This event has become fixed in the calendar of this book club and I thank all of you for your kind solidarity with the vision. I couldn’t have done it all by myself. I thank the Guest Speaker who accepted to share his thoughts with us on this occasion. He has so much on his hands and could have made excuses but he didn’t hesitate once it was about our former Boss and father figure. I will continue to celebrate Obong Attah because he first celebrated me. He first displayed loyalty to me, in appointing me and in relying on my professional judgement almost all the time and keeping me throughout his two momentous terms in office as Governor. This annual ritual in his honour is my way of saying ‘thank you’.
The topic today is germane. Nigeria is at a critical intersection. Our dear State is at an important junction. The choices Nigerians and Akwa Ibom people would make very soon will define whether we live or we die. It’s not an isolated case because, in history, many countries of the world, in different epochs have experienced economic downturns and famine. In ancient Egypt, young Joseph was sprinted from the prison to help manage the economy of that ancient superpower and he didn’t disappoint.
Under the watch of Obong Attah, the first term provided a case study on 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. He didn’t possess and didn’t exhibit an all-knowing complex. He worked quietly and I still remember him telling me that he did not want to be in the news for a little, commonplace, basic deliverables. Why should you celebrate me for building a road, tarring a street, building a borehole, extending electricity to communities or payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities to beneficiaries?
He advised me to focus on visionary, creative, bolder and transformative strides. That’s how unique Governor Attah was and I implore those who are aspiring to lead this state in the years ahead to study and learn from Obong Attah because he remains a model of a truly accomplished leader and manager of men and resources. I wish His Excellency, Eduek Ekpe Asutan, Ahioma Mbaise, Fiwagboye of Egbaland, Obom Akwa Ibom, the father of modern Akwa Ibom State, a very happy 84th Birthday.