– Samuel Ayara
When Garry Wills in a New York Times article of April 26, 2018 titled “the pious Presidency of Jimmy Carter”, arrived the news stands, it meant not much to Nigerians and perhaps a greater stretch of the black race. This could have unarguably been due to our disfavourable disposition to the virtue of piousness; especially when such devotion is to humanity; away from religion, politics, and tribe.
With Carter’s pious drift comes a mixed perception of his presidency, which some people thought a successful spell because of his strides at increasing human and social services through the creation of the department of education, bolstering the social security system and appointing a record number of women, Blacks and Hispanics to government jobs. These much did not mean much to those who thought it an abysmal Presidency for his refusal to play by the rules of Washington, which contributed to his administration’s frosty relationship with Congress and the prolonged Iranian hostage crisis.
Between plausible social policies and political correctness, the former did its best at saving the day, while the latter pulled the rug off his feat as he lost the 1980 second term ballot to Ronald Reagan. The humane Carter in seeking to challenge the status quo pursued values Americans today would prefer to political correctness, which has become a convenient conversation to patronize rather than getting it right with the people and social policies. Carter, after all, must have found deeper conviction in pursuing ideologies that served more interests than the establishment’s.
Our societal make up would readily throw up more opponents of the Carter style leadership, especially among the elites, where political correctness is famed, but in Governor Umo Eno’s Akwa Ibom, the establishment and people seem to have found a meeting point as paradigms that could serve people from various social construct are engaged at the same time. This palpable sentiment signposts a new reality that humanity can have its day without distorting the rhythms from the boosha’s party. In a little above two months, we have come to terms with the new normal where a government, rather than build high walls, has preferred longer tables.
From workable alternatives, Governor Umo Eno, in the creation of the Ministries of Internal Security; Water Resources and Sanitation and merging Agriculture with Rural Development is pointing to how sustainability could be achieved from already existing templates. Development scholars would understand the value of coordinate and overarching functions in public service assignments and effortlessly pursue same, to achieve optimal productivity.
In taking over a state famed as one of Nigeria’s most peaceful, sustaining the peace could not have come second to any other consideration. More than a few indices of development in the administration’s ARISE Agenda would do better if the people and their investments are secured. The Water Resources and Sanitation ministry is already answering the many questions climate change and uninformed human activities have caused water potability and availabilty, while the merger of the agriculture ministry with rural development points to the administration’s commitment to ticking the right boxes in time.
Looking away from humanity in pursuit of bureaucracy, regardless of how well intended could court any government the most of terrible perceptions. But this disbalance more often come as a spill than intended; of a truth, there are not many leaders that would not want the best for their people. Blame it on the evil spirits around public office as Reuben Abati would, I am twice convinced that the comfort and toga of office can, in many counts, block a man’s sensitivity to the outside world.
Never has reducing Akwa Ibom to a single constituency felt more promising than in the Umo Eno era. If he is not inspecting a farm at one point, he is seen breathing life on schools and healthcare facilities at another point; and in getting engrossed in all these, projects initiated before his administration and those he started do not lack required prioritization. Every sector appears to be getting a fair smile of the ARISE Agenda, simply because there is a man who understands the essence of time and results.
The many that have found the privilege of experiencing the vast beauty and serenity as well as the comfort that serenades the Barracks Road end, even at the gate would better understand why leaders who forget the trenches should be excused. It takes more than a passing discipline for a man isolated to such grandeur to remember his way back to the noisome and chaotic trenches, at least when it is not yet few months to the next election.
But how is Governor Umo Eno so different as to breaking out of such grandeur to spending more time on the street? He must have been the Nigerian described in the penultimate lines of the first stanza of the NYSC anthem “under the sun and in the rain, with dedication and selflessness…”. Any element of the weather for Akwa Ibom’s fifth elected governor is as good as the other; when the street calls, neither the rains in its wildest torrent nor the sun in its scorging glory got a thing on him. Service as a full-time job has got a hold on him.
The widely held belief that a friend in government is a friend lost does not resonate with the Nsit Ubium born entrepreneur, who is not only making new friends, but keeping up with those he made before the fortunes of the Hilltop mansion smiled at him. Without necessarily allowing these relationships to influence his decisions and conduct, Governor Eno comes to the party, prioritizing humanity, which is aptly expressed in his outward dispositions to even strangers, regardless of class. He calls out, reaches out and steps out, whenever humanity calls, and in so doing, has touched the hitherto unreached in such a short period. In seeking a hand of friendship with all and sundry, the Governor knows now as much as he long did, that there is never a friend like an old friend
Leaving imprints that are both sustainable and pass for legacies in every community he sets foot on since May 29, 2023, is a hallmark that defines the Golden era. Not given to loud accolades, but doing his most to achieve the best in virtually all his choices clearly explain the unmistakable support the government is enjoying even from previously hostile communities. In winning the war and keeping afloat with the battle, it is unassailable that all of bureaucracy, political correctness, and humanity have gotten deserved attention with the ARISE Agenda.
Samuel Ayara writes from Ibong Otoro in Abak LGA.