To summarise things, the narratives of Akwa Ibom State have been written in the negative in recent years.
Controversy of corruption; rumours of ruins and facts of failure have been at the centre of the narratives.
Sometimes the rumors run out of gas and everything follows normal order.
Sometimes the corruption controversy lingers and no one is convicted.
Sometimes that fatal failure to deliver democratic dividends leaves people in fetters in villages and townships outside the capital, Uyo.
I know Akwa Ibom State. It is a state that is ready for the future. Some of Nigeria’s best infrastructures are there.
It is debatable, but Uyo will rank number one on the choice of host cities, were Nigeria to host an international event that will bring multitude of foreigners into the country.
But the profligacy of the political leaders of the Oil-rich state has given its narratives a negative place in the chronicle of history.
From Obong Victor Attah to Udom Emmanuel, the character of leadership has painted a bad image of a good state.
For instance, in spite of his talent for governance, the immediate past governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, has unbounded extravagance lifestyle that has made him unpopular and notorious—that rubs off on the state too.
Interestingly, for the Akwa Ibom natives, the poem has now begun pleasantly, lyrically and without a dark turn.
There’s a man in the state who’s not following the herd. It’s the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Luke Onofiok, who I describe to people as a fast rising politician with impeccable integrity.
His gait and gaze makes Onofiok looks no different from the current British Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Innovation, Chuka Umunna, 37, a Nigerian-British citizen who inspires hope and regeneration.
Based on my interactions with the duo and for what I know about them, they are cerebral—they make decisions using their intelligence and cold, hard facts, instead of their emotions.On Wednesday March 16, Onofiok turned 38 and in October, Umunna will do the same.
Hon. Onofiok is a rare breed politician I came to know a few years back and we became friends based on shared aspirations for Nigeria’s development in our different spheres of life.
Our friendship was fostered by another ferocious intellectual and a leader who has been changing the narrative for Nigeria in the area of leadership development, the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Leadership Initiative, Mr. Yinka Oyinlola.
I met Mr. Oyinlola in an unusual place and at a difficult time, but his work to save the future of our nation became the magnet for me.
So with one phone call from Mr. Oyinlola on a sunny day, several conversations around Nigeria’s development and its leaders have taken place between me and Hon. Onofiok over the years.
And while those conversations have been going on for more than a year on our cell phones, we didn’t meet until May 2015, when I visited Uyo, and that meeting in itself was a chance meeting.
I merely mentioned Onofiok to my cabby and his response got me curious. “Do you know Hon. Luke…ehmm, I forgot his surname,” I asked simply. It was like I hit the right button. “Is there anyone here who does not know him? He’s Luke Onofiok, the man of the people. That man is not a politician, he’s a community man. He’s going to be the governor someday,” he told me.
Like a man listening to the pleasant sound of a church bell, I listened to my cabby’s pleasant words for Onofiok and I made up my mind to see him, though without prior notification.
I pressed my finger on my phone to announce my arrival in Uyo to Onofiok, he was excited to hear what he called “unusual news”. But to confirm the words of my cabby, Onofiok was away on one of his community organising trips. We later met in his house the following day.
In Akwa Ibom, Onofiok has many things going for him. First, he’s not a candidate of his party’s establishment. He’s young and intellectual and he’s a community man to the core.
Unlike other politicians, Onofiok came prepared. Honestly, I didn’t doubt him when he told me that his plan for the future was to raise a generation of researchers and lawyers on maritime activities and environmental toxicology.
Last Saturday, when his wife, Uduak, bagged a PhD in Environmental Toxicology from the University of Calabar (UNICAL), Cross River State, I immediately remembered the line.
As a lawyer, human rights activist, former students union leader and fellow of Nigerian Leadership Initiative—where the capacity to develop close and enduring relationships with the governed is one clear message to the leaders against detached style of leadership common in our country—Onofiok is that man described as authentic leader by Bill George, an Harvard University Professor, who authors True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership.
Onofiok is someone who is genuine and true to what he believes in. He understands the purpose of leadership; he leads with very consistent values, and with his heart, as well as his head. He’s courageous, compassionate and with other empathy–like qualities he builds long-term connected relationships.
And this, Onofiok has the personal self discipline to deliver extraordinary results.
The Akwa Ibom State Peoples Democratic Party Chairman, Obong Paul Ekpo bears that testimony. “The right choice was made by my party, the PDP. In Onofiok we have good representation. Onofiok has shown his people that he can represent them…,” Ekpo said during Onofiok’s first term as a parliamentarian.
As I wish Onofiok a blissful birthday, I ask the Akwa Ibom people to savour the moment, because the beautiful one is now born in the land of promise.