On the evening of Wednesday, September 23, 1987, two new states were created within the Nigerian polity. One of these was carved out from the southwestern third of old Cross River State. This new entity, today celebrated as AKWA IBOM STATE, is the dream and yearning of a people realized. Its sobriquet, “the Land of Promise”, further underlines its status as a promise fulfilled.
Located in the South-South region of Nigeria and home to approximately 3% of Nigeria's population, Akwa Ibom has a rich cultural heritage with similarities in language, custom, tradition, cuisine and family life amongst more than 10 ethnic groups in 31 Local Government Areas.
Akwa Ibom is endowed with a wide variety of Agricultural, Petroleum, Mineral, Marine and Wildlife resources - from foliage to fauna, terrestrial to marine - making it one of the country’s top revenue earners. Nature’s benevolence is also evident in an abundance of exotic sights and sounds, making Akwa Ibom a huge destination for eco-tourism, entertainment and recreation.
Coming from the country's ethnic minority, despite an unrivalled abundance of intellectual capacity, the people for many years failed to assume their rightful pride of place. This unfounded inferiority induced the relegation of otherwise front liners to the kitchen of near-insignificance in most facets of the Nigerian socio-political and economic equation.
But the "kitchen" is often the "powerhouse" of the entire household and as earlier enunciated, Akwa Ibom as a Geo-physical entity has lived up to its responsibility as a major source of power to the country with a selfless supply of its resources for the national cause.
However, its vast intellectual resource and human capital has yet to produce optimally. Akwa Ibom's total emancipation from the claws of obscurity will be complete with the full utilization of our innate and acquired faculties.
"Change", they say, "is the most constant thing," and it is as audible as it is visible to the entirety of humanity in the world today. A world evolving so much faster, and consequently becoming even more competitive, demands a multiplication of efforts at not just evolving with the times, but staying relevant.
It is that time in our existence that we must individually and collectively rise up and assume our rightful place in the league of States and Nations.
A popular TV commercial says, “there is a drop of greatness in every man”. Like in Jesus' Parable of Talents, each one of us has been uniquely and distinctly created with a deposit therein, for the attainment of success in a variety of shades.
Each one of us possesses certain strengths, certain weaknesses as well as a range of skills we are sometimes unaware of, or that we undervalue. By mere reason of our physical and psycho-social differences, we are all on the earth to fulfill a destiny – each man to his own – despite the odds.
Albert Einstein could not speak till the age of three and was severely dyslexic and autistic. As he grew older he focused on the only thing he was exceptional at - mathematics - and soon overcame his disability to become one of the greatest scientists of all time.
Tom Cruise was severely dyslexic since the age of seven but he competed in athletics and many other sports. When a knee injury derailed a promising athletic career, he focused all his energy on developing his acting career.
Stevie Wonder was born blind and six weeks premature. For several decades now, he remains a well-known singer and songwriter.
Nicholas James “Nick” Vujicic was born with tetra-amelia syndrome, characterized by the absence of all four limbs and so struggled mentally, emotionally and physically through childhood.
He eventually came to terms with his disability and today, Nick presents motivational speeches worldwide. Although Oscar Pistorius’ was amputated below the knee at just 11 months of age, he competes in sprint events.In 2011 Pistorius became the first amputee to win an able-bodied world track medal in Athletics at the World Championships as well as the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics at the 2012 Olympics.
Swimmer Daniel Dias born with malformed upper and lower limbs competed in a various swimming events at the Beijing 2008 Summer Paralympics, winning nine medals including four gold medals.
Ibrahim Hamato, an Egyptian, grew up loving table tennis, and not even a terrible accident at the age of ten where he lost both hands could extinguish his passion for the game. After years of practice, he today plays the game by 'holding' the bat in his mouth.
While we may argue these people are in different climes, let us not forget that back home, our very own Cobhams Asuquo is not famous for being blind, but for his ingenuity in music despite that condition.
The point here is that while these people struggled immensely with their circumstances (and many of us are not in circumstances half as challenging as theirs), they never gave in to self pity, but faced their challenges and excelled by focusing their energies on their strengths rather than their weaknesses.
In one of the most famous political speeches in history, former United States President, John F. Kennedy challenged Americans to, "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country". There is something in each of us.
The task is to look within to discover our inner strengths and put them to use such that the sum of our little contributions from our little corners of the State will yield the Akwa Ibom we crave.
It is the time to stand up and put our heads, our hearts and our hands to work for our individual and common good, whether we believe in the Dakkada philosophy or not.
[Written by: Imowo Mbede]