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DOES UKANAFUN HAVE A STATE REPRESENTATIVE?

oto jonathan
…a clarion call on Hon. Otobong Jonathan
BY Ukpong UKPONG

It is important to ask whether Ukanafun State Constituency actually has a representation in the sixth assembly of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly because since it was officially convened over seven months ago, constituents have waited in vain to hear from their representative.
Elections have come and gone, it appears occupant of that exalted political office has entered voicemail, preoccupied with trappings of public office, while constituents remain in deplorable condition they have found themselves. The same situation of neglect by subsequent administrations perhaps their representatives care less to at least draw government attention to their plight at the floor of the House.
Other legislators are seen contributing to lawmaking process as well as attracting government intervention and development projects to their constituency. Does Ukanafun need a solemn assembly to activate their state representative to work?
It is expected that by now Ukanafun General Hospital project (one among five hospitals that were completed as far back as 2010) which was abandoned at about 75% completion, should have become a matter of urgent public importance, topping the priority of projects to be completed, had its legislator been working in sync with his constituents. Economic importance of that hospital cannot be overemphasized, considering the heavy toll lack of health care service exacts on inhabitants of the area.
A clear example is the avoidable death of former deputy speaker, late Obong Okon Uwah, who could have been saved had the hospital been completed and functioning. Several lives continue to be lost in Ukanafun, Etim Ekpo and its environs as residents race against time, taking their sick ones hundreds of miles to either Mercy Hospital in Abak or University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, UUTH, Uyo.
The cruel irony is that a fully equipped private hospital, allegedly owned by a serving commissioner, was recently opened in the area, but access is limited because of its expensive price tag.
Other projects abandoned in Ukanafun include electrification of Southern Afaha clan and other villages; integrated palm produce mill, Ekeffe road, Edem Idim road, Ikot Oku Usung- Ukanafun- Ikot Ekara road. They are slowly deteriorating where they were left undone by the Akpabio administration.
From the above, there is much on the plate for anyone occupying the seat of Ukanafun State Constituency to be on his toes, agitating for completion of these people oriented projects. He should be constantly drawing attention of government to them, lobbying colleagues for support and directly appealing to the state chief executive. There is no excuse for feet dragging as days have turned to months without a mention of Ukanafun and the worsening plight of its people. They are getting impatient with a representative that seems completely disconnect from his constituency.
Possible explanation of the disconnection is traceable to a faulty political arrangement called zoning, which creates room for ill prepared candidates to fill leadership positions, just because ‘it’s their turn’.
Some stakeholders spoken to have blamed former governor Akpabio for undue interference in Ukanafun politics, others blame zoning for their predicament.
“By sacrificing merit and experience on the altar of zoning our kingmakers largely relied on sentiments rather than competence and track record. They were easily manipulated to throw up ill prepared leaders that will most likely grope about when they ought to be leading”, a concerned indigene complained.
Evidently, zoning this time has proven to be inimical to development in a place such as Ukanafun local government area, where the power sharing principle is strictly revered and setting it aside considered a taboo.
Like other political enclaves in the state, this area consists of blocs, which alternate political positions between them, keeping everyone happy and in harmony. The two blocs namely Ukanafun and Afaha, have been sharing power with respect to who heads the local council and who serves in the State Assembly, for single term respectively. This arrangement had gone on for years in peace till build up to the 2015 general elections, when its last state legislator, Hon. Aniekan Akpan, from Ukanafun bloc, reportedly enjoying the support of Akpabio family, sought to go for a second term. This move was stoutly resisted by Afaha political bloc, whose turn it was to produce a state legislator.
The stiff resistance persisted up till an emergency meeting convened at the instance of the former governor, few days to the state constituency primary. With threats of mayhem and possible bloodshed thick in the air, the plot to impose Aniekan Akpan was shelved and he was asked to pick a successor from Afaha.
According to reputable sources, to spite his challengers, Akpan shun frontline and experienced politicians like immediate past local government chairman, Obong Sylvester Udokang and state chairman of PMAN, Nseobong Umana, who was backed by former commissioner for Lands and Housing, Obong Eno Akpan, since he felt they fueled the agitation for power shift to Afaha. He however settled on one Otobong Jonathan, a young man with much promise in the oil and gas sector, who before then had no experience in political leadership.
To the consternation of everyone in Ukanafun especially his uncle, Obong Eno Akpan, this young technocrat, who was steadily rising in his career with oil giant, Exxon/Mobil, resigned his appointment, effectively putting an end to prospect of having an Ukanafun son in its management, just to fill a quota in political space back home.
Later on, following the brutal murder of Obong Okon Uwah, who was contesting the same position on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), nobody contested with Otobong Jonathan, the flagbearer of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. INEC then declared Jonathan winner, unopposed. He never had to consult, did not spend much in campaign nor defended his victory in courts.
For this reason, many believe Otobong should show gratitude by at least convening a constituency briefing to thank his people for an overwhelming support like all his colleagues have done. But, it seems he is either indifferent to or unaware of this responsibility as the bearer of Ukanafun mandate. His continued inability to speak for the area at the plenary or consult with stakeholders to get input may be construed as incompetence or insensitivity.
As an underdog from the private sector, Jonathan is not conversant with managing affairs in public service let alone navigating the stormy political waters. But, by way of giving him a benefit of doubt, as an intelligent learner, he could get things done if he comes out of his shell and act, understanding what it is to stand on the threshold of history. So, he should endeavour to take heed and make this opportunity worthwhile.
Aside legislation, a chunk of his mandate is to pursue the interest of Ukanafun in the state level, doing his best to ensure abandoned projects in Ukanafun are completed and that it is listed among foremost local government areas in state government’s industrialization plan.
He will find it easy to promote Ukanafun given its proximity to two very strong local economic hubs namely Rivers and Abia states, its remarkable location near the Atlantic ocean, providing easy access through the water ways, notable tourist attraction, luxuriant farmlands and hardworking farmers whose produce including palm oil, palm kernel, cassava and others form a reasonable percentage of raw materials for manufacturing industries in nearby aforementioned states.
If indeed service to Ukanafun state constituency is paramount on agenda of Honourable Otobong Jonathan, then he must know the clock is ticking and his constituents are waiting to hear from him.

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