UDOM EMMANUEL AND THE DILEMMA OF SHOOTING AN ELEPHANT
By Osondu Ahirika
I owe it to the cerebral and ever articulate, Akwa Ibom State Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Barrister Ini Emeobong, that I pen this piece from new insights on leadership.
It was during the the PDP Open Day Workshop, held on June 13,2017 that he initiated, for an intellectual engagement of minds, sans partisan leaning.
For me, that session was nothing short of a Harvard Leadership course, and I shall remain thankful. The topic was, ‘Doing the right thing and Doing what is right’. We were to spot the difference between both theorems. As a garnish to that, a short prose, titled, ‘Shooting an Elephant’, by renowned writer, George Orwell was deployed, to deepen the discourse. I shall come back to that.
I was at once drawn to Governor Udom Emmanuel and his leadership nuances as the reading commenced. I recalled that, when the current magnificent new Dakkada Secretariat Annex was conceived and Governor Emmanuel directed his then Commissioner for Housing and Urban Renewal, Prince Enobong Uwah, to restructure and rehabilitate the hitherto abandoned structure into a modern office complex, a cynical Comrade of mine sarcastically remarked, ‘there goes another White Elephant project’.
I understood his pessimism, although, didn’t share it. The complex has turbulent and troubled history. It was conceived as the Tenth Anniversary Hotel by Navy Captain Joseph Adeduro Adeusi, who was governor of Akwa Ibom State, from August 1996 to August 1998 during the military regime of General Sani Abacha, to mark the 10th anniversary celebration of the State.
The project was stalled until Obong Victor Attah mounted the saddle as Governor on May 29, 1999. His government took a decision to sell off the abandoned hotel project to a private investor and Mr. Sunday Idowu of Jojein Venture Limited bought it.
Until 2009 when then Governor Godswill Akpabio revoked the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) in respect of the controversial 10th Anniversary Hotel Uyo, sparking a protracted legal tussle, the project remained a White Elephant.
After it was settled and Akwa ibom State Government took back the property, nothing further was done. The place became a moribund and desolate complex. A hideout for social deviants and a coven for the ungodly. In the very heart of an otherwise serene capital city, the place was a bedlam and sad commentary of chaos surrounded by order.
Governor Udom Emmanuel’s vision to turn that monumental waste to wealth and transform a hell of decay, to a haven of enterprise, couldn’t sit well as realizable in a certain public affairs analyst’s value. Alas, a miracle was activated.
The Housing and Urban Renewal Ministry went to work. It was 70% directly executed by the staff of the Ministry and no contract Construction firms took charge of the remodeling that ensued, saving costs. This triggered confidence and was a boost, for the, on- the – job capacity of, commonly unused and redundant staff”. A very core value of the Dakkada can-do spirit. The standard of quality delivered on the job by staff of the Ministry, and locally sourced labour, today measures up with what expatriates could have done.
The building which was commissioned on, Saturday 28/05/2016 to mark the first anniversary of the Udom Emmanuel administration, currently houses 304 offices, studios and laboratories, Four conference rooms with video conferencing facilities, three lifts, and a large lobby. Added to the building are staff clinic, ambulance bay, ophthalmology unit, X-ray rooms, two observation rooms, and staff restaurant.
The Dakkada Secretariat was also designed with consideration to the people with special needs, even as it has modern fire fighting outlets and emergency exits on each floor coupled with 2000 capacity parking lot. It now sits as a vestige of pride to the state and has saved Government millions of Naira, hitherto spent on housing Government Departments and Agencies in rented apartments.
Funny enough, my doubting Thomas friend, simply dismissed the remarkable achievement and well informed vision of the governor, with a whimsical, ‘is that why I should jump into the river’?
No! he needn’t take a hike. All he needs do is eat his unbelief and give the governor a toast. For, had the governor failed, I can barely imagine what would happen and why he wouldn’t bring down the roof, harping, ‘I said it, this was another White Elephant”!
Oh! Did I say Governor Emmanuel is soaked in the dilemma of, “shooting an Elephant?” Here is what I mean.
George Orwell, narrates the predicament of a British colonial officer in Burma, who was responding to the outcry and scare of the local subjects over an Elephant that has run amock, knocked down a hut, killed a cow and trampled a boy to death.
He rose to the challenge, got his Elephant gun, but on seeing the said Elephant, calm and regal, he was in a fix at the tricky impasse. What use is it killing the Elephant? The crowd was right behind him, and even their resounding silence, was a pressuring chant and charge on him to shoot the Elephant, whose mahout, was nowhere near to tame the awesome beast.
He had the gun(power), prestige (colonial official), and the mandate of the Queen. He could not afford to look like a coward before the people, if he decided not to kill the Elephant. Unsure of what the people really want, he nonetheless shot and killed the Elephant.
As soon as he did, the crowd did not decorate him with garlands or bear him high on their shoulders as a hero. No, the women did not sing songs of his courage. They simply brushed him aside and descended on the game to share the meat. At least, he was consoled, he avoided being looked on as a fool, if he didn’t do it.
Every other day, Governor Udom Emmanuel has shot an Elephant and the people will not notice. Look at the Eket – Ibeno Road which he amazingly took up frontally and completed. What did he get? An interloper in the name of ExxonMobil to detract and undercut his fame. The rest is history.
The Tooth Pick and Pencil Factory, and The Akwa Prime Hatchery, several roads and bridges commissioned, payment of salaries up to date. should I list all he has achieved in 2 years, to spite a nationwide economic recession? Yet, as he executes his campaign promises, the naysayers won’t let him be.
Fact is, Governor Emmanuel should be consoled, in that, assessments of his substantial achievements will differ across partisan bias, and will equate the parable of the nine blind men who were trying to describe – Guess what?, An Elephant.