I have never met Abdul Rabiu in real life. Apart from his sprawling BUA Estate opposite the Gwarimpa city in Abuja, I only watch him campaigning daily against the COVID-19 on Cable News Network (CNN). His recent refinery cum petrochemical project is bringing him closer to Akwaibomites in particular and Nigerians in general. Two things occurred in quick succession last week that touched the Akwa Ibom dream.
The first was a magnum-opus written by Obong Victor Attah to his successor Godswill Akpabio advising the later on the wrong siting of Ibom Tropicana at Udo Udoma Avenue. The second was the news of a deal between Abdul Rabiu`s BUA Group and Axens, a French firm to set up a 200,000/bpd capacity integrated refinery and petrochemical plant in Akwa Ibom State.
Attah`s famous letter to Akpabio was a stinker; It wasn’t just an admonition. It contained in it snippets of the master plan for development of Uyo Capital City and the likely dangers of flouting town planning rules through ego-driven projects.
He had argued that either such funds should best be ploughed into water reticulation of the Uyo metrpolis or his successor should consider a relocation of the Tropicana to another area of the city for better spacing instead of choking the already saturated Udo Udoma Avenue.
As expected, Attah`s intervention did not only fall on deaf ears, but attracted the most vicious of attacks in a government-sponsored insults serialised in national media then as ‘What Does Attah Really Want’.
Today, Ibom Tropicana is not only a useless wasteland as Attah warned, but ranks as one of the worst construction mistakes of the 21st Century. Each time one drives past that structure, one comes to terms with ‘what Attah really wanted’ that earned him those abuses, and what Akpabio did along Udo Udoma Avenue.
The rest, as they say, is now history, but the BUA story reminds one of the Akwa Ibom dream which Obong Attah rightly epitomises. I
was Attah who laid the true foundation and articulated the roadmap to infrastructural development of Akwa Ibom State. History remembers him whenever that plan is distorted (as in the Ibom Tropicana case) and when a development (like the BUA project) rhymes with his vision.
The BUA refinery and petrochemical plant is another reminder of what Attah really wanted. Nothing could be more exhilarating than the news of a private refinery in Nigeria.
Nothing more than such being sited in the Akwa Ibom State which prides as the largest resoviour of petro-carbon along the Gulf of Guinea.
According to the report, the BUA plant is expected to produce high quality gasoline, diesel, kerosene, jet fuel and propylene. The refinery is expected to catalyse petro-business, enhance Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and provide direct and indirect employment to the teeming youths of Akwa Ibom State.
Indeed, like I submitted in Ubium community forum a fortnight ago, the time has come for our policy makers to think out functional strategies to mop up our idle youths from politics to gainful employment. There is no gainsaying the fact that the emerging culture of having our youths dissipate their energies as political pimps and minstrels instead of working in factories and offices is much more dangerous than the current pandemic. It is embarassing to always be greeted by uniformwearing-drumming youths singing to welcome politicians at our airport.
It is depressing to always see them waiting for handouts at the gates of politicians, or in great numbers as hired crowds at political rallies even on working days. The political class has reduced Akwa Ibom Ibom youths to beggars, such that they now perceive leadership on the basis of who gives more alms among their oppressors.
A generous criminal or misfits are preferred over people of merit during elections for their bouts of philanthropy. Truth must be told that politics should not be mistaken for employment as is the case in our society.
It must be emphasised that politics, though attractive and heavily remunerated in Nigeria, remains a short-term service with very limited openings. There must be deliberate efforts by government to engage majority of the population in productive ventures if it must have a sophisticated followership.
This can be achieved by collaborating with or providing encouraging environment for job-bearing investments like the BUA refinery project. We commend Governor Udom Emmanuel for his leadership in attracting such huge investments as a refinery and a vehicle assembly plant to the state, and especially for establishing complementary infrastructure like Ibom Airline, Ibom Towers, the Ibom Deep Seaport and the cottage industries.
Abdul Rabiu must also be commended for berthing a refinery in Akwa Ibom State. With the assurances of a congenial business atmosphere and the warm hospitality of Akwa Ibom people, let’s also hope that the new plant will attract auxiliary industries and more job opportunities for Akwa Ibom youths.
… Afaha is an associate professor and head, Department of History and Diplomatic Studies, University of Abuja…