President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, President and CinC of the armed forces federal Republic of Nigeria visits Akwa Ibom State on 28th December 2018 to flagoff his campaign for second term in office. Ordinarily this should have been seen as an honor to the state but rather it seems curious.
To begin with no one I have interviewed could remember anytime Mr. President visited Akwa Ibom for any reason during his first 3 and half years in office. The only time the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo visited was to commission the Syringe Factory at Onna, an initiative of the Udom’s administration. No one could point at any item or developmental project or any structure for that matter in the state today which represents the President’s interest in the state. More curious is when you consider that both the Minister for Budget Sen Udo Udoma (who oversees every project budgeted for in the country), the SA to the President on NASS matters, Sen Ita Enang (with almost weekly access to the president), MD, NDDC Obong Nsima Ekere are all from Akwa Ibom. More disturbing is the fact that the NDDC MD is a governorship candidate. Apart from a handful of road rehabilitations under the One kilometer Road scheme, most of which are sub-optimally awarded for political reasons, there is nothingness from that otherwise rich source. However, then you consider other APC states Mr. President has been interested in before now like Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Zamfara and even Lagos where Mr. President flag-off his first ever successful election campaign has benefited virtually nothing you shrug your shoulders.
In Lagos for instance, apart from some routine rehabilitation works which included the Funsho Williams Avenue, replacement of one expansion joint on Eko Bridge, Costain Roundabout to Eko Bridge Ramp and the Costain to Iganmu Bridge (Orile-bound) and a few works along Outer Marina to Ahmadu Bellow Way (From Apongbon Bridge to Bonny Camp) Lagos remains the Cross of Lagos State Government as always. Nothing new from federal might.
It is however interesting that the government inherited standard rail gauge projects from the GEJ administration for which it is working tenaciously to complete and deliver. This is indeed to its credit. These include the Lagos Kano rail and Lagos Calabar rail projects. Curiously however the portion of the Lagos to Kano rail that covers Kaduna to Abuja (which is in the north) has been completed while the Lagos to Ibadan portion is still WIP. As for Calabar Lagos? Time will tell.
He should however avoid the pitfalls which led to his being booed at the National Assembly.
For instance, rehabilitations for the 150 km Bauchi-Gombe road, was awarded in 2016. As at the date the president presented his 2018 budget, only about 7 km was resurfaced, outside Alkaleri towards Gombe, a portion that was fairly smooth before work started leaving the 60 km where urgent rehabilitation was needed between Alkaleri and Bauchi unattended to. But Mr. President “mistakenly” claimed this gross inefficiency as one of his achievements; that the road has been fully rehabilitated and other not so factual claims, so he was booed. I am aware he has awarded contact for the rehabilitations of Calabar- Itu Road. So far nothing has happened there, he should avoid similar mistake of claiming any achievements there yet. In order words let him be truthful rather than political when he speaks on Friday.
The people are hungry, the economy is still in the woods. Families are hurting, standard of living is in limbo. NBS latest report put the number of Nigerians without employment at 21m. I understand he told governors to braze up for even harder times next year. This meant that he accepted the grave economic conditions under his watch in secret. He should do so with sincerity in the open. Mr. President has also insisted he should be given the almighty TIME to enable him fix it the economy. But curiously his economic-tool handling ability still leaves the populace with doubt. For instance 2018 budget seemed dead on arrival. The budget which is predicated on oil bench mark of $60 per barrel seemed faulty as oil prices have already crashed to $53 even before the budget is passed. But then this can be reviewed. However, a budget estimate of 8.8trillion naira with a deficit proposal of 1.8trilllion, the shortfall is likely to be financed by more borrowing. At present the nation’s debt servicing to revenue ratio (DSRR) is about 66%. Further borrowing will push DSRR beyond 70%. With dwindling oil prices it is a wonder how Mr. President will manage such pressure on the economy next year without parents eating babies. That is what he should tell Nigerians with vision and honesty on Friday.
If he is able to articulate this, Nigerians always have a listening ear for incumbents that have a good case, incumbents with reasonable Work In Progress. But where he deviates to the APC style of falsehood, lies and loud sounding nothings which Nigerians have become tired of, they will boo him, if not openly, in their hearts and eventually with their PVCs.
Although there is nothing to show or explain Mr. President’s interest in the state, Akwa Ibom people will receive him with their usual hospitality. It is also on records that Akwa Ibom is currently the most peaceful and one of the cleanest states in Nigeria. These may explain the choice of Mr. President for his presidential flag off which is hoped to be view internationally. It will be an opportunity to showcase serene and investors friendly Nigeria to the whole world using Akwa Abasi Ibom State under Gov Udom Emmanuel, a man of peace and vision.