On the Luke Out for His People

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Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke

Ojo Maduekwe writes that the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke has garnered a good reputation that goes ahead of him on the political landscape

Some observers of Akwa Ibom state politics assume that because Governor Udom Emmanuel is not commissioning projects or calling world press conferences to verbally attack his opponents, then he’s not campaigning enough.

In analysing the political preparedness of the governor and his team ahead of the 2019 state governorship election, the perception is that the governor has not shown sufficient fighting spirit in promoting his achievements.

Not because there are no projects to commission. There are. The issue is, while majority of the governors in the 36 states consider the commissioning of such projects like classrooms and boreholes as an achievement which they use to campaign for reelection, Udom sees it differently, and unnecessary.

In an interview with THISDAY, Udom described this culture of governors going on a commissioning spree of all kinds of projects as “shameful”.

“How can you commission a classroom or borehole?” Udom asked perplexed. As if he realized how easy critics of his government might misconstrue his question to mean a lack of projects, he added: “I have never gone to commission a primary school building and I have done about 346 schools.”

Coming from the corporate world, specifically the conservative banking sector, those close to the governor say that he’s brought a rather unique approach to governance in the state, a style different from his predecessors.

Credited with being a more “disciplined administrator and manager of resources” than his immediate predecessor, former governor, now Senator Godswill Akpabio, his lacking in the art of politicking was initially a huge drawback.

Being a newcomer with few loyalists, Udom has no political structure of his own in the state, and so relies on a few forerunners. Not a bad thing.

‘Egun nla lo n gbe yin igbale’ is a Yoruba parable which when loosely translated means that “the big masquerade is always the last to come out of the shrine after the smaller ones must have come out to perform.”

Like a big masquerade, this is how Udom has chosen to campaign for the 2019 state governorship election. While the governor maintains a rear seat, he’s nonetheless sent his foot soldiers to go do battle on his behalf.

Leading the way is the State Assembly Speaker, Onofiok Luke; Senator Bassey Albert; Emmanuel Enoidem, the Works Commissioner, Ephraim Inyang-Eyen and Prince Ukpong Akpabio (cousin to Senator Akpabio), whom Udom appointed his Commissioner for Investment.

Few, but highly influential, Udom’s foot soldiers are believed to have the capacity of pulling the necessary strings to get him reelected next year. Said to be even more on ground for the governor is the politically savvy Luke.

In Akwa Ibom politics, Luke is a renowned ‘Grassroots General’ who knows where to pull the strings to attract votes. Over the year’s he’s built relationships that span across the three senatorial districts of Uyo, Eket and Ikot Ekpene.

Luke is popular with party stakeholders, as well as, the masses. In a clime where the common man is quick to distrust those in politics, it speaks highly of Luke that he still commands the respect of the rich and the trust of the poor.

This reputation he’s managed to build over the years has aided him. There was an incident when as a floor member of the state assembly he had a falling out with Akpabio and his reelection appeared to be a mission impossible.

People say he’s the only one to ever challenge Akpabio and overcame his guile. When he spoke out against the former governor, even when many folks did not have the guts to do so, it was thought that was the end of his political career. But, against Akpabio’s wish he went ahead to win a second term to the state assembly. A feat made possible because the masses sided with him.

To return as governor, Udom would need the likes of Luke to bring their credibility to bear for him. Amongst his foot soldiers, Luke stands out as having the closest contacts with the voters, the native intelligence to woo rural voters and the mental refinement to curry the favour of critical urban voters.

Luke, 40, is one politician in Akwa Ibom close to the youths, having started his social engineering very early as pioneer Speaker of the Youth Parliament, with a network of youth leaders across the state. Because he’s over the years kept to his promises, everyone, even down to the market women and men, trust him.

If there’s anyone that can penetrate the hinterland to sell the Udom brand, or travel to Abuja to defend the governor, that man is Luke. Interestingly, Luke was in Abuja recently on the invitation of the Inspector General of Police.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom had written a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari, wherein unsubstantiated allegations bordering on threats and the refusal to site campaign billboards were made. In the petition, the APC alleged that Luke had threatened not to allow their candidate campaign freely and openly; allegations that they had no evidence to back up.

Also at the interrogation from the PDP side were the Director General of the Divine Mandate (Udom’s reelection organisation), Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga; State Commissioner for Environment; Chairman of Uyo local government area, and the Senior Special Assistant to Udom on Security Matters.

On returning from Abuja, while addressing the press, Luke narrated the encounter and how during interrogation he had stated to the hearing of the APC chairman in the state that: “No one can use the office of the president under the guise of politics to intimidate us; not even the state security agency… If you are popular, stop using the state security apparatus to try to intimidate us.”

The APC is banking on Akpabio to deliver the state. Ironically, Akpabio in turn is relying on federal might to manipulate the process. The APC overestimate the former governor and underestimate Luke, unaware that Luke knows the in and out of Akpabio and was a critical part of his election victories in the past.

Luke is the kind of foot soldier Udom can trust to stand firm when the campaign gets really heated. Being someone to have ever called Akpabio’s bluff and still won an election, Udom can be sure that no amount of intimidation by the APC in the state, in cohort with federal security agencies, can move Luke.

OFF THE CUFF:

* They said the President had sent words for me to become the deputy governor. They offered me N2bn, but I said no. If you like, offer me N10bn, mine is no

Luke noting that he would rather quit politics than defect to the All Progressives Congress

*I am a full-blooded member of the PDP. I am a principled person, and I like being known for consistency

Luke dismissing insinuations that he may be on his way out of the People’s Democratic Party

*My aspiration is in line with the yearning and desire of the people of Etinan Federal constituency, who want me to represent them in 2019. By 2019, you are going to hear a loud voice articulating the interest of Etinan Federal constituency and the interest of Akwa Ibom in the National Assembly. I promise to use my position if voted to serve the people in the House of Representatives to improve the well-being of the people of this federal constituency

Luke consulting the people on his desire to serve as a federal legislator

* I never expected to be the number three man in Akwa Ibom State today. Even during the last general elections, the government of the day had their preferred candidate but to God’s Glory, I won overwhelmingly. You must be humble because pride destroys humanity but humility can take you to any height. There’s nothing on earth to be proud of. Whatsoever you are today, another man had attained that height before you. To the Glory of God, I’m a beneficiary of humility

Luke opening up on how he attained his present height in politics

*I am also telling them that, if they are popular; they should come back home and campaign, and not behave like children who would go and start a fight and then run to their father for protection. They should stop using the state apparatus and security agencies to intimidate us. The more they try to intimidate us, the more our resolve to defend the common mandate of Governor Udom Emmanuel

Luke denouncing the alleged use of ‘federal might’ against the ruling PDP by the opposition APC in Akwa Ibom State