My wife, Her Excellency, Dr. (Mrs.) Martha Udom Emmanuel and I share the joy of God’s amazing love with all Christians in Akwa Ibom State as we commemorate the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

The story of Easter is the story of Christianity. It is the story of promise and hope. It is the story of God’s love and redemption. It is a story of sacrifice, faith and renewed strength in God Almighty.

For over three years, a small band of faithful followers left their businesses and callings and followed an itinerant Preacher they knew and believed was the expected Messiah. He was later arrested, given a mock trial which ticked all the boxes of injustice, was convicted, and hung on a Cross between two thieves. The disciples could not comprehend how God’s own Son could be so humiliated, so they went back to their businesses, believing that the years they spent with him were wasted years.

But then came the breaking news that the tomb which he laid was empty and He was alive again. What they thought was a setback was actually a setup for a comeback. Death could not hold Him captive. The grave was denied. The disciples saw Him and rejoiced. He turned their mourning into dancing again. Though their weeping endured for a night, joy came in the morning with the news of His resurrection. That great joy has become the hope and marching song of all Christian Pilgrims, inspiring them to strive for a better world and more meaningful life in eternity.

In this season of the commemoration of this joyous event, let us remember His life and good works. Let us remember that through His teachings, He lifted the sights of humanity to the boundless glory of eternity. He gave hope to the poor. He gave courage to the weak, and He gave health to the sick and the infirm.

Even though the manner we choose to celebrate this most important event in the Christian Calendar may differ, we must all use this occasion to renew our commitment to being more Christ-like in loving our neighbours, remembering those in need, and helping those who are persecuted in our midst. His extraordinary sacrifice and compassion should inspire us to live for others and love one another.

As a State, we have, in the past seven years, experienced the unquantifiable joy of His resurrection, for the God who quickened Jesus Christ from the dead, is still quickening our pace of development and growth.

A State that was once defined as a purely Civil-Service oriented entity, today, is being hailed nationally as “Nigeria’s Best Kept Secret.” We have shown the world that when the passion is right, great and enduring things can also happen.

Last week, I remember seeing a picture of Dubai that was taken, in 1985. It had a very prominent picture of an imposing skyscraper, the Toyota Building. It was the only major high-rise building that stood out on the skyline of Dubai then. Below the building, were smatterings of other normal buildings.

Fast forward to 2016, another picture of the same location was published side by side, and the 2016, picture, showed a sprawling megapolis, dotted with glittering skyscrapers and wide boulevards. The Toyota building which in 1985, was the tallest, looked like a tiny dot in an emerging modern smart city that Dubai has become today. My take-away from that picture is that the development and growth of a people, entities, organisations, etc., are products of foresight, passion, dedication, deep and abiding love for the people.

My dear Akwaibomites, in the last seven years, we have, laid a foundation of growth and development that would, like Dubai, was in 1985, blossom in the next few years into a fast industrializing and glittering State where, the people’s aspirations would be met; where from Land, Air and Sea, our State would be the cynosure of all eyes, where the economy would be private-sector driven, where our youths would be engaged, where the brightest and the best among us would enjoy incredible opportunities for growth and fulfilment.

My dear Akwaibomites, this is the way modern societies that we travel to, and love, were grown and established. That is what I am doing for our people and posterity will remember and celebrate us for seizing the moment.

The signs are there for even our critics to see. Is it in Aviation Development? I am sure, my dear people have seen the glittering, International Terminal at the Victor Attah International Airport, which upon completion, would be the best of such in our Nation and indeed Africa. I am sure you have also seen our Maintain, Repair and Overhaul (MRO,) which can take four Boeing 737 and four Airbuses A320 aircrafts, and indeed all the aircrafts in our fleet, a gigantic project which is almost 85 percent ready, and is expected to be commissioned soon.

Is it the world-class Taxiway, which can land a Boeing 747 which is also to be commissioned soon? Is it Ibom Air, which has become a reference point for excellence in the Nigerian aviation industry? My fellow Akwaibomites, we are laying a solid foundation for an emerging industrial Tiger that Akwa Ibom is poised to becoming.

As you leave the airport, I am sure you have seen the expansion of the road to an 8-lane boulevard. All over the world, the heart and character of a city is defined and shaped by what people see as they enter into the city centre. The 8-lane road from the airport leads into a city centre where visitors will be greeted by another 10-lane Ring Road Three, which promises to be one of the best boulevards in the nation. Even our naysayers have acknowledged the beauty of this road.

My dear Akwaibomites, this message is not one for reeling off of our scorecard. On the Seventh Anniversary of our great journey next month, we will give the people of this State and indeed the world, our scorecard.

But it bears repeating that, the Akwa Ibom story is a national story, a story of achievements where others thought such couldn’t be done. A story of a subnational without the control of policies but has been able to attract huge investments in critical areas of healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, industrialization etc.

As we celebrate Easter, let me again emphasize the theme of sacrifice, of victory and of love which the Season represents. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ agreed to die for our sake, to set us free from our sins and to guarantee a new lease on life predicated on hope and love.

As the political season dawns, I urge our stakeholders across the political divide to eschew hatred, anger and violence. I urge them to understand that politics will come and politics will go, but the spirit of the Akwa Ibom Enterprise will endure and continue to flourish.

There is no political office that should compel us to shed the blood of our brothers or sisters. There is no ambition that is so deep and sacred that we would be willing to turn our State into a cauldron of violence, in order to satisfy our craving for power. All powers belong to God and He alone, grants such to whom He has favoured.

Akwa Ibom has in the past seven years, remained an oasis of peace and tranquillity, and on this, I salute our resourceful youths who have decided to maintain the peace and invest in the future that is about to dawn – a future of plenty, a future of fulfilment and a future of growth and development.

We will never go back to the years of violence and the years where we couldn’t sleep with our eyes closed. We will not return to the years where kidnapping and politically motivated killings numbed our sensibilities and made us question the central purpose of governance, which is the security of lives and property. Akwa Ibom people have collectively and unanimously said goodbye to those years, and have welcomed the era of peace and security. Anyone who markets violence should and must be rejected.

My fellow Akwaibomites, as we reflect on the unflinching love for mankind which the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ represents, I again urge you to eschew hatred, ethnicity, anger and all forms of divisive tendencies from our body-politic.

Let us continue to join hands to build the Akwa Ibom State of our dream and secure a future of prosperity, peace and growth for our children and generations yet unborn.

That Same God that has stood by us all along on this journey of growth and development, I trust will see us through the coming years. For us all in Akwa Ibom State, it is “Forward Ever, Backward Never.” So help us God!

Happy Easter to us all!

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