The edifice sits at the centre of Uyo metropolis. It salutes Governor Udom Emmanuel daily as his convoy moves to and fro Government House for private or official engagements . It is a cynosure of all eyes in Uyo city because of its location. From Wellington Bassey Way, Ikot Ekpene, Oron and Aka roads, this architectural masterpiece designed and constructed by Obong Victor Attah remains a tourist flash point in Akwa Ibom. Welcome to Ibom plaza!
Built for the advancement of tourism, it was a centre of relaxation that unites all ethnic groups in the state especially in sports and entertainment. From Aka road entrance to the plaza, smart photographers beckon on you for snap shots of either passport or other good time photographs with loved ones.
Traffic at the plaza has reduced; kudos to the former commissioner of transport, Prince Godwin Ntuk Ude who regulated the influx of tricycle operators in and around the plaza. This gives tourists and fun makers thoroughfare into the leisure temple of Akwa Ibom.
A walk into the plaza confirms an excellent architectural work that adds value to the aesthetic design of Uyo city. Water fountain, sit out, public viewing centre, shopping malls and a lawn tennis court. Flowers and ornamental trees dot the landscape as a high point to the masterpiece. Suya spots, drinking joints and other special areas for picnic makers are the features of a modern park as conceived and embedded in the design of Ibom plaza by Attah as a legacy for his people.
Neglected by previous administrations, Ibom plaza is now a shadow of its former self and a failed dream of the designers. It is now a sad story of rot and decay, far from the infrastructure once known for succour, soothing, relaxation and tension reliever from a tedious day.
During the 2004 Olympic games, youths of the state and visitors alike watched all the football matches from a giant sized television strategically positioned at the plaza. Just saunter into plaza, get a cold bottle of drink with suya, cross your legs and you begin to have fulfilment as son or daughter of Akwa Ibom.
Today, the Olympic size TV screen in the plaza is wrapped with cobwebs. The water fountain has dried up, plumbing system network in the plaza has collapsed and the ornamental trees and flowers have grown wild. Unkempt and unattended to, the toilets stink, leaving the hoodlums to make quick cash from tourists and visitors who want to ease themselves.
The bizarre condition of the plaza has forced traders to abandon the malls inside and display their wares by the roadside, due to low patronage. Consequently, Uyo Capital City Development Authority (UCCDA) taskforce and the plaza roadside traders are on each other's jugular. This fight would be separated by Governor Udom Emmanuel when he would be ready to restore the lost glory of Ibom plaza.
Crooks, conmen, party fans and miscreants have taken over the plaza. When TNN visited the area, both APC and PDP supporters were found in groups around the newspaper stands arguing about who would win the 2019 general elections. The plaza has become an open court of public opinion against the ideology of the designers. It has turned to political campaign ground for both government, herbalists, pastors and other social crusaders.
Last year, the Commissioner of Information Mr. Charles Udoh visited the plaza, not for recreation but to drum support for Udom's second term ambition. As Udoh addressed traders in the plaza, a certain Mrs. Nne Udoma told the commissioner that all the facilities at the plaza were decaying and underscored the need for government to revive the place. The plaza traders made other request including removal of illegal roadside traders who have prevented customers from coming to buy from the plaza mall and lack of electricity supply.
During the last Christmas celebrations, the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism Mr. Victor Antai spent several millions but none was committed to renovation of Ibom plaza in all the expenditures.
The information commissioner had promised to convey the request to the governor for immediate action. But one year after that visit, and also one year to the end of his first term in office, the plaza plaza remains one of the government's multi- million investments that have been allowed to rot away. Or, is it because it was not an Udom's initiative?