Every leader worth their name speaks the truth and stands on the side of truth whether they stand alone or not.
Most leadership-followership misunderstandings stem from breach in communication. Where communication is not the issue, understanding what exactly the position of the leader on a matter is, can be the issue. Sometimes, followers deliberately want to hold on to the opinions they formed on a matter thereby making it difficult to make progress.
As one vested with the mandate of Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District, I have at all times ensured I communicate adequately with our people on whatever issue that is necessary to be brought to their attention. I have adopted various methods to reach out to our people on several issues. My approach per time has always largely been predicated on the peculiarity of each case.
A few specific issues having to do exclusively with the Oro Nation have in the past one and a half years been given very prompt and proactive responses without leaving our people in the dark at any point in time.
Barely two months into office, I undertook the training of our youths. This was not a hidden thing. I consulted widely before the beneficiaries were selected. That has been the practice up until the last training I sponsored for our youths on Solar Panel Installation, Maintenance and Repairs last month.
A few contentious issues that cropped up within the period under review, have also been treated transparently without leaving any individual, group or section of the Oro society in any doubt as to my response, action or position. A few instances will suffice:
- The Oro Youths’ Protest against the non inclusion of Oro as Host Community to ExxonMobil and the non recognition of Oro as oil bearing and producing community by the Akwa Ibom State Government.
Myself and a few Oro sons and daughter risked the odds to step out to the Oro Civic Centre against security advice to address the angry youths.
Amidst unfavourable comments at my person by the angry youths, I appealed for calm and for a little time to take their demands to the authorities. The youths reluctantly granted my request but vowed to hold me and my family responsible if their demands were not met by the authorities.
For the first time in the history of oil politics in Oro Nation, I convened an enlarged stakeholders’ meeting at my Uyo residence where all segments of the Oro society were represented. That Assembly of Oro people set up a committee to articulate Oro’s position on the matter. That was done and I added to it a covering letter and forwarded to our Governor, HE Deacon Udom Emmanuel for action. The Governor in his usual fatherly disposition minuted the same to the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice for action. Our son, the Secretary to Government, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem was directed by the Governor to sit with the Attorney General to sort the matter.
I reported the above to Oro people at several fora and on many occasions one of which was during the Town Hall meeting I organised to brief Oro people at the Oro Civic Centre in October, 2020.
My appeal and prayer is that the relevant ministry, department or agency of Akwa Ibom State Government will expedite action in recognising the 5 Local Government Areas of Oro as Oil Bearing and Producing Communities as approved by the Governor, HE Deacon Udom Emmanuel.
- The Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron upgrade Bill.
In my characteristic method, I have adequately and transparently communicated every step I have so far taken with regards to that Bill to Oro people.
I had to cite the two instances above to buttress the fact that, I am not given to withholding any information from my constituents at any point in time and for whatever reason. I make sure every bit of information meant for our people is released appropriately and effectively at the right time. I therefore do not believe I deserve to be accused of hoarding any information on any issue from my constituents.
THE IBAKA DEEP SEAPORT STORY
The history of Ibaka Bay as Nigeria’s deepest natural port harbour predates Nigeria. During the colonial era, the British authorities commissioned a survey which unequivocally mentioned the ‘ORON WATERS’ as the place best suited for port location in the pre-Nigeria era.
In the eighties, when the Warri, Port Harcourt ports etc. were not living up to their billings, the Nigerian government commissioned a search for location for deep seaport. The report of that survey mentioned Ibaka Bay ahead of very few other locations like Lagos and Bayelsa.
Aware of these plethora of dispassionate technical reports in favour of Oron Waters (Ibaka Bay), Nigeria went ahead to site all existing seaports in the country away from Oron (Ibaka) without recourse to the technical reports.
To be very specific, the present Calabar port was meant to be sited at Ibaka. It happened that an Efik man by name Joseph Mkpang happened to be a big man in Nigerian Ports Authority at the time. He performed the Nigerian magic and hijacked the port to Calabar. Again, Ibaka lost another chance to host Nigeria’s Deep Seaport to parochialism against technical correctness.
Between 1960 when Nigeria had independence and the Obong Arc. Victor Attah’s administration which sited the Deep Seaport at Ibaka, Oro had numerous political leaders who were very powerful, influential and connected. These referenced leaders were equally very patriotic Oro people who loved Oro passionately and wished the best for Oro. However, despite their influence, connections, patriotism and passion, they could not succeed against the Nigerian doctrine of parochialism with regards to the siting of seaports in Nigeria hence, Ibaka could not be considered a choice for the location of a Deep Seaport in Nigeria. Would we be fair to qualify them as sellouts, unpatriotic, selfish, weak and compliant for their inability then, to twist the arms of the ‘establishment’ against depriving Ibaka Bay of the privilege to host Nigeria’s Deep Seaport?
In 1999, God sent a visionary, a wholesome human being and a detribalised Pan Akwa Ibom leader whose preoccupation was not sectional politics but, the execution of futuristic programmes and projects across Akwa Ibom State based on objective cum profound technical reports devoid of ethnic colouration or bias.
HE Obong Arc. Victor Attah’s administration in which I had the privilege to serve conceived three game-changing projects (Le Meridien Ibom Hotel & Golf Resort, Victor Attah International Airport and ‘IBAKA’ Deep Seaport). All feasibility and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports for the projects were approved by the then State Executive Council (SEC). The three projects were designed to be linked through properly aligned superhighways which designs were as well concluded by the Obong Arc. Victor Attah administration. One of the highways linked the Seaport at Ibaka through Oron to the Airport with a provision for an accompanying rail line.
For whatever intention, the Senator Godswill Akpabio administration in 2014 changed the name and location of the Seaport based on a certain report of a team of consultants engaged by that administration. The explanation given by the said consultants for the suggested relocation of the Seaport from Ibaka was that, Oron waters are filled with oil pipelines. According to them, it will be more cost effective to relocate the Seaport than relocate the oil pipelines. No mention was made of the draft of Ibaka Bay being shallower than any location around Akwa Ibom coastlines at that time (AKSG website www.aksg.gov.ng/ibaka-project, in 2014 reported a non-dredged draft of 13.5 meters for Ibaka Bay).
The highway designed by the Obong Arc. Victor Attah’s administration from the Seaport at Ibaka through Oron to link up the Airport was and remains the shortest and most cost effective. With respect to topography, it is the best route compared to any other contemplated route. Any other conceived or anticipated location and highway route would best satisfy political correctness if the preponderance of objective technical reports on the proposed Ibaka Deep Seaport project are anything to go by.
It is instructive to note at this point that, government being a continuum, the Deacon Udom Emmanuel administration inherited a distorted report (with alterations in name of the Seaport, site of the Seaport and access road to the Seaport) on the Seaport from the preceding administration.
Fueled by zeal and passion to take up the Seaport project, Governor Udom Emmanuel set up a ‘Technical Committee on Implementation and Realisation of the Seaport’. The terms of reference of the committee centred on the implementation of the Seaport based on the concluded designs which carried the location and phases of the project as received from the immediate past administration. It did not cover the review of the inherited report.
Between June, 2015 when Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem and my humble self were appointed into the committee and today, we have on several occasions, sufficiently stated openly, the true position of things with respect to the Seaport project to Oro people besides the briefing organised by the committee for host communities at Le Meridien Ibom Hotel & Golf Resort in 2017 which had in attendance, the then President General of Oron Union and other Oro people.
In 2019, Oron Union emergency meeting sought explanation from us (Dr. Ekuwem and I). Dr. Ekuwem briefed Oro people at the Civic Centre in response to that enquiry. I remember briefing Oro people on the Seaport matter during the campaigns for 2019 general elections. In 2017, at ODU annual event in the USA, I informed Oro people of the events surrounding the Seaport project. In the light of the above stated facts and, in my honest assessment, Dr. Ekuwem and I have kept Oro people sufficiently informed of happenings in the committee and about preparations towards the take off of the Seaport project.
ALLEGED PLAN TO GET ORO LEADERS TO SIGN DOCUMENTS FOR THE RELOCATION OF IBAKA DEEP SEAPORT
To my knowledge as a member of the Technical Committee, there has never been any deliberation let alone a resolution on such subject. The recent visit of the Technical Committee to Oro traditional rulers at the palace of the paramount ruler of Oron Local Government Area was to sensitise them on latest developments on the Seaport project.
The committee also had plans to further sensitise other sections of the Oro community subsequently. This was aimed at bringing the host communities up to speed with the state of progress of the project especially with respect to the license obtained by the Akwa Ibom State Government few weeks back.
Therefore, the allegation that Dr. Ekuwem and I have signed a document ceding the location of the Seaport from Ibaka to somewhere else is completely spurious, unfounded and malicious. It is unreal and exists only in the imagination of speculators.
HAS THE SEAPORT LOCATION BEEN CHANGED?
No sincere and conscious adult who has followed developments preparatory to the take off of the Ibaka Deep Seaport project would truthfully claim they are unaware of the report submitted to the Senator Godswill Akpabio administration by FELAK MTBS in October, 2014.
The said report completely condemned the generally accepted Ibaka Bay in favour of a location it refers to as ‘SEASIDE’. FELAK MTBS went ahead to redo the design of the Seaport, Ibom Industrial City (ICC) and access highways. Having presented same to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and obtained approval, the Senator Godswill Akpabio administration handed over the FELAK report which relocated and redesigned the Seaport and other projects within the industrial area to the incumbent Akwa Ibom State Government.
The ‘Technical Committee on the Implementation and Realisation of the Seaport’ having not been mandated to conduct another survey or review the received report could not alter the location, design and access road(s) to the Seaport.
From the report, the port’s City Gate, Headquarters of IIC, Port Administrative Building and NNPC Logistics Base are to be sited in Mbo. It as well proposes a 2 Expressway Access to the port (one through Mbo to the East-West Road and the other by the shoreside through Ibeno). There is a plan to open the Seven Energy Road for groundbreaking.
THE ORO CASE
It is sufficiently clear that Ibaka Bay remains the most suitable location for a Deep Seaport in Nigeria from time. Akwa Ibom State Government confirmed this when HE Obong Arc. Victor Attah’s administration designated Ibaka as the location of the Deep Seaport he envisaged and started.
Oro people being patriotic and concerned about the huge investments of both government and the private investor are worried about attempt at taking the Seaport away from the most suitable site which may affect the viability of the Seaport. This informs the rage and agitation of the Oro people albeit in very civilised and peaceful manner that, Akwa Ibom State Government should keep to the most suitable site generally agreed by experts.
Fortunately, the terms of reference of the ‘Technical Committee on the Implementation and Realisation of the Seaport’ provides for the committee:
“to work with the host communities in resolving issues incidental to the realisation of the Deep Seaport Project.”
Oro people armed with good intention and germane issues having to do with the Seaport should explore this opening.
Most importantly, the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, HE Deacon Udom Emmanuel is a father to all sections of the Akwa Ibom family. Oro people should seek audience with the Governor and place their good case before him for a resolution in a manner befitting a family.
I am unshakeably confident that HE Deacon Udom Emmanuel will very happily receive Oro people, listen to their concerns and act in a way that will assure the peace loving people of Oro Nation that he is a leader that cares.
I very sincerely thank the good people of Oro Nation who out of sheer patriotism have shown unmistakable concern over the success of the Seaport project, its viability and sustainability after construction. I am particularly impressed that Oro has consistently proven to be peace loving by refusing to resort to violence at any time, in attempt to express their concern.
However, we must be mindful that investors are averse to violence and disputes. We therefore must continue to stick with peace and remain patriotic as we do our best to support the developmental efforts of government.
God bless Oro.
Senator Akon Eyakenyi, PhD
Representing Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District.