The Abuja Municipal Area Council, last week, unveiled a crescent named after the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Umo Eno. The Chairman of AMAC, Christopher Maikalangu, said that the crescent, located in the Idu Industrial Area of the Federal Capital Territory, was named after Umo because it is “a fitting tribute to the governor’s achievements and a testament to his contribution to the advancement of the area.” While explaining that Umo’s developmental strides in construction, agriculture, education and other sectors inspire the AMAC government to replicate the same in Abuja, an example was narrated by the Supervisory Councillor for Special Duties, Emmanuel Inyang.

“Of recent, the executive governor of Akwa Ibom State launched about 5000 cadets, citizens of the state, and the purpose was to have local police checkmate criminal activities not covered within the confines of the law. Through this effort, it is expected that insecurity will be reduced to a minimum. For us at AMAC, we are already copying. We launched what is called AMAC Marshals, who are sent to various locations and flashpoints. They are civilians like me and you who are being given the opportunity to gather intelligence and release to the security agents. This will help to checkmate insecurity.”

Interestingly, one of the journalists at the event asked the Akwa Ibom delegation a question regarding the development of the education sector in the state, considering that it was the shining light of past administrations. The state used to be known for supplying uneducated servants to city dwellers, until the government utilised a deliberate educational development thrust to stop the obnoxious trend. But the delegation was visibly rattled. It seemed they could not understand why they would be required to refer to past administrations. The representative of the governor, Jeremiah Efeh, began to reel out the agenda of Eno’s government encapsulated and promoted under the acronym ARISE – Agriculture, Rural Development, Infrastructure Security and Education.

That Abuja incident is a textbook example of the fragmentation of governance in Nigeria. Different administrations, even from the same political party, want to do something different. The academia describes political fragmentation as the fragmentation of the political landscape into different parties and groups, which makes it difficult to deliver effective governance. This can apply to political parties, political groups or other political organisations. The scholar, Richard H. Pildes of the New York University School of Law, explains that this has engendered a situation of the inability of democratic governments to deliver on the issues their populations care most about, which poses serious risks for democracy.

This is a governance problem plaguing our country but which is so cleverly disguised that many people cannot recognise it. Granted, the nation knows about abandoned infrastructural projects and initiatives all over the country with an estimated number in excess of 30,000 projects. What most people miss, however, is the underlying fiend behind the monstrous colossus. State governors, for instance, are so used to emblazoning their names over every project they execute that it has become an accepted norm that any incoming governor must create brand new projects in order to find a place in their people’s subconscious.

Once upon a time, citizens of Akwa Ibom were known mostly for domestic servanthood – that is, houseboys and maids. This reality could be confirmed in cities like Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. There was a cultural aura around this, to the extent that female house helps were usually christened Ekaette, whether the person in question was from Akwa Ibom or not. A vivid example is the characters of the servants named ‘Giringori’ and ‘Clarus’ in the famous 1980s comedy series The New Masquerade. The actors, though non-Ibibio, mastered the Ibibio (dominant Akwa Ibom tribe) accent and mannerisms to perfect their craft.

Therefore, it became a concern for the Ibibio nation; and immediately Nigeria reverted to civilian rule, the state donned its developmental hat and looked towards education. The administration of Victor Attah, from 1999, began a deliberate facelift by building model public schools with learning, recreational and boarding facilities. This educational support programme handpicked students and empowered them with learning materials while sending some overseas for further studies.

It was followed by Godswill Akpabio, who then introduced free education for every child of school age, providing basic learning materials and uniforms for them. Apart from children of school age, adults, who did not have the opportunity of going to school embraced the opportunity and acquired formal education. The next administration of Mr Udom Emmanuel in 2015 embraced the project too, expanding the concept to “free and compulsory education.” However, as time went on, the education infrastructure began to gradually collapse, such that school blocks became dilapidated, zinc fell off roofs, and writing desks disappeared. Although the free education policy is intact, most public schools in Akwa Ibom are now without facilities to make the learning environment conducive to pupils and students.

I am of the view that the present administration of Governor Eno should recognise the historic and epitomic importance of educational development for the state, and resuscitate the infrastructure, especially at the grassroots. It is beyond a political project; it is a socio-cultural revolution. There are two icons that demonstrate this paradigm shift in the state over the past two decades. The first is a make-believe character in a Nollywood movie. The second is a real-life personality serving his people in present-day Akwa Ibom.

The movie’s name is Ekaette goes to school, produced in 2005 to send a message to other Nigerians that the old Akwa Ibom was dead. It was targeted at those who usually go to the state to look for house help, gatemen, gardeners, etc. The movie tells the story of a young Ekaette (played by Ini Edo) who was maltreated by her matron (played by Eucharia Anunobi) and abused by her matron’s son (played by Desmond Elliot). She passed through hell in the home of her masters, and could only confide in a newspaper vendor. Ekaette finally emerged victorious as she was aided by a fellow Akwa Ibo man who recognised her intelligence, helped her to complete her education and later became a successful entrepreneur.

The second icon is John Akpan, who was born into poverty by a mother who, after losing her husband, was forced to become the typical servant – Ekaette – in a neighbouring state. In 2000, Young John came first in Comprehensive Secondary School, Ukpom, in a competition organised under the Education Support Programme of former Governor Attah. He got a scholarship and education materials as prize. That singular push encouraged Akpan to get educated against all odds. By 2020, two decades down the line, he had become a lawyer, had his own Foundation, which gave back to his Ikono Local Government Area by distributing educational materials to all primary schools in Ikono. He was subsequently nominated by stakeholders and is presently the Transition Committee Vice Chairman for his people of Ikono. This is a testament to a determined thrust in governance, which validates the truth that education is fundamental to development in all facets.

Government is a continuum. I would like to see a governor awarded because he provided a viable model for the Federal Capital Territory in terms of educational development. Right now the FCT is struggling with a dual personality disorder in the educational sector. While its exorbitantly priced private schools bloom and prosper, the public schools are squalid and sultry. Poor infrastructure, congestion and shortage of teachers threaten the education of children in this centre of attraction that hosts the country’s symbols of might and beauty. It is a shameful paradox.


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