By Henshaw NYONG
Like the wise-saying, the journey of a zillion miles begins with a step. The Rt. Hon. (Barr.) Onofiok Luke’s journey in the world has been eventful. Though one could be quick to conclude that his sojourn on the planet earth is chequered and tortuous, the fact remains, that, the 38 solid years of this “eagle” and “Shining Star”, had been so rewarding due to God’s exceeding grace, self-discipline and commitment to his beliefs and aspirations.
On Wednesday, 16th March, 2016, the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Akparawa (Barr.) Onofiok Akpan Luke, would clock 38. Without doubt, the ‘poverty’ in his childhood, shortly after the painful exit of his beloved father, who was a lawyer, could be succinctly interpreted as a child who was born with neither a silver nor wooden spoon.
The great former British Prime Minister, William Churchill said: “An optimist will see opportunity in every difficulty, while a pessimist will see difficulty in every opportunity”. Onofiok Luke is an incurable optimist, who did not allow the difficulty in his upbringing to deter him from aiming at the top.
He weathered the storm of life and meandered the clayish path to stardom. He is now a shining star among his peers. Thanks to Mma teacher; Deaconess Lawrencia Akpan Luke, who decided to sell some of her costly wrapper materials as well as her late husband’s palm tree plots, to ensure the young Onofiok gets the Western education.
Barrister Onofiok Akpan Luke, like every other human colossus like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Abraham Lincoln, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nelson Mandela and others, saw the vicissitudes of life as opportunity and not a snag that can dim one’s desire for greatness.
Early in life, he understood that one can only have an indelible print on the sand of time through philanthropy and to always be on the side of the oppressed. And this he had been doing with passion since he broke out of the vicious circle level of poverty.
The man, who is now the third citizen in Akwa Ibom, started exhibiting his unquenchable thirst for good governance during his time as a student of the University of Uyo. He was elected the President of the Students’ Union Government, where he commanded the vanguard that fought relentlessly against academic venality as well as inciting students.
His activism gained national prominence when he led a mass student protest against the university management which had increased school fees and other sundry charges for students of the institution without justification. Onofiok, like many other students he led at the time, believed that being a government-funded institution, the arbitrary increase in fees by the University of Uyo was callous and uncalled for. Other displeased students from across the Country who were in solidarity with Onofiok and the University of Uyo students joined the protest.
Following the peaceful protest he led, one still seen as a rare bravery, the university management rusticated Onofiok Luke for two years. But after having been found clean of every allegation by the school, Onofiok was recalled later to complete his studies for a degree in Law.
Oh yes, Onofiok Luke is not a type who shows lackadaisical attitude to his home State, national and even International issues.
For instance, as a lawmaker, the Ikot Etobo in Nsit Ubium born parliamentarian has sponsored over six private member bills in the State House of Assembly, and by the special grace of God, two of those bills have been passed into law. They are: The Law to provide for the establishment of the Akwa Ibom State HIV/AIDS control agency, functions of the agency, and for connected matters; and The Law to amend the Magistrate Court Laws 2000 and for matters connected therewith.
Apart from that, it is on record that the man, who by the Special grace of God, is the Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, was one of the first Nigerian youths who called for amnesty for local militants who were disrupting oil activities in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. At a youth Town Hall meeting in Uyo in 2008, Luke, then just 30 years old, led other youths to call on the Federal government to formalise an amnesty programme which he said was going to stop hostilities in the oil-rich region.
Later in 2009, the then Yar’adua administration yielded to the call for amnesty for the militants which however brought calm to the nation.
This Shining Star who just turned 38 has severally been on international assignments for his country. He represented the country’s youths in the 2010 World Youth Conference in Leon, Mexico. He was also Nigeria’s representative at the African Union youth pre-forum to the 2014 high level dialogue on democracy, human rights, and governance in Africa. At the conference which held in Nairobi Kenya and had top-ranking African diplomats in attendance, Luke spoke on Youth, Power, and Politics for Sustainable Peace in Africa.
As a Lawmaker, the Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, has impacted positively on so many lives. His philanthropy knows no bound. His political operation knows no party but all Akwa Ibom indigenes. Little wonder, his abode in Ewet Housing Estate, is always a mecca of sort at all times.
It is worthy of note that, the youngest Speaker in the country, Barrister Luke, runs two schemes to empower youths and women as part of his constituency development projects. They are the Constituency Transport Scheme (CTS) and the Seed Capital for Business Start-up (SCBS). The schemes have in the last five years economically empowered hundreds of households across Nsit Ubium state constituency which he represents in the House.
He is also the founder of The Onofiok Luke Legislative Internship Programme (TOLLIP), Nigeria’s only stipendiary internship programme designed to train youths on legislative basics, entrepreneurship, community development and volunteerism, as well as conflict resolution. Onofiok has also attracted gargantuan live-touching projects to his constituency.
By all assessment, Speaker Luke is not that kind of a politician that discriminates. He has distinguished himself as the only political office holder in the State that calls people by their first and surnames without making mistakes. He has also carved a niche for himself as the only senior citizen who attends ceremonial events of his friends, no matter their ranks in the society. Indeed, the tall-slim-handsome Speaker, has consistently been reaching out to all and sundry.
At an empowerment programme he initiated for the downtrodden in his constituency some years back, his predecessor and former member, Nsit Ubium State Constituency in the State House Of Assembly, Elder Aniefiok Thompson, submitted that lives would have been easier for not just the people of Nsit Ubium, but the entire Akwa Ibom people, if the state has two other politicians with equalled philanthropy power like Akparawa Onofiok Luke.
And what’s more! Whichever way we assess his three decades and eight sojourn on the planet earth, Onofiok’s life has been exemplary. He has proved that goodness has no alternative. His promise has always been to dedicate the rest of his life to serve humanity. This he had vividly display with numerous empowerment programmes he had initiated to bring succour to the afflicted.
To his constituents, Onofiok Luke is simply a colossus, purveyor of morals, the angel of history that has been so anxiously awaited, the peoples Prometheus, jinx-breaker, visionary, reflective scholar and a soldier of democracy. He is the exponent of the popular Akwa Ibom sentiment who has enlarged The Great Luke’s Sanctuary to accommodate persons of diverse needs from all parts of the state.
To any unbiased observer, Onofiok’s trajectory is a tribute to courage, service, humility, loyalty, integrity, generosity, resilience, diligence and spirituality.
The late South African leader, Nelson Mandela said: “When you successfully climb a mountain, you will realize that there are still many mountains to climb”. Onofiok Luke’s quest to conquer poverty among the people is not yet done. The battle against oppression is not yet won. All he needs from Akwa Ibom people, including his colleagues in the State House of Assembly, is prayers to be able to achieve this lofty task as he looks up to many rewarding years ahead of him.
Before I move an official motion on this deliberations, Mr Speaker, permit me to play you the Saint Seiya lullaby (English Version) titled, “The Shining Star”. Listen:
“When you look back through the time, What did you find in your life, What do you see through your heart? Is there still a strength in you, or are you falling apart?…Close your eyes and rest your soul, I’ll kiss away your fears, So you can fly again. Spread your wings up high and touch that one endless sky.
“Shining star, sparkling in the sky, Like a diamond shining in your special way, I see you twinkling light night and day. Shining star, shining way up high, shining bright out there in the night. In the dark sky, you are the guiding light forever”.
Mr Speaker, Sir, for all the motivation and inspiration, for all those encouragements and good action, including the unquenchable thirst for good governance. Sir, for the top-notch generosity, loyalty, integrity, resilience, diligence, humility and spirituality, I hereby move a motion even as make supplications to the Almighty God to bless you in zillion folds. May you grow to see your Children-Children-Children-Children. I also move that your Creator should shower you the grace that surpasses humans’ comprehension and that HE should give you the wisdom to lead well. I so move, Sir!