– Samuel Ayara
Of Akwa Ibom State’s three senatorial districts of NorthEast, NorthWest and South; conventionally referred to as Uyo, Ikot Ekpene and Eket senatorial districts respectively, a total of fourteen Senators have since 1999 been produced, with Uyo – 4, Ikot Ekpene – 5 and Eket – 5. These data numerically puts Uyo as producing lesser number of Senators than other senatorial districts, while in political sense, they are the most advantaged, having twice produced two term Senators that have greatly contributed to the development of the State and National conversations.
Without prejudice to other districts, it is only Uyo that has produced more Chairmen of Senate standing committees for Akwa Ibom. In 1999 for instance, Senator John James AkpanUdoedeghe chaired Senate committees on women affairs and youth as well as privatization, while Senator Effiong Bob in eight years chaired committees on Senate services, finance, culture and tourism, power and steel as well as local and foreign debts.
Being this privileged with previous representatives however never stopped senator Ita Enang’s serial emergence as chairman, Senate committee on business, rules and ethics, just as the eight and ninth Senate saw Senator Bassey Albert chair the Senate committee on Gas resources and subsequently the committee on Upstream Petroleum Resources, which eventually championed a closure for the Petroleum Industry Act; a priceless gift to the fortunes of Nigeria’s hitherto spiralling oil and gas sector.
Far from coincidence, attaining these feats in quick succession in the last twenty three years is more intentional than sheer luck, and goes ahead to admit the Akwa Ibom northeast senatorial district as a leading light in the nation’s National Assembly. They definitely could not have achieved these much relying on mediocre considerations in choices of who represents them at the red chambers; this simple explanation for their capacity in maintaining a front seat role for more than two decades.
Whether other senatorial districts would take a queue and do moore than passive considerations by sending capable hands and minds that understand the dynamics of engagement on the national space remains an issue for the future, but we cannot wish away the fact that we could achieve more if merit rather than mundane inclinations become our watchword; the future, after all is for those who understand the times and recognize opportunities.
Getting men of broad reach at this level will be a good deal for not just our state as we will be contributing to the pool of bright minds who can hold their own in pitching socioeconomic growth, political stability and regional integration. This cannot in any way negate the conventionally accepted zoning module that has engendered inclusivity, as there is absolutely no community or hamlet without a mind, heart and hand that cannot avail solutions. We must at all times give capacity and credibility the needed push if we must stay afloat in our quest for better days.
Introspecting on the possibility of sustaining their leadership streak at the red chambers of the national assembly, it is unassailable that PDP, which has produced every senator in this state since 1999, is already lining up bright minds with plausible credentials for the job. Beginning with the Speaker of the State House of Assembly; Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey, other prospects for this much coveted seat include Prince Uwem Etuk and Barr. Usenobong Akpabio.
Any of the trio will do the district well, but their brightest chance at maintaining their front seat role lies with Aniekan Bassey, whose experience and contacts as a two term legislator, Speaker and Vice Chairmain of the Conference of Speakers of State Legislature in Nigeria puts at a more advantaged pedestal by the hierachical conventions of the National Assembly, in the choice of chairmen of standing committees, in a bid to sustain the district’s towering national profile.
While Bassey may not be the only aspirant for the uyo district seat with valid legislative experience, note must be taken to consider that he is the only to have played in the big league of leadership of this arm of government in the state; first as Deputy Leader of the house and currently the Speaker of the seventh assembly. This may not be the peak of legislative attainments, but certainly not one to be taken for granted, considering the energy in his youthfulness that is still available to be explored.
Social capital and massive appeal is another charm Aniekan Bassey has in abundance, and these are not just elections winning values, but such that would help announce his arrival at the national assembly with a big bang. There are no two ways about it, he has contributed more to enterprise development and sustainance of budding entrepreneurial concerns for young people across the State through the Rt.Hon. Aniekan Bassey Youth Empowerment Scheme (RHAB-YES) through which almost one hundred entrepreneurs across the State have drawn financial support for their businesses, amid numerous interventions.
Such largeheartedness cannot be neglected when admitting men to sensitive public service engagements like the Senate of the Federal Republic, especially in an era where people have more than ever chosen to serve self over public good. This is one representation that will be deliberate at keeping the people close to mind and ultimately go the length of reaching out to not just constituents of his Akwa Ibom NorthEast District. Bassey in the Senate will nonetheless represent Akwa Ibom as a unitary constituency and this would be too fair a deal to ignore.
Of all human failings, building consensus, teamwork and productive partnerships can never be listed among his shortcomings, his mature managementof the seventh state assembly and ability to strike the balance between government and people interest has won him massive goodwill and amity, and in such light projected him as the mirror that has made striving a needless call both among members of the Assembly and Uruan LGA, where he represents; keeping in mind the rancour free and classical handling of political developments that has for far too long become his forte.
While Uyo Senatorial District will be looking to sustaining its steam in effective representation and visibility at the senate beyond 2023, there is need for all sons and daughters of the area to look beyond making this a hard win for their next Senator, to help launch him on the national turf, without having to scale dark hurdles that could either be distracting or have him report for duty as a spent force when the roll call of the 2023 Senate is read.
As with his pro-people representation and responsive leadership of Uruan State Constituency, the legislative productivity, stability and intergovernmental harmony the state has experienced, support and encouragement budding entrepreneurs have leveraged on and the humility and humanity that has graced our streets when Aniekan Bassey walks past, an elevation to the red chambers will in ways than few count in the positive for Akwa Ibom State as an unassailable UBOK UTOM ABASI.
Samuel Ayara writes from Ibong Otoro in Abak LGA.