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Tuesday, June 2, 2020


Ephraim Inyang

AKS Isolation Centre

“I never dreamed about success. I work for it.” - Estee Lauder

By Substance Udo-Nature

Have you paused to imagine the magnitude of media earthquake that would have struck Akwa Ibom had the construction of the Isolation Centre walked on snail-speed or showed any symptoms of predictable abandonment?

I had since known that not all those who paid visits to the site while the project was ongoing went there with ordinary eyes. For the wide publicity it attracted, some came genuinely to see and applaud the governor for the out-of-the moon innovation; some came mainly to scrutiny the project’s destiny; while some others may have come as agents from other states to steal the concept for possible future imitation.

Therefore, the commissioning of the Isolation Centre in Ituk Mbang, Uruan Local Government Area, by Governor Udom Emmanuel on Friday, May 29, 2020, within record time, is not an achievement that should be documented with sentiments and reckless distortions, although to some, there still might be that ingrained personal tendency to do so.

Recall the smoky pessimism and incandescent critiques that heralded the sudden declaration by the governor that an Isolation Centre of contemporary sophistication was going to be constructed within weeks, in clinical opposition to the novel devilry of COVID 19. One of the ubiquitous sceptical question was – Just how possible can that be in the dreaded momentum of a global pandemic?

Site clearing for the project began on 7th April, 2020 and since then, it had been work, work, work. Although some would base their counting on the above date to arrive at 52 days within which the project was commissioned, the truth is that work on it was fully completed about a week earlier than the commissioning date, thus making it a feat accomplished in about 45 days.

Some componential details of the Isolation and Disease Control Centre include four wards of 300 beds (75 beds and 6 toilets each); Virology and Clinical laboratories; 4 disinfection rooms for doctors and nurses; 8 consulting offices; 4 changing rooms; three entrances for doctors and nurses; 2 emergency exits and 2 ambulance parks. Other facility are 26 intercom lines in each ward; 44 security cameras; a laundry, incinerator; and water treatment plant for the borehole that supplies the whole complex.

It also has a canteen; 20 fire hose stations; a – fully furnished 20 ensuite one-storey building doctors quarters; separate fully furnished two-bedroom flats each for the Chief Medical Director (CMD) and the Hospital Secretary, respectively; 150KVA soundproof generator; parameter fence, an encircling tar road that allows easy accessibility around the premises, etc. Contextually, the Isolation Centre has contemporized the General Hospital in Ituk Mbang and upgraded it to a tourist centre.

Judging by the circumstances of its conception when logical excuses would easily have sufficed, I agree promptly that the Isolation Centre is a momentous accomplishment. It is arguably the fastest completed people-centred project of international scope and content that this administration can boast of with extravagant pride.

In fact, the rapid pumping of funds and the speed with which the edifice was constructed prominently indicates that the health of Akwa Ibom people matters most to Governor Emmanuel. Health, they say, is wealth. But because I am cautious not to speak in undertones or hyperboles, it must be admitted that the governor's concentrated interest also comes with a subtle indictment of government’s attitude to other projects which hope of completion still hangs on a tiny thread of probability.

Against all arguments, all credit must squarely go to Governor Udom Emmanuel who conceptualized and funded the project to a perfect end, thus adding to the obese catalogue of his administration’s achievements. Whereas other State governors have taken refuge in the opportunity cost of makeshifts, it is on record that only Governor Emmanuel reasoned that good is not enough when and where better was possible.

In the performance chronicle of royalties, it is said that kings, like war commanders, make names or win battles to the degree of loyalty, expertise and commitment of their lieutenants. Amidst the enthusiastic crowd of admirers and critics, finishing the Isolation Centre on schedule was like war that had to be won or lost. And Inyangeyen was chosen as the war- front commander, the protagonist, and chief interpreter of the script.

I therefore need neither courage nor gratifications to postulate that the project tangentially became the big success story it is today in local and international media space because of the patriotism and work aptitude of the State Commissioner of Works, Akparawa Ephraim Inayengeyen. Of course, in the past five years, he has been the personification of Ministry of Works that supervised the project.

I was keen to observe that one of the first two things Inyangeyen did,
without regards for the traditional time-eating bureaucratic protocol of engaging contractors,
were literally relocating to Ituk Mbang and setting up a rugged machinery of experts and artisans who were mobilized to be part of the history, not just with commensurate wages but by the motivating example of shown by the captain. The direct labour approach most ideally worked for him.

From inception down to the 47th day that construction ended, there was no day Inyangeyen was invisible on site, even during the additional one week of dusting for commissioning. Even his unnoticeable absence for engagements not unrelated with the foregoing made no real difference because his shadows hovered even more visibly than his person.

At a point, because of how professional he talked and worked, some were confused about what and how exactly to address him as he combined with delectable versatility the role of an engineer, architect, builder, surveyor, electrician –and even a doctor - with his authoritative grasp of concepts and workings of expected medical equipments.

Challenged with deadlines, Inyangeyen could prove blind to obstacles. He believes in breaking the wall to get result and also has a way of making team members eat the bone of his displeasure. More than twice, he promptly turned down cheap excuses and ordered indolent and recalcitrant workers completely out of site for attempting to hold the wheels of progress.

Perhaps that was why workers who until then only saw him on television or pages of newspapers must have gotten to know him at the closest range, with stories to tell thereafter about one Commissioner who does not play with assignments. It is easy to conclude that it was towards the very end of the project that it became more obvious to everyone that had he not behaved like a mad man deadlines scarcely would have been met.

But was supervising the building project so extraordinary a task? Is Inyangeyen not the Commissioner of Works who simply was doing what that office expected of him? Or, couldn’t any other person have done the same? It would be wrong to say that only Inyangeyen could have handled the project with memorial success; but it won’t be wrong to say that working with outstanding passion is not a statutory inheritance of commissioners.

To paraphrase with slight distortion the Orwellian allegory, we can say that all commissioners are equal, but some are more equal than others. Inyangeyen has clearly distinguished himself as a man who knows his onions. Apparently, that was why the governor had no fear singling him out for a task as herculean and critically time bound. With proofs too tall for doubts, I stand tall to postulate that if every Commissioner in Akwa State works like Ephraim Inyangeyen, Governor Emmanuel would have no compelling need to reshuffle his cabinet.

Inyangeyen did not succeed because he is a tall man with broad shoulders. He did not succeed because he is the Commissioner of Works. He succeeded because he has passion for his work and handles his assignment with electric enthusiasm. This is the hallmark of his character and service testimonial. Perhaps that is also why his fingerprints are all over the marble in the Isolation Centre.

Indeed, this man who also spotted the location for the Isolation Centre,  deserves two full months all-expense paid vacation, with 1000% increase in leave allowance to wash the grease and mud stains on his palms. Akwa Ibom needs more of Ephraim Inyangeyen for things to move at rocket speed. And can foresee another big task beckoning on him...

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