In Nigeria, few public figures inspire the way the Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Hon. (Barr.) Onofiok Luke does. There is something utopian about how he carries himself. This is one politician who understands as a lawmaker what it means to represent the interest of the people.
Last year, on 21st of December, Hon. Luke held his third ‘Constituency Briefing and Thanksgiving Service’ as a member representing Nsit Ubium state constituency in the State House of Assembly. The highly attended thanksgiving also marked his one year anniversary as the Speaker of the 6th Assembly.
At the event, while delivering her speech, his deputy, Hon. Mrs. Felicia Bassey told Hon. Luke: “You are not fake. You are a real man.” Understand that this was not political talk coming from a politician. When you walk the streets of Akwa Ibom and enquire about Hon. Luke, you will get this same reaction. Also, when you listen to the Speaker speak, he’s an open book and hides nothing.
For instance, how many politicians in this make-belief country of ours do you know that owns up to taking a loan to organize an event and even going as far as stating details of how they intend to pay back? This was one of the realness exhibited by Hon. Luke at the event, and in full public glare.
Because he talks openly and without bias, he has been nicknamed by the people and his colleagues as the ‘Speaking Speaker’. Picture this. In the presence of the State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, Hon. Luke described how he was not included in the “government list” as those to return to the House, and how “Security agencies were mobilized against me during my primaries.”
Those who were against his emergence believe the Speaker’s claim to have “moved on”. It is difficult to hate someone like Hon. Luke. Having friends across Nigeria – irrespective of their differences that include belonging to distinct political parties – who speak highly of him is a testament to this.
At the December event were not only politicians, but friends from back in his days as the pioneer Speaker of the Nigerian Youth Parliament, set-up, according to Clifford Ndujihe, as a “non-stipendiary institution established by then late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to help generate inputs from elite Nigerian youths into the country’s mainstream governance.”
Writing in the Vanguard, Mr. Ndujihe listed the guests present to include “former military administrators and governors of the state: Col. Yakubu Bako, Col. John Ebiye, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, retd., Capt. Samuel Ewang and Obong Victor Attah. Former Deputy Governor, Obong Chris Ekpenyong; 11 members of the Forum of Speakers Conference of Nigeria led by their Chairman and Speaker of Kebbi State House of Assembly, Ismaila Kamba… Other House of Assembly speakers at the gathering were those of Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Enugu, Rivers, Cross River, Kaduna, Kano, Niger and Bayelsa States.”
There were also “Senators Effiong Bob, Anietie Okon and Bassey Albert; President of Ijaw Youth Council, Udengs Eradiri as well as Lt. Colonel Abdul’Aziz Musa Yar’Adua, younger brother to late President Umaru Yar’Adua, who represented the Yar’Adua family. So also were the First Lady and wife to Governor Emmanuel, 13 members of the National Assembly from Akwa Ibom State, members of the State Executive Council, clergymen, royal fathers…”
Only a few politicians in Nigeria can command such crowd. Hon. Luke would be the first to admit that this is not entirely because as Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, he is the number three citizen of the state. As one who proudly wears his faith as badge, and is not melancholic about it, he would tell you without equivocation that it is by the “Grace of God”.
At the event, his Pastor, Rev. Ntia I. Ntia, who was accompanied by the wife, spoke highly of the Speaker and his open appreciation in thanksgiving to God. Hon. Luke himself said that during his trials, “God showed that He stays in heaven and rules on the affairs of men.” Again, only few politicians would mix religion with politics and not come off as self-seeking.
If anyone was in doubt, a comment by Hon. Luke at the event separated him from those politicians known to embrace religion only when it is convenient to do so. According to him, “If I can kneel before men, how much more God who lifted me from the dust to sit with kings and princes’ of my land.”
A description that indeed sets him up as a model politician was from Governor Emmanuel: “In Onofiok Luke I have found a solid partnership and one passionate and willing to develop the state together.” Rightly stated, this is the passion of Hon. Luke, to develop Akwa Ibom and uplift her people.
— Maduekwe is editor at Discussing Africa. You can follow him on Twitter @Ojo_Maduekwe