By Samuel Ayara
For an assembly whose inauguration was less dramatic but historic, the seventh Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly at proclamation saw to the emergence of Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey as Speaker, riding on the unanimous support of colleagues despite being a member less, due to the politico-legal banters that delayed Essien Udim’s arrival to the party. This assembly also holds the record as one that returned by far more members than any of the first to the sixth ever attempted. Some think majority of the returning members made it back because of their patronage for the party and political system, but there exists some who are thought as fit pegs for the hole and time; a bill that perfectly sits on the Uruan state assemblyman; who prior to his emergence held a stint as a Deputy Leader of the immediate past (6th) assembly.
Having the rest of the 35 States Houses of Assembly in Nigeria inaugurate their legislature days before or after June 10, 2019 swayed critical conversations to State Governors who were suspected to have foisted their loyalists as head of an arm of government that was designed to check the executive. Not so much was different about the emergence of Aniekan Bassey, as he is also speculated to have been the choice of the establishment, but the ensuing massive acceptance he enjoyed signalled that either the state or his colleagues knew what choice would better serve the interest of the state. Twenty-three months down, the conviction has not changed, the people are still in bed with the Uruan representative, who is blessed with the rare fortune of being celebrated at home and in the larger Nigeria.
His subsequent emergence as the Vice Chairman Conference of Nigerian Speakers went ahead of other considerations to speak volumes of his demeanour, which has at several times come to play in the manner he relates with people regardless of class and social standing. Interestingly, he remains one of the very few leaders in our clime that has enjoyed the rare goodwill of winning elections without having to walk the dark and rocky path of post election litigation. This does not always happen, but for him, the magic of his quiet disposition, calculated moves and deep reach has been more mystical than a roaring and arrogant optimism, and also explains the sudden dominance of the Peoples Democratic Party in Uruan, a departure from the struggling fate of the recent past.
In being christened the “Working speaker” Bassey has shown more than a passing interest in matters of importance to the State, on which score he often jettisons political, ethnic and other clandestine prejudices at ensuring the people are better served. Preaching and working equity and fairness, the state’s number three citizen ranks among the widest arms in the political space, as acknowledged by even his known adversaries who rather than fault his approach, would lead the advocacy for leaders to emulate his example.
Watching with keen interest how he dealt with the December 2019 Court of Appeal judgment that nullified the election of his party man who represented Mbo state constituency in favour of an opposition party candidate, saw him do more than grandstanding and playing the party card. In handling what was designed to cause a storm in such disarming way that swayed the eventual winner into trusting he could partner other colleagues in the Akwa Ibom project beyond his political conviction, passed the Aniekan Bassey led seventh assembly as a peopled convergence.
In and out of chambers he is condemned to advancing the Akwa Ibom project and has remained an untiring support base for Governor Udom Emmanuel’s Completion Agenda on several fronts than the legislature. Enumerating what his leadership has achieved for the state, despite having lost about seven of the twenty three months to the Covid19 lockdown and the current agitation for autonomy for state legislatures by the legislative staff union, admits the assembly to the legislative class act hall of fame, when compared to achievements of their peers from other states within the same period.
Within the period under review, the Aniekan Bassey led seventh assembly has received over 51 bills out of which 18 have been passed into law, while others are at various levels of legislative actions, including a total of over 42 motions. Clinically, what stands the class of legislators in this assembly out is the depth of their vision, for example, the member representing Etinan state constituency, Barr. Aniefiok Dennis did not wait until the current violent wave that even saw to the brutal murder of a young job seeker, to sponsor the violence against people bill; to address the increasing spate of violence against women and children, as well as the Akwa Ibom State Criminal Justice law.
With Bassey’s imposing behind the gavel influence, the Itu representative Kufre Edidem found the forte to sponsor a bill for a law to regulate and control cattle grazing in the state, the Etim Ekpo/Ika assemblyman Mfon Idung, came through with the bill for a law to provide for the establishment of state skills development and vocational training agency, while the Nsit Ubium legislator Otobong Bob, proposed the bill for a law to establish the office of the public defender, within the same period Princess Felicia Bassey presented a bill for the protection of physically challenged people against discrimination. Leading such creative minds and legislative eggheads as Uduak Odudoh, Mark Esset, Sir Udo Kierian, Victor Ekwere, Ifiok Udoh and numerous others require more than ideas gleaned from the qualities of a good leader we learnt from elementary studies.
The facelift and rehabilitation the premises of the State Assembly received in the first few months of his leadership acquits him as one who knew what the facility required from his previous experience as chairman of the House Services committee in his first term. The complex is not short of the regular human traffic, but the feel of orderliness has been more assuring; as some members and legislative staff would attest to in their evaluations of the mileage of the Aniekan Bassey stewardship that has knitted a family from a stratified work space to where everyone has a sense of belonging.
How he has managed to keep the assembly from controversy and trolls has been exemplary. Navigating the assembly to the masses’ interest without bruising the ego of the other arms of government is surely an art people should learn from. The friendly but dutiful manner he handled the media sensation that greeted a recent report on extra-budgetary spending by some MDAs, to the perceived satisfaction of every interested party in the impasse raised by twice, the respect citizens have for members of the current assembly. It is uncommon to find a matter that was not exhaustively handled, even as the public are often allowed the rare privilege of participating in very critical probes and findings, to brush off prejudices and rumours.
The 2020 Covid-19 spell was an occurrence that set patriotism apart from mediocrity, and in rising to the occasion, Bassey changed his constituency from Uruan to humanity in such mind-blowing shade. It was not hard to find a feel of his kindness permeate the state, cutting across several demographics and cluster. “I cannot look away from the biting hardship dealt on people of my state by this cruel virus and refuse to reach out because they have their representatives. What we are faced with deserves a reach that defies boundaries”; those were his word of comfort to a cache of economically vulnerable people he sent cash, food items and medical supplies to.
Not everyday is unpredictable, mornings can also tell the day’s fortunes. His first term outing as member representing Uruan from 2015 – 2019 was undoubtedly rewarding as he held nothing back at building a family in Uruan that gave everyone a sense of belonging, through empowerment and regular interface. It is deserving to note that he still stands tall as the very few returning members of the current Assembly with visible imprints; finding unassailable acceptance among artisans, entrepreneurs or transport service operators, because constituents who benefited from his empowerment programmes were carefully chosen to reflect their needs, hence the departure from the culture where such items are either auctioned at the point of collection or pinned to political servitude.
His widespread imprint finds expression in the massive endorsement and commendation the Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey Youth Entrepreneurship Support Scheme (RHAB-YESS) has attracted even from least expected quarters. The programme which has so far supported more than one hundred citizens of the state in their chosen field of entrepreneurial endeavour is aimed at revamping the business space to help the people meet their business targets. This is one programme that is famed for its unimpeachable credibility, as three winners are selected from popular opinions and paid between two hundred and fifty thousand to one hundred thousand Naira for first, second and third prizes. This exclude consolation prizes, starter packs and other strategic intervention; giving premium to areas of critical enterprise development needs. Cherry fruits do not fall far from the tree, Speaker Bassey did not stray into the interest of promoting enterprise development, he holds a timeless and immutable record as a dedicated entrepreneur, whose successes are visible and unassailable.
The reclamation and gully control project on the Ituk Mbang – Ibiaku Ishiet Road in Uruan is an intervention that has given life back to that part of the world, which hitherto was terribly hit by crumbling socioeconomic fortunes that had so badly threatened lives and property. The gully ravaged road rendered communities beyond the Nung Ikono Ufok alignment completely incommunicado. Thanks to Aniekan Bassey who drew government’s attention to salvaging what seemed impossible as the project is done at very commendable pace that has renewed the peoples’ confidence in the Udom Emmanuel administration. They can now return to their renowned seafood ventures and other businesses that made their communities thick.
It has become common to find public schools wake to presentation of classroom desks and other educational materials from the Speaker. Seamlessly going about this across the different wards of the constituency has in ways than few saved pupils, students and teachers a lot of trouble; they neither have to tearfully deal with academic activities nor become subjects of ridicule for inhumane social media exposures. Giving back to his people roundly accounts for the massive following he enjoys at all times from his people. Etebong, a youth activist from the area would joyfully recount that “they are daily inundated in Uruan with the endless wonders of Aniekan Bassey leadership”.
Nothing obliterates the shine of a northern star, for Aniekan Bassey, not even his quiet disposition could. This explains his brilliant leadership credentials which has so far distinguished him on the national space, where he holds sway as Vice Chairman Conference of Speakers of States Houses of Assembly as well as Chairman of South-South Speakers Forum. At midterm, from the trenches of Itu to the flowing tides of Mbo; the hills of Ini to the hopeful horizons of Eastern Obolo and people across various strata can attest that the Uruan Inyang Atakpo born entrepreneur and politician premiered on the turf of public service as a bridge of consolation where various interests find expression.
Convinced that the serenity, mien and candour he exudes will sustain his advent, here is just a toast to remind the Northern star of how good he is at what he is doing.
Samuel Ayara writes from Ibong Otoro in Abak LGA.