“Bringing Councillors from your federal constituency to GOTNI for this leadership training programme is highly commendable and shows you as a leader who is empathic to the plight of your people, because you want the best for them. I think every leader should emulate this example” Ndudi Elumelu, Minority Leader of Nigeria House of Representatives.
Ndudi Elumelu, who represents Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency of Delta State in the House of Representatives harped on this remark between November 23 – 25, 2020, when he Chaired the capacity building and leadership mentoring workshop at Guardians Of The Nation International (GOTNI) Leadership Training Center, Abuja, for all 33 councillors from Etinan/Nsit Ibom/Nsit Ubium Federal Constituency, sponsored by Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke who represents them at the Green Chambers of the National Assembly. Elumelu was not alone in this line of thought, the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinaya Abaribe and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Ahmed Wase securely corroborated Elumelu’s position; this they did alongside countless development-conscious minds around the country who got wind of how much a man sacrificed at a time the globe was struggling with the hold of the dreaded covid19 and its effect on the economy.
The intriguing thing about Luke’s gesture lies in the contrast that while the larger Nigerian society hailed a man who went ahead of 359 other Federal Constituencies in the country to think so highly of his people, some of his Akwa Ibom kins thought it a needless show off; spat at the idea, dressing it in very uncharitable robes. Excusably to some, championing such lofty initiative few weeks to the expiration of tenure of the then local council legislators passed for a needless plough, while others sought to further their distasteful resentment for ideas that never originate from them. These apathy for novel ideas opened a floodgate of meal tickets for political jobbers who deployed their machinations to shooting down every merit the gesture ventured with. But six months after showing the world the possibility of such selflessness, Councillors from Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency of Delta State in April, 2021 are in Abuja for same capacity building, citizens and leadership training programme by GOTNI; Ndudi Elumelu went beyond mere talks to emuliating Luke’s magnanimity, and has added to the community of leaders who are committed to robust citizens’ engagement.
Like has been the norm on our political turf, Onofiok Luke could have looked away from fulfilling this promise he made those councillors while campaigning for the green chamber seat, but strength of character has in countless ways defined his dealings. This positive disposition to keeping to promises has not only set him apart but conferred on him the statue of a pace setter who has severally redefined leadership and love for people. It is no gain saying that the class of 33 may have left office but the experiences from that exposure is timeless in any form or manner; they, as a matter of fact could pass for the most equipped for future roles in the 2017-2020 class of Councillors in the state.
Onofiok Luke isn’t the wealthiest or most privileged of his class, but has repeatedly shown that a heart that reaches out and a mind that cares can be the priciest of a peoples attainment. This has found expression in the numerous times he has reclined to his disadvantage in ensuring a ray of sunlight kisses the endeavour of people across various spectrum of our social construct. In ways than few, it has always been what he can do for his people, even while others think of what they can get from a political engagement; a plausible testament to this is the culture of always keeping his words, a trait that has at sundry times worked wonders for the Amazing Grace Ambassador. Not the vilest of men can argue that his towering goodwill has not magnified the credibility and integrity he signposts in and out of public offices.
It will not be the last time a leader will think his people so deserving, with Elumelu joining Luke, a brighter picture of a future where people have the right information and apparent skill sets required for the discharge of their duties is here, and will just be a matter of time before others come to terms with the light of knowing leadership at the grassroot requires all the support it can get. It is gratifying to note that posterity will credit to Luke such a noble gesture of liberating a peoples’ mindset through robust conversations on leadership and citizenship. This far and farther apart, he has looked away from the tune of discord and misunderstanding that herald his numerous acts of sacrifice, for him, he is home and dry if humanity is serve.
The relevance of encouraging these sort of interventions is not lost on us as a people and nation, especially at this time some national conversations appear to be counting against the survival of this very crucial tier of leadership; leaning towards low productivity. As we creep into that future when the Local Government structures are viewed as viable as it should, the narrative of lack of preparedness will always prevail in the conversation about the its functionality in Nigeria. The essence of a robust Local Government system may at the moment remain crassly misunderstood; but its major players will likely rely on the strength from hearts like Onofiok Luke’s if they ever aspire their existence to count as blessings.
Built for pioneering roles, his stint as the University of Uyo Alumni President came with a chapter for historians of emancipation, as it records in flowery prose his contribution to the emergence of the first alumnus Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Nyaudo Ndaeyo, decades after it was established. This feat, remarkably had been in the hearts of the numerous Tuskites who passed through the institution to various life endeavour, without having any of their own in the exalted office. With Luke as a member of the institution’s Governing Council in 2020 came the opportunity to do more than advocacy, but champion and mobilize others for the emergence of the long held dream, by looking away from pecks that could have once more dimmed the chance at producing an alumnus Vice Chancellor. Today, a Tuskite calls the shot in Tuskers Republic.
Still with blazing trails and challenging status quo, Luke as Speaker of the State House of Assembly, guided citizens in ways than few to find their voices, as it was the grundnorm that no bill was ever passed into law without a public hearing; a decision that was in clear departure with existing practice of making unpopular and unfriendly laws. This prepared the grounds for robust citizens paricipation in how they are governed and has been manifest in the number of times unpopular legislations are reworked or stood down because the people were either not comfortable with their deliverables or framework. Since he exited the hallowed chambers of the state legislature, the old order is yet to find any patronage, as the current class of legislators would rather work on improving citizens paricipation, a gift Luke handed Akwa Ibom people when he held sway as Speaker.
The Onofiok Luke Legislative Internship Programme (TOLLIP) became a nursery that prepared, nutured and mentored over one hundred young minds across the State on leadership and has become a blessing that has quickened them to identifying their purpose in life. Through this platform, student leaders found the fortune of comradeship as they transited tertiary institutions for different life’s career in politics, law, medicine, academia, agriculture and volunteering services, which has in such silent but revolutionary manner delivered capable hands to different fields of human endeavours. To date, TOLLIP remains the only of such intervention around our clime, with just a few other efforts, which include the Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey Youth Empowerment Scheme (RHAB-YES) a brain child of his successor as Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, which he recently extolled as a workable module for youth empowerment.
Whether as a leader, friend or a follower, this has been a public officer who commits so much to setting new standards. The term “robust legislative engagement” found its way to the state’s political lexicon in 2013, when he went against the prevailing tides of mediocrity to redefine the art of constiuents empowerment during his constituency briefing as member of the State Assembly, where he splashed brand new vehicles and an array of items that have afterwards demystified what people today think as empowerment. This may largely explain why he comes out misunderstood, while arguably holding forte as one of the most reliable chips on our political firmanent. This truism has remained a pill too bitter to swallow but quite vital, if we ever wish our society well.
Just as Onofiok Luke can never set all the paces, no one ever did, but General Montgomery thought well of men in his mould when he posited that “leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and a character that inspires confidence”. Beyond patriotism, this is a call on our people, whether as leaders or followers to see the silver lining in every opportunity and innovation by supporting whoever sets out with an idea that deserves a push; someday development will replace dark sentiments and only our attitude today will define what part of the narratives our names will be famed.
Samuel Ayara writes from Ibong Otoro in Abak LGA