There is a great man who makes every man feel small.
But the real great man is the man who makes every man feels great
– Gilbert Keith Chesterton
By Paul Obi
These are really trying times for Nigeria, as political cohesion takes a downward with its economy sneezes, heading south. As Nigerians become more conscious and informed about the sacredness of accountability as an antidote of democracy, so also are politicians expected to reset their modus operandi. Very often, the wise ones, will quickly discipline themselves to suit the tempo, the rest will continue feasting and later be swept by the winds. Instructively, it is this ability to read the currents of political whirlwinds and events that today speak volume of Senator John Owan Enoh’s political dexterity.
Enoh who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance discreetly understands Nigeria’s present economic woes and the probable ways to chart the path to safety. In a democracy that tasks lawmakers to make good legislation in Abuja and focus on the practical well being and welfare of their constituents in their respective constituencies, it is glaringly telling how overbearing the responsibilities are. Woe betide them, that prioritise the former and downplay the latter. Both must be addressed rigorously in one swoop.
To fulfill these daunting roles, Enoh has over the years remained committed to ensuring that the National Assembly stays vigilant on budget and policy implementation by government. Added to that, he has preoccupied himself with initiating outreach and economic interventions that bring succour to his constituents. In balancing these two-prong roles, he has displayed his knowledge of politics beyond comprehension.
It is the understanding and performance of these dual functions expected of a Nigerian lawmaker that has made Enoh a more reliable political figure entrusted with more tasks to lead. Under his kitty, Enoh has over the last 16 years since the return of democracy in 1999 garnered experience and contributed effectively in Nigeria’s legislative architecture. In fact, he has his footprints spread across many legislations on the nation’s financial system and its restructuring.
Enoh first tested the murky waters of politics, when he ran for Etung State House of Assembly seat under the defunct Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM) during the aborted late Gen. Sani Abacha’s transition. He will later resurface to win the same seat under the All Peoples Party (APP) in 1999. After his stint in Cross River State House of Assembly between 1999 and 2003, Enoh was elected into the House of Representatives under the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), where he represented the Obubra/Etung Federal Constituency for 12 years. Over the period, he held the positions of the Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Chairmanship of the Finance and Appropriation Committees.
During these periods, the Senator was very instrumental in initiating reforms in the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and even the establishment of Fiscal Responsibility Commission through an act of parliament. Consequently, Enoh was one of those lawmakers that gave parliamentary backing to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy to checkmate abuses and graft in government circles. The TSA and many other policies have helped curtailed profligacy in government, while governance is strengthened to enhance development and economic growth in an era of recession. These legacies would stand the test of time for Enoh now and in the coming years.
At the home front, Enoh has continued to foster the essence of governance – by introducing several palliatives for his constituents. Immediately his elections and swearing-in, he also set precedence by interfacing with youths, the physically challenged and the elderly. There is no longer the elitist posturing known previously. Without mincing words, the Senator knows how to connect with his people. Today, Enoh has built a development and skill acquisition centre in Ikom Town to help develop youths and increase their prospects for jobs and self-actualisation. He has also initiated scholarships for indigene students and some level of economic empowerment cutting across the six local government areas in the senatorial district – made up of Abi, Boki, Etung, Ikom, Obubra and Yakurr.
Yet, Enoh has his hands full – with many challenges confronting Cross River State, specifically, the Central Senatorial District which he represents in the Senate. One of such challenges is the shameful bad federal roads network in the state. The sordid tales associated with the Gboko-Ogoja-Ikom-Calabar Road is a bad omen that any political figure from the state should not rest until the road is fixed. Meanwhile, now that the Odukpani-Itu-Ikot-Ekpene road has been included in the 2016 budget; it is incumbent on the political class from the state, particularly, Enoh to ensure that the project is completed thoroughly.
Also, within the senatorial district, there are many Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) projects that have been abandoned notwithstanding the economic viability of such projects. For example, most of the electricity projects by NDDC in Opu, Ikom, Kakwagom, Bawop in Boki and other areas have been laying fallow for nearly a decade now. Enoh can turn the tide and better the lives of those communities and endear himself endless applause. In Agbokim Waterfall, the waterfall is an outstanding tourist centre that has been neglected by the federal government for years. The Senator can ensure that the Agbokim Waterfall is given a phase lift that will turn it to an international tourist site beyond the current bushy area it portrays. It is also imperative that Cross River State is not short changed at the federal level on appointments even when we know that the APC government is not a respected of the federal character law.
Politically, Enoh has consistently won himself to the hearts of his people without displaying the vagaries of power known with typical Nigerian politicians. His ability to connect with all strata of persons distinct him from the superfluous political class with a do-or-die mentality on politics. This style remains the best credential of his persona and political acceptability. But in Africa, political success also breathes jealousy and unnecessary competition, even conspiracy. Enoh’s emergence in the last poll was an outcome that was commissioned by the willing zeal of the people of Cross River Central. It was a departure from the garrison and authoritarian imposition of candidates by the PDP then. Today, it is still the peoples’ right and choice to pitch their tents with Enoh, but how he manages the political goodwill depends on his stars, ability to stay afloat and the future.
Today is Senator Enoh’s birthday, so we toast to a quintessential leader with a touch of gold. Enoh’s golden anniversary means a lot to many people, both at home and in far places. His humility and carriage effortlessly elevates even his subordinates to the top – from small men to great men, as Chesterton posited above. Hate it or love it, Enoh is a gift to Cross River State and Nigeria, worth celebrating, deserving an epochal thumps up on his golden birthday.
Enoh was born on June 4th, 1966 in Agbokim Waterfall, Etung Local Government, Cross River State. He was educated at St. Gregory Primary School, Agbokim Waterfall and St. Augustine Junior Seminary, Abakaliki in the then Anambra State, now Ebonyi State, probably with the intention to join the Catholic priesthood. But destiny will later shape his ambition; he will later renege, handing over the baton to his younger brother, (Rev. Fr. Anthony Owan Enoh).
Enoh graduated from the University of Calabar with a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Sociology and Demography, all at the age of 24. He was immediately employed as a lecturer, where he lectured between 1991 and 1997. Enoh has also attended leadership courses at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and many others. He turns 50 today. May the stars be with Senator Owan Enoh!