“Under the watch of Obong Attah, the first term provided a case study in how to manage poverty in a state. Obong Attah rose creditably to the occasion. What did he do? He assembled a good team…a team of matured and seasoned professionals to work with him. He depended on their professional judgements . He allowed them to work. He listened to them and took their advice. Obong Attah didn’t play god.”
The above excerpt was the tip of the iceberg, a small part of encomiums rained on the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State as contained in the opening remarks by the founder of Uyo Book Club, Dr Udeme Nana. This set the tone for the discourse. And the rest was served best as emotions subdued the William Shakespeare Hall of Watbridge Hotels & Suites, Uyo, venue for the epoch-making event.
Yes, it turned emotional as intellectuals critically analysed the Akwa Ibom Economic Vision as envisioned by Obong Victor Attah, the Father of Modern Akwa Ibom. Yes, emotional because of what Akwa Ibom has lost because successive governments have refused to key into the Attah Vision.
In a superbly researched presentation on the topic: “Economic Vision and Impact of Victor Attah’s Government”, a Data Analyst and former Commissioner for Economic Development in Attah’s government, Dr Ebebe Ukpong said;
“Attah led from the front, demonstrated commitment, expertise, value of discipline, empathy and humility, and provided learning opportunities – attention to detail, read memos and made side notes and follow-ups. He had a retentive memory and promoted team spirit.”
He added that parts of Akwa Ibom Project designed by Obong Attah was to confront challenges the state met at the time of its creation… looking through quality infrastructures, the standard of living and human development. According to him, Akwa Ibom Project has also committed itself to anticipating what the future would be for Akwa Ibom State.
In his speech, the patron of Uyo Book Club and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senate candidate for Akwa Ibom South, Rt Hon. (Barr) Ekong Sampson hailed the leadership of the intellectual community for finding it fitting to celebrate “a man who has served us well, a man who worked very hard, not only for Akwa Ibom State but South-South and Nigeria.”
The former Commissioner for Environment and Petroleum Resources stated emphatically that Obong Attah deserves to be celebrated in his lifetime. The former Mkpat Enin Council Boss hinted that as a Chairman of Council during Attah’s government, he used one of Attah’s models to drive productivity in his government through participation.
The former State Lawmaker canvassed for a current of opinion that would encourage continuity in governments, adding that lack of this, creates a missing link that affects the gamut of infrastructure and also creates tension in the succeeding governments.
He noted that continuity was key that can help governments to continue from streams of opinions, ideologies, and projects and encourage infrastructural consolidation.
Professor Felicia Etim, on her part, questioned how to solve the problem of lack of continuity in governments. And in response, Citizen Matthew Okono said there was a need to compel candidates vying for elective offices in the state to tender their socioeconomic master plans.
To further deepen the conversation, Dr Nestor Udoh, a retired Permanent Secretary in the State, lamented the situation whereby successive governments decided not to follow Attah’s Development Masterplan, adding that, by law, it was an impeachable offence for a government to abandon the projects started by the previous administrations.
However, there were debates regarding who should ‘bail the cat’, as it was in reality, especially in Nigeria, that the executive controls the activities of the legislature, rendering that arm of government ‘a rubber stamp’. Who should spearhead the process of impeachment, should a government abandon the projects of the previous government?
In a deep emotion-laced speech, an American returnee, Apostle Emmanuel Afia charged Uyo Book Club to create a rallying point for Akwa Ibom to follow. He commissioned the club to always be purposeful to change things in society, and to drive a political debate that would emancipate Akwa Ibom State from the shackles of bad leadership.
Also, a public affairs analyst and political pundit, Comrade Samuel Udoma noted that if successive governments had followed Attah’s masterplan, Akwa Ibomites would be better people by now. According to him, “Obong Attah represented sanity and civility in and out of government”
Many speakers spoke glowingly about Attah’s master plan which would have transformed the state if successive governments had followed the compass. They charged Akwa Ibomites to stand up and fight for their destinies.
High points of the event were the cutting of a birthday cake to celebrate the elder statesman on his 84th birth anniversary and proposing toasts for Obong Attah, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria and Uyo Book Club.
Uyo Book Club (UBC) is an intellectual hub, aiming to rejuvenate the dying reading culture in the society. The colloquium was the third in the series organised by the Club to mark the leadership epoch of Obong Attah.
The event was well attended by members of the Book Club Community and a broad spectrum of dignitaries, including, former Vice Chancellor, University of Uyo and Pioneer Chairman, of AKIPOC, Prof. Akpan Ekpo, Librarian, Federal University, Otuoke, Bayelsa State, Prof Felicia Etim, former Commissioner for Economic Development and Guest Speaker of the event, Dr Ebebe Ukpong, former Commissioner for Works, Mr Monday Udofia, former Commissioner for Health, Dr Okon Emah, Chairman, Ibibio Elders Forum, Dr Emmanuel Akpanobong, former Accountant-General, Mrs Arit Ibanga, Rt Hon.T.O. Akpan, Major (Barr.) Hogan Ene (rtd) among and a host of others.