Wednesday, May 2021

One undisclosed official of government had recently mocked some public affairs commentators that routinely go to radio stations in Uyo to vent their minds on the issues in the state.

He said their cries and criticisms of Udom Emmanuel’s government won’t go beyond Akwa Ibom ambit; hence, the radio critics are knocking their heads on the wall for nothing.

Indeed, criticizing the Akwa Ibom State Government under the leadership of Mr Udom Emmanuel has become a colossal waste of time, energy and intellect. The government is no longer listening. The media seems tired and worn out. The civil society organizations appear exhausted. Opposition elements are now viewed as toothless little dogs by the power that be: their feeble barks no longer scare anyone in government. Underperformance, failure, imperviousness and pig-headedness of this administration are no longer peeving the people because they have become a new normal. The state government seems to have nothing to fear as it appears to consistently be trampling upon the socio-economic and cultural rights of the people. If you like, cry your lungs out, it would change nothing.

The press statement released in the early hours of Monday 3rd May 2023 by the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Comrade Ini Ememobong, on behalf of the Akwa Ibom State Government in regards to the abduction, rape and gruesome murder of Akwa Ibom job seeker, Miss Iniubong Umoren, was just a shedding of crocodile tears and outright mockery of the dead. The desire of the State Governor for the administration of justice as expressed in the statement appears to be a travesty of conscience. The subsequent visit to the deceased family in Oruk Anam by the officials of the state government led by the SSG, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem was just a spectacle for the media. In the first place, Udom’s government brought panic and desperation upon the unemployed graduates in the state through misplacement of priorities which results in creating a mass unemployment situation where conmen and swindlers take advantage of and aggravate the frustration of jobless youths in the state. It was out of desperation for a job that landed that enterprising, promising young woman in the jaws of death. The misplacement of priorities has become the trademark of Udom’s government. Before her untimely death, late Iniubong Umoren, through her tweet posted on April 26, 2021, at 9:02 pm, had pointed to the world the rudderless and inept nature of the Akwa Ibom State Government under Udom Emmanuel. According to her Twitter handle @HinyHumoren, “I get confused anytime I remember that my state governor spent a lot of money to build a church in the state where the number of churches present is almost greater than the number of citizens.” Yes, Iniubong was one of the million voices beseeching Governor Udom Emmanuel not to splurge about N10 billion on an ecumenical centre but to use Akwa Ibom funds strategically for job creation to cut down unemployment levels in the state which the National Bureau of Statistics recently positioned as the second state with the highest unemployment rate in the country, recording 42.5%.

A Catholic Church Reverend Father at Archdiocese of Abuja, Rev. Fr. John Chinenye Oluoma while preaching during a Newlife programme in April 2021, expressed astonishment that Akwa Ibom State Governor could spend about N10 billion on mega worship centre despite the alarming rate of unemployment. He said, “I am hearing that a governor in the South-South is spending N10 billion to build an ecumenical centre, a place for worship for all Christians; that is a governor from Akwa Ibom state. I am sure in our hearts we would be clapping for him that he is a Christian. How many industries have they built? Why are you building another house of God in a state where I am sure that you can’t count the number of churches? Do you know how many agro-allied industries N10 billion can build for a state where I am sure there are thousands of jobless youths? You build the church and the jobless people now come to the church and would be praying not knowing that their jobs are where they are standing.”

That came from a man of God who ordinarily would have welcomed an idea of building a place of worship for God. Like Rev. Fr. Oluoma suggested, N10 billion could have established a lot of agro-allied industries with the capacity to lift thousands of job-seekers off the streets while leaving the state with food sufficiency and surplus for export. The priest likened Akwa Ibom State to people who cut down their mango tree while using the timber for the construction of a church under which they would pray to God to give them mangoes. “Why can’t they have sense?” the reverend father had to ask. Late Iniubong Umoren was equally confused that a state governor and a professional in the banking sector whose knowledge of economics is thought to be encyclopedic could misdiagnose the needs of the Akwa Ibom people.

If the state government had emphasized the establishment of agro-based industries instead of an ecumenical centre as suggested by the clergyman, Iniubong, as ambitious as she was, might have directed her energies towards getting a job at any of the industries. The tragedy that befell her would have been averted. But sadly, we have a government that builds a worship centre where all the unemployed youth are expected to go and pray to get a job as the catholic reverend father had said. Was it not Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State that budgeted N4.7billion for scholarships, while sponsoring 107 students abroad to acquire critical skills that would enable the beneficiaries to create job opportunities on their return and to boost the domestic economy? Such training and expertise are not obtained at a worship centre.

Mr Udom Emmanuel has configured his government to represent anything that serves as albatross to human and educational development. A government that refuses to develop human capacity is not only anti-people but a killer of dreams and the future. It is not that Mr Udom Emmanuel is not acknowledged this fact. While the Governor was mourning the demise of late Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (Rtd) at the deceased hometown, Ikot Nya in Nsit Ibom local government area on February 6, 2021, he was heard quoting a Hellenistic thinker, Pericles, that “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” But emerging facts pointing to the alarming rate of unemployment in the state and poor investment in education shows that the governor was only making a mockery of the discernment of Akwa Ibom people. At the time Iniubong was ensnared for wants of job, the staffers of Akwa Ibom State University (AKSU) were on strike over the state government’s refusal to pay entitlement arrears of 279 staff that were employed since 2014, including owing of outstanding 25% of the staff salary that spanned for over 10 months as well as refusal to pay 2019/2020 leave grants. While the kerfuffle last, our youths studying at AKSU continue to stay at home with their educational future just hanging on a hook.

While Mr Udom Emmanuel was serving Akwa Ibom as the Secretary to the State Government, about 22,000 Akwa Ibomites applied for a teaching job at the State Secondary Education Board (SSEB) and 5,000 were recruited and issued with appointment letters. When Mr Udom Emmanuel was transmuted to the governor in 2015, he sacked the staff while classrooms were begging for teachers. In early 2021, he called for the recruitment of just 1,000 teachers but over 47,000 Akwa Ibom youth that endures years of unemployment applied for the teaching job. If it is as alleged in a section of the media that the slots for the job have already been shared and distributed amongst the top guns in the PDP, then, it means that the poor applicants were just stressed for nothing.

The youths of Akwa Ibom State should demand the immediate suspension of the International Worship Centre project just for the honor of late Miss Iniubong Umoren who has paid the price of the government’s missteps that lead to mass unemployment. The youths should call for the Unemployment Summit where they would interact with their governor to vet job situation in the state and chart a way out of the present predicament. The death of the young unemployed graduate should be a rallying point for active participation of the youths in the affairs of governance in the state.

While preparing to vote and to bring in another administration in 2023, the youths should learn from the mistakes of the past. They should look out for the antecedents of every candidate and should be audacious enough to register a big statement that would become good riddance of bad rubbish.

Ubongabasiise.

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