In this speech delivered at the 19th All Nigeria Editors Annual Conference in Akwa Ibom, the State Governor, Pastor Umo Eno praised the media for its efforts at deepening democratic culture and traditions while charging it on the need entrench development-oriented reportage in the country. He also used the auspicious occasion to highlight the State’s strides in improving the living standard for residents, among other issues.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, the custodians and members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, let me on behalf of the Government and the people of Akwa Ibom State, thank you most profoundly for electing to hold the 19th All Nigeria Editors Annual Conference in our beautiful, serene and peaceful capital City of Uyo. This is certainly the largest assemblage of media practitioners, the stakeholders of our pen profession under one roof, and we are deeply glad to host you.
When the President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Eze Anaba, the Editor of Vanguard newspapers, who also is a proud in-law of this State, intimated me of the desire of this association to hold their annual conference here, I told him, as a media-friendly government, that we would be ready and happy to support the event.
Thomas Jefferson, one of the most consequential founding fathers of the United States of America, aptly captured the role a free press in nation building. In a letter he sent to Edward Carrington, a delegate to the Continental Congress that helped fashion the Constitution of the United States in 1787, he persuasively presented his thoughts on what an engaging press can do to shape and strengthen the then nascent Republic. He opined that if he had a choice to pick “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government” that he would not “hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Permit me, therefore, to celebrate and commend the Nigerian media for the robust role it has played in demanding good governance, for working to strengthen of our institutions, for the good job you have done, sometimes at grave risk to see to the deepening of our democratic culture and traditions. You have advocated the need to have justice, equity and fair play as we work to achieve and nourish our unbending cords of unity.
As excited and proud of the great works you have done as we are, there are, however, some areas that are very concerning and that’s why the theme of this confab, ‘Stimulating Economic Growth, Technological Advancement: Role of the Media,’ is so apt and timely.
I know the guest speaker is going to do a great job dissecting the topic, so I am, not going to preempt what he is going to say, but permit me to say that the growth of any society is predicated on how such a society is being defined, its national ethos, characteristics, identity and defining values. If there is the constant drib-drib of negative reportage where the challenges of the process of our nation-building are overly magnified, our symbols of authority randomly demonised and our potentials routinely talked down on, in spite of how large such a market may be, foreign investors will be wary of coming in such a volatile environment.
I want to plead that you use the media, to engender a new template of reportage, one that is developmental-oriented, where our leaders are called to account without being overly obtrusive. No one desire a plaint media that act like the cheer-leaders to the government, but in trying to break the news, we should be careful not to break the fabric of the society. You need the nation first in order to freely practice your profession.
Let me use this opportunity to thank the media for the support we have enjoyed in our State, especially the Nigerian Union of Journalist, Akwa Ibom State Council, the Correspondent Chapel, the publishers of the local tabloids among, the heads of electronic media among others. They have all bought into our governance agenda based on the ARISE Agenda.
ARISE Agenda is our ambitious governance Blueprint that puts accent on Agricultural Revolution, Rural Development, Infrastructural Maintenance, Security Management and Educational Advancement.
We believe that with solid hard infrastructure we have been blessed with already, such as the best road network of any sub national, a thriving commercial airline, Ibom Air, Secondary Healthcare Facilities, there is the need to develop the rural areas and bring governance closer to the people. Since we came in, on May 29th, 2023, we have carefully and strategically gone about implementing our agenda, in agriculture, infrastructure, security, education, healthcare, and what is known as “kitchen table issues” or issues that directly affect the people, among others.
We have started the construction of a model Primary School at the Christ the King School, not too far from Government House. Once commissioned, I make bold to say that it will be the best ever seen in this nation. We will replicate this in all the thirty one Local Government Areas. We have also started the construction of Primary Healthcare Facilities in the rural areas, the first of such is located in Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area. You will also get to see this before you leave. We will also replicate the model all over the State.
To kick-start our revolution in agriculture, we have signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Songhai farm to replicate the success story in Porto Novo, Benin Republic. A little over a month ago, I led a cross-section of my EXCO Members to inspect the facilities in Benin Republic. The first of the model farms will be flagged off in the next few weeks and we, again will replicate the model in all the 31 Local Council Areas.
Since we came in, we have embarked on the construction of over 14 economically viable road network, especially those that open up the rural areas. I made a promise to build and commission within the 100 Days in office a popular road at our flagship market here in Uyo, located on Ndiya Street. That road was delivered and commissioned on time. We have also tackled gully erosion with ongoing projects.
Our State is generally considered one of the safest States in the nation. To help maintain the peace, we have created a full- fledged Ministry of Internal Security and Waterways headed by a retired general of the Nigerian Army and have equally launched our Neighborhood Watch program which will employ over five thousands youths across all the wards in the State.
We have made the payment of gratuities a major issue of concern. Since we came in, we have released over 4.6 billion Naira to pay the gratuities and leave grants of our local government, primary school teachers and state civil servants. We have also introduced bursary awards to students in tertiary institutions, provision of free books, free uniforms and shoes to our pupils- all aimed at helping lighten the burdens of parents in educating their children. Education, here, still remains free, fair and compulsory at primary to secondary levels.
Ibom Air, a testament to vision, is growing at a phenomenal rate. We recently started flight operations to Ghana and pans are afoot to expand into other West, Central; and South African routes.
Tourism remains a key area of the ARISE Agenda and we are excited at the growth of this sector. Akwa Ibom today remains the destination of choice for major conferences and events and we remain dedicated to investing heavily in this sector.
So as you gather here for this confab, don’t forget to find time and take in the sights and sounds of our beautiful city. May God bless our dear nation, Nigeria, and continue to imbue in our President and Commander-in-Chief, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, more wisdom to guide and lead our nation and, in the process help fulfill; the dreams of our founding fathers to have a powerful, united, prosperous, and equitable Nation, where all may ARISE and fulfill their potentials.
I wish you a very happy convention. God bless us all.