Umo Eno’s happy hour proposal and the urgent need for good leadership

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Etim Etim

The PDP governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom state, Umo Eno, caused a stir when he announced this afternoon that, if elected governor, he would declare the hours of 5pm-6pm every Friday as happy hour to enable bars sell drinks at affordable prices to the people. Here are his exact words as he spoke to journalists. “Every Friday, em..em.. I will have what I call em..em.. Happy Hour for the State. And what do I want to do with Happy Hour? It’s simple emm..emm.. I want to create business for people that have facility. So, we declare that between 5 and 6, these are the bars that will sell drinks at certain prices…”

Seated next to Mr Eno as he made the announcement was Onofiok Luke, former speaker of the state house of assembly, who is now a member of the house of representatives. It was obvious from Luke’s reaction that he was very embarrassed by Eno’s quirky announcement. Reactions from Akwa Ibom people of different political stripes have ranged from horror, outrage and indignation. The state has a population of over 7 million people; produces over 30% of Nigeria’s crude oil output, but wallows in huge unemployment (over 50%) and over 70% hunger rate, according to NBS. The misery index is high and the per capita income is about the least in the Niger Delta region.

The state earns an average of N20 billion in a month in FAAC income and about N3 billion in a month in IGR, yet it owes over N360 billion in debts, incurred in the last 16 years, comprising the Akapbio and the current administrations. Out-of-school children are the highest in the region and maternal mortality is high. Schools are in poor shape and many students still do not have desks. Yet, with such abysmal statistics, Umo Eno can only propose a happy drinking hour for the people. What a shame!

Eno owns a hotel and catering business, and it is possible that his happy hour idea is borne out of his wealth of experience in that area. But he is not seeking the job of an F&B manager, for goodness’ sake! We need a governor who has the mental ability and the experience to superintend the transition of the state into an industrialized economy. We do not need a bar manager. I know that many bars around the world dedicate certain hours of the day as happy hours, during which certain drinks, especially lagers, are sold at discounted prices.

But it is not the business of government to make a policy pronouncement on the happy hours, and prices of beers. By pledging to make drinking hours at bars a policy thrust of his government, Eno has exhibited a poor sense of judgment in policy design and a weak grasp of the urgent needs of the people. Often sounding vacuous, incoherent and blank, he has not shown the right frame of mind as a candidate of the ruling party. I would therefore be remiss in my duty as a senior citizen of Akwa Ibom if don’t make the point that Umo Eno has been a big disappointment.

There’s a growing impression in the state that he is not the right man for the job. In an answer to Channels TV’s Seun Okinbaloye on how he would promote tourism, he said that he would build more hotels. More hotels in a state that already has two government-owned five-star hotels; one running at less than 20% occupancy and the other at less than 5%? The third government-owned facility, a 16-storey edifice in the heart of Uyo, has not even been put to use since completion over 10 years ago. There are many others owned by private business people. Why then does he propose to have the government build more hotels?

Just yesterday, Eno created a furore when he visited the biggest building materials market in Uyo and pledged to build toilet facilities that would discharge the waste into the Atlantic Ocean which is over 50 km away! In the first instance, this market is a purpose-built facility put up by Victor Attah over 15 years ago. The place is not bereft of hygiene facilities.

Even if it were, the local government chairman can take care of that. What the traders need is access to funding, which is what another candidate, John Udoedehe of NNPP, promised when he visited the same market three months earlier and pledged to provide N5 billion in funding for the traders. Yet, all that Eno could think of is toilet that would drain off into the Atlantic! Who does that?

Eno’s apparent hollowness is rooted in the selection process that threw him up. One evening in January last year, Governor Udom Emmanuel assembled PDP members at his official residence and announced that “God had revealed to him that Umo Eno should be the next governor”.

With that, all other contenders were driven out of the race and Eno was crowned with over 98% of the votes at the primary election in May. No contest. No debates. No policy thrust. No media scrutiny. All we keep hearing has been God said this or God said that. The fusion of politics with religion in the state, especially under the incumbent governor, is a scheme designed by the politicians to beguile the people.

Udom Emmanuel in particular has perfected the art of using God’s name to mesmerise his people. So, when the governor announced that God had told him to anoint Eno as his successor, he was certain that the people would fall for it. Faced with dire economic and social problems, Akwa Ibom people need a leader who has a full understanding of their problems and has clear ideas of how to fix them.

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