A few days ago, Umo Eno clocked one hundred days in office as the governor of Akwa Ibom State.
Eno, a businessman and pastor, was sworn into office as the successor to former governor Udom Emmanue.
Looking back thereafter, it appears that it has been a mixed record of much expectations but little or nothing really substantial to cheer about.
Observers have advised him to increase the tempo of his governance in the overall interest of the state.
As the adage goes that “to whom much is given much is also expected,” the people of Akwa Ibom State gave Umo Eno overwhelming votes in the governorship election held in March this year.
Umo Eno had served as a member of the State Executive Council where he was the commissioner for Lands and Water Resources. It was widely expected that he had clearly understood the rudiments of governance as well as had a full grasp of the needs and aspirations of the people.
It was also believed that he must have learnt a lot about the pressing issues of governance in the state. Indeed, much was expected from him having been a member of the state executive council.
To his supporters and fans, Umo Eno has scored many firsts in his first 100 days in office. For one, he has been able to “connect with the ordinary people on the streets of the state easily,’’ and dared to tread where others had failed.
They say he has visited almost all the senatorial districts of the state where he has gone either to attend a burial of a prominent personality, attend the wedding of a top politician’s son or daughter or has attended a religious event.
They have also praised him to the high heavens for leaving the comfort of his office to tour some projects and institutions in the state including the visit to the Ibibio state museum, a visit to the state university at Ikot Akpaden and also visiting the newly established Federal University of Technology, Ikot Abasi. According to his supporters, it is unprecedented for the governor to have visited the state university when there was no convocation ceremony. It was a big thumbs-up for the ‘golden’ governor.
Umo Eno has also announced the rehabilitation of some urban roads across the three senatorial districts of the state and promised the rehabilitation of schools and health centres in some parts of the state.
He may have warmed many hearts when as a governor elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) he was among the first batch of politicians from the state to have visited Godswill Akpabio when he was elected the president of the senate. It was a move that got many thinking about his commitment to cement the bond of unity among people of different political persuasion in the state.
It is to his credit that he has organised an economic summit and the Akwa Ibom dialogue to throw up an economic agenda for the state though many have also felt that it was a jamboree that would not be different from past economic summits and gatherings.
For his critics, Eno has left the tangible issues untouched by pursuing populist agenda, preferring to pose before television cameras and reporters to reel out promises without addressing the major challenges confronting the state.
They say he has yet to confront the rising unemployment among the youth in the state. Recently, thousands of youths stormed Uyo, the state capital, taking almost everyone by surprise as they demanded that the state government should bring about transparency in the management of the derivation fund.
It took a reinforcement of the joint task force of the military, police and other security forces to disperse the youth who had also demanded job opportunities from the state government as they marched to the governor’s office.
Though the state government has repeatedly denied the report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) that Akwa Ibom State has the second highest unemployment rate in the country, the reality appears to be the case.
Early this year, the state government declared vacancies for recruitment into the state civil service, the first in eight years and it left a sour taste in the mouth as it was done discreetly. Only those who got recommendations from highly connected individuals were employed. Many had expected Umo Eno to revisit the employment exercise carried out in the dying days of the last administration but he has yet to make any categorical statement on it.
According to his critics, Governor Eno has yet to fully come to grasp with the real economic issues. He has yet to unveil his plans for the Ibom deep seaport which has been described as a game changer to the state’s economy. Furthermore, he has yet to give an insight into how he hopes to ensure the actualisation of the Ibom industry city project, a mega project needed to turn the state into an industrial hub.
With Godswill Akpabio as the President of the Senate, the Ibom deep sea project should be driven to another stage of completion given that it was Akpabio who brought the project to a national limelight when he organised a road show of the project in London having also performed its groundbreaking.
Some critics have also advised that the governor must not be chasing shadows, and that it is the projects that are needed to turn the fortunes of the state around and not his populist frenzy.
The governor seems to have unwittingly underscored the enormous task ahead of him when he addressed the caucus of the PDP in Uyo recently as part of activities to mark his first 100 days in office.
“As Governor, I was voted in by Akwa Ibom people to work with them so as to achieve the collective aspirations of development that we have as people,’’ he was quoted as saying.
But sadly, the Governor’s approach to development seems to centre around the intangible gains of stopping at road junctions to do a handout to hawkers. He seems to have no clear-cut direction on how to pursue a long term economic agenda.
“Against conventional wisdom, I have stopped by at various roadside shops as I traverse the length and crannies of this state, and have patronised roadside vendors, empowered them with seed funds to expand their trade. I will continue to do so, because if I could overcome adversities to fulfil God’s plans in my life, others too can,” he said in his speech to mark his first 100 days in office.
Indeed, the governor seems to have the belief that by stopping and donating money to roadside vendors and hawkers, he was doing the right kind of empowerment or it was an economic policy that will lift thousands of people out of poverty.
The immediate past administration may have laid the foundation in a way. Former Governor Udom Emmanuel got the Ibom Airline to a good start; he undertook the construction of major highways across the state. Udom also recorded significant strides in attracting factories to the state.
“Umo Eno needs to have a long term view of the development agenda of the state rather than running around attending burials, weddings and going to different churches every other Sunday,” his critics say.
Some observers told BusinessDay that it would seem that Governor Umo Eno’s first 100 days in office was a case of a motion without movement.
Born in 1964, he was educated at the University of Uyo and had served as the chairman of the state tourism board before his appointment into the state executive council. He is the founder of the All Nations Christian Ministry International.