Akwa Ibom State was known as a civil service state. A toga she wore with dignity for nearly 30 years until the advent of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
That description seemed fitting for one reason, the near or total absence of industries and the production sector in the economic structure of the State. With the exception of the revamp of the Champion Brewery by Obong Victor Attah, the state recorded zero investment in factories.
Industrialization has copiously manifested as a priority sector in the development matrix of Mr Emmanuel, not only because it is one of the major planks of his eight-point completion agenda but it has so far remained a recurring decimal in the christening of the state's budgets.
Presenting his 2019 budget aptly christened, Budget of Industrialization for Poverty Alleviation predicated on the policy thrust to gradually transform Akwa Ibom from a "civil service state to a largely private sector-driven state, depending less on statutory allocation as its main source of revenue, , Governor Udom Emmanuel set out on an ambitious mission to change the fortunes of his people.
Earlier on, he set up the foreign direct investment (FDI) as a full-fledged department of government indicating his determination to pursue his industrialization agenda with the FDI as the focal point.
Building on the 2019 budget, that of the current fiscal year (2020) is christened, "Budget of Industrialization for Poverty Alleviation phase II.
While presenting the 2020 budget on the floor of the House on October 8, 2019, Governor Emmanuel had said unequivocally that his vision was to build an industrialized state away from the civil service mono-economy, targeting job creation, wealth creation and poverty alleviation.
Specifically emphasizing his Completion Agenda, Governor Emmanuel while presenting the 2020 budget on October 8, 2019, said, "in the next four years, my administration will intensify efforts and focus in providing a high performance in the industrialization goals we had started in my first term in office.
Explaining further, the governor added that, "We hope to make Akwa Ibom State an industrial hub in our country. In this regard, more energy and vigour will be given to small and medium enterprises to act as drivers of our viable economy. We will make sure that adequate and sufficient modern infrastructural facilities are provided which are quite necessary for effective and efficient industrialization.
He had his blueprint and road map for accomplishing the lofty goal of industrialization. According to the governor, "This will be achieved by creating more job opportunities through opening up the state to encourage private investments, creating a welcoming environment for investors, strengthening existing industries and establishing new ones, as well as improving our IGR processes and drive. It is expected that these, as well as the provision of basic infrastructures enhancement of security, development of human capital and boosting services in education and health care, will lead to an overall improvement in the living standard of our people.
The fruits are obvious in spite of the monumental challenges of the economic downturn and capital flight from Nigeria spanning from 2015, when he began his first term in office.
Presenting his scorecard while reviewing the performance of his 2018 budget, Governor Emmanuel announced the breakthrough of his aggressive industrialization drive, stating that:
The syringe manufacturing factory (the largest in Africa); the pencil and toothpick factories, and; the electric digital metering solutions manufacturing factory are in full operations.
Citing also the resuscitation of Peacock Paint Industry; 153+ mw Ibom Power Plant and three sub-stations, leading to steady electricity supply in our major cities and other parts of the state.
"Work is ongoing at the flour mills and coconut refinery. (The flour mills had since been commissioned and commenced production).
"Plastic manufacturing factory has been commissioned which is located within the premises of the also recently commissioned AKEES Mini-Industrial Park.
"The fertilizer blending factory has been commissioned and in full production.
The cynical opposition have refused to acknowledge these giant strides for one or some of these reasons.
Either they are afraid that admitting the achievements and commending Governor Emmanuel will have them eat their lies and propaganda of non-performance levied against the governor, or, since a previous promise of 31 industries in the 31 local government areas turned out to be a mirage, they think it would only take a miracle to have an industry in Akwa Ibom and Governor Emmanuel shouldn't receive the accolades of a jinx breaker.
Albeit, as a sojourner who has spent well over three decades in Akwa Ibom State, I can profess without fear of contradiction that Governor Udom Emmanuel is turning that unfortunate past into a future of good fortune and prosperity for his people.
To achieve the ongoing industrialization master plan for the state, Emmanuel must be commended for pursuing, a deliberate policy of the public private partnership investment strategy. This has paid off in other critical sub-sectors of the economy including aviation, agriculture, culture and tourism as well as infrastructural development.
There is no gainsaying that these sectors complement and consolidate the gains of industrialization, even as they will open up the economy, create enormous hopes and opportunities for the working population of the state in the long term.
Interestingly, Governor Emmanuel's hint that his administration may complete the Ibom Tropicana and Entertainment Galleria left unfinished by his predecessor is finally showing glimpses of promise as the shopping mall is almost ready.
He had promised that government will embark on "expansion work at Ibom Five-star Hotel and Golf Resort and completion of a multi-million naira Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre complete with cineplex, galleria, malls, dry and wet parks, hotels and convention centre, in collaboration with private investors to take up the running of these facilities.
A recent visit to the Ibom Tropicana allays all fears that this was mere political rhetorics, the multi billion naira hitherto nearly abandoned complex is wearing a new look as it is currently being redeveloped through a public-private partnership (PPP) between the Akwa Ibom Government and the major investor, Median Infrastructure Company Development Ltd, to make it generate expected earnings to the state and other investors.
It can be safely said that, by the end of his tenure in 2023, Akwa Ibom State would have two industrial areas namely: the Onna Industrial Layout and the Industrial Park at Uyo, with viable industries as a credible legacies of the Udom Emmanuel Administration.