Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, recently initiated a constituency briefing and empowerment programme for his people of Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District. But beyond the pomp, the occasion also served as an opportunity for the senator to look into the nationâ€™s multi-faceted problems, writes Okon Bassey
As early as 8.am on July 5, 2017, the movement of people from various directions in Akwa Ibom State, specifically the people of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District was like football fans trooping to witness or support their home team playing host to a visiting club side at the Ikot Ekpene stadium. It was a day the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, assembled his people for constituency briefing and empowerment programme after two years in the senate.
The roll call of dignitaries was long. Top politicians across the country including, the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, and no fewer than 20 senators and members of the House of Representatives as well as the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, state legislators and traditional rulers among others were in attendance.
The State Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Frank Ekpo, who was the chairman, observed that the event had brought together party supporters, voters and personalities in the Senatorial District as well as friends and well-wishers, for the common purpose of giving an account of stewardship by the representative of the senatorial district in the senate.
Ekpo equally noted that the partyâ€™s ambassador had elevated constituency briefing to a veritable platform for empowerment.
â€œTodayâ€™s event to all intent and purposes is unique in every respect given our Senatorâ€™s political pedigree as our former performing governor, an uncommon transformer as well as his towering profile as the Senate Minority Leader, is one of the leading lights that is shaping the politics of modern Nigeria. For this reason, the people of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District are in for a razzmatazz of sortsâ€.
For Ekpo, who is from the same senatorial district, the people willingly surrendered their slot to the Senate minority leader, because they were fully persuaded by his leadership credentials as he has what it takes to give the district an effective and result-oriented representation at the Senate.
He said for the spectacular performance of Senator Akpabio in the Senate these past two years, and the presentation of his mid-term report, the people harbor no regrets that they backed the right man for the job. According to him, the event was a defining moment not only for Akpabio, but also for the entire people of the senatorial district in view of what this portends to the party as well as our polity in general.
Again, he said the constituency briefing signposts a remarkable departure from the practice of the past, as it comes with significant value-added innovations as â€œthe mother of all briefingsâ€ with the empowerment component capturing all the units of the district.
APC caucus leader in the Senate, Senator Dino Malaye, said the number of senators that attended the programme showed â€œone single Nigerians with multiple competencies, very intellectual and politically great. He is good thinking, good product. We the senators are very proud of him. He is legislator per excellence. The Senate and APC caucus in the senate have enjoyed a very robust relationship with Senator Akpabio. Development, hunger, unemployment have no political party; we should emulate Akpabio.â€
The PDP caucus leader in the Senate, Senator Abiodun Olujumi, described Senator Akpabio as an uncommon minority leader. â€œWe are very proud of him and he makes the PDP caucus the best caucus in the 8th senate. Highly cerebral leader, a humble leader, a goal-getter and a man, who loves the people of Akwa Ibom State â€“ that is why we are hereâ€.
Governor Emmanuel, who was the guest of honour, noted that the country was sick economically but very vibrant and active politically, saying, â€œThe love I see in the senate and National Assembly members is unprecedented. It goes beyond partisanshipâ€.
The governor acknowledged that the people of Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District were very lucky to have the Senate Minority Leader.
â€œIt is not often to have a leader loved and treasured by his people. The crowd here speaks a lot and it is a clear manifestation that Senator Akpabio is loved and treasured by Akwa Ibom people. You can see the love and unity exhibited, that show there is no banana peel in Akwa Ibom State, there is no dark cloud of conspiracy hovering over us. We are all dedicated, working together to build a greater and more prosperous stateâ€.
The Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, who was represented by the Senate Minority Whip, Senator Philip Aduda, lauded Akpabio for the constituency briefing and empowerment scheme.
â€œI commend your courage as you give account of your stewardship to your constituents. The programme that gears towards entrepreneurships, skill acquisition, and empowerment for the youths is very timely. This project is laudable and will benefit your constituents across the 106 wards of the senatorial district and provide capacity development and reduce poverty and allow for peaceful coexistence among the peopleâ€.
Presenting his scorecard, Akpabio said though he represents Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District in the Red Chamber as a political fact, as a historic reality, he would remain forever an ambassador of the state.
â€œThe journey so far has not been smooth sailing but we have maintained our focus and vigorously pursue our goals. I have been the beneficiary of the uncommon confidence of my people. First, you gave me the mandate to serve you as your governor for eight years. Then you sent me to Abuja to be your eyes and ears in the complex political theater of our nation.
â€œThere in Abuja, my brother senators within one week of my arrival to discharge your assignment invested in me the onerous responsibility of being the Minority Leader of the Senate. Seldom has one man enjoyed so much confidence from so manyâ€.
He paid tribute to Saraki and all the senators and thanked them for the confidence given him and the responsibility to elect him the Minority Leader of the Senate. Akpabio however used the occasion to speak on some political developments in the country, using the blood pressure and heart beat as illustration.
â€œLately, the war drums in our country have overwhelmed unity lines in our National Anthem, and threatened the chords of our brotherhood. But when you visit your doctor with an ailment, no matter the ailment, he would first check the state of your heart by measuring your blood pressure. The heart of our country is Abuja. The heart is holding out â€“ it is beating fast but it is within normal measurement. The political pressure is high but the country is not yet hypertensive. However, that heart needs close monitoring, because if the diseased parts of this country do not get healed soon, the heart would get worse for it.
â€œIf the Biafra agitation is not fixed; if the Arewa threat of eviction of Igbos is not addressed; if Boko Haram and insurgency which despite the gallantry of our armed forces in crushing them, still perpetrate their evil of bombing and launching attacks at soft targets, are not totally defeated; if all the other flashpoints are allowed to fester; then the uneven heartbeat of the country could degenerate into a cardiac arrest. Therefore, this is the time for all Nigerians of goodwill to pray for our nation and put all hands on deck to steer the ship of our nation to safe harbours.
â€œThe present economic recession is not insurmountable. But you cannot solve a national recession by demonising the citizenry and, thereby, driving away investors. I travel around this country and I see a beautiful country with wonderful people. I see a patient people, who need a leadership, which could empathise with them and provide them with a vision, direction and motivation for us to reclaim our position as the giant of Africa.
â€œI once said every Nigerian supports the fight against corruption and my position has not changed. I support that fight. But like I have also said on several occasions, you cannot wage a war against snakes while keeping the king cobra and the black mamba as pets. Let us fight corruption with an incorruptible spirit and with incorruptible men and we would win the fight.
â€œOn the economy, I dare to believe that we do not need to fight the Goliaths with spears. Let us pick up the stones from our shores and farmlands and we would bring down the Goliaths. Let us look inwards and we would turn the recession to progression. As we enter the next phase of your mandate, my solemn pledge to you is that your voices will continue to be heard in Nigeria. I will continue to attract dividends of democracy to you. My office will continue to be a place of succour to you my constituents and Akwa Ibom peopleâ€.
Speaking on projects and empowerment, Akpabio stressed that the effect of his representation could be felt across the senatorial district through the constituency projects executed to bring succour to the people and replicated across the 10 local government areas that make up the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District.
He announced the construction of market stalls; construction of solar powered borehole; construction of new classroom blocks and the rehabilitation of classroom blocks of existing schools with supply of desks, white boards, teachersâ€™ chairs and tables; construction of town halls and community centres complete with boreholes and generators.
Akpabio later gave out 30 vehicles, 40 cargo tricycles, four tractors, 800 generating sets, 100 computer sets and printers, 194 sewing machines, 154 grain grinding machines, 55 block molding machines, 58 tricycles, 10 cassava processing machines, 30 home grinding machines, and many other items, saying he was setting a new benchmark in the empowerment of his people.
As part of the human capital development initiative, Akapbio said 400 youths and women in entrepreneurship are being trained through the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN) and the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).
Also, he instituted a full scholarship scheme for 250 students of tertiary institutions drawn from the 10 Local Government Areas of the Senatorial Districts at N50,000 per students as well as bursary for 22 students at the cost of N100,000 per student per year of study.
In appreciation, Governor Emmanuel personally supported the bursary award with the sum of N100, 000 per student. Besides the empowerment programmes, Akpabio equally pointed out that he had facilitated the employment of hundreds of Akwa Ibom people into Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies.