Industrialization project of the Udom Emmanuel led state government, has been applauded as the surest and shortest route out of the socio-economic political crises that have bedevilled the 32 years old state.
The first civilian governor, the late Obong Akpan Isemin who emerged in 1992, was confronted by a severely battered, grossly underdeveloped and most prominently, as a new political entity, an afflicted state with a vicious syndrome of poor self esteem. To confront this monster, Isemin identified and popularized the ''etok''(smallness) syndrome, an initiative which sought, among others, to emancipate the people from that mental slavery and to raise the collective social status of Akwa Ibom man to a significant pedestal. Owing to the lean federal allocation that the state used to receive by that time, not much was recorded of that administration in terms of physical infrastructure. But suffice it to say that Attah, rather recorded more attitudinal achievements than physical infrastructure.
When he came in as the first indigenous governor of the state, not much, too was heard, but Group Capt. Idongesit Nkanga built the state secretariat in just nine months.
It was rather Attah, an architect, who redesigned the architectural landscape of the state, especially the state capital, Uyo. Attah designed the Ibom Plaza, his administration built the Le Meridien and Golf resort, the Ibom International Airport, the state University of science and technology, the Ibom Power Company , the Ibom science park and others and to expand the metropolitan frontiers, he cited the Le Meridien at Ifiayong Usuk in Uruan.
However in 2007, when he came on board, Godswill Akpabio completed the Le Meridien Golf Resort, The Ibom Power company, the state University of science and technology, though he changed the Science and Technology component of the name to Akwa Ibom State University.
Akpabio departed significantly from his predecessor's expansionist political philosophy, to what he referred to as ''uncommon transformation''. His administration embarked on massive road and other physical infrastructure and linked the state to other parts of the country. He brought life to areas that were totally cut out of the state, by designing and constructing good road network that linked the state together.
Apart from roads, the Akpabio's administration built three overhead bridges, popularly called flyovers in the state capital. Akpabio also built the Ibom E- library and the Tropicana entertainment centre. During his second terminal electioneering campaign, he promised to build 31 cottage industries, one per local government if elected into office for a second term.
However, throughout his second term, not even a foundation was laid for any industries, rather his information managers told Akwa Ibom people that the state government had no business in building industries, rather they will provide conducive and enabling environment for investors to come in and invest.
Upon his swearing into office, Udom Emmanuel said his administration will concentrate in industrialization and job creation for the ever increasing battalion of unemployed youths of the state. According to official records, the state government, under Gov. Udom Emmanuel has established 15 industries in less than four years. Ironically, official records from the federal bureau of statistics, rates the state as the second highest in unemployment rate. Though the state government, in its effort to keep a good image and defend its strides, has disagreed with the federal government position. However, independent survey by this writer shows that, in spite of the ground breaking establishment of these industries, over 70 per cent of the youths are either unemployed or underemployed. The state government has established coconut refinery, whose ownership is still a subject of heated debate. The state government has also established the Toothpick and syringe industries and a host of others. The all-consuming questions are : where are these industries? How many youths work there? Who owns these industries? How come unemployment rate is increasing, in spite of the state government industrialization process?
A senior lecturer in the department of economics, Dr. Ettah Essien defined industrialization as ''the building up of a country's capacity to process raw materials and to manufacture goods for consumption, for future consumption and for further production''. Speaking further, he said industrialization is the process of building a country's capacity to process raw materials for consumption of goods and services that is for consumption now , for future consumption and for export''
If this description of industrialization by an expert is anything to go by, then certainly the state has missed the road to industrialization. According to him, it is not all about building coconut, syringe or metering factories. It is not about building toothpick and pencil, but about harnessing the abundant natural raw materials that sufficiently litre the state. It's about harnessing the raffia that is abundant in Ikot Ekpene, the Limestone and rice in Ikono and Ini, the palm oil that flows in Etim Ekpo, Ukanafun, Oruk Anam and the other parts of Annang land. It's about harnessing the alumina in Ikot Abasi and harnessing the fishing technology and encouraging the fish farmers in Ikot Abasi, Obolo and Oro.
Scientific researches show that there is no local government in Akwa Ibom State that does not have at least two mineral resources and raw materials for the process of industrialization. But regrettably, the state government appears to ignore the ones we have in abundance and keeps chasing distant shadows.