Umo Eno: Beyond the Vagaries of Political Wisdom
By Uwemedimoh Umanah, PhD
What Charles De Gaulle, French President, meant when he posited that, “politics is too serious a business to be left in the hands of politicians” is not understood by many. De Gaulle did not imply that politicians shouldn’t “play” politics nor that they were incapable of governing. What he meant was that exigent times demanded exigent men – men who would not subject important state matters to the vagaries of political wisdom.
Umo Bassey Eno, the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Lands & Water Resources and Governor Emmanuel’s preferred successor fits into the prism of an exigent leader, who, according to Historian Thomas Carlyle arose “when there is great need”. According to Carlyle, “the history of the world is but the biography of great men… a leader is the one gifted with unique qualities that capture the imagination of the masses.”
Umo Eno’s qualities tasks our imagination. Why did Pastor Umo Eno abandon his lucrative banking job into an area defined at that time by uncertainties? What could have made him rise to assume the mantle of corporate leadership in the hospitality industry in Akwa Ibom? What sets Umo Bassey Eno apart from his contemporaries and enabled him to navigate the tumultuous waters of the hospitality business- defying the odds to achieve his goals?
These questions are best answered by the Social Change Theory, which explains the alteration of mechanisms within the social structure characterized by changes in cultural symbols, rules of behaviour, social organizations, or value systems.
Therefore, change agents help society or an organizations to transform itself by focusing on such matters as effectiveness, improvement, and development. The assumption is that most transformational and disruptive leaders are pivots of change regardless of when and where they lived or the precise role in the history they fulfilled. Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte of France, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi of India, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and, for our purpose, Umo Bassey Eno of Nigeria, are some of the leaders who fall into this category. These men left their comfort zones to pivot a cause that later changed the trajectory of history- leading to transformations and disruptions.
In the same vein, Pastor Umo Bassey Eno, a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree holder in Political Science and Public Administration from the University of Uyo, took a bold and unconventional course when he resigned from his his lucrative banking job in Lagos to start the Royalty Group in Eket, with just five (5) rooms.
It is compelling to ask, why Eno, an alumnus of the Lagos Business School, chose to invest his meager resources in Uyo, instead of Lagos, which seemed more promising? He was propelled by his dream and vision to build the economy of Akwa Ibom State. He blazed a trail by moving from a humble start up to Ivy League boardrooms closing deals with multi nationals.
Royalty Hotels became the first local Akwa Ibom company to take on large industrial catering offshore, having developed strong leadership and managerial capacity to execute such with ExxonMobil on twelve (12 )platforms offshore for twelve (12) years and Chevron Agbami FPSO for eleven (11) years respectively, among other multinationals and oil servicing companies.
What is the nexus between these ingenious and unconventional attributes of Pastor Eno and livelihood in Akwa Ibom State? Most of the global development institutions, particularly, the UNDP and the Bretton Woods believe that what developing economies need more than anything else is Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), for job creation and poverty alleviation. Umo Eno, as an industry leader has created jobs for over 500 persons, with a monthly wage bill of about 25 Million Naira.
Norman Augustine, an American airspace businessman reinforced this line of thought when he noted that, “only by maintaining leading-edge human capital and knowledge capital can American continue to maintain a high standard of living, including providing national security for its citizens.” In economic terms, providing for the livelihood of over 500 persons, Pastor Eno has made huge impact on household welfare in Akwa Ibom State.
Given these antecedents, Pastor Umo Eno is richly blessed with the mental resources and ingenuity to replicate this meteoric feat in public service – as Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State. Back to Charles De Guallle’s proposition that, ‘politics is too serious a business to be left in the hands of politicians’, one opines that governance in Akwa Ibom in 2023 shouldn’t be subjected to political activism alone, but to concerted and concerning answers that only Umo Eno can provide, at this critical juncture!
Uwemedimoh Umanah, a Development Scholar, writes in from Abak