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Government by lies and deception: The case of Akwa Ibom state - Sylvester Inyang

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Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel

In the heat of the rage that erupted over Udom Emmanuel’s misguided plan to build another governor’s Lodge in Lagos, a serious dimension of the saga somehow escaped the attention it should have received.

That dimension is the governor’s first direct response to the issue which was, in fact, a denial that such a project was provided for in the budge at all! When the governor finally admitted that ‘only’ N1.2 billion was allocated to the harebrained project, he did not deem it necessary to explain, or apologise for, the earlier lie that no such project was in the budget.

Could it somehow have escaped the attention of the famed accountant and international banker that provision had been made for a Lodge in Lagos in a budget he had caused to be prepared and had signed into law under his own hand? Was the amount of N1.2 billion so ‘small’ that a billionaire governor used to humungous sums, could not be bothered to remember it?

Is it the case that the budget, the principal fiscal instrument through which Udom Emmanuel is empowered to spend the people’s money, means so little to him that even after the planned Lodge had become a matter of loud controversy, the governor could not bestir himself to consult it before issuing that damning denial?

No answers to these and other questions can possibly exonerate the deacon governor from the charge of lying. The real question therefore is: why did Udom Emmanuel lie? Why does he lie so blatantly? And so often? Do the Akwa Ibom people deserve a government built on lies and deceit?

Under the prevailing moral climate (this is the age of Trump, afterall), people have come to expect a certain degree of hyperbole and the occasional, harmless white lie from politicians. But it is a different kettle of fish altogether when deception and lies assume the status of a fundamental objective and directive (or operational) principle of state policy, as it appears to have done with Udom Emmanuel’s PDP government.

There are real, and grave, life consequences when the governor and government habitually tell lies to the people. When a taxiway that is under construction at the state-owned airport is passed off as a second runway, might sums amounting to the cost of an actual runway have been charged to the state treasury?

Through such, apparently harmless ‘terminological inexactitude’ is multibillion fraud perpetrated! Needless to say, funds so fraudulently lost could have gone to improve the quality of care in the many dilapidated health facilities strewn across the state. And some lives would have been saved, thereby.

Is it not an expensive deception and needless waste when Udom Emmanuel blows the people’s money on groundbreaking and flagoff ceremonies of projects that he knows well enough will not be executed, and if executed, will prove unsustainable and therefore of dubious benefit to the state? Think of the armoured vehicle assembly plant. The lighting factory. Peacock Paint, revived at the cost of hundreds of millions and with Lagos store-purchased paint. The Made-in-China but produced in Akwa Ibom pencils. Shoprite. The meter factory which is not a state government project but is passed off as if the government initiated it. The syringe factory, the shareholding structure of which remains opaque. All involve one type of deception or the other.

Akwa Ibom people are unlikely to have forgotten so soon how costly government by deception and lies can be. Udom Emmanuel’s godfather, benefactor and great teacher; Godswill Akpabio, brought home that bitter lesson to all of us. He, of the uncommon transformation (uncommon looting?) fame it was, who made high art of government by sleight of hand.

Thus did we pay for what was billed as a 60,000 capacity full-range stadium only to end up with a 30,000 capacity football pitch! The ‘change’ (a la Mama Peace); the difference in monetary terms, went down the proverbial black hole! And today, we have a state that had received the unheard amount of over N3trillion in eight years with no reserves left and is in fact, groaning under the burden of debt (a fact Udom Emmanuel has refused to publicly acknowledge but grumbles endlessly about in private - deception in another guise).

To his dubious credit, Deacon Emmanuel has learnt well from his teacher. That explains why lies and deception have become policy under his watch. (Or did he in fact develop this evil propensity independently as some uncharitable people have suggested, in his earlier incarnation as a ‘cook’, at Zenith Bank?).

Of course, it doesn’t really matter whether he learnt his tawdry trade at the feet of the ‘great teacher’ or was already accomplished in it by the time he was foisted on an unsuspecting Akwa Ibom public. In the final analysis, what really counts is that Udom Emmanuel is practicing government by deception and the people of Akwa Ibom State are the worse for it.

 Inyang lives and works in Eket, Akwa Ibom State

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