Thursday, 16 October 2014

As Governor, Nsima Ekere will build bridges BY ETOKOWO OWOH

As Governor, Nsima Ekere will build bridges BY ETOKOWO OWOH

Akwa Ibom State, like many other states in  the federation, is at the verge of taking another major decision – the next governor to pilot its affairs for another four years. Given its present historical positioning, who should that person be? This seemingly innocuous question cannot be answered off handedly. The answer must find expression within the State’s larger socio-economic and cultural trajectory in time and space. 

Because successful leadership is a function of the leader’s own quality viz-a-viz the factors that could conspire to impel or impede his success. Many have thrown their hat into the ring in readiness to be the next occupant of the Hilltop Mansion, the State’s seat of power. But what are the prevailing circumstances that should inform our choice while exercising our voting right both at the primaries and during the general election? Three issues come readily to mind.

The first is the illusion of wealth that is blighting the State. Experience all over the world has shown that nations with large resources often perform dismally development wise. This is because “excess” resources can be more easily misapplied where care is not exercised. We need a large dose of parsimony to transform resources to true wealth. This means ensuring effective controls and policing to make sure funds meant for particular purposes are used to achieve the objectives for which they are meant. We must also differentiate between social capital and investment capital and strike a thoughtful balance between the two. Wealth must generate wealth in good numbers and quality; because in life there are always alternative needs clamouring for resources. It is the incremental leap in material wealth over time  that improves society. Equally of note is to determine what sectors, where, and how the investment capital is directed which should be against the backdrop of locational endowments. Not all investments yield the same returns, making it necessary for us to have someone with a nose for business to pilot our affairs come 2015.

Thus, commercially and industrially speaking, the candidate with these attributes is Obong Nsima Ekere. Leaders emerge in societies based on the challenges of the time. Great leaders are those who fit into the time and where such happens the people are the better for. This State really needs a hands-on businessman of Nsima’s genre. Obong Ekere can break new grounds, overcome bureaucratic inertia, and invent the much-needed business Akwa Ibom. 

The second problem, the high incidence of poverty in our society, is an indication of the fact that while there may be a quantum leap in the magnitude of our annual budget and better infrastructure in the State, the way the development process is driven has inadvertently caused a disconnect between development and the people. Most of our people are living in extreme poverty; that is subsisting on less than a dollar a day. And by the United Nations yardstick, that is described as extreme poverty and therefore unacceptable. Indeed, unemployment rate is so high that the rich among us, and they are few, exploit the situation, callously paying graduates starvation wage – ranging from N10,000 to N15,000 a month,  and working Monday to Sunday. Prostitution has become the order of the day. This, along with sundry crimes and excessive involvement in politics by the youth population, is traceable to the pattern of our income distribution; that is the spread of the common wealth.

We obviously need to do serious diagnosis to discover where the disconnect is, re-jig the system to align with the economic aspirations of the  people. That way, we will wipe away the cloud of despair that has enveloped our people. After all, the main essence of economic development is to improve the material well-being of the people. There has to be a paradigm shift, in a way that will ensure the engagement of the energies of the people in creating more wealth so that the vibrant and willing-to-work attitude of our people can find expression within the State’s development process. Only a person who has known transformation from modest living to deserved affluence would easily appreciate the pains and work to alleviate the people’s suffering. That is why Nsima Ekere truly appeals to the Akwa Ibom of 2015.

The third challenge is quite daunting. Peace has eluded the State. We are not referring here to crime rate in the State. We mean inter-personal relationships. People wear revenge on their faces, the whole place carries a thick feeling of alienation suggestive of a people waiting in the wings act out a script of venom and vendetta. There is inter-ethnic distrust so much so that even human errors by the leadership are counted as deliberate actions to narrow competitive space. The bond of brotherhood that used to be our trade mark has evaporated. Even the grime fight to install a new governor by some groups is not altogether unconnected with the fear of the unknown future.

Mahatma Gandhi said that “an eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind”. It stands to reason that the next administration has, first and foremost, the task of welding the State together as an organic whole. Nsima Ekere holds that qualification. It bears reminding here that our people were the first to agitate for state creation in Nigeria. That struggle was sustained by a singleness of purpose that belied a common vision. The gum of unity at that time bore no tolerance of any inter-linguistic discord. We were a people of sanguine personality alloyed by a homogenous culture and cemented by a common ancestry. A serenely peaceful people, atomistic in our uniqueness, though not necessarily without disagreements, but such were mere storms in the tea cup. We think even a rabid antagonist would savour such a society. This is why we have to look towards Nsima Ekere’s direction.

The reason is simple; we cannot rewrite our history, not with all the inter-marriages which offsprings are the future generations, future leaders of the upcoming new Akwa Ibom State. Wily nily, we are stuck together in a relationship that providence has made possible; and as our forebears lived peacefully, even so, we, more educated, more enlightened with a better world view, should evolve better leadership paradigms that would perpetuate peace, justice, fair play and love for one another no matter the persuasion to the contrary.

It was Albert Einstein who opined that “peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding”. Who from this pack of aspirants would give us the atmosphere of understanding? Who will lead with a heart of peace, love and brotherhood? Who will bring back the trust we have lost? Who will leave vengeance where it belongs in the satanic hole and embrace forgiveness where a wrong was done, whether deliberately or inadvertently? As we watch and hear the sounds of campaign, we stand convinced that the only person whose language portends love and oneness is Nsima Ekere. In all his outings, he has shown, in more ways than one, that this uniquely small State can truly be welded together in a cherished brotherhood; that no wrong is too much to deny one forgiveness, and no malice is good enough to be kept by a Christian. And that if truly we are people from Akwa Abasi Ibom State, the only way forward is to behave in the same manner Christ taught.

Owoh is a researcher and Management Consultant

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