Changing the Narrative of Development Through Industrialization and Infrastructure


Changing the Narrative of Development Through Industrialization and Infrastructure
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A lecture delivered by His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, Governor, Akwa Ibom State at the Founders’ Day of the University of Nigeria,  Nsukka, October 7th, 2021

 

Protocol

INTRODUCTION

Let me start by thanking the Governing Council, the Senate, Management, Staff, students and the entire academic community of this great institution for your kind invitation for me to come and join you in the celebration of your Founders’ Day.

Thank you again for the added honour of asking me to address this yearly lecture, an event that has attracted other personages and eminent Nigerians across professional and social lines, who had mounted this podium and addressed you on issues that are germane to the acceleration of our national development and an extension of the frontiers of our national discourse.

I bring you greetings from the good people of Akwa Ibom State, the Land of Promise and God’s own Piece of Real Estate.  The founding of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka,  has a profound connection with Akwa Ibom State. It was the late Ibanga Udo Akpabio, a son of Akwa Ibom State, who in 1955, first moved a motion for the founding of this great institution, and the motion was seconded by the late great Zik of Africa, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who eventually expedited the process for its establishment and the intellectual birth. So we can see the symmetry of impulse between this Land of knowledge and the Land of Promise.

Since its founding sixty-one years ago, this great citadel of knowledge has produced and helped shape some of the best and brightest minds in this country, from thinkers to doers, and some of the most impactful technocrats from our State, thus cementing further the bond of friendship forged through intellectual flourishes and commonalities of thoughts and beliefs.

A little over two weeks ago, we celebrated the 34th Year of the creation of our state, and we thanked God for lifting us from the abyss of underdevelopment to our current status as the destination of choice for investors, tourists and the preferred location for seminars, conferences and retreats. The University of Nigeria, Nsukka prides itself as the cradle of intellectualism in Nigeria just as Akwa Ibom State considers itself as the crucible of the new Nigeria.

This is not an idle boast. Just a week and half ago, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON, while commissioning The DAKKADA TOWERS, our 21-storey smart and intelligent building, the tallest and smartest in the South-South & South-East and the 7th tallest in Nigeria, described Akwa Ibom State as the emerging industrial hub of the nation. Similar sentiments had earlier been expressed by the former US Ambassador Terence McCulley who, while on a visit to our state sad, “I am here in Akwa Ibom for the first time but I have to say that the future of Nigeria is in Akwa Ibom State.” It was the testimony of a witness. So, for those who are fond of symbols, today’s event is an intersection where the inspirational history of UNN and the  enchanting story of  Akwa Ibom come together in a symphony of  songs  rendered through infrastructural  renaissance and industrialization.

We are gathered here today to pay tribute to a genius, celebrate patriotism and feel the warmth of an African Legend, icon and statesman whose name will forever be embalmed in the sacred monuments of our nation and stenciled in the tablets of our history as the Founder of this institution. With this great institution, the most enduring shadow of this legend, the late Dr. Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe, still casts a paternal light over us. This Father of our Nation, whose influence transcended national boundaries, came to be known as the Zik of Africa. He broke out of the Nigerian mould and wrote his name in global folklore and legends. His shadow still hangs over this great institution like a giant, golden, welcoming statue.

The Statue of Liberty in New York has a towering image of a woman holding aloft a lamp with the inscription, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

The University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria’s first indigenous University, was conceived as an institution where all Nigerians in particular and the world in general – the tired and the strong, the poor and the rich, the tempest-tossed and the huddled masses – yearning to breathe the freedom of education could enter through into its golden gate of knowledge. This University does not only hold aloft the hope of Nigeria, it has a symbiotic relationship with our country.

This institution is the only university which bears Nigeria’s name and the only university which was opened as part of the celebration of Nigeria’s independence by Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandria Kent on October 7, 1960. The Alumni of this institution sometimes use a car sticker with the legend, “An alumnus of UNN is ahead of you…naturally.”

Today, you need to move from being ahead naturally, to being ahead nationally. You want to be ahead in solving the many complex and intricate problems that beset and threaten our nation. We want UNN to remain the intellectual bastion of hope in a nation trapped in the cobweb of fear and despair, insecurity, ethno-religious crises, political fault lines that appear to be widening while unity and brotherhood that the late Zik preached until he breathed his last today hang precariously and perilously on a thread.

We desire UNN to continue to be in the vanguard to deepen our national unity, to live together as brothers and sisters or as Martin Luther King (Jnr) once said, “perish together as fools.”

This great university was founded on hope for an enduring and vibrant Nigerian State, a nation that would distil and appropriate the best from within her bowels and use the manpower to develop our nation, expand opportunities, and help project our then nascent Republic as the hope of the Africa and indeed the black race. The towering symbol of this great institution was a nationalist par-excellence. He was not defined by the forces of geography in his decision-making process, neither was he propelled by the limiting impulses of parochialism. His, was a life shaped and defined by patriotic instincts, the need to build and forge a nation based on equality of opportunities, where our diversity would, and should be sources of strength rather than wedges of division and attrition.

I am sure what is happening today in our nation would shock and deeply despair the ennobling spirit of nationalism that the late Zik lived for. As despairing as things are in our nation today, we cannot give up on Nigeria. The late Zik himself did not give up on Nigeria, even when he could have. If he had fallen for the rabid fight for regional supremacy over the forces of nationhood which he championed, possibly the Nigeria we have come to know today, may not have existed, so we owe him our collective debt of gratitude.

Permit me to pay special tribute to the many inspirational achievements of this great institution. In 1974, a team in this university led by Prof Magdi Yacoub from the United Kingdom, Professor F. A. Udekwu and Professor Anyanwu performed the first open heart surgical operation in Sub-Saharan Africa. A monumental feat! Unfortunately, 46 years after this monumental achievement, our nation is still lagging behind in development, industrialization and infrastructure. Forty-six years after, medical tourism still drains our economy, and medical personnel flee to foreign countries in search of the Golden Fleece. Forty-six years after, our nation still grapples with decayed medical infrastructure. Forty-six years after, our nation is desperately sick and in need of rescue operations to rid her of insecurity, strife, corruption, nepotism, ethno-religious tension and zero-sum game machinations, etc.

The topic of this lecture excites me: Changing the Narrative of Development Through Infrastructure and Industrialization.  Since this lecture is not meant for an academic journal, and I certainly have no interest in publishing it in same, I seek your understanding if certain conventions or protocols that guide academic papers are not observed. More so, I intend to speak from my heart and when you speak from your heart, you do not mind conventions. This is a little bit like asking a pop music artiste to come and deliver a lecture to classical musicians. The essence of his music lies in its rhythm, pathos and passion, while the essence of the classical musicians lies in structure and form. More so, take this as the voice of one crying in wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all Nigerians shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” A cry has no form and no structure otherwise it is not a cry. But it is not only a lament, but an effort in hope. A cry is meaningless as an end in itself. We cry but we see through the mist of our tears while we chart a path forward.

There are so many definitions of development because the term is complex and ambiguous, and its meaning can vary depending on the context of its usage. But when you break the term down it all comes down to bringing about social and structural changes for the empowerment of the people.

I identify with the view of Amartya Sen, economist and Nobel Laureate, who posited that development is about well-being. The human being, the father, the son, the daughter, the mother, the farmer or the student, is the sum of all government’s activity. In the 80’s, Nobel Laureate Sen confounded the traditional welfare economics idea that incomes should be the main measure of well-being. It was his view that poverty was the result of a wide range of deprivations in the standard of living, health, education etc., – not income alone.

His research on the approach to understanding wellbeing led to the introduction of the Human Development Index and the Multidimensional Poverty Index by the United Nations. He further expanded the frontiers of his intellectual dialectics in 1999 with the argument that freedoms should also be considered not only as a means but an end in development. Analyzing Sen’s argument, Owen Barder, a former Vice President of the European Centre for Global Development, agrees that development must be judged by its impact on people, not only on changes in their income. It must be judged on issues like choices, capabilities and freedoms. We must be interested in the distribution of these improvements, not just the simple average for society. Consequently, we must see development as a process that raises the question of who has the power to implement the process and who would benefit from the process.

Therefore, to simply see development as an improvement in people’s welfare and well-being falls short of the mark. Development should be about lasting change. Development should not only be about improvements in the welfare of citizens, but about the capacity of the government to provide the environment for the welfare and wellbeing of the people on a sustainable and long-term basis.

For different societies, the goal of sustainability varies. What United States needs at this time may not cohere with Japan or India. So, what Akwa Ibom needs may not be the same with Enugu or Lagos. But central to any of these is the drive to provide infrastructure and industrialize. Even advanced societies still invest in upgrading and providing more infrastructure for their people. As we speak the United States plans to spend over 3 trillion dollars to revamp its infrastructure and turn its high-flying technological place to a new berth. If a country as advanced as they are is doing this, then we are are expected to do even more in this regard.

Making development sustainable and lasting comes through industrialization and the provision of infrastructure. Industrialization is the process of transforming an agrarian society to an industrial society. The process involves the replacement of manual labor with mechanized mass production and the replacement of craftsmen with assembly lines. Ever since the Industrial Revolution of 1760 to 1820 led to the transition from hand production methods to mechanical and chemical manufacturing and the rise of mechanized factory systems, different countries and societies have seen the need to embark on such transitions in order to boost development and economic growth.

According to Professor Erika Erasure,  a business and finance expert, the European and United States governments initially used mercantilist and protectionist government policies to foster the growth of  industrialization. Both deployed more laissez-faire or free-market approach later to open markets for the export of industrial output. It is the duty of every responsible government to create the requisite environment for industrialization to thrive. Richard Branson, the English business mogul who founded the Virgin Group which runs over 400 companies now, says that “Government and business must come together on the interlinked issues of conservation, economic development and renewable energy.”

It is only this template that can drive industrialization and lead to development. It is implied in Abraham Lincoln’s famous definition of democracy as “a government of the people, by the people and for the people.” We can all attest that we have a government of the people. We can all confirm that we have a government by the people. The missing part of the puzzle is that we cannot say that we have a government for the people. A government for the people feels the pain of the people. A government for the people is diminished when one person dies an avoidable death. A government for the people sees injury to one as injury to all.

Campaigning for office is a government of the people. Swearing-in and holding office is government by the people. Performance and the letting the people have the dividends of democracy is the government for the people.

This was what agitated my mind when I assumed office as Governor in 2015. Before this time, while still in the private sector, I had watched our hopes betrayed in more ways than one, and a gradual deterioration of our national infrastructure. There were too many questions and little or no answers to them. Whatever happened to Ajaokuta Steel Mill? What happened to the once thriving Nigeria Newsprint Manufacturing Company, Oku-Iboku that was located in my State? Why do we have such unmotorable roads? Why are they so many abandoned projects littered across the length and breadth of our country? According to a Senate Committee Report, the Federal and State Governments have nearly 12,000 uncompleted projects which would require about N7.7 trillion to complete. It is my candid opinion that if these projects or a significant number of them were completed, our industrialization drive would have gathered greater momentum and our nation would have grown on all indices of development beyond where we are today.

These were stark realities that confronted me when I was elected. The task at hand was development but the tool to achieve that was industrialization and the provision of infrastructure. I was fed up with the description of my state as a purely civil service state, where the only source of employment or income generation was from government and its associated agencies. I wanted to change the narrative and I recognized that infrastructure and industrialization would be the catalysts for this change. Conscious of that, we made industrialization the central plank of our development and this was distilled into our Five-Point initial governing document of: Job Creation, Infrastructural Consolidation and Expansion, Poverty Alleviation, Economic and Political Inclusion and Wealth Creation, which today has been condensed into the 8-Point Completion Agenda.

In doing this, I was conscious of how nations of the world such as the United States were able to rise from an agrarian society as Thomas Jefferson had envisioned her to be, at independence, to an industrial and post-industrial behemoth it has become today. Thomas Jefferson had defined the future of America purely along agrarian lines. He spoke about all men being created equal. For him they were created to be equal farmers. He likened the farmers to the salt of the earth and in his 1787 letter to George Washington; he said “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to wealth, good morals and happiness.” He suspected the bank and business persons like me, the mercantilist tendencies and the trappings of modernity. But he had a counterpoise in the person of Alexander Hamilton. The West Indies immigrant had other plans, to move America from an agrarian society to a nation of mercantilist fervour where infrastructure, commerce and free market approach would lead the way.

As so, shortly after I was sworn in, fully conscious of where we were going, I set up a Technical Committee on Foreign Direct Investment and charged them to go all out and sell our state, our areas of comparative advantage and ensure that through industrialization, we would expand the opportunities of growth for our people and in the process, change the narratives of our development.

We also recognized the fact that the key drivers of industrialization are the quality of infrastructure on the ground and, of course, peace and security since investors will not go to a place that is unsafe and insecure. We thus began the strategic and careful plans to provide world-class infrastructure through land, sea and air.

Today, ladies and gentlemen, the Akwa Ibom story has become a national story, a state that was once a civil service state today is being described as Nigeria’s Best Kept Secret. We didn’t just construct roads for the sake of it; we embarked on economically viable roads that would interlock the state in one seamless movement.

Today, you can connect the state from Uyo to Ikot Ikpene, to Eket in less than one hour, on roads that can compare with the best in the world. It was former American President Dwight Eisenhower, who saw the critical role road infrastructure can play in opening up the development of the United States. He saw that the north did not seamlessly connect with the south, especially as the Cold War dawned with the Soviet Union. Thus, today, through his visionary approach to development, the vast Sub-Continent of the United States is easily linked through interlocking road network across the 48 contiguous States. The effects of these roads have been chronicled in developmental journals as a testament to vision and the reason why American economy rebounds faster after moments of recession.

In a little over six years since we came in, we have constructed or have on-going over a thousand kilometres of economically viable roads spread across the three senatorial districts of the state. Just two days ago, the Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan was on hand to commission the 25 km  Uyo-Ikot Ekpene dual carriage way complete with outfall drains. Commuters can now make the trip from the Capital City Uyo, to Ikot Ekpene, in less than 15 minutes. The level of economic activities this has engendered cannot be overemphasized.

In my first term in office, aware of our status as the leading oil and gas producer in the nation, and the poor, almost impassable state of road between Eket and Ibeno, the main operation axis of Mobil Producing, we went about completing the Eket-Ibeno road with messianic zeal. Today, the pain commuters used to experience has been ameliorated.

We did not just make road construction the main area of concentration in our infrastructural drive, our emphasis was on road, air and sea. Shortly after I was elected in 2015, I gathered a team of aviation professionals and unveiled my vision to establish what would be the first ever state-owned airline in Nigeria and indeed Africa. I gave them my blueprint and charged them to go to work.

When we began to talk about the plans for the establishment of the airline, a lot of people sneered at the idea and taunted us as day dreamers, maintaining that if Federal Government could not pull off the establishment of Air Nigeria with all the resources at their disposal, how then would we, a mere subnational, pull off such a feat?

Of course, we ignored them and went to work. Today, ladies and gentlemen, Ibom Air, the product of that vision, has become a national sensation, flying the colours of Akwa Ibom within the Nigerian aviation space and dominating it, a mere two years after its maiden commercial flight.

Ibom Air started with three CRJ 900 Bombardier aircrafts, and in under a year, increased the fleet to five and earlier this year, added two new Airbus A220- 300 series, thus bringing the fleet to 7.

Ibom Air is a testament to vision and to professionalism. We are equally embarking upon a total aviation development process. Just as Ibom Air has become a national sensation, we are simultaneously building what will, upon completion, become the smartest most modern airport terminal in Nigeria and indeed Africa. Work is on-going and recently a group of veteran journalists from the northern part of the country who visited the state to see things for themselves described it as a project never before seen in this country. We are also working on the Maintenance, Repair And Overhaul(MRO) facility within the precincts of the airport and our runaway has category 2 status.

Recently the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, was in our state to commission, what experts have described as the most intelligent and smartest building in Nigeria, our 21-storey Dakkada Tower. This is an infrastructural edifice that was strategically conceived to offer a great piece of real estate for the International Oil Companies, (IOCs) taking into cognizance our status as the largest oil and gas producer in the nation.

Ladies and gentlemen, I had earlier said that our strategic approach was to simultaneously work on land, air and sea infrastructure. A few months ago, the Federal Executive Council, graciously approved the commencement of work on our Ibom Deep Seaport, a project that had been dear and close to my heart. When completed, this would be the MOST MODERN deep seaport in the country and is guaranteed to create millions of jobs and the attendant upliftment of the economic status of our people. If Singapore could rise from a being a backwater state to an industrialized first world country, Akwa Ibom State today stands at the intersection of such a giant leap. If Lee Kwan Yew could do it in Singapore, then I, Udom Emmanuel, by the grace of the Almighty God, and working in sync with my people, would do it in Akwa Ibom state.

Industrialization, as I said was the central plank of our governing agenda and this, we have pursued with zeal and passion. As l always say, it is good for a 21st Century leader, to have a broad vision and the requisite exposure to international best practices.  What do I mean by that? Your vision is a product of your exposure, what you have seen elsewhere, how those things work and how they can be applied in your local environment to the benefit of the people is a lived experience and not a learned one.

Today, because of the contacts we have established across Continents and the goodwill we had garnered in the course of our professional careers, we have been able to set the ball rolling for an industrial and infrastructural renaissance of our dear state.

Our State, today, boasts of the largest syringe manufacturing company in Africa, the Jubilee syringe company which currently produces 1.7 million syringes per day. Recently it was widely reported that the company will soon begin exporting syringes to Europe and other continents. We have the most digitalized and best flour mill in the nation – The Kings flour mill; we have the Lion Plywood Manufacturing Company, the Metering Solutions Company which produces prepaid electric meters that, thereby making it easier for consumers to accurately read their electric bills. We have a functional fertilizer blending plant, which produces this much-needed agricultural input for the use of our farmers in the state and beyond. Earlier this year, we signed an MoU with our Moroccan counterparts to establish what would be the largest Fertilizer and ammonia plant in Nigeria valued at 1.4 billion dollars, a project that President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, mentioned in his 61st National Independence Speech.  Our State today boasts of numerous rice mills, agro processing mills, A toothpick production factory, plastic manufacturing industry, and a company which produces tissue paper using bamboo. We are also in the advanced stages of establishing an oil and gas logistics centre in the state.

Perhaps one of the most daring and innovative industries we have attracted, has been the St Gabriel Virgin Coconut oil refinery, which is a marvel to behold and is expected to enlarge our economic base and showcase our State as an industrial hub. This project was again, a product of vision and ingenuity, the capacity to use our comparative advantage in coconut production to process what in the international market is a more profitable commodity item, the coconut oil, than even the much talked about crude oil, which thankfully, our State, also,  is the leading producer in the nation. I hope you will find time someday soon, to visit our State and see things for yourself.

Today, our State that was once defined as a purely civil service orientated State is fast becoming the industrial hub in the Gulf of Guinea and as Americans would say “you ain’t seen nothing yet”.

Take the case of the nation of Israel, a nation with several challenges of a multi-dimensional nature. Yet Israel has joined the league of developed countries and most of its neighbors are still developing countries. Instructively, Israel is not as wealthy as her neighbors in terms of natural resources. This sentiment was expressed by the former Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, when she said, “Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil.” In spite of its resource constraints, Israel successfully changed the narrative of development through industrialization and infrastructure.

The flourishing industries in Israel today, not to mention its diversified industrial sector, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, were begun as small workshops to manufacture farm implements and process agricultural products. By the 1970’s her industries were meeting local needs in traditional industries like food processing, textiles and fashion, furniture, fertilizers, pesticides, etc. With government support the industrial sector blossomed and this emboldened the government to concentrate on the manufacturing of arms needed for the defense of the country and in aviation. The spin off of all these investments in industries and infrastructure was the development of high-tech industries which produce medical devices, electronics, computer software and hardware, and telecommunications equipment. Israel’s highly qualified manpower compensated for its lack of natural resources and raw materials and government created the platform for their scientific creativity and technological innovation.

Take another case study, South Korea.  Once regarded by the foreign-aid establishment as a “hell-hole of foreign assistance” and a “bottomless pit” South Korea has transformed itself into a developed economy through industrialization. While most of the developing nations opted to produce goods which would checkmate the importation of goods, South Korea opted to target the exportation of its goods and focused on building industries to achieve this. They studied Japan’s successes and adopted three strategies. One, they abolished the multiple exchange rate system and opted for a unitary exchange rate and supported production by industries with comparative advantages; two, they provided export subsidies and concessions to exporters; three; free trade export promotion zones were promulgated and companies encouraged to produce substitutes for imported goods in the domestic market. High tariffs were also used to limit import of foreign goods.

Ladies and gentlemen, you can see that we are turning Akwa Ibom State not just from a civil service place to a hub of industrial growth, but at the core of it is the transformation of the citizen in the spirit of self-fulfillment. We are making the State a model for a developing economy, to make the person the sum of all government efforts. So when we make the coconut oil refinery work as an indicator of industrial growth, we are empowering the engineer, the salesman, the accountant, the transporter, the farmer, all at once. He or she is, like the State itself, an economic unit and a social unit, as well as a propeller of growth, a builder of new lifestyles, an engineer of the pride of a people and a culture. That, my friends, is what the new Akwa Ibom is about.

 

CONCLUSION

There is a story in the Bible which describes our situation. It is in 2 Kings 2:19. Elisha went to Jericho and the men of the city came to him: “Then the men of the city said to Elisha, ‘Please notice, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the ground barren.’ And he said, ‘Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.’ So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the source of the water, and cast in the salt there, and said, ‘Thus says the LORD: ‘I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness.’  ”I invite you to notice the situation of our country. The country is pleasant but the “water” is bad.

Water is a cleansing agent. Therefore that the agents who are supposed to cleanse this country are bad – they have failed to rid us of the evil that beset us.  Elijah’s solution was to put salt in the water. Jesus referred to His followers as the salt of the earth. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, to fix the problems of this country, the true believers and agents of change must make themselves available as the cleansing agents of this country. They should be involved in politics. That is why I am in politics. Politics is too serious a business to be left in the hands of professional politicians. We need professionals in politics – not professional politicians. We need courageous and righteous men in politics. We need to go to the source of our problems and fix it – like Elijah did.

While Israeli scientists and innovators are returning in droves to Israel to better the lot of their country, Nigerian scientists and innovators are leaving our shores in droves to better the lot of other countries. In terms of manpower, Nigerians are excelling everywhere. We need to come back home to fix the barrenness of our land. Ufot Ekong, an Akwa Ibom son, solved a 50-year-old mathematical puzzle in Japan, and became an instant celebrity scholar. Dr Bennet Omalu was the first person to discover and publish on chronic traumatic encephalopathy in American football players, just as  an Akwa Ibom son, Imeh Udoka is the first Nigerian American, to become the Head Coach of a major American Basketball team, the Boston Celtics. Ime Ime Umanah is the first black woman to be elected Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Law Review, thus joining the exclusive club of former Editors that include former U.S. President, Barack Obama. Pearlena Igbokwe is the first woman of African descent to become president of Universal Television…the list goes on. These are the salt we need to add to the water in order to fix our land. These are the salt we need to speed up the industrialization of our country and fix our infrastructure problems.

I dare to believe that when Nigerians respond to the plaintive cry in the National Anthem, “Arise Oh compatriots, Nigeria’s  call obey…” and come with hoes and shovels, computer hardware and software, wheel barrows, hammers and other necessary tools, we will build industries and infrastructure that will change the trajectory of our development for the better. We will build infrastructure that will link economically viable federal Roads, like the Calabar-Itu Road, the East-West Road that links the rest of the nation to the economic nerve center of the nation, and roads in the Eastern part of Nigeria, such as those that link the “Taiwan” of Nigeria, Aba or Onitsha and those in the North that connect us to our neighbors in the Sahel region. When this is done, a new Nigeria bound in “freedom, peace and unity” will be birthed. I leave that belief with you and I pray that it will not tarry.

If Akwa Ibom State as a sub-national, without control over development policies, could move the needle of development and change the narratives from what was formerly a civil service oriented State to a fast industrialized entity, we can replicate same nationally. I believe we have the tools, the manpower and the drive to achieve this.

Barack Obama galvanized Americans to rise to the faith of its greatness with a simple but emotionally impactful phrase, “Yes We Can”. We too, can dakkada (rise) and show the world that indeed, we, can change the narrative of our national development through infrastructure and industrialization.

The motto of this university is “to restore the dignity of man”. I am of the opinion that with all hands on deck, contributing our bit to the growth of our country, we can also restore the dignity of Nigeria!

Thank you for your attention, God bless Akwa Ibom State, God bless the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, God bless our dear Nation, Nigeria.