My wife, Her Excellency, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel and I heartily share the joy of Christmas and the hope of a prosperous New Year with all Akwa Ibomites at home and in the Diaspora as well as residents of our State.
In celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ; arguably the most significant event in the history of the world, we should not lose sight of its profound and important lessons. The Bible says “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…” So even from the cradle, the Son of God was a gift to mankind. A wonderful gift, given to us as a token of His everlasting love and tender mercies.
Because He was a gift of love to mankind, the angels declared to the shepherds on that blessed night that peace and goodwill shall henceforth be the lot of mankind. As God showed us love, let us also show love; not only to our family members and friends, but also to our neighbours, the needy, the widows, the handicapped, etc. It is in doing this that you will fulfil the essence and reason for this season.
I am happy that we have domesticated Christmas with our Carol Night which has become a global Christmas festival. We acknowledge with pride that our Carol Night has recorded great feats over the years. But let us not forget that the record would only serve as a useless piece of statistics if we do not support it with another record of being the most united, loving and Christ-like people in our nation. That record would remain a piece of junk data if we sing joyously with our mouths but our hearts are darkened with prejudice and anger towards one another. That record would remain a blemish on us if we only sing together, without walking together. We must remember that what brought down the walls of Jericho was not only that the children of Israel sang. It was while they sang and walked together that the walls fell down flat.
Let us continue to walk together, hand in hand, and allow the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln ring true that even though we may have political differences, even though we may see things through different prisms, we should show “malice toward none, with charity for all”.
Our Administration, is uncompromisingly committed to fostering unity and love in this blessed State. Part of my Five Point governing agenda was political inclusion. We are irrevocably committed to ensuring that we live together in spite of our political differences. We should not destroy the fabric of our society or sell ourselves short in the market place of politics simply because we belong to different camps.
I have always said that I am not against constructive criticism. It is a desirable ingredient in any democratic culture, but such criticism should not be coloured by mischief, malice and hatred. I charge our people to use this season of good will, to commit themselves to politics of ideas, of inclusion and eschew divisive tendencies. Let us commit ourselves to telling a different story in 2018- a story of love and unity that reflects our collective essence as co-owners of this wonderful State.
The theme of the Carol Night was “Emmanuel, God is with us”. We affirm that God has been with us and will continue to be with us. Through His benevolence and love we have done great things for our people in the past years in spite of the challenging economic times and would do even more in 2018 and beyond.
While some States had to officially beg their workers that their back log of salaries will be paid from March 2018, we have paid salaries of our workers as at when due. To ensure that you have a merry Christmas, public servants in the State received their December salaries on the 20th day of December before the Christmas holidays. In addition, we have been paying the pensions and gratuities of our retired workers on a continuous basis. Two weeks ago, the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, held a thanksgiving event where they honored me for paying their pensions and gratuities on time.
That God is with us, is evidenced in the success recorded in a free, transparent and fair Local Government Council elections that have just concluded. It has been endorsed and celebrated, by among others, the Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC) and the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP).
In 2017, as I promised in my last Christmas Broadcast, we commissioned Africa’s largest syringe manufacturing company and a metering solutions company to address the problems associated with estimated billing by DISCOS. We established the pencil and tooth pick manufacturing company. The flour mill and the coconut refinery are in the offing. We are in the process of setting up a plastic manufacturing company which will be commissioned in May 2018. We also attracted the second largest volume of Foreign Direct Investments in Nigeria over the last 18-months. This feat was brought to public attention by the National Bureau of Statistics.
It is noteworthy that even the Federal Government had to celebrate and take notice of our performance. In the MID TERM REPORT, published by the Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, 32 pages were devoted to the achievements of my administration. They celebrated our Administration for impacting and touching lives and told the world the Great things that God has done for our State and people. Indeed, it is rare in this part the globe to have such cross Party commendation, celebration and praise for a Governor who belongs to an opposing political party.
Fellow Akwa Ibomites, we have sustained our free and compulsory basic education in public schools inspite of the challenging economic times the nation is experiencing. Currently we spend over N600m annually on WAEC fees for indigenes. We have done this, because we believe that though our children do not have equal talent, they should have an equal opportunity to develop their talents.
We have improved our health care delivery by constructing and refurbishing major secondary health care facilities across the State as well as the importation of 25 containers of the state-of-the art health care equipment, including 2 sophisticated ambulance vehicles complete with intensive care facilities which are comparable to the very best in the world.
Our people now enjoy an average of 18 hours of electricity supply in most parts of our State. This, has been made possible through our investment in the power sector, building and commissioning of new power sub-stations. For this we give God the glory.
Through His grace, we have diversified our economy from over-dependence on oil to agriculture, industrialization and tourism. Akwa Ibom State is fast becoming the destination of choice for tourists.
In line with our campaign promises, we have turned our landscape into a construction site leading to the construction of over 1,202 kilometers of economically viable roads with 30 standard bridges that link and connect the economic nerve centres of State. Through His grace, the flooding at Nsikak Eduok Avenue in Uyo has been addressed and several other threats from gully erosion has been contained. We believe that good infrastructural facilities are the drivers of modern economies.
Our youths have been motivated through the Dakkada philosophy to use their God given endowments to work and create wealth for themselves. Happily they have heeded the clarion call. Last week, I heard of a young woman who after graduating from the University heeded to the Dakkada call. She started packaging fresh coconut in nicely packed containers and selling them in supermarkets and offices. She has been making huge sales and her business is expanding. The money she makes today is by far more than she would have made if she had regular employment. I have directed AKEES to partner with creative upcoming entrepreneurs like this young woman who calls her company Flourish Coconut. We urge more youths to respond to our clarion call to Dakkada and claim the faith of greatness.
Let me commend my wife, Her Excellency, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel whose signature project, Family Empowerment and Youth Re-orientation Program (FEYReP), have built and donated houses to widows among other life-touching projects.
We praise God for giving us the peace and freedom which has enabled us to pursue our legitimate undertakings. The World Bank Country Director, Rachid Bennasouad recently told the world that Akwa Ibom is the best place to do business.
Let me use this opportunity to place on record that Akwa Ibom State is the only State in Nigeria to own, manage and maintain an airport independently of international standard. Construction work on the 2nd runway at the Akwa Ibom airport in Uyo is at advanced stage and we have upgraded our main runway to a category 2 runway to enhance accessibility. Similarly, our age-long quest to encourage international oil companies to relocate their head offices to Akwa Ibom has shifted into another gear, with the commencement of construction work on a 21 storey smart office complex on the site of the old Uyo market. This will provide ready-to-use state-of-the art office facilities for prospective occupants.
Let me conclude by assuring our people that though the tidal waves of our economic growth may be rising and falling, though the road to our national development may be strewn with thorns and spikes, the Akwa Ibom Spirit will continue to rise and soar, because Emmanuel, God is with us and will continue to be with us.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in advance!
Akwa Ibom edakkeda, ami me Dakkanda.