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In hospitable Akwa Ibom, Gov Eno shows early signs of pro-people govt


 _By Chuka Nnabuife_ 

IT IS really morning in the reign of Umo Eno as governor of Akwa Ibom State of South-South Nigeria. 

Though the state is one of Nigeria's topmost earners of oil revenue, fact is that the soft-spoken, handsome cleric only rose to the saddle, May 29 -- less than six months ago. 

Any attempt to track projects so far executed by the pastor's administration that fail to note the short time he has been on saddle can only be unfair no matter how propped. However, it is still possible to foresee a bright day from a sunny dawn. Hence, from early steps one can sense a strong child.

On Friday, November 17, some of Nigeria's leaders in journalism -- gatekeepers and chief executive officers of print and electronic media, under the auspices the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) made a tour of some ongoing projects being executed by the Pastor Eno government in Akwa Ibom State's capital, Uyo and environ. 

What was manifest to the 30 editors in the tour was emerging signs of a government on a mission to do things differently. 

Spectacles and sound bites from the scenes visited resented Eno as a man with obvious interest in the grassroots and an evident high aesthetic taste. 

A certain touch of class cuts across the physical constructions, and even the mode of presentation in some cases.

Along with the new governor's 'Akwa Ibom Arise' development program (aptly illustrated graphically with five up-standing,  warm-coloured human figures, raising their hands high like in a jubilation), the projects visually conceptualise a regime's keenness for people-oriented, qualitative infrastructure.

One example of that is the model basic school, Christ The King Nursery and Primary School in the heart of Uyo. The government-owned school with creche, sick bay, lurch play ground and Montessori learning kits as well as teachers' lodge, is a baby-sitter, nursery and primary school in one package. Still under construction, the project comes across as a rare facility of such standard in the country.

 Built with big tarred lanes, freshly-grassed lawns and indoor assembly hall, the school is projected to take 600 pupils. Water and power will be self-provided. All the equipment will be solar-powered.

The state's Commissioner for Special Duties, Bassey Okon, informed that for a start, there will be such a prototype model school built in all the 31 local government areas of the state.  

Akwa Ibom State e-Library located behind the popular Ibom Hall in Uyo is another communicating the new direction in the state. The facility is evolving into a multi-sectoral skills'-orientation centre where young people go for acquisition of practical knowledge on a variety trades, from clothes' and shoes' designing to sewing, leather works among other creative ventures. There are also periodic (quarterly) enterprenureship trainings, which, one learnt, is packaged to attract the partnership of corporate organisations who come to expose young ones to the vital needs of the job market.

The facility is now renamed, Ibom Leadership and Enterprenureship Development Centre (aka Ibom-LED). Everything around the facility, from the beautiful, ever-smiling girls at the reception to the supervisors in the training workshops who are mostly young ladies and well-maintained grassed in the lawns, is packaged to attract and make a first-time guest strive to get more of the organisation's services. 

A banner at the entrance lobby echoes a Martin Luther maxim: "the prosperity of a country depends not on the abundance of its resources but it consists, in its men/women of education, enlightenment and character." 

That seems to capture the goal of the Ibom-LED where even the outdoor sculptural monuments lend character to the facility and make it an iconic infrastructure in the middle of the capital city.

About 10 kilometers, northwards, from Uyo, a model primary health centre is being built in Ibesikpo Asutan local government area (LGA).

Touted as another Akwa Ibom Arise demo, the basic healthcare facility with an emergency hall, a dispensary, patients wards and offices also has two enticing lodges, one for doctors the other for nurses. 

The Governor's press secretary, Ekerete Udo explained that the beautiful lodges are provided to attract the doctors and nurses that will be posted there to stay in the rural area. This was corroborated by the governor's personal physician. 

Such primary healthcare infrastructures, the editors were told, will be built in all the state's local councils within the next four years. 

Like other projects visited, the facility is to be protected by the locals through a vigilante scheme which exists across the state.

For administrative purpose and ease of grassroots-to-government communication, the Eno government has created local liaisons who serve as monitors and "eyes of government on projects and developments in the grassroots", one of the guides of the tour disclosed.

Asked whether the roles of the liaison persons would not clash with the local councils' authorities', he said: 'No. There duties are clearly defined... Just for quicker and easier connection of government to the grassroots."

If there is one clear message the short stopover at some ongoing projects in Akwa Ibom communicated, it is that Pastor Eno's administration places premium on the people in the grassroots; creating employments on non-white collar enterprises; and doing things with a good sense of beauty. Somehow, all the visited project sites also exhibit commendable aesthetic thrills.

The state capital is also a big thriller, in night and day times. From the central roundabout area where a beautifully aging Qua Iboe church with its oxide red gothic towers through the expansive, endless Ewet Housing Estate through the capital city open fields and trees seductively dot the landscape. 

The streets are even as occasionally, one encounters rowdy tricycles, the traffic is clement and one can feel the bustling of people in the streets not noise and ruffling. 

Some kilometers south of Uyo, one encounters the arguably, out-of-the-world Ibom Hotel and Resort where palms and a variety of species of grasses seduce one to wish he could walk, barefoot or recoil to a soothing shed and savour the aroma of fresh flowers.

Uyo entices. 

A native whispered that a short distance from the Ibom Hotel and Resort golf course one can hop into a boat and find himself in Calabar within minutes. One was almost lured to try.

At the Gala Night of the 19th All Nigerian Editors Convention (ANEC) where the Eze Anaba-led NGE marked the investiture of 15 new fellows of the body, in Government House, Uyo, where Gov. Eno while commending the body and her fellowship hinted that his state is a land of hospitable, happy people all hour. He noted the remarkable cuisine of his people "with over 42 kinds of soup" and their characteristic joyful night life. 

Visiting a place like Maitama in Ewet Housing at night shows how lively Uyo can be any night, even on weekdays. However, the real thrill is in experiencing the Friday nights' 'Happy Hour,' which anyone who tastes would conclude that Uyo is a paradise of joy.

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