, 1987, the birth day of Akwa Ibom State.
The feelings of the progenitors of what is today called Akwa Ibom State were hinged on total one mindedness. For a state and people whose liberation from political and economic servitude came with the announcement of the new state, September 23, 1987 would forever be remembered as a day the Chickens came home to roost” or as the Biblical Israelites would say, the day they saw the Egyptians and would see them no more (Exodus 14:13). Indeed, the journey of Akwa Ibom people to the destination of statehood within the Nigerian polity was not a walk through a highway, but a crawl through the labyrinth. It was a slow and tortuous journey of struggle and perseverance. Succinctly put, the culmination of efforts, struggles and deprivation which ended 29 years ago today was not a “tea party”. It would not be out of place the say that the journey of a thousand miles began with a step.
In the beginning, the military dynasty ran the affairs of the state with Col. Tunde Ogbeha, Col. Godwin Abbey; Wing Commander Idongesit Nkanga; Col. Yakubu Bako; Navy Captain Joseph Adewusi and Group Captain John Ebiye. Every uniformed administrator acted the script of their master; but remarkable in that line was the reign of then Wing Commander Idongesit Nkanga, the first indigenous governor of the state, which saw the springing up of admirable tangible evidence of development that the toddles state needed, e.g. the state secretariat named after him.
The first democratically elected Governor, Late Obong Akpan Isemin, the captain of Noah’s Ark played a short scene, no thanks to military interruption. Obong Victor Attah, ‘”The man of goodwill” came on board on May 29. The architect drew a development plan, which created a platform for infrastructural growth. Most of his laudable projects were rolled over to the next administration of the Independent Power Plant (IPP) AKWA Ibom Airport, Akwa Ibom University etc.
Regrettably, the budding political consciousness of the time seemed to create and widen ethnic divides amongst the one people. The consciousness of Ibibio, Annang, Oron dichotomy crept deeper, and we were almost torn apart as a peoples. The then gov. Attah championed the struggle for Resource Control. Governor Godswill Akpabio after Attah, came with a midas touch that remains on the stencil of time. The deft and crevices of micro-ethnicity that tampered with the unity of the state have virtually been scold up. His equitable distribution of amenities, the disposition towards our oneness and an Akwa Ibom project and the evident performance speed reflected by unprecedented infrastructure and human development are eloquent testimonies. The free and compulsory education is now working in Akwa Ibom State.
With Governor Udom Emmanuel on the saddle since May 29, 2015 , the very bad roads are disappearing, the Akwa Ibom power plant is now on stream to provide uninterrupted power supply to the citizens, industries are being cited all over the state. But the question which is now being asked by discerning minds of Akwa Ibom extraction and even people residing and or doing businesses in the state is, “How far has the state and (people) gone 29 years after creation? Akwa Ibom State at 29 is matured enough to have all that a state at 29 should have. The story has been that of one regime trying to do better than the other in the discharge of state functions vis-à-vis development. Today, we have all united together in spirit and in trust to take that bold step of faith.
Globally, the influence of change can be felt and observed everywhere. Besides, this being the function and maturity of time, people as a matter of urgency are increasingly becoming the benefactors of a social judgment while is not based on their skin colour or ethnicity, but beautifully woven around the content of their character and integrity. The immediate past government, and indeed the present administration are scored each more excellent in the strategic display of its inherent ability to identify and appeal cogent sincerity to the most basic needs of her populace, massive road construction that is almost bridging the realities with the urban centres, electricity that is lighting up every remote village far removed from this prime social benefit and hinging it up with the national grid improved. Agriculture to combat global food crisis and provide our people with ample food security, improved facilities to drive our health care delivery, free and compulsory education to secure the future of our children and guarantee us a place under the global sun of resourcefulness and human productivity and all these is added to a vibrant security network provided to protect the lives and property of the people.
Twenty-nine years on and finding the difference to be quite diametrical and clear, these have enhanced our avowed positions and an increasing commitment, to rise up and challenge every conservative attitude and values which have long plagued and militated against the rapid and radical change in our land. We congratulate the government and people of Akwa Ibom State at 29. Congratulations!