Udom Emmanuel: Behind and beyond the Akwa Ibom success story

'Nigeria is a country of 200 million people… there are a lot of eggheads that can make a difference,' says the 2023 presidential election hopeful

May 25, 2022

Udom Emmanuel took governorship of the Nigerian state Akwa Ibom in 2015. Since then he has transformed the southern coastal region from a civil service state into an attractive destination for private enterprise; one of the best states in the country for bringing in foreign direct investment. In this fifth and final video from the hour World Finance spent in the studio with Governor Udom Emmanuel, he explains what first motivated him to run for political office, what he’s most proud of in his time serving the people of Akwa Ibom, and addresses the political groups who called for him to stand in the 2023 presidential election.

World Finance: We’ve talked about your corporate career, but of course in 2015 you moved back to your home state to start your political career. What drove this, what motivated you?

Udom Emmanuel: Service. Service. I came from a background that we… when I started in the financial system, we started running what we call People, Service and Technology. I could see that the people and the service needed a little bit of, you know, a handshake, somewhere.

And to also bring to bear what we’ve learned, what we’ve seen working, what we’ve delivered. The capacity that we have in that one word. To serve the people.

World Finance: When you became governor, did you have any vision in mind, any sort of, key objectives that you thought: well, if I can achieve this, then I know my time will have been a success?

Udom Emmanuel: Oh sure! I set that up in many points that we can actually try to look at our political and economic inclusion. We can look at the infrastructure renaissance. The social services. And also the youth empowerment and youth development. If we build on this then certainly I would be satisfied as a person.

Look at the industrialisation policy, and then run with that. I never knew when I set up those policies that we would shut down the whole world for almost two years! But be that as it may, I would score myself that we have done minimum of 80 percent of that, and we believe we can still achieve minimum of 90. Because we still have one more year. A year means a whole lot in delivering on these promises to the people.

World Finance: What are you proudest of, in your time as governor? And, what do you think your legacy will be?

Udom Emmanuel: Number one, I would pride myself as that person that came in with the reorientation of the minds of the people, under what I call the Dakkada philosophy. Where we got people to believe that what you have is all that you need. And once you have the passion, nothing’s impossible.

I would also pride myself on that governor who came in, who ran after peace, and who restored peace. Who understood the source of peace, the principles of peace, the architect of peace, and then the benefit of peace. And I sought after that, and we achieved it.

World Finance: We are nearly out of time; I cannot let you go without asking you this final question. A number of political groups have come forward to directly suggest that you should run in the 2023 presidential elections. Obviously I’m not expecting any kind of grand announcement here today, but purely hypothetically: if you were to run, if you were to succeed, what do you think you would you do differently? What do you think needs to be changed?

Udom Emmanuel: If I were to be given the opportunity? Well, I would look at certain policies and principles, and first of all localise them to our own people, to see how they work.

I know that I need a whole lot of my knowledge within the public and the private sector. I wouldn’t deny the people of that knowledge, that experience or that capacity.

But I would behave as I need everybody. All hands to be on deck. Nigeria is a country of 200 million people, and inside those 200 million people there are a lot of eggheads that can make a difference. So I would go after those resources. Because what you have is all that you need to make what you want.

World Finance: Governor, once again, thank you very much.

Udom Emmanuel: Thank you so much.