Fellow Akwaibomites,

My wife, Her Excellency, Dr. (Mrs.) Martha Udom Emmanuel and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year in advance!

We are once again enveloped in a mood of festivities, heralding the birth of the Prince of Peace and the Saviour of mankind, our Lord Jesus Christ. This, therefore, is a season of peace, of goodwill, love and giving. This is a season where we should banish all ancient animosities and celebrate our oneness and unity, our development and the strides we are collectively making as a State and as a people. It is a season of joy and thankfulness to God for holding us together as a people and as a State, in spite of the economic difficulties brought about by the Covid -19 pandemic, which unfortunately has now mutated to the Delta and Omicron variants respectively.

It is a season of hope, of our determination to continue to forge ahead and deliver on our campaign promises; to leave this State better than we met her, and to proclaim with certainty that the Akwa Ibom story will not be reversed, that the things which had hitherto defined us negatively as a State and as a people shall be permanently cancelled and erased, and it will be ForwardEver BackwardNever!

The season of the Birth of our Lord and Saviour signifies peace and goodwill to mankind, and this peace which we have enjoyed in this State shall be permanent, and any resort or attempts to reverse it and reintroduce the orgy of violence and security challenges that this State had earlier witnessed before now, will, and shall never return.

As we get set to roll out the drums of festivities, let me again reiterate the need for us to follow the simple but effective protocols aimed at curtailing the spread of the Covid- 19 virus. You may have been following in the news the mutation of a new variant called Omicron. At a time the world thought we had turned a corner with this virus, this Omicron variant has returned the world to the starting point. Travel restrictions are being imposed all over the world and some countries have painfully considered another round of lockdowns.

Here in Nigeria, and in our State in particular, we have discovered some cases of this Omicron variant and it is incumbent upon us, to do all we can to curtail its spread. The simple protocols of social distancing, regular washing of hands with liquid soaps, the wearing of Facemask, use of hand sanitizers etc. plus the robust healthcare facilities we have provided, had helped us a great deal in stemming the spread of this virus when it first appeared on our shores. We should remain committed to doing same with this new variant. We do not intend to impose another round of lock- down.This will however, depend on how we obey the protocols. This is a serious matter and should be treated as such.

As I said during our Christmas Carol event, the Akwa Ibom story must and will continue to be told in enchanting colours and its trajectory of growth and development shall be ForwardEverBackwardNever! This motto of progress is what should ring through in our heads and hearts.

Of the thousands of text messages I received congratulating us for holding such a great Christmas Carol, the one that touched me the most, and they all came from prominent Nigerians, was when they congratulated us on the peaceful nature of the event. They couldn’t imagine, in a country where there are security challenges everywhere that almost half a million people could converge in one location, singing praises to the Lord and returning home in peace, with no reported news of death, or attacks of any form.

My dear AkwaIbomites, these are not issues we should take for granted. Our people have found peace amongst themselves. Peace has seen us tap into our creative wells and the entrepreneurial culture is being embraced by our people, especially the youths.We must maintain this peace with every fibre of our beings.

Anyone, and I repeat anyone, who, for selfish political purposes, wants to reverse this peace, must, and will be rejected, anyone who aims to grab power through the instrument of violence must be stopped and rejected. And let me even add, anyone who aims at getting power by using violence against his or her people, will end up ruling with violence. May the season of peace which Christmas represents, never see our State go through such politically-motivated years of violence again.

This is not a speech to talk about our achievements, as there will be good enough time in the coming months to continue distilling and projecting, or document what God has used us to achieve collectively for our dear people.

We will however, continue to ensure that issues concerning education, agriculture, health care or the social infrastructure are given the prime attention they deserve. We owe our children the responsibility of preparing them to be competitive in an information technology-driven world; we owe them the right education to make them future employers of labour, as opposed to being job seekers. The new world that is unfolding before us, is one where students learn and imbibe entrepreneurial spirit and skills, aimed at freeing them to explore the world and take a slice of it, through the marketable skills they have acquired.

We remain committed to ensuring that we produce, and at an affordable price, the staple food items for our people, through the robust investments we have made in agriculture.

Our healthcare delivery service remains top in our agenda. We promised to remodel, construct and equip with modern amenities GeneralHospitals in all the Ten Federal Constituencies. We have successfully done nine; the last in Ikot Abasi is currently on-going.

We promised to provide Power for All by December 2021, which actually means the provision of electricity to the 2,274 gazetted villages that make up this State. As I speak, out of the 2,274 gazetted villages, only 265 villages yet to be connected to the national grid, that’s about 92 percent score in this regard. We hope to connect the remaining 265 villages to the national grid as soon as possible, thus meeting our target in this regard. This is a huge achievement that no State, and I repeat no State can match. This is absolutely the best in the nation and I stand to be corrected. We came to serve; to work diligently and quietly to improve the material and living standards of our people and nothing will distract us from achieving those set goals.

Our infrastructural Renaissance is on the ascendance. Even our naysayers or worst critics will agree with us that all over the State, we are experiencing huge road and other infrastructural expansions. We remain committed to finishing our turn-key projects. Our contractors are out there working at their designated sites, now that we have some respite from the rainy season, and I want to thank them for heeding my directive to remain at site even during this festive season.

Our industrialisation drive remains on course. Part of our Completion Agenda was the promotion of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs), and we are doing just that. Our industrial cluster in Itam today, produces tissue papers made from bamboo fibres. We are producing plastics that are used daily by our people, and the tomatoes purry processing plant is on-going among others. This is in addition to the other industries we have attracted to this State.

My dear Akwaibomites, I have heard some people make rather ill-informed comments to the effect that these industries we have attracted are not owned by the State Government. Fellow Akwaibomites, it is not the duty of any state government to establish or wholly own industries.The main job of a State Government is to create the enabling environment for investors to come to such a state and invest, and to engender Public Private Partnerships (PPP). It however, takes a leader who understands and have established enduring contacts within the corporate world to convince and bring these investors to the state, which thankfully we have done in the last six plus years and still remain committed to doing. I urge us to do a little research before we begin to attack and condemn.

Some people have also taken to the social media to talk about serious issues such as pension and gratuities armed with little knowledge of the subject matter or outrightly misinforming the public. My dear Akwaibomites, as I speak to you, we have paid our pensioners up to date. I repeat we have paid up to date all our pensioners. The Office of Accountant-General regularly publishes this information, yet people, out of mischief and sheer blackmail, are still pushing the lie that we are owing our pensioners.

The issue of gratuity is a national problem. We are a mere subnational and even other higher layers of government are struggling with the issue of the payment of gratuities. In spite of this, we have painstakingly continued to pay gratuities and remain committed to doing so. Part of what I did, within my first few months in office was to settle a backlog of such, between 2002 to 2011, and ever since, in spite of the paucity of funds, we have endeavoured to pay gratuities. People must not loose sense of the fact that we operate a three-tier Government structure: Federal, State and Local Government. Primary Education and Primary Health Care are under the Third Tier of Government and in spite of this we have regularly intervened in the payment of salaries and other benefits. I understand the political season is upon us, and thus the need by some people to score cheap political points, but we should not mislead our people with patent falsehood.

We thank God for the growth of Ibom Air and our overall dedication to our pioneering effort in the Nigerian aviation industry. We are looking forward to receiving our 10 brand new Airbuses in the nearest future, and then expand our routes to the West and Central African regions respectively.

Let me use this opportunity to applaud our very resourceful youths for helping maintain the peace in this State. My dear youths, let me again assure you that what we are putting on ground, the sustainable growth paradigm we are bringing to bear, will create in a few years a new Akwa Ibom you will all be proud to be associated with.

My dear youths of Akwa Abasi Ibom State, growth and personal development is not about someone handing you a hand-out, it is about providing a hand for you to stand up and remain standing.Growth and development is not about someone giving you a teaspoon of water to quench your thirst when you are surrounded by an ocean of opportunities.Growth is not about someone using you to cause mayhem and violence, putting your life on the line in the process, while the person who sent you goes home to spend quality time with his family. Growth is not about someone asking you to hurt your brothers and sisters to feather his or her political nest, only to abandon you soon after he must have achieved his or her purpose. Growth is about using your God-given gifts to add value to yourself, and this is what we have been doing, and we thank you for buying into our vision. Let this season of peace continue to imbue in you, peace that is abundant and unceasing and it will continue to be well with you.

To the political class, I urge you to always remember that politics will come and politics will go, but the soul and spirit of Akwa Abasi Ibom people will remain  committed to our unity and brotherhood. Let us therefore, eschew bitterness and hatred from our body-politic. All Power belong to God Almighty and He gives such to whom He has qualified. God does not choose a man that is qualified; but he qualifies a man that He chooses.

Finally, as I said during the Christmas Carol, let this season be one of love and of giving. Reach out to those who need help. Give them a reason to be cheerful and hopeful, share in the blessings God has given you and help spread the Christmas cheers and joy. May the Birth of the Prince of Peace usher in peace unlimited in our dear State, as we optimistically look forward to a more prosperous and fruitful New Year enveloped in peace, oneness and shared vision of growth and development. Once again, I wish all of us AkwaIbomites, a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year in advance!

Akwa Ibom edakeeda, amimmedakanda

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