BEING A SPEECH DELIVERED BY SENATOR ALBERT BASSEY AKPAN, AT THE FLAG-OFF OF GUBERNATORIAL CAMPAIGNS OF THE YOUNG PROGRESSIVES PARTY (YPP) IN AKWA IBOM STATE, ON OCTOBER 22, 2022
Let me begin by giving all the glory and honour to the Almighty God for bringing all of us from the nooks and crannies of this great state to stand together in the ambience of His love and renew our faith in Him and the Akwa Ibom project. Some of you have come from long distances and some from short distances and for this I thank you. But today’s event is not about where you are coming from, it is about where our state is going. It is not about how many rivers you crossed to get here; it is about how Akwa Ibom can set her sails to arrive at the shores of our ancestors’ dreams. It is not even about the names they have called us; it is about the name we want our state to be called.
We can take it further and say that it is not about Senator Albert, it is about faith in what Akwa Ibom can be. Wherever we have gone while convincing our people to take their destiny into their hands, we have seen new looks in Akwa Ibom faces. We have seen hope. We have seen courage. We have seen faith. This has convinced us to urge, “Akwa Ibom people to have their say.” But those who have had their day, would not want us to have our say. We have been slapped on one cheek and we have turned the other cheek and they slapped us as well. We have been called names. We have been stigmatized. We have gone through thick and thin. But we do not mind because history is on our side. When Nehemiah sought to rebuild Jerusalem, they came against him. When our Lord and Saviour came to save us, they did untold things to him. When Mandela rose for the people, they sent him to jail for 27 years. But guess what my friends, check history, in every single instance that God sent a man to fight for the people, that man prevailed despite all opposition.
So, I dare to say to every Akwa Ibom person here today, including all of those at home and in the Diaspora, we shall overcome. We can no longer continue to live in a state where a few people take the most important decisions for the rest of us. Shout it from the rooftops and blare it with trumpets, from now on no one shall choose our leaders for us. We, Akwa Ibom people, must let it be known that every Akwa Ibom person no matter how poor or rich, no matter how strong or weak, no matter the gender or age, are stakeholders in the Akwa Ibom project and no one is more equal than others.
Your unprecedented support, massive goodwill, and many buy-in gestures before and after I formally declared interest to serve you in the office of Governor, beginning from May 29, 2023, have convinced me that cast upon a tide and we are taking the tide at the hem, therefore, we cannot lose our ventures. Such show of love and acceptability across the entire 31 Local Government Areas of the state is humbling. This is a mass movement towards recovering our dear state from dehumanizing poverty, maladministration, syndicated governance, burgeoning unemployment, hopelessness, and despair. A mass movement that began a while ago and has crystalized into a major step of faith today, awaiting safe delivery in the next few months. To God be the glory!
It has pleased God to put this onerous responsibility on my shoulders and accept it as a Macedonian call to serve our state. I, therefore, present myself as sincere and committed to service. I dedicate myself to a covenant with you all and pledge to serve you to the best of my abilities and competencies, as the People’s true and collective choice for the office of Governor of Akwa Ibom State. When I contest for the office of Governor every houseboy and everyone who has ever been a houseboy, contests for that high office because I was once a houseboy. I am a working person. I assure you that God has painstakingly prepared me for this role. Like he took Moses to the wilderness before He sent him back to take the Israelites back to the wilderness, he had passed me through the wilderness, and I am prepared to lead our state across that wilderness to the land of promise.
Since I am not foisted on you by any one man or cabal and desperate to perpetuate unholy dominance on our commonwealth, I will owe my true allegiance and loyalty to God first and secondly, to you, the good people of Akwa Ibom State!
Brothers and sisters, by God’s grace, I am eminently qualified for this job by experience, capacity, intellect, and exposure. All that is required for now is your resounding ballot affirmation to concretize the already established torrents of verbal, spiritual, physical, and moral support.
Having so stated, and as a mark of my preparedness to serve your interest better and differently, I wish to most humbly present before God our Father and this crowd of witnesses my Agenda for a Positive Impact in the economic, social, political, and cultural lives of our dear people.
Our entire blueprint covers three segments – short-, medium- and long-term impacts – all woven into sustainable and implementable trajectories. The policies and programmes enunciated and articulated here are based primarily on the day-to-day felt needs of our people and the contemporary economy.
Dear compatriots, our mandate will be anchored on the 3Rs – namely, to RECOVER Akwa Ibom; to truly RECONCILE it to God, and to REPOSITION it for imminent greatness! These, in turn, will form the base for our economic blueprint, encapsulated in Five Strategic Pillars
- Agriculture and Rural Development;
- Education, Health and Social Services;
- Economic Prosperity and Infrastructure;
- Security, Environment and Tourism;
- Administrative Reforms and Completion of Projects.
We shall not have room for waste, profligacy, and misplacement of priorities in the management of our resources. The current rating of Akwa Ibom as the second South-South state most ravaged by poverty is embarrassing. This is unacceptable and we shall reverse it. Our economic Agenda, therefore, bears close semblance to the Economic and Policy Blueprint of our great party, the Young Progressives Party (YPP) in articulation, design, and implementation strategies. It is in line with our slogan: “Service to the people”.
Specifically, we will address the rot in the educational sector by ensuring free and qualitative Education in Primary and Secondary Schools, restoring imprest to Head-teachers to run schools, re-open and make functional the specialized secondary schools that have been overgrown by weeds. In addition, we will restore the state university to its original concept of a science, technology, and maritime-based institution to strategically reposition the state as a major intellectual hub in the emerging economy. We will also establish another university that will specialize in Agriculture and other related disciplines. We will facilitate bursaries, scholarships, and grants to students, and fully equip one technical school in each federal constituency to the minimum acceptable global standard.
For emphasis, we will equip these institutions with requisite tools to enable graduates from them to add practical value to our economy and become self-reliant in areas like carpentry, tailoring, electrical installations, plumbing, and fitting, to mention just a few. These graduates upon graduation, may pursue higher education or be gainfully employed, thus helping in checkmating the unacceptable rate of unemployment in our state.
We will revitalize Indigenous centres of excellence in arts, crafts, and Agriculture, some of which are now extinct, like the Raffia enterprise in Ikot Ekpene, cultivation and processing of palm oil, kernel and fibre, palm wine, mushroom cultivation, and many others that serve not only as food sources with organic value but can also be processed for secondary uses in the pharmaceutical industry or export purposes. We will encourage farmers and artisans to merge into clusters, while Government will provide the enabling environment in infrastructure and power to enable them to boost their capacity and as well undertake knowledge transfer to the next generation. These are examples of traditional economic platforms that we have abandoned and are clearly outlined in our policy document.
We are offering a change in direction in all sectors based on the assessment of the needs of our people. As change agents, we shall be deploying talents and resources to harness our economic potential maximally and secure a brighter future for our children. Gone will be the days’ Government will invade communities and seize land for bogus projects like coconut plantation, rice, poultry farming, cow rearing, and a surfeit of others without any planned feasibility and strategies to make it work or align with the local needs of the people. We will not keep phantom experts in hotels and continue to bask in deceit and self-delusion.
We shall reverse these trends by making our people stakeholders and active participants in projects and programmes planned for the various communities, while Government will address the challenges of rural water supply, access to affordable healthcare, maintenance of rural roads as well as instituting a culture of maintaining existing public facilities, some of which have been left to go moribund. We shall set timelines in areas that need urgent intervention, and all will be measurable and capable of adding substantial value to the socio-economic landscape of our respective communities.
We will restructure the concepts of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) to align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and domesticate the same for the needs of Akwa Ibom people. We shall promptly diversify our economy and encourage people to partner with one another, through clusters and SMEs to boost productivity and thriving enterprises across the state.
My dear compatriots, we have a plethora of programmes in agriculture and rural development that we shall immediately kick-start once we assume office. This includes plantation, cash cropping, value addition, storage, marketing, and a whole lot more in the value chain, to immediately take the youths and young school leavers off the streets, rehabilitate, and redirect their lives towards active entrepreneurship and productive endeavours. Our villages and communities will be encouraged to merge into clusters and exploit their comparative advantages in their specific natural endowments, to gainfully employ and accelerate the growth and transformation of our long-neglected rural arrears.
We shall bring Akwa Ibom people to work by providing the necessary backup finances for our people to grow businesses and take back trade and commerce, which they are now mere spectators. Rest assured that simple and needful things like open and frequent hiring of teachers, Healthcare workers, civil servants, etc will be done to create jobs for our graduates and replace retiring ones.
In all of these, supervision will be key and, fortunately, we have already started assembling a tested pool of accessible, experienced, and dedicated hands with integrity and passion for the economic prosperity of our dear state, to help us midwife the new Akwa Ibom.
We shall energize our youthful population (now in the majority) back to work and provide them with the necessary wherewithal to overcome poverty and economic hardship. As a first step, plans have been concluded to launch, in the first three months of our assuming office, the first phase of our N50 billion Prosperity Trust Fund, to mitigate the root cause of poverty, especially in our rural areas.
Let the youths know that this is their time to shine. They represent our future, and we will engage them truly and positively. We shall train them in 21st-century-compliant skills with high employment potential. Simply put, we shall implement safety nests and welfare packages for the unemployed youths, women, aged, and other vulnerable segments of our society.
We will establish three academies in the three senatorial districts for sports such as Football, Tennis, Track, and Field events to nurture youths and produce global sports icons like Lionel Messi, Serena Williams, Usain Bolt, etc. The sports academies will be structured to run concurrently with the academic calendar of our schools, where the youths will also have access to qualitative education.
Our approach will be different because our situation is peculiar. We shall prioritize our investments in life-touching projects and programmes to benefit the vast majority of people. We shall enhance the ease of doing business in Akwa Ibom State, aside from a whole lot of our deliverables envisaged to reduce poverty and unemployment to the barest minimum.
Transportation, Housing, and Power will be tackled with zeal. Bringing a rail line to Akwa Ibom, in partnership with the Federal Government and private investors, is not a utopian idea. We shall do just that. For the overall benefit of our people, the much-talked-about Ibaka Deep Seaport, which I was once a member of its Implementation Committee and have all the facts about, will be moved from the realm of politics to that of actualization. This project, though it will change the face of our economy and the lives of our people in the state, is also a necessity for the unbundling of our national economy.
Brothers and sisters, you would have noted that the present government has reversed a lot of mileage towards our economic growth and development, due to its personalization of project implementation strategies without due consultation and needs assessment. This has, consequently, plunged our people deep into poverty, economic misery, slavery, and deprivation of all kinds. This, we believe, was a weapon to subdue the people to accept, in due time, its unpopular choice of succession. You will therefore agree with me that we have never been this disunited and exploited as a state. But you don’t have to worry, joy will come in the morning.
We have a master plan for Tourism Development; and by combining this with Agriculture, we hope to create 500,000 jobs in two years. We shall design and implement a tourism roadmap and protect our environment from the ravages of unforeseen natural occurrences. Equally, we shall leverage numerous value-chains prevalent in agro-allied ventures to create multi-faceted employment opportunities, produce processed goods and facilitate the export of goods by Akwa Ibom people.
These are simple cost-effective things that ought to be done. The Akwa Ibom economy should not depend on Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) money. We are truly blessed, and we are poised to harness our God-given resources and human talents to the benefit of our people. For a start, our economic team has been mandated to create a data bank for the registration of people with special talents and flair, so that they can be immediately called upon, collectively, to lend their quota and flame up our quest to develop our dear state to the desired level.
My fellow stakeholders and partners, you the good people of Akwa Ibom, let me assure you that, by the special grace of God, we have assurances of support from our national and international contacts towards the implementation of our Positive Impact Agenda, under the Public-Private Partnership, across all strata of our economy. Never again will industries and other infrastructures be sited in only one area of the state. We will run a government of Akwa Ibom people, for Akwa Ibom people, by Akwa Ibom people where we will all be stakeholders and no pseudo political Board of Directors.
We shall similarly look into the civil service and return it to what it used to be. In other words, we will deploy the tool of our consultative leadership approach to ensure an effective, efficient, and productive civil service. Let me assure our civil servants that help is on the way and that there is light at the end of this dark tunnel. Remind them of that inspirational hymn, “Courage brother, do not stumble, though your path be dark as night, there’s a star to guide the humble, trust in God and do the right…”
Our government will prioritize research, science, and technology as a tripod of our economy, in line with the current global digitization to provide a good foundation for the emerging technology-based society. This, we believe, will harness the untapped youthful productive population of our people toward a better Akwa Ibom.
We shall invest appropriately in health and social services. A special programme has been designed for these vital sectors and is embedded in our blueprint. Similarly, a lot of infrastructural gaps have been identified; some communities are yet to see even 1km of roads tarred or rehabilitated. Some communities have had poles and wires without electricity for years. Pipe-borne water supply has been abandoned and the sheer negative impact of this on health, sanitation, the environment, and the general well-being of our people can hardly be imagined. Virtually all sectors of the economy have been left prostrate and we shall be approaching the rehab with zeal and passion.
Great Akwa Ibomites, compatriots, and stakeholders, the take-home of this speech is that we are going to run an all-inclusive and consultative government, where the welfare and the security of the lives of our people will truly be a topmost priority.
Our government will immediately set up modalities for the settlement of outstanding accumulated pensions and gratuities both at the local government and state levels, to arrest the massive mortality rate of retirees after their selfless service to the state. In addition, our government will also revisit outstanding promotion arrears, leave grants, and the welfare of our civil servants as they are the bedrock of our productivity in the state. Imprest and all other allowances meant to ensure the smooth running of government business will be promptly attended to as at when due, unlike the present situation, where the payment of imprest is as at when it pleases. Our people-centered government will reintroduce the “13th-month” salary, to appreciate our civil servants for their hard work over the years.
We shall give a facelift to our Local Government Areas, beginning from the headquarters, and we will work towards granting autonomy to them so that they can perform. Rest assured that we shall institute a merit-based society and eschew lobby and sycophancy as a way of life.
Dear brothers and sisters, to actualize this God-supported mission, I invite you all to join me in this onerous task ahead. I promise you that this will be OUR government. This is our time to take our destinies into our hands. What is in a name? God has always been interested in names. My surname “Albert” means “light and brightness” in the German language. Like Aristotle said, “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus on the light.” I promise you before God that the light of this vision shall never deem, and you must focus on it in this darkest of moments. God has taken us to the Red Sea. He has opened the sea for us. With our votes we can cross this Red Sea for the light of a new Akwa Ibom State beckons across the sea.
Vote YPP for a better Akwa Ibom.
May THAT SAME GOD, who sees our hearts in secret bless you all in the open, as we all fight to defend our collective patrimony!
Thank you for your support;
Thank you for your vote, and;
Thank you for your prayers!
Together, we shall deliver. A better and prosperous Akwa Ibom is imminent!