t has been seven years since I left the shores of Akwa Ibom after my National Youth Service Corp came to an end. Secondary sources – persons and the media – provided me with information about what happened in the state during that time period from a socioeconomic and political standpoint. I had no means of knowing whether what I was hearing was true, half-truth, or blatant lie.
Early in June, I had the opportunity to learn about Akwa Ibom firsthand during an emergency, six-day visit that took me almost the whole length and breadth of the state. I was looking forward to the journey with bated breath. This would afford me the means to see all I had heard about what the Udom administration is doing in the state with my “bare eyes.”
There was no other option when it came to selecting an airline for the journey, the state-owned airline. The use of Ibom Air was motivated by a mix of curiosity and patriotism. The Airline was founded by Udom’s government two years ago, on June 29, 2019. And throughout that time, I had heard and read about the rising success of the African continent’s first state-owned Airline, a company that began with two aircrafts running on two routes, Uyo-Abuja and Uyo-Lagos, and grew to seven aircrafts serving two additional routes, Uyo-Enugu and Uyo-Calabar.
The welcome announcement was auto-translated in Ibibio as passengers sank into the comfortable seats of the sleek Bombardier CRJ900 airplane traveling to Uyo’s Victor Attah International Airport confirmed that I was truly returning to The People’s Paradise. Even before the plane took off from Lagos, I began to feel at ease. Something tells me that it is going to be a great adventure of unforgettable moments all the way! In terms of service and professionalism, the airline did not disappoint me. It lived up to the hype.
My antenna was engaged as I drove into Uyo town from Victor Attah International Airport, looking for any image or evidence of development that had not been present during my previous stay in the state in 2015. On the dual carriageway, I noted that extension construction is under progress. At first look, one might be inclined to doubt the rationality of widening a road that is nearly traffic-free and leads to and from an airport that is not yet operating at peak efficiency. However, a closer look indicated that Governor Emmanuel might be seeing things that others are not.
That route would allow more traffic than it does now, with the projected start of international operations at the airport in 2022, which would see Ibom Air travel to several locations in Western and Central African countries.
Real estate properties along the route would appreciate at a fast rate. On the road, a number of structures have already sprouted up, many of which offer commercial benefits. A secondary school, a polytechnic, and numerous other structures are there. The government may also be attempting to avoid having to deal with towns along the route over compensation issues if the need for expansion emerges in the future at a time when it may not have the money.
The greenhouse project, which is an important aspect of the government’s agricultural policy, is the structure that has captured my eye in terms of development. The project’s site is far larger than I had initially imagined based on images I had seen on television and in magazines.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, and other vegetables are cultivated here, despite the fact that the state’s soil has previously been deemed unsuitable for cultivation of such agricultural produce.
Despite the velocity at which the Uyo environment has changed, the road project I observed on the Uyo-Oron Road, the huge roundabout from where Udo Udoma Avenue begins, made me realize that infrastructure development is still in progress. This image was reinforced when I traveled to Onna Local Government Area and passed via the Etinan-Onna Road, which is now under construction and has replaced the old, one-lane road built in the 1970s with a well-lit dual carriageway. Even though it was a route I took frequently up until my exit from the state six years ago, I needed sporadic explanations from my host to know where I was at any point in time. How a city can transform in less than a decade!
Akwa Ibom is now a pretty tranquil state, in contrast to five or six years ago. Kidnappings, which are common in many parts of the country, are recalled in the state as a thing of the past. In Uyo, the state capital, petty theft (pick-pocketing/bags-snatching) and robbery only serve to emphasize that crime is a side effect of progress, as it is everywhere around the world.
Uyo has a vibrant nightlife, which is a testament to the capital’s tranquility and security. The crowd that thronged the IBB Avenue as late as 10PM on Thursday, June 10, when Paul Enenche, a popular televangelist was in town for a crusade at Ibom Hall, defied any fear of insecurity.
The hospitality industry is quickly becoming a significant element in Akwa Ibom’s economy. My research found that hotels are springing up at a rapid pace. This is because people from all over the country come to Uyo for a variety of reasons, including business, seminars, conferences, weddings, and other events. More visitors to the state are expected in the coming years, particularly as the state transits from a civil service to an industrialized state.
This article would amount to nothingness without mentioning the Dakkada Towers, which rise 21 stories tall in the Uyo Central Business District. The building is breathtaking. The facility has been commissioned, according to my sources, and is awaiting high-profile tenants from the oil and gas business who have expressed interest in leasing it.
When I last visited the Ibom Tropicana Complex, it resembled an abandoned, decaying edifice. A traveler who had been to New York, Paris, and London would be forgiven if he thought he was in one of those cities now that it has been transformed into a vast shopping arcade.
If you ever want to go on a vacation, for the best of hospitality within the border of Nigeria, consider coming down to Akwa Ibom and you would be amazed at all the wonders that the beauty of nature has to offer in The People’s Paradise. Come feel the warmth and the hospitability of the Ibibio people. This is home away from your abode!