IS EKET MOVING FROM OIL TO AGRICULTURE?
Eket earned a place in the world commity as an oil producing state. She has enjoyed this status for as long as oil was discovered in the Niger Delta in the 50s. Her rich natural landscape bounded by swirling Atlantic ocean gave her the advantage of attracting early western explorers and missionaries who made Eket their homes. History indicated that the Portuguese and English explorers and missionaries fell in love with Eket. Thus, Eket became the home of the Whitemen.
For decades, this pride of Eket being the home for white people, especially with Mobil oil exploration at Ibeno, which until now was part of Eket. With Mobil and other oil and gas companies in Eket, money from these companies were a major economic mainstay of the people, young people were now struggling for community leadership, just to position themselves for a lion share of oil and gas money for communities as compensation for either oil spillage or contribution for community development as part of the oil companies corporate social responsibilities (CSR).
Young and old Eket people, who were originally farmers and fishermen, became leaders of all sorts of groups, factions and opinion leaders in the struggle for visibility, with eyes on the oil companies. Of course, representation in oil matters are always made up of vocal and visible leaders across socio-cultural groups, too many to name. Yet, with all the monies collected for decades from oil companies, besides government development programmes, Eket has today become a shadow of her old self, as major attractions like Qua Steel Company, Qua River Hotel and beautiful Marina layouts, etc., have become relics of yesterday.
The steel company has been long buried, likewise the Qua River hotel. Now, the beautiful Marina is also giving her pride to cattle-rearing business. If we appreciate the peace of Eket and dread the unrest in other states where cattle-rearing is entrenched; something quickly should then be on the table to avert a looming disaster in Eket.
But the cattle rearers have entrenched the business of cattle rearing, tomatoes and other vegetables transactions, their culture and religion at Marina, Eket, and the tourist attraction of Marina is history. They have even acquired land and built a mosque at a prime location. So, Marina as a tourist haven in Eket is gone! It will take an unusual gusto to recover it. And such gusto doesn’t seem to exist in Eket.
Eket is the shadow of her past glory. The name Eket doesn’t prompt excitement anymore like when we were young. I grew up in Odio-Eket in the 80s when the main town, Eket, was to us as overseas country. But today, she’s the shadow of herself.
But kudos to the current Chairman, Hon. Frank Archibong and the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, whose administrations have reverberated the urgency of restoring the pride of Eket. The town beautification and development of Eket are ongoing, also the stadium reconstruction, and China market are giant steps in the recovery process of the lost glory of Eket.
Additionally, the enterprising spirit of young Eket people seems to have woken up from years of slumber to embrace agriculture as the next alternative to the free oil money that didn’t stop the present decay.
The chairman, Hon. Frank Archibong led the encouraging train of returning to agriculture for restoration of the economy and sustainability of Eket citizens, after oil and gas. The Chairman last month welcomed government team on enumeration of farmers in Eket. He has provided enumerators with some assistance to aid them conduct enumeration exercise.
As of last week, Eket has recorded appreciable numbers of farmers. What a major shift! You could see the enthusiasm and determination of the enumerators and farmers in Eket to move the oil-city away from the fluidity of oil to permanency agriculture-based economy. The chairman should see this new development as an important steps in repositioning Eket for sustainable economic development, outside oil and gas.