By Kufre Etuk
Few months from now Nigerians will once again march to the polls to elect new set of leadership at the national and sub-national levels. At the State level, some people who are vast on the needs of the next generation have set templates on who should be their next Governor. In Akwa Ibom State, different strata of stakeholders are speaking passionately about what should be the the kind, made, comportment and focus of the next Governor of the State.
The political transition in 2023 in Akwa Ibom State will come with its peculiarities. Of the four civilian Governors who have led the State, Obong Akpan Isemin and Obong Victor Attah emerged Governors from home, while Chief Godswill Akpabio and Mr. Udom Emmanuel, were creation of the State Executive Council. No one is sure yet what will happen in 2023. However, Mr. Akan Okon, in the State Exco, Barr. Onofiok Luke, a federal parliamentarian, Engr. Mike Enyong, Senator Bassey Albert, are already consulting for the governorship in 2023.
Akwa Ibom people have tasted self-bred leadership in Obong Akpan Isemin and Obong Victor Attah. They have also tasted Exco-bred Governors in Chief Godswill Akpabio and Mr. Udom Emmanuel, isn’t it time to taste a legislature-bred leadership?
The legislature is the fulcrum of democracy loosely defined as ‘government of the people, for the people and by the people.’ The legislators more than members of any other arm of government understand the needs, wants, anxieties, aspirations, strengths and weaknesses, and hopes; this is because they have a direct inter-personal communication with them and understand how they are affected and impacted by each policy, programme, and actions of government. ‘When you speak to the persons directly involved [in a case] that is when you complete understanding of the problem’, says Becky Anderson. The executive arm of government works with ‘executive brief’, usually the summary of the opinion of majority, organised interest groups. Such briefs leave out the salient opinions and positions of the minority. More often than not, minority opinion does not mean they are less important, often it is the position that makes the difference. By the nature of their existence, the legislator has the opportunity to talk with and listen to the purveyors of this salient opinion, frame their opinion and give it a context. This is important in peace-building. This is what makes the legislator the man of the people.
Two factors, capacity and institutionalism, enhance the ability of a legislator to perform well in leadership positions than others. Legislative arm of government is the training ground for capacity development. Diverse perspectives and positions on issues from both organised groups and unorganised individuals provide opportunity for legislators to learn and have first hand information from the masses.
Deliberation is an important feature of the legislative process. It necessitates a give-and-take and an exchange of information and ideas which build capacity. Frequent and unstructured exchanges in members’ offices, leadership conferences, at lunch, and in the corridors of the legislative office building enhance knowledge and capacity of legislators to stand well in leadership positions. Institutionalism borders on building existing institutions to perform their various functions and this has been the hallmark of oversight function of the legislators.
Because the legislature is people-centric and most of the Bills they passed into law but denied assent by the Governor, are people-centre. For instance, the School of Health Technology which supposed to train primary healthcare personnel to man primary heath care institutions, is not known by any law of the state. As such, certifications from this institution can be challenged. In spite the fact the Bill establishing the school as a college was passed, assent was denied. The Youth Development Fund Bill aimed at creating jobs and evolving opportunities for youths in Akwa Ibom State was also passed into law by the State House of Assembly but denied assent.
Among those seeking to be Governor in 2023, Barr. Onofiok Luke, sits pretty with a broad knowledge and understanding of the needs of Akwa Ibom people. A former two term member representing Nsit Ubium State constituency, he was able to assess the needs of his people and as former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, he is fully abreast of the needs of the people including minority groups in the State.
As Speaker of the 6th Assembly which was code-named ‘the people’s Assembly’, Onofiok Luke devoted his time and resources to meeting people’s needs. He was not a sedentary lawmaker. He sponsored Bills which had direct significant bearing on the needs of the majority and others which protected special groups like PWDs, students and youths. In his days in the House of Assembly, Luke was famous for holding frequent, no-holds-barred interactions with his people and spent quality time mentoring youths through the Onofiok Luke Mentorship Hub. His mentorship programme, The Onofiok Luke Legislative Internship Programme (TOLIP) which later metamorphosed into Akwa Ibom Legislative Internship Programme- AKILIP, trained youths on legislative processes, leadership and entrepreneurship.
Now as member representing Etinan/Nsit Ibom/Nsit Ubium in the House of Representatives, Luke is still committed to projecting interest of Akwa Ibom State at different fora, through advocacies, lobbying and representations. The recent is call for the revitalization of Aluminium Smelter Company in Ikot Abasi, and demand for more allocation for the construction of Calabar/Itu road by the Federal Government are testimonials of his efforts.
Onofiok Luke is a man of many faces. To the poor, he is their pathfinder; to the youth, he is their model; to the elderly, he is their delight-some son and to the women, Onofiok is their hope. As Governor, Onofiok Luke will flip open his diary, and bring to work his experiences.