AKWA IBOM NOW, TOMORROW AND THE FACTORS THEREOF (Part 1)

AKWA IBOM NOW, TOMORROW AND THE FACTORS THEREOF (Part 1)

Etokowo Owoh

Albert Einstein, one of the world’s greatest minds of the last century said that some of the things counted do not count; while the things not counted, do count. Philosophies like this look simple, but behind this seeming simplicity is embedded hard facts.

Ideas that change societies are usually seemingly simple, so simple that they are often taken for granted. For instance, we have grown up to relish in the illusion that Nigeria is the giant of Africa, the most populous black nation in the world, the sixth largest producer of the black gold, and a stupendously endowed nation compared to any of its peers. Over the years, particularly from the advent of democracy in 1999, and given this notion of wealth, we have tended to see the rest of the world, particularly fellow African countries, as continental underdogs. When the World Bank says that four of the fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa – Cote d’voire, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Rwanda – we take it as one of those terse talks signifying nothing. How can Nigeria not be included? We ask and delude ourselves with answers that see such claims as neo-colonial hatred.

In the same vein, a few years back, we used to look down on, or rub shoulders with, economies such as India, China, UAE, Singapore. Today, they have turned the Mecca we visit for economic redemption. We have hardly stopped to ask the simple question: what did these nations do to overcome underdevelopment in so short a time? Well, what they did bother more on the ideas I derived from two great books authored by Stafford Beer, a Professor of Operational Research and Management Cybernetics at Manchester Business School, namely The Brain of the Firm and The heart of the Enterprise. The analogy I drew from these books have social economic implications that pertain to Akwa Ibom State. They led me to understand why people grow and develop at different pace even when they have equal resource endowments. A peoples’ development will continue to be stymied until available resources meet with resourceful, innovative and inventive brains that are ready to challenge current development methodologies to birth change. It will continue to totter if the minds that constitute the leadership are not altruistic enough to bluff pecuniary personal benefits in place of the common good.

To appreciate this discourse, let us consider some of the things that constitute negative gravitational pull on Akwa Ibom development and how our minds and hearts (particularly those of our leaders) have conspired to perpetuate poverty and underdevelopment in our socio-economic system. This is not to say that current and past leaders did not (or are not) trying their best. No, it is not a critique of style or format of past and current leadership and followership. Rather, it represents an expose, a treatise, on how we can change the development paradigm and embrace an out-of-the-box approach that should change the trajectory of our development experience. A paradigm of development that is inclusive, sectorally seamlessly connected and balanced thoughtfully with our resource endowments and the econometrics of distributing same amongst competing needs. This of course should include the graft indices our system can tolerate since our people have sworn not to leave their sticky fingers at home when coming into governance and the laws have refused to be efficiently run to deal with such. It is only then that this State will sincerely tackle our underdevelopment, transform the economy and consequently improve on the indices that go to enhance the material well-being of our people across all socio-economic demographics.

We must understand this perspective because economics has long improved on its econometric modelling to include social economics factors that form the matrix of genuine change we all crave for. According to James Woodruff social economics is a “specialized branch of economics that concerns itself with studying the intimate relationship between economics and social behaviour”. In which case, things like ethics, social norms, and different social philosophies have profound impact on peoples’ behaviour. In other words, the ultimate shape that an economy, any economy, takes is predicated on the behaviour of the human elements that manage the economy and the followership within a social system.

Following from Woodruff’s broader perspective to economic development, we proceed to identify key counterproductive phenomena that impede Akwa Ibom State’s economic growth and development from 1999 till date. Phenomena we must frontally redress if we truly desire a better Akwa Ibom tomorrow. Otherwise, we will continue to soak in political rhetoric and propaganda that are not in sync with the development that is commensurate with our resource status. Our virtual static development status, twelve years down the line, is self-induced, a malady and dysfunctional nexus between the huge resources we monthly receive since the institutionalization of 13 percent derivation and compared to other states of the federation with larger land mass, worse development terrain and larger population. We cannot sincerely justify the appellations of the State with one of the highest unemployment rates, the poverty capital of the south, one with very poor performance at public examinations, a Keke/motor cycle transport economy, a consuming (as against producing) State, a State where only one sector – the civil service – has voice in development planning and implementation, etc.

This is not an assessment of any governor, it is not an assessment of any era. If it were so, we would definitely point to some achievements of each governor, era or government. It is rather a clarion call to greater effort at changing the State’s development skyline without indicting any particular person, party or group. We do not want to colour truth with partisan proclivities.

For about twelve years running (1999 to 2019), we have remained with the appellation of “Civil Service State” without the creation of a workable template to exit the stranglehold of civil service aristocracy, a template to diversify and modernize our economy despite our incredible resource endowments. Akwa Ibom people could be ranked first amongst states with the fastest growth of churches and church denominations yet we are still held down by superstition and fetishism so much so that virtually every natural and scientific phenomenon is put at the doorsteps of superstitious, sorcery (in the name of revelation – nkukit), and fetish manipulations. No modernized economy lives on superstitions, at least not to the magnitude we have emblematized ourselves. It shows clearly how far behind we are in science and how the opium of religion has unique cancer cells around our brains.

Akwa Ibom State is a good example of a place with decayed moral values. We have the penchant to flout laws, particularly the elites who are ensconced with the arcane illusion of being untouchable. We are ethically barren, living in the primitive twilight of ’anything goes so long as we can make money’. These debased ethical and moral standards affect the way we see our fellow brothers and the total lack of compunction in the conduct of business, even pricing and adulteration, and under-measurement of goods and services in our daily transactions. Sadly, this attitude also defines the way we work in government as public servants, it affects the way we operate in political arena and showcases us as a people lacking in altruism – the philosophy of seeing government and governance as a means for driving the collective good as against the proclivity to satisfy our individual lusts. This attitude also manifest, in no small measure, in our leadership traits such that despite our small and compactness as a state, despite our unique ethnic homogeneity we find ways to divide in order to create personal cleavages but garbed in socio-cultural preservation.

When people say that Akwa Ibom people are not educated, it is not in the sense of the number of those who have traversed all layers of the academic strata, it is in the quality defined here as the level of world view embraced by the educated and how much of it is carried to the work place and political field. The narrow world view epithet embroiders our development path so much so that till date even the most basic thing as potable water is not available for households to benefit resulting in children and adults roaming from one house to the other seeking to buy water from impure boreholes dug by individuals. It drives us to engage in mind boggling corruption and our inability to deploy such ill-gotten wealth to investments that would generate further wealth for the corrupt and the overall economy. Instead one sees over-sized houses lining urban streets announcing our opulence but without secondary commercial value.

Akwa Ibom is in dire want of leadership, leaders of the Udoakaha Esuene, Clement Isong and Obong Attah texture. What defines our leaderships today are greed, selfishness, haughtiness, nepotism, tribalism, etc. We lack leaders with high content of altruism and consummate worry for the poor. Our leaders chide those who due to skewed development policies have been left out of the economic circle. Instead we drive them to go and look for opportunities the privileged few have warehoused for their kith and kin. Our leaders neither have economic blueprints nor defined development benchmarks for significant transformation. They simply slide alone familiar development curves without innovative thinking that would reduce incidence of poverty in our system. They do not have a single social safety net to cushion the effects of the excruciating unemployment and poverty that have raved the system.

If we have dwelt too long on our challenges, it is to challenge us all to the tasks ahead. It is to show that the burden we carry is much. Forget about the illusion of wealth and leverage properly on why we are crawling instead of running in an age of technology.

The second segment of the challenge is where we need to start to clear the underdevelopment debris we have deliberately wrought on ourselves. The Ibibio proverb says that “Ke iyak otongo ke iwod abiara”. That bad leadership is not just among Akwa Ibom State’s problems, but the epitome of every development difficulty we are having. The question is what type of leaders do we need going forward? What should be their qualification, experience, attitude and character? We ask this question because soon we are going to see every Tom, Dick, and Harry flaunting money in preparation to run for governorship. And because of our greed, we will, like the giraffe, stretch necks to collect as much as we can, forgetting that we are again, like Esau, selling our birth right, the right to scream when things go wrong?

To be contd..

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