By Eno Ikpe
Early morning of Saturday June 14, 2014, the people of Akwa Ibom State were greeted with the cheering news that President Goodluck Jonathan had approved the long awaited, long speculated Federal Polytechnic for Akwa Ibom State. The Polytechnic is to commence operation in September 2014, and is to be sited, of course, true to rumor mills, in Ukana, Essien Udim Local Government of Governor Godswill Akpabio.
It is to take over the premises of the Independence High School Ukana, founded by the great Uncle of the Governor, late Ibanga Udo Akpabio (eternal sunshine on his ashes), great educationist and one of the six ‘merchants of light’ sponsored by Ibibio Union for higher education abroad, during the halcyon days of that trail blazing get together of the Ibibios without borders. People say that Independence High School Ukana was founded as a counterpoise to Ibibio State College (now simply State College) whose first Principal Chief Ibanga Akpabio had been.
Other key staff of the Polytechnic has been named, the Rector coming from outside Akwa Ibom State, while Mr. Chrysanthus Asuka, Permanent Secretary in the State Ministry of Education makes history as its first Registrar.
It is no surprise or shock to the people of Akwa Ibom State where the Polytechnic is sited, because they had seen it coming. What is amazing is the rationale for choice of site; the proximity of the institution to two establishments; one of whose site has already drawn much flak, much criticism from the populace. This is the MOPOL State Headquarters. The other is the General Hospital, Ukana, as if the presences of such establishments have now been made preconditions for location of federal institutions anywhere. The very act of upgrading the Health Center in Ukana to a well-stocked, well-staffed General Hospital, a whistle-stop from the age old General Hospital in Ikot Ekpene, has also been a matter of serious criticism of the Governor Akpabio administration. It is envy of other areas (call it jealousy) where people trek torturous distances to access a health facility of any caliber.
What zodiac sign governed the little town of Ukana at birth, as we hear parodied as carol every Christmas tide, in jingle inviting the world to see the wonderland of Ukana at the people’s annual Carnival.
A little over seven decades ago, this little village first caught the approval of our forebears as location for the first post-primary education institution ever to be established by communal exertion, perhaps anywhere in the then Southern Protectorate of Nigeria. If evil days had beset the college and its latter day story became checkered, this did not rubbish the great vision’s essence. Before then, the College had presented students for the Cambridge Senior School Certificate (precursor of the WASC), even at a time when older institutions like Etinan Institute could not go beyond Secondary class four, and whose students, sons of well-to-do parents had to resort to, for their senior Cambridge Certificate, among other choices.
How I wish that Governor Godswill Akpabio had been possessed with the grand esoteric instinct to have the Federal Polytechnic take over the premises of Ibibio State College (now State College). This could not only have been seen as the ultimate crowning of grand vision, but could also have put paid to the constant challenge with which he is always confronted, to return the name of the College to what the founding fathers gave it, as proof of his sincerity of passion for the good old days of Ibibios without borders.
With the mystic eye of those who see, the grounds of Ibibio State College are hallowed, the only surviving epitomic vestige of a people who once dreamt elegant dreams, and saw visions of oneness by which a people become entirely great. It is a sanctuary, a city of refuge for all Ibibios without borders. How I wish … but all is not lost yet, as someone can still give a thought to making Ibibio State College(now State College) with its proximity to Independence High School, an annexe of the Polytechnic.
Let me now take my mind on parade about the making of Uncommon Transformers. Retired Air Commodore Idongesit Okon Nkanga, easily the first Uncommon Transformer, as the first indigenous Military Governor of the State who, within a space of a little over a year, had made history and some call him a wonder-worker. If he had stayed off the murky waters of partisan politics, this stanza of his life would have been more on song. Even so, he was not exempt from thinking about his home. Nsit Ibom Local Government was created in his time out of Nsit Ubium, at the expense of Ibiono Ibom Local Government with over two hundred villages which the people had been agitating for. He utilized the facilities and structures of the discarded Federal Government Teachers Training College to found a College of Education which has today lifted the rural community of Afaha Nsit to a center of civilization, thanks to its having been a part of Etinan Urban. Add to this Nung Udoe-Afaha Offiong-Mbiaso-Afaha Nsit highway that passes through his home. He also built a Police barrack directly opposite his house. This road came at the expense of Aka-Ikot Ekan junction road that had kept being reflected in government’s annual budgets right from Cross River State.
Victor Attah was an Uncommon Transformer by all fair accounts. His transformation was not only structural and physical, but also psychical; uplifting us from our low self-esteem to show we were not only counting, but were also counted. His grandiose dreams and visions were aimed at taking civilization to unlikely places, like creating an airport town from the confluence of the Local Government towns of Okobo, Nsit Atai and Uruan. He also returned us to an old colonial center of civilization, the Mainland (now Akwa Ibom State), counterpart of Calabar in terms of coastal trade, and established Le Meridien Five Star Hotel and Golf Resort at Nwaniba with its Carribean ambience. Victtor Attah, in trying to avoid being named nepotic, ended up abnegating himself. If self abnegation is a virtue, Shakespeare had said many years ago, that virtue becomes vice, if misapplied. Failing to fix the road to his home as a premium for all of eight years was virtue misapplied, and by today’s showing, this has been counted against him by many reviewers.
Alas, what then shall we say about those areas which, even if zoning and turns go down to the nano details, may never produce a Governor? For them eternity will be too short.
This now underscores the dire imperative for the actualization of the much sloganized equity, fair-play and justice, on the part of whoever is at the helm of affairs in the State. These are many splendored things and cannot be made a mantra only to justify advocacy of zoning of Governorship to Eket Senatorial District, but should permeate all other aspects of governance, not the least, distribution of amenities and siting of projects.
By siting the MOPOL State Headquarters in his home, when such establishment should have properly been sited in the State capital; by siting the Police Secondary School, and the first of its kind Federal prison all in his home, and now a Federal Polytechnic has been added, Governor Godswill Akpabio is not living up to the virtues he frequently expouses. Was there none wise to have advised him to do himself some additional credit by taking the institution to say, Obot Akara, if it had to be sited in Annangland?
All appearances are that our Governor has carried nepotism to ridiculous dimensions bordering on uncommon audacity. This also shows in appointments even to Federal Boards and parastatals that keep being criticized. Those who are dead set against his installing a successor, who bids fair to walk in his ways in this direction and under his shadow, over whose shoulders his predecessor will breathe frequently in supervision, have a point. These traits are precedents not worthy of emulation.