Your Excellencies, Fellow Akwa Ibom people and Nigerians.
It’s a great honour to be here in the midst of some of the greatest and most amazing people from Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria, who share a common dream for the unity and development of our country. I am also particularly honoured to be invited to chair this august summit which promises to proffer solutions to some of the development challenges of our country and continent and propel our people into an era of sustainable sufficiency.
Now that Nigerians have come to accept democracy as a way of life, the theme of the summit: “Sustaining Economic Development Through Good Governance” is profoundly fitting and increasingly compelling.
While we expect the keynote speaker and the guest lecturer to take us through the dynamics and mechanics of economic development which has globally been anchored on good governance, please permit me to remind this august gathering that no meaningful development can take place in an atmosphere of strife and where the rule of law is not respected.
Nigeria’s present predicament is the availability of enormous material and human resources that has been frittered away by bad governance. The oil boom came at a time Nigeria had no sustainable governance structure. Changes in government were unpredictable. Successions were never planned and accountability dipped to a point where Nigeria became the 2nd most corrupt nation in 1999. The advent of democracy raised hopes of Nigerians and indeed the world to a new Nigeria that would join the developed world.
Nigerians love their country and are committed to preserving its corporate integrity but beyond that, we need to build bridges across the divergent issues and circumstances that have threatened our ideals, our unity, our progress and our liberty.
As a delegate to the just concluded National Conference, I make bold to say that Nigerians have the capacity to resolve every tricky national issue without resorting to violence and bloodshed. At the inception of the Conference, sceptic’s had gone to town with banners emblazoned with cynicism while many critics insisted the process was doomed to fail. In spite of all criticisms and bleak predictions, the Conference ended peacefully and made far reaching decisions, which if and when implemented can set good governance structures that will lead to sustainable economic development. While commending the Government for initiating the process of producing a workable Constitution for the country, I hereby call on the leadership and members of the National Assembly to exhibit extraordinary courage and political will by creating an enabling atmosphere for “we the people” to proclaim our constitution.
My address will not be complete without paying tribute to the founding fathers of Akwa Ibom State, who laid the foundation for what has become one of the most developed states in Nigeria. I want to particularly commend the Executive Governor of the State, His Excellency Chief Godswill Akpabio, for not only completing some of the programmes and projects of his predecessor, but also implementing the most ambitious programmes and projects that have made Akwa Ibom an emerging infrastructural hub in Nigeria. The coinage, “AKPABIOISM” is a fitting tribute to the governor’s revolutionary ideals of uncommon transformation in the sphere of infrastructure and human resource development. Governor Akpabio’s name will eternally be mentioned in the history of Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria and generations of Akwa Ibom people will remember what he has done.
If Akwa Ibom people must gain from what the present administration has done in the State, there is serious need for continuity. The era where different administrations pursued different and staccato development agenda is gone. Government is a continuum and those who take over from incumbent must build on the foundation already laid by their predecessors. Governors should not behave like village headmasters of the past who were reputed for building new walkways within schools compounds instead of maintaining the ones opened by their predecessors. The process is unnecessary, wasteful and antithetical to sustainable development.
The current hullabaloo in the States about the imposition of a successor by exiting Governors is neither feasible nor attainable in a true democracy. While Governors, as the number one citizens of their states, have the right to identify and develop individuals to succeed them, the ultimate choice of the successor lies with the electorate. Akwa Ibom people and indeed all electorates should concentrate in strengthening the democratic structures to ensure their choice prevails. We should not throw away the baby with the bath water. Let us critically examine. It might be the best available.
Since development is only possible in an atmosphere of peace and security, leaders at the various levels of government must ensure that peace-building mechanisms are created and potential conflicts resolved before they exacerbate. The current insecurity in the North East zone of the country could have been avoided if proactive measures were taken to address some of the fundamental issues that gave rise to the crisis; including poverty, illiteracy, hunger and unemployment.
Economic development is about people. It’s about building workable institutions. It’s about affordable healthcare and education. It’s about creating superior human capital. It’s about law and order.
Back home to Akwa Ibom, I must admit that our journey from 1999 till now has been eventful and very exciting. We have witnessed some of the most audacious programmes that have changed the narrative of Akwa Ibom from a state with rich resource of domestic staff for local use and export. Today, we are known for something better. We are known for rapid development, solid infrastructure, viable human resource, a booming economy and an industrial giant waiting to be unveiled.
The lessons we have learnt from all this, of course, is that because we are a great people, our challenges seemed complex and will always remain that way. But as long as we remain resolute in the pursuit of our dreams, as long as we continue to believe in ourselves, invest in areas where we have competitive and comparative advantages, the future will always blossom as a beautiful flower.
Our leaders, particularly, Governor Akpabio meant to change Akwa Ibom, and instead, they changed Nigeria and brought the world to our shores.
Welcome to Akpabiosim Summit.
Being an address by Rt. Hon. (Chief) Nduese Essien at the Akpabioism Economic Summit, at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, Lagos on Saturday September 13, 2014.