Four Points By Sheraton Hotel: Gov. Udom Emmanuel Goofs

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By Franklyn Isong

I had thought I could stay out of trouble this week. But no!  The week has just started. Today is Tuesday. A lot have happened and are happening in Akwa Ibom state. I owe a duty to contribute to the development of my state, else I would have failed in my social responsibility.

And so, this particular piece my spirit tells me, would not go down well in some quarters. I will be misconstrued and abused by my readers -majority of who are sponsored attack-dogs, who have sold out their consciences for a pot of porridge. But I am not perturbed about whatever opinion(s) anyone holds about me. I am still being called names for daring to caution our elder statesmen not to stoke the embers of war and pre-election violence in Akwa Ibom state as they go about electioneering campaigns.

As I said in my opening, a lot are unfolding in our polity. Since the defection of the former Senate Minority leader, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Wednesday, August 8, 2018, the chicken has come to roost. It has become the Sixth-point agenda of the administration of Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel to combat his predecessor and benefactor, Godswill Akpabio. The government has seemingly abandoned its original five-point agenda to this political media war of words. Hardly, one tunes into any radio station in Akwa Ibom without hearing the media aides of the governor or his supporters seeking to cast aspersion on Akpabio.

I am not holding brief for anybody here. Not Godswill Akpabio nor Udom Emmanuel. These are two elephants who know or ought to know that as they are fighting each other, the grass will suffer, in this case – development. And so, my concern lies on the growth and development of our state. The people are the biggest losers in the political war. I use the word “WAR” guardedly, because, I am against its usage unguardedly by our politicians.

“Who said they had completed the Sheraton by Four Points Hotel? It is only today that we are negotiating with Starwood Group for the retaining of the name, which some people surreptitiously put up on a building,” Governor Udom Emmanuel said during his second term declaration rally on Friday, August 24, 2018 at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo. Hmmm! This Pandora’s Box is wrong timing. The governor misfired. He got it wrong. He missed the opportunity to market his achievements because of anger. He allowed himself to be tempted to join issues instead of using the rally to present his first term scorecard to the people.

I love the idiomatic expression; “As you make your bed, so you must lie on it.” The day did not break today for this administration. Is the governor just realising what he is telling us, after three years in office? It is too late in the day. Akwa Ibom people had expected to hear when the Four Points By Sheraton Hotel will start full commercial activities from Governor Emmanuel, rather than how the name of the Hotel has been “RETAINED.”

Of what relevance to the people that Governor Emmanuel’s administration only succeeded in “Retaining” a name of a project initiated by his predecessor after three years and six months of his administration instead of completing, “re-commissioning” and putting such a project into use for the benefit of the state? This should call for a serious concern from Akwa Ibom people.

‘Anyone who purchases insect-infested firewood invites termites to his house.’ I have not said anything o! But suffice it to say that, analysing the governor’s statement makes me worry for the soul of my dear state.

“…That immediate past Governor (Godswill Akpabio) commissioned the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene without a signed Franchise agreement and full complement of requisite furniture and fittings…We challenge immediate past Governor to validate his claims of having fulfilled the requisite contractual obligations with Starwood Hotel & Resort for the Four Points by Sheraton franchise by publishing a copy of the signed management agreement…,” this is an excerpt from a press statement issued by Mr Charles Udoh, Akwa Ibom Information Commissioner and Strategy.

I am no less disappointed by the government’s outbursts, for choosing to distract attention from the core question of why the hotel has not been completed, and put into use for the benefit of the state.

Now that the government is asking, thus; “Four Points By Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene: WHO IS LYING?” While, one is not in any way attempting an answer, one had stumbled on an online news report published on June 27, 2014, by Point Blank Newspaper via link; http://pointblanknews.com/pbn/news/akwa-ibom-signs-contractual-agreement-with-starwood/ and another on June 28, 2014, by Daily Post Newspaper via link; http://dailypost.ng/2014/06/28/akwa-ibom-signs-new-hotel-management-contract-starwood-international/, respectively on this subject matter.

For the benefit of my readers who may not have seen these reports and in order to expand the scope of this discourse, I elect to reproduce the said publications especially, that of Daily Post Newspaper, with the headline; “AKWA IBOM SIGNS NEW HOTEL MANAGEMENT CONTRACT WITH STARWOOD INTERNATIONAL.”

The report reads: “Akwa Ibom Government has signed an agreement with American leisure and hospitality company, Starwood International, for the management of its FOUR-POINT SHERATON HOTEL (emphasis mine) under construction at Ikot Ekpene. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the agreement was signed by the Special Duties Commissioner, Mr Emmanuel Enoidem and Starwood’s Vice-President, Mr Hassan Ahdab on Friday in Uyo. The new 128 standard rooms, 16 suits, two presidential suits, 12-story hotel under construction and being handled by Renaissance Construction Group, is scheduled for inauguration in March 2015.

“The signing of the agreement is another milestone for Akwa Ibom people and the building of the Four-Point Hotel is to strengthen our hospitality industry in the state. The construction of the hotel is already ongoing. We are on the seventh floor now and we are expected to commission the hotel on March 31, 2015,” Enoidem said.

“According to him, Ikot Ekpene’s location for the hotel stemmed from its strategic contributions as one of the oldest cities in the state. It is not only known as a raffia city but it is an archival centre for Akwa Ibom State.

“The project is sited at where the former Ikot Ekpene Prison was located which we had pulled down and relocated to another area. So, the hotel will turn the place of grief to a place of joy because this government came with a determination to turn our sorrow to an uncommon joy,” Enoidem said.

“He said the government had decided to create an enabling environment for the private sector to play key role in the economy of the state. Enoidem said the hotel would be managed by the private sector as a way of turning the state from a civil service to a private sector driven economy.

“Earlier, the Vice-President of Starwood international, thanked the government for the trust in his company. Ahdab assured that the company would continue to support the government for the development of leisure and hospitality industry. He also lauded Gov. Godswill Akpabio for the massive transformation of the state through infrastructure development. NAN further reports that the Le-Meridien Hotel and Golf Resort in the state are currently managed by Starwood International,” the Daily Post Newspaper report said.

My view is simple, except this report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) published June 2014 is false; otherwise, there is more to this issue than what the state government wants Akwa Ibom people to believe.

Going down memory lane; I am inclined to ask, what is in a name of a project? Godswill Akpabio took over The Akwa Ibom State University of Science and Technology (AKUTECH) from his predecessor, Obong Victor Attah, he restructured the institution to The Akwa Ibom State University (AKSU), built on Attah’s structure and put the institution into full operation.

He met The Ibom International Airport; Le-Meridien Hotels and Golf Resort; Ibom Power Plant at Ikot Abasi at certain percentages of completion, he built on his predecessor’s foundations, completed and commissioned them for the interest of the state. The Aka-Nung Udoe-Ibesikpo Asutan road, was also initiated by Obong Attah’s government, Akpabio’s government came and expanded the road, completed and commissioned it for the benefit of the people.

Methinks, these are made possible because, government is a continuum! It should not be about who started which project(s) and where such government project(s) are sited? And who should take the glory of the project when completed? Let the people of Akwa Ibom take the glory for every government project.

That is why I am disappointed over the seeming posture of Udom Emmanuel’s government on all legacy projects of his predecessors (Attah and Akpabio). And I dare advise the governor to build on the foundations of his predecessors’ projects, such as; the Ibom Science Park, the E-Library, Ibom Tropicana, Ibom Specialist Hospital, Four Points By Sheraton Hotel, Ibaka Deep Seaport, Ibom Power Plant, among several others, for the interest of the people of the state. Even if this will be the only achievement of the Udom’s administration, it will be counted for him as one of the best performing governors of the state.

Mr Udom Emmanuel should get serious with the business of governance. I heard the governor scored himself high during his second term declaration rally, and I think this was a joke taken too far!

Isong is a public affairs commentator  

Culled from Radar Newspaper Online