By Kufre Etuk
A month ago, in the heat of endless castigation of the local government chairman by some folks, few colleagues and I decided to visit Etinan Local Government Area. The mission was to assess whether the flying pictures of dilapidated structures in the council were myth or reality; to gauge the relationship between the executive and the legislature and to hear directly from workers. On arrival, we were lucky to witness the plenary.
Ten out of eleven Councilors were present. Part of the councilors’ agenda was to thoroughly assess the strides of the council Chairman, Rt. Hon. Cletus Ekpo in the half life of his administration . Each of the Councilors spent time to enumerate various interventions and development projects carried out by the current leadership of the local government. From the revamped Mbioto 11 market; the construction of tarred access road to the secretariat, to the ongoing construction of ICT centre in the Local Government headquarters and many other water projects sited in the hinterlands. Road grading, to us was never considered as achievement because that’s the primary responsibility of the third tier of government under the reviewed Local Government Administration Act of 1976. At the end of the of the deliberation, the Councilors, without any dissenting voice, passed vote of confidence on the chairman with a charge on him to do more.
Few days ago, while surfing the net, a councilor posted a picture where the legislators and the chairman inspected the ongoing construction of ICT centre that will afford students from the local government the right to write their Joint Admission Matriculation Board, JAMB, examination. Just yesterday, the chairman was captured presenting N10,000 bursary to 1000 students of Etinan LGA origin. The chairman’s particular concern in giving out educational support for students of Etinan Local Government forms the basis for this surmise.
From the era of old Cross River to the creation of Akwa Ibom State, Etinan Local Government is known to be the brain basket of Akwa Ibom State. Their commitment to education and strides in the education sector, represents the core value of what each family stands for in the local government. That is why, a typical Etinan family cannot trade their children’s education for anything. A critical assessment of this will prove further, how this local government has continued to dominate the civil service and political space in the state.
Honourable Cletus Ekpo’s commitment to keeping this historical trajectory alive, gives hope of a brighter future. Dolling out N10,000 to 1000 students may seem too light to be considered as achievement in the sight of critics, but how many of Hon. Cletus Ekpo’s counterparts have done anything similar? It takes a leader committed to the future of his people to invest, no matter how little it may seem, for the actualisation of their future dream.
The present JAMB examination format has exposed potential higher institutions’ students to more stress and dangers than ever. In the process of accessing online examination centres in cities, our female students have become vulnerable to sexual predators who take advantage of their desperation to savour their innocence. Our young men, in a quest to stay alert, sometimes align with “strangers”, who end up forcing them into association they never wanted to identify with.
Building an ICT centre to ameliorate the examination stress is a lofty achievement with great prospect. Buying of JAMB forms for students and leaving them to wonder about in search for examination centres as done by many politicians, is still commendable but providing a suitable and comfortable centre to write the examination is the best thing that can ever happen to a JAMBITE.
Beyond this, the level of unity and peace witness in the local government since the coming on board of the administration of Hon. Cletus Ekpo is unprecedented. Today, we have seen all politicians within various political blocs in the local government coming together to chart a collective course. Everybody is now hammering on collective interest rather than personal interest.
Gone are the years when we had ceremonial chairmen who appeared in the council headquarters on 27th May and 1st October. Hon. Clestus Ekpo goes to the council headquarters virtually everyday where he attends to people’s needs and see ways of solving their problems.
The success so far recorded by the Etinan Local Government chairman would not have been possible if there was no united legislature. The Hon. John Udofia’s led legislature has not failed in their bidding to checkmate the executive. Sadly, it is widely believed that an atmosphere of rancour between the executive and the legislative arm of government signifies proper check and balance, but that’s not true. It’s rather a show of irresponsibility and inability to understand job roles. Proper checks and balances can still be achieved in a peaceful atmosphere as demonstrated by Etinan Legislative and Executive Arms. Etinan Legislative Council has, over these months, served as administrative compass of the council. The councilors understand their responsibilities and liaise with the chairman to draw government present to their various constituencies. These are lessons many other local government elected officials should learn.
However, while basking in the aura of these plausible achievements, the chairman and the Councilors must understand there are still much to be done to reposition Etinan local government area. There is an abandoned library complex at the stadium road that served many achievers of today. If such library is revamped, equipped and furnished, it will be of great advantage to students. There are also many ruralites, who participated in electing and celebrated the coming of this administration but yet to feel the dividends of democracy. Grading of more roads in these areas will serve them well.
To the legislators, leadership is not a tea party. This should not be a time for excessive unwinding but a period to lookout for opportunities that will better your constituents. With your allowance, you can liaise with NGOs to provide free medical care for them; train and empower the few you can so that at the end of your tenure your impact will still be on the sand of time.
While wishing the students of Etinan origin who recently benefitted from the gesture of the chairman success in their academic pursuit, they should remember that the enormous task of being good ambassadors of the local government rest on their shoulders. As such, the best way to replicate this gesture is to allow it show off in their attitude.