By Udom Emmanuel

…………….Akwa Ibom people praise the Lord, Nigerians let me hear you shout a loud hallelujah, wherever around the globe that you may be watching us, permit me to welcome you all to our beautiful City of Uyo, the City of hope and dreams, a City of peace, progress and development, a City of enterprising, God-fearing and hospitable people.

2.​For the fourth time since you honoured me in 2015 to be your Servant-Leader, I stand here again this evening to invite you to join our voices and raise our hands to the Heavens in thanksgiving and praise and worship to our Father and our Saviour, Jesus Christ. What a mighty God we serve! What a great provider we have in Him, what an awesome and ONLY God we have! Thank you for coming out in thousands to be a part of this yearly gathering of worshippers as we celebrate the Birth of the Prince of Peace.

3.​The theme of this year’s Carol Night is apt and profoundly fitting “Let the people say Amen”. We have a million reasons to say “Amen” to our heavenly Father for turning our State into a beautiful City on Hill, whose light of progress illuminates brightly and has proven to the world that Government can indeed, be a force for good and not a force for ill.
4.​When we came in three and half years ago, our nation was going through the worst economic crises in our recent history. Most State governments couldn’t pay their workers’ salaries. There was despondency in the land but through His grace, not only did we pay salaries, we went ahead to clear 10 year backlog of pensions and gratuities spanning 2001 to 2011 to the eternal joy of our labour leaders. We have maintained and kept this sacred contract with our people ever since because the welfare of our workers is of paramount importance to us. Can I hear you say Amen!

5.​For three and half years since we came in, this State has remained the most peaceful in the nation, attracting foreign investors and becoming a tourist destination of choice. For three and half years, politically motivated kidnapping or assassination has not occurred; no one has been molested for expressing a different opinion, there is respect for our common humanity and values, a new tone of civility and mutual respect has taken roots and the result of this is the sunny disposition our people now project; because they can sleep peacefully at night and wake up to go about their legitimate functions without having to look over their shoulders. We give God the glory for this this great feat. We will never go back to those dark days again and the people say Amen!

6.​We have a loud and thunderous reason to say “Amen my dear compatriots. Our children are receiving the best education available through the public school system. Two days ago, the stakeholders in the education sector, satisfied with the great improvements we have made in that sector and impressed with the huge resources we have spent in recruiting quality teachers for our children, the amenities we have provided and a conducive atmosphere that encourages intellectual development for our children unanimously celebrated us.

7.​As the Late South African Present, Nelson Mandela once stated that education is the surest way out of poverty and ignorance; we remain dedicated to ensuring that the future of our children, their capacity to compete with their counterparts in the globalized 21 Century economy is assured. We will never go back to the years our sons and daughters were seen only as good enough to cook the meals for the society’s well-heeled. The future belongs to our children and through education, they will conquer the world. We will continue to invest in this critical sector and the people say Amen

8.​Three and half years ago, garri, was sold 2 cups for 200 Naira. Today, our people now buy 14 cups of the same garri for 200 hundred Naira. Last week, I commissioned the Ibom Rice Mill in Ini Local Government Area and our plan is to flood the market with our own locally produced rice which will be readily available and affordable. I have always maintained that a society that cannot feed its people has lost the cardinal element of the Social Contract. We are committed to feeding our people and ensuring that no child goes to bed hungry and the people say “Amen”.

9.​Our healthcare delivery service is nationally celebrated. A little over a week ago, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) at its National Exco Meeting here in Uyo honoured me with of the “NMA Heath Ambassador Award.” They were impressed with the huge investments we have made in heath sector, through the remodelling, rebuilding and equipping of our secondary health facilities with the most modern tools, and these were the same hospitals that had been abandoned and their surroundings overgrown with weeds. Today, the Methodist Hospital, Ituk Mbang, Etinan General Hospital, General Hospital, Ikono, General Hospital, Iquita among others are shining examples of a government that cares. We will continue to invest in this sector, because we need a healthy population to provide the needed manpower for the massive industrialization programme that we have embarked on, and the people say “Amen”!

10.​Three and half years ago, when we came in, Uyo and most of the rural communities were covered in darkness and we felt that was an unacceptable situation. Through our investments by way of upgrading of the sub-stations, today, electricity has improved significantly across the State and by the New Year, we hope to launch our “electricity for all initiative”. I have always maintained that the provision of steady electricity is not rocket science, all it takes is strategic planning, and this, we have done and we intend to do more in the years to come and the people say “Amen”!

11.​Three and half years ago, when we came in, we promised our people that the central plank of our governance will be on industrialization as a means of creating wealth and jobs. Today, we have delivered above and beyond our expectations, and we give God the glory for this! In spite of the gloomy and turbulent economic climate that has made most State Governments unable to pay salaries, unable to undertake capital projects, we have brought into this State several industries, and they are all there for everyone to see- from the Syringes Manufacturing Company, to the Metering Solutions Company, the pencil and tooth-pick manufacturing company, the Fertilizer Blending Plant, the Flour Mill, Coconut Refinery currently on-going, the rice and cassava mills, the AKEES mini Industrial parks etc. We are determined to make this State an industrial hub within our region. Do I hear you say “Amen”?

12.​A key catalyst for development and economic prosperity is the provision of durable infrastructural amenities. America became the economic powerhouse it has been today, because President Dwight Eisenhower opened up the country through a well-planned inter-locking road network across the 48 contiguous States. Here in Akwa Ibom State, I make bold to say that we are replicating same approach in our own way. All over the three senatorial districts of the State, roads are being constructed, commissioned or work on-going. To date, in spite of what the naysayers may say, we have done over 1, 700 kilometres of economically viable roads and we haven’t even started yet. Our State owned and run Obong Victor Attah International Airport has a Category 2 runaway and work is on-going on the 2nd taxiway. To ensure that our State remains the destination of choice for foreign investors, we are launching IBOM AIR, our wholly owned Airline that will lessen the problems currently being encountered by our numerous airline travellers. Work is going on steadily on Ibom Deep Seaport project and our dream to open up our State through land, air and sea will come full cycle. When we promised all these, our naysayers said it couldn’t be done, and some are still deluding themselves that it hasn’t been done, even when they are riding on the road we have built, are enjoying the steady electricity we have provided, are being treated in the world class hospitals we have remodelled and equipped with modern amenities, and whose children are receiving quality education in our public schools. We will however, not relent, we not give in to propaganda or blackmail because ours is a journey for sustainable development not on a fleeting course for applause and the people say “Amen.”

13.​Today is not a night for long speech; it is mostly the night to reaffirm God’s immeasurable blessings and love for us as a people and to ask him to continue to shine His light upon us. May the forces that want to take us back to the days we wished had never happened be confounded and be put to shame and the people say “Amen”.

14.​As we celebrate the birth of the Prince of peace, may God touch the hearts of those who traffic in commodities of disunity, who have promised to unleash war on the innocent people of the State, and whose veins radiate violence; may they come to the understanding that Akwa Abasi Ibom State is peaceful and populated by law-abiding people whose sole desire is to rise to their faith of greatness and create a great future for themselves and their children. This is what I am dedicated to doing, taking this State to a higher level of industrialisation, where our people will have jobs and opportunities for growth, where the chords of unity will be strengthened, where our children’s future is assured, where our people will walk with their shoulders raised high, knowing full well that they, too, are major players in the Nigerian Boardroom and not observers on the side-lines of the Nigerian Enterprise and the people say “Amen”!

15.​May the Prince of peace whose Birthday we are singing songs of praise tonight grant us a peaceful and violent free electioneering campaigns and the elections proper come next year . May the might and the will of the people prevail over any other “mights” that are being conjured or planned, because it IS ONLY GOD that gives power to WHOM HE desires and the people say Amen!

16.​It is well with Akwa Ibom State, it well with Nigeria, it is well with us all! Merry Christmas and a prosperous Happy New Year!

DECEMBER 21, 2018

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