ON THE OCASSION OF THE SOLEMN ASSEMBLY HELD AT IBOM HALL GROUNDS.
Fellow Akwa Ibomites, let me start by wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year. This is certainly going to be a Glorious Year- a year where the God we worship, the God who is ever present in times of need and in time of plenty will reveal himself and perform supernatural miracles in our lives and in our state in 2017
On May 29, 2015 shortly after I took my oath of office, the first official act I performed was to dedicate this State and its affairs into the hands of the Almighty God. I also declared that not only was I the Political Leader of this state, but that I was also the Spiritual Leader. On both fronts, God has been faithful and has shown a lot of mercy on us. While there is recession in the land, God has provided creative ways for us to use our meagre resources to fulfil our campaign promises and effect and affect lives.
In 2017, He will do even more. There will be no fruitless efforts in 2017 and I declare here as stated in the Book of Zechariah Chapter 8 verse 12 “for the seed shall be prosperous; the wine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things”. In 2017, the good people of Akwa Ibom State shall possess all the blessings that God has promised us. We shall live in peace and forswear things that bring rancour and divisiveness in our land. We shall, as stated in Proverbs 1 verse 10 say to ourselves loud and clear that “if sinners entice thee, consent thou not”. Let us say a loud “Amen” to that Holy injunction!
We have come here this morning to re-consecrate our state and revive our spirits. Last year we went through the wilderness. We passed through the valley of the shadow of death. But as it is written in 2 Corinthians 4: 8-9 “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”
Let me remind us all that when God brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, He took them through the way of the wilderness, which was a longer and more laborious route to the Promised Land. Pharaoh heard of it and jumped to the conclusion that they had lost their way and were trapped in the wilderness. What He did not know was that He, who took them out, designed the route and He was with them even in the wilderness. We may have been shaken, but He who brought us out of all our past challenges will continue to chart a way forward for us, after all, this is the Land of Promise, God own state.
God showed the children of Israel mercy and they went through the Red Sea, but their enemies who thought they were lost in the wilderness, drowned in the same sea. The platform of our escape shall always be the place of defeat of our enemies. As He promised, “goodness and mercy shall follow us.”
When they took that woman caught in adultery to Jesus, they took her to the place of judgment. But in the place of judgment, mercy showed up. Mercy said to her “I sentence you not, go and sin no more.” Her accusers dropped their stones and one by one they left. She turned, obviously with tears in her eyes, for her death was imminent before mercy showed up. Jesus looked up at her and sent her on her way.
We have been taken several times to the places of judgment by our enemies from without and within. We have had the mob carry stones, ready to pelt us with them. But whenever we have found ourselves in such a situation, Jesus would write in the sand, mercy would show up, the stones would drop and He would send us on our way. He would turn our mourning into dancing. In 2017 the Lord will turn our mourning into dancing.
Take another look at the collapse of the structure at Reigners’ Bible Church. The initial news report from a section of the media arising from the bedlam and hysteria that attended the tragedy had quoted a staggering number of casualties.
Anyone who saw the structure and who heard the building was jam-packed would readily jump to that conclusion. But there was an “X” factor which the media did not know about and could not understand. That “X” factor in this case was mercy. Mercy showed up and that was why the death toll was so unbelievably low compared to the wreckage.
Today, as we have done since the incident happened, we condole with the families of those who lost their loved ones in the tragic incident. You are still in our thoughts and prayers. And I want to use this opportunity to thank those who have commended our efforts through the swift manner we responded to the tragedy by providing medical and other logistical support in the evacuation and rescue operations. Let me remind you all that I was voted by you for moments such as this, and as long as I remain your Governor, I will always be there for you through joy and in tears.
My coming to Akwa Ibom State was a response to a Macedonian call- like Nehemiah returning from the palace to help build the walls of Jerusalem. It was a call which can only be fulfilled with God’s mercy and help. That was why we christened our campaign, “Divine Mandate.” God is the driver of our efforts, the real Governor of this great state and I am merely His representative in that office- an instrument in His own able hands. Since God has never failed and can never fail, we stand tall sure that He who began a good work with us shall complete the task.
We are aware that governance is the manner in which the state exercises its authority to provide public good and services. In keeping faith with this, we have done a lot. But permit me to mention just a few of the things God has used us to do for our state. In spite of the challenging economic times, we have commissioned and work is on-going on over 200 kilometres of road across the three Senatorial Districts and the Ten Federal Constituencies.
Education remains free in this state and we have no plans or reason to scrap this laudable effort. Therefore, when you read in the local tabloids that free education has been scrapped, ignore their lies. We have only provided a range of choice which by itself is voluntary and not mandatory. If you need your ward to be in a boarding school, you may avail yourself of this choice, but the fundamentals of our policy on education remains free and compulsory.
We have attracted a number of investors to our state and some of these efforts will begin to manifest positively in 2017. Industrialization it bears repeating is a process and it takes time. I ask for your patience and understanding.
Our free medical services to children from age 1-5, their pregnant mothers and the aged remain free. We have invested heavily in the power sector and the result can be seen in the steady supply of electricity across our state.
We have done a lot in the area of agriculture, our cocoa yield is expanding as a result of the training on pruning and shedding that we undertook last year. We are optimistic that soon, we will not only reclaim our position as the fourth largest producer of cocoa in Nigeria, but would actually aim for the very top.
Last year, I challenged Akwa Ibom Employment and Enterprise Scheme (AKEES) to ensure that before the end of 2016, that we should have a factory that will produce pencils and tooth picks ready for commissioning. They accepted the charge and went to work. As I speak, work is in advanced stage and soon that industry will be commissioned.
We are vigorously pursuing ways of generating employment for our teeming youths and to put them on other skills- acquisition programs. I will not rest until our youths work to earn a living and not beg for a living.
We have upgraded a number of facilities such as the 2nd runway at Ibom International Airport, the numerous gulley erosion interventions we have made, the federal roads we have intervened and other infrastructural upgrades. We have been able to do this in spite of the paucity of funds.
So my brothers and sisters, a new dawn beckons to us in this state. As we stood together in grief last year, let us stand together in love this year. As God has shown us mercy let us show mercy to one another. In this way we would invoke more of God’s mercies. When mercy comes on a land the promises of Isaiah 35 becomes manifest, “And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes. And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness.”
Let me cap this story of mercy with an illustration. A young man had a problem with his father. He insulted the old man and abused him in ignorance and left home. Years later, he repented of his wrong and wrote a letter to his father saying, “Dad have mercy on me. I want to come home in the train. If you have forgiven me, put a ribbon on the window of the house and when I see it, I would stop at the next train station and walk home.” He boarded the train and was anxious not knowing whether he would see a ribbon or not on the window. He was really worried. As the train rounded the corner and he could see their house, he closed his eyes not knowing what was there. When he opened his eyes he discovered that the entire house was decorated with ribbons. He wanted one ribbon, but instead he saw a sea of ribbons. He began to cry in joy.
We may have come here thinking of one ribbon, but God would show us a sea of ribbons this year and we would cry together in joy. This year shall be a defining year for our state and I urge the church, the youths, government officials, men and women, young and old never to lose hope.
Let us stand tall in the faith that this state was created to be great and our greatness shall be ornamented by Heaven this year. In 2017, Akwa Ibom will continue to “dakkada”. Let us all rise and claim the faith of our greatness in 2017. Let us rise and lift our brothers and sisters up. If God has blessed you, spread the blessing around, by so doing, God will enrich you even more. It is well with our state, it is well with our people, it is well with Nigeria. Happy New Year and God bless you all!