– Samuel Ayara
The Nigerian election season is no time the visually impaired cannot tell. From slum visits even at odd hours to emergency philanthropic gestures, the atmosphere is never bereft of positive charges and eye-catching activities. They call it campaigns which can passively be described as the period the people are tricked into believing what they love to see is possible. All of these soon after the ballots are cast become history as new orders swing in; they call it time for governance! These experiences may have informed Lybra, the Akwa Ibom born music star’s choice of praying joy for the street in his “Akamba” hit song.
Immediately after inauguration, officeholders leave nothing to chance at getting people to realize it is time for serious business of leadership. People who have been around long enough can actively identify such times as moments humane displays of the campaigns are in gross short supply. It is always on the people to compensate for the insensitivity they are later dealt with as against the warmth, care and attention they got during the campaigns. Of a truth, the party had long ended, and the cake eaten; Nigerians are never tired of waiting for the next election, which has always been when the next cake is expected.
This cycle has remained our sore reality, so much that an attempt at reversal screams more strange rhetoric than average minds can deal. There were not many rapt listeners to Pastor Umo Eno’s inaugural speech that never felt we were back to the times of government, when the people are abandoned; especially when he thundered “let nobody test our resolve”. Hot air serenaded the ambience as he furthered with emphasis of coming to the Hilltop Mansion with plans he hopes to independently execute regardless of which direction public opinion sways. Government has started, people muttered to one another; certain that the cycle has come upon us.
How wrong we were, in a matter of days an unexpected scenario stared at us and has since been hitting in awful torrents; the people could sure have thought the possibility of getting a mixed grill of serious governance and pro people gestures only existed in Disneyland. Beginning with the first row of appointments where he showed he had arrived with rolled-up sleeves, the people barely believed their eyes seeing the governor return to his campaign apparel when he stopped over to interact and share happy hour with Itreto junction traders in Nsit Ubium.
In balancing governance with humane gestures; as with the warning to owners of illegal structures on the right of way of the Oron road expansion, to the “you know, I know” remark at the unscheduled visit to the Ibom Greenhouse facility as well as the riot act to handlers of the Dakkada estate, the governor whose preparation for governance has not on any front been doubted never ceases to strike the amazement that governance can have everything in one plate. President Bola Tinubu must have looped his “let the poor breathe” narrative from a mind like Umo Eno’s.
Assuming the interaction with Itreto junction traders where he affirmed that his government would be big on support for small-scale businesses was considered an early stunt, what then would subsequent episodes of this same interaction and support to traders at the Airport junction and Mayflower stretch of Ewet housing estate amount to? Last week’s flag-off of Ndiya Street construction to enhance accessibility to the Akpan Andem market and moves to rid the state capital of the menace of street trading are clear pointers to the fact that Akwa Ibom has evolved to an era the much anticipated international market can be possible. This readily passes Governor Umo Eno for a leader fixated on providing solutions.
With delivering on the ARISE Agenda not lost on his humane dispositions, refreshing our minds that the governor more than any other achievements of his, famed being a trader at most fora he engaged the people would do a world of good. Whether he was consulting with professional groups or artisans or traders at the Itam market, he felt more at home introducing himself as one who serves rice and stew, coke and fanta than a household name in hospitality and oil and gas turf. This for a campaign was strategic, but finding expression in his gubernatorial deliveries has been phenomenal.
Governor Umo Eno must have long internalized the conviction that how we treat people that cannot reward our kindness says a lot about our values, when the internet almost broke from criticism for his holding out a bowl to serve a group of people living with disabilities who paid him a visit in the build up to the gubernatorial elections. If both the internet and posterity never forget, then the governor’s recent 100 million Naira intervention fund instituted for physically challenged students in addition to the first of its kind appointment of Ubong Ikpe as Special Assistant on physically challenged students, after years of agitation from this demographic have already etched his name in hearts, as a leader that truly cares.
He sure meant well when he promised there will be happy hour and has been intentional at bringing this promise to pass. With Governor Eno in the saddle, Akwa Ibom people are beginning to trust that a leader can act exactly his words. The widely held apprehension since this wonder of public administration arrived Wellington Bassey Way end has been how long this will continue. But for a man gifted with beginning and sustaining bright and productive ideas, it seems like the worry should rather switch to how prepared the people are, for the much he has in store.
More pulsating has been the sustained effort at carrying everyone along, regardless of political or social persuasion. This bipartisan approach to governance is both novel and interesting, as Governor Umo Eno at every twist is working to assert himself a Governor for all. Just like the privileged few; the street, socially and economically vulnerable lot no longer have to wait for the next election to feel the governor they elected. This in ways than few has checked Akwa Ibom’s fifth democratically elected governor into the hall of fame of leaders committed to the next generation than next election.
Samuel Ayara writes from Ibong Otoro in Abak LGA