Good evening great Akwaibomites, good evening Nigeria, Good evening Africa and good evening the world. I come to you tonight from the deep bowels of our beautiful and exotic city of Uyo- the capital of Nigeria’s Land of Promise- the great state that remains the only one that is named after god Almighty.
We have come here tonight to celebrate God’s faithfulness and to offer Thanksgiving for his enduring love, blessings and protection. My wife, Her Excellency,  Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel, the Flounder of FeYrep,  my family and the good people of Akwa Ibom State welcome you most heartily to this celebration of the birth of God’s son and the opening of the doors of salvation to mankind.

 Tonight has been long in the making. Long hours of intense labour and details went into the making of this event. We had a program of action. We went over all the details several times. We checked and rechecked the details. We dotted the “I’s” and crossed the “T’s.” We planned for everything and every check list was acted upon and we proclaimed to ourselves: Ready to roll!  What we did not however, plan for was death in the Akwa Ibom family. But unfortunately instead of the usual celebration of our hospitality, our Christian bonds and affection, our beautiful and world class infrastructural amenities, death has become the major theme in today’s narrative in our state.  Exactly one week ago today, on December 10, 2017 to be precise, the Reigners’ Bible Church located on Uyo Village Road collapsed during an  ordination service, of which I was present as the Special Guest of Honour.

Let me therefore ask that we all stand up and observe a minute silence for the souls of the departed… May their souls rest in peace. Ever since Mary Slessor and other blessed missionaries came to our shores and evangelized our ancestors, we have come to see the church as a shelter of refuge. The Church has given us hope and inspiration. The church has showered blessings on us and raise our moral tone and texture.

Last Saturday the roof of a church building caved in while worship was going on and this led to the death of 26 persons. We have not fully recovered from the shock but let us say that what fell was a church building (man’s handiwork), not God’s promise. We are still standing on God’s promises. On Christ the solid rock, we still stand.

This, however, should serve as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. Ever since He created the sun and put it there we have never had a blackout. The sun has never run out of gas. The collapse of the building was man’s error and that is why we have set up a high-powered panel of inquiry to determine what went wrong. We dedicated two days of mourning for the souls of the departed, we  activated the full machinery and resources of Government to aid in the rescue and evacuation of victims of the tragedy and we have assured the victims’ families of government’s resolve to stand by and with them during this time of mourning.

I personally led the team of rescuers and called in specialist physicians from across the nation. My conviction and belief is that every Akwa Ibom life matters and we must do all we can to save lives. This has been a state nay national tragedy and I wish to  commend our people for coming together as one; I want to thank our President and Commander in-Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, the Senate President, Senator Ike Ekeweremandu,  the Senate Minority Leader, Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio, my brother governors, the PDP family and all those across the nation and the world who have called me to show solidarity with us over this sad tragedy.

Many have sympathized with me or questioned me for going to the church. But I am happy that I was there. The footsteps of the righteous are ordered by God and He took me there to save lives. I believe that if I were not there to personally to supervise the rescue efforts and mobilize the best possible network of medical experts and rescue workers, the casualties would have been a lot more. I was not elected to share your joys only; I was elected to also share you pain and agony. I am here to laugh with you and cry with you. We are all in the same boat. I share that grievous pain with everyone on that Black Saturday inside that church. My heart would bleed forever as I recollect the harrowing scene.

But then the Akwa Ibom Story is that we have met with triumph and disaster several times and we always forged ahead. No calamity can separate us from the love of God. We remain the only state that is named after God Almighty and our faith in the Lord remains sacrosanct. We will all recover from this tragedy and march on to greatness because we have all ‘dakkada’ or risen to claim the faith of our greatness.

Last year when we gathered here it was against the background of the annulment of election in18 Local Government Areas and a call for rerun by the Appeal Court of the mandate which the good people of this state gave to me. Yet we danced and sang and I declared to you that the “Supreme God that we worship will give us supreme victory in the Supreme Court.” I still remember that after I made that prophetic declaration, Donnie McClurkin one of the featured artistes took over and sang in vernacular the song that says that “you will sing again that song of joy in your heart”- eya ama-ne  ekwo, ikwo idaresit…  We have come to sing that song again. The song of our supreme victory in the Supreme Court through our Supreme God. We will sing that song again tonight because in our hour of tragedy, the the devil cannot stop us. We cannot be cowed, we cannot be shamed, and we cannot retreat from giving our people good governance, that is what I was elected to do, that is our collective charge and together, in unison we shall get there.

The Akwa Ibom story is in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”  Therefore, let us tell the world that in spite of what has happened, it is well with us. Let us remind the world that according to 2 Corinthians 4:17 “…our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

We are currently living in tough economic times all over our country. The economic recession has led to rising prices of goods. But when prices of goods rise in arithmetic progression, our faith also keep rising in geometric progression with the scripture as our common ratio. Because our faith is always ahead of what we see, we still provide public good and services in the discharge of our mandate. We never owe salaries and we are embarking on many developmental projects. From over 200  kilometres of road, some of which we have commissioned and some on-going, from an improved electricity in state, to our free and compulsory education, from free medical services to children aged 1-5 and their aged parents, to our bold innovations aimed at in diversifying our economy through agriculture, to the industries and foreign direct investments we have been able to attract to the state, whose  full effect you will begin to see in the coming years God has made this possible to prove His word that “when men shall say there is a casting down, your testimony shall be that there is a lifting up.”  

Before the end of this year I will have the chance to fulfil one of my campaign promises when I shall commission a tooth pick and pencil making factory . I had boldly proclaimed last year that by the end of this year, we will establish a factory that will produce pencils for both our students and for commercial use and tooth picks respectively. This is just the beginning and as Americans would always say “you aint seeing nothing yet.” Tonight really is not the night to dwell on our achievements which given the lean resources  at our disposal, we  can beat our chest and say loud and clear that even though a lot still need to be done, we have however, kept our eye on the ball.

We have gathered here today to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He it was who taught man that death is not the end of the journey, but merely a bend which takes man to the highway of eternity – if you put your faith in Him. Let us be reminded of the very rich lessons of his life and know that it is well. Mourning may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning, it is well. He turns our lamentations into dancing, it is well. He turns our pain into gain, it is well.

One day Jesus went into the Synagogue and they gave Him the book of Isaiah. He read the scripture “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me….” When he did that his listeners said, “Is this not the carpenter’s son.” There were right, he was the carpenter’s son. But they were wrong in thinking he was born to be a carpenter. What you were born to see is not what you were born to be. Jesus Christ was born to be the saviour of the world and God’s gift to mankind – not a carpenter.

As our brothers and sisters break records all over the world, the world is asking, “Are these not Akwa Ibom sons and daughters”? Yes they are but there is a status change-a new Akwa Ibom Spirit has been unfurled and we are not looking back. When we gather here to praise God the walls come tumbling down and we march into God’s promises individually and as a people. God changed the Akwa Ibom status a long time ago because what we were born to see is not what we were born to be. Like the shepherd in the east I saw the new Akwa Ibom and came with the simple message that we should “Rise to the faith of greatness.” We gather here to thank God for His mercies and celebrate our Lord and Saviour because greatness beckons.

Greatness beckons, so let us rise. Let us rise in the worship of our God. Let us rise in the brotherhood all Akwa Ibom people irrespective of tribe, gender or religion. Let us rise knowing that He who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it.  Let us clothe ourselves in the garb of unity, let us say that never again will the ascendant Akwa Ibom spirit be brought down by the fleeting impulse  partisan politics, let us not see ourselves as perpetual candidates for election, but as the favoured sons and daughters of the living God, drawn by a common cause and a shared destiny- let us rise and heed the clarion call  to celebrate all that is Akwa Ibom and drum down the beat of negativity, of hatred, of anger and animosity, and of ephemeral joy we derive from pulling down our leaders, of manufacturing lies and blackmail against our leaders simply because we don’t belong to his political camp. Let us realize that those who may have sponsored you to write lies or traffic in  incendiary falsehood against your leaders are plainly exploiting you for their narrow agenda. Let us look at Akwa Ibom as a shining City on the Hill and celebrate its ennobling virtues and values. We have no other state to call ours, except this wonderful Land of Promise. Let our King be Lifted High  and let our voices render a symphony of unity and common kindred.

As we sing melodiously to the Lord tonight, let us pray for the soul of those who left us exactly a week ago today. To all our guests and artistes, we thank you for coming, especially Don Moen, whom I may now call an adopted son of Akwa Ibom state, by way of Tennessee, to our sponsors, thank you for your faith in us. It is well with Akwa Ibom, it is well with Nigeria, it is well with Africa and it is well with the world. Merry Christmas and a Happy and prosperous New Year in advance. Akwa Ibom Dakkada,  Ami mme dakkada.

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