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HENRY ARCHIBONG: RAISING THE BAR OF LEGISLATIVE REPRESENTATION

By George Akpan

Mario Gianluigi Puzo, the American author, screenwriter and journalist of Italian descent, in his masterpiece, The Godfather, said; “Great men are not born great, they grow great.…” The real value of greatness therefore, does not depend on the inheritance of stupendous wealth and estates, but can be defined by the capacity of men to break the rules, smash the bars of limitations, and rise above their station. Real greatness then, includes when peasants through practice and perseverance chiseled their way to the palace; when ordinary folks assume extraordinary wisdom and strength to achieve the exceptional and above all, when the despised, through hard work and diligence become the desired.

The human race is abound with men and women, who reached for their inner strength, ignore negative advice and discouragement from people to achieve genuine greatness. In the final analysis, these people become leaders, protagonists of global brands and measuring sticks in their turfs. Yet, these same people were yesterday reviled as nobodies. To therefore celebrate such men with high drive and passion for greatness and excellence have become a worthwhile exercise, especially when it is done employing the principles of objectivity coupled with subdued value judgment. It is in the light of the above that this spotlight is brought to focus to x-ray the rising of a humble and amiable young man who, in his early life, was confronted with fears and uncertainties of survival, but fought through to become a widely sought-after medical doctor. A real outlier who did not allow the circumstances of his birth to manacle him to the stump of poverty, defying human conventions and rose through the murky waters of politics to take the seat of Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency in the 8th National Assembly – Hon. Dr. Henry Archibong.

Born 50 years ago, and being the first son of the family, his astuteness for academic excellence saw him cycling through various educational institutions starting from primary, secondary and up to the College of Medical Sciences in the University of Calabar where he obtained a degree in Medicine and Surgery (MB.Bch) in 1994. He had his primaries in Obstetrics and Gynecology from the West African College of Surgeons in 1997. In that examination, he was among the only seven students that passed in the whole of the West African sub-region. In 2009, he was at the Advance Resuscitation Academy for a certificate in Advance Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS). That same year, he obtained another certificate in Basic Life Support (BLS) from the same institution. Dr. Archibong holds a Masters degree in Management of Health Systems (MPH), from the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom and currently pursuing another Masters degree in Environmental Health Management with the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

A chronicle of Dr. Archibong’s political life reveals that his standing in the society today as the mouthpiece of the people of Itu and Ibiono Ibom is not by any means a default, but rather by the fusion of passion, determination, intelligence, resourcefulness, vision, personal conviction and strong will. In 2006 when he forayed into politics, his name became household after he contested and won the PDP primaries for the Itu/Ibiono House of Representatives seat. The party in their wisdom at that time took the mandate from him probably because she considered him not ripe for the top job or maybe he was surrounded by too many political gladiators who would not allow him deliver on his mandate. Such a monumental upset at that time was scary enough to dampen his political resolve, but as a mature and loyal party man, he held on! In 2011, he nursed the same ambition, but having watched the space and calculated his political time, he discovered the coast was not clear for his emergence and again, he held on!!.

When Dr. Archibong saw the light shinning at the end of the tunnel in 2014, he joined the race again. That race, one can rightly say, was one of the most crowded and keenly contested, because no fewer than six aspirants (all of them well known in the politics of the land) indicated interest in seeking nomination by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the election. In the build-up to the nomination, Dr. Archibong was not considered to be anywhere near the party ticket, because according to pundits, he lacked the financial muscle to pull through. But he has always maintained that he was the dark horse in the race, and that he will win the nomination, clinch the party ticket and fly her flag for the election. True to his believe and confession, he won the party primaries to the chagrin of many.

With his nomination, interests collapsed into one umbrella in support of the party to face opposition that sprang up from the camps of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Accord Party. This collapse of interest played out when the people of the Federal Constituency massively voted for Dr. Archibong and the PDP in the March 28, 2015 National Assembly Election. The result of the election as announced by INEC reflected the collective resolve of the people to support equity and good conscience. Dr. Archibong coasted to victory when he polled a total of 75,248 votes to crush the duo of Akparawa Okon Imerh of the APC with 4,976 votes and Adline Uduak Philip of the Accord Party with a paltry 259 votes.

Just like the Biblical Pharaoh and the children of Israel, the APC and its candidates challenged the people’s victory when they took the matter to the Election Petitions Tribunal praying the tribunal to out-rightly cancel the election, which according to observers was free, fair and credible. They alleged electoral violence and irregularities. But that was not to be because the tribunal proved them wrong when on Tuesday, October 13, 2015, ruled against the petitioners on two grounds that: (1) the petition was filed out of time, and (2) the sole ground of the petition was incurably defective even after the case was tried on merit. The Tribunal therefore upheld the victory of Hon. Dr. Henry Archibong as the undisputed House of Representatives Member for Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency… A well-deserved victory!

While supporters rolled out their drums in celebration of the tribunal victory, the unrepentant APC and its candidate, unsatisfied with the ruling of the Tribunal took the matter to the Appeal Court seeking outright cancellation of the mandate of the people. Once again, the Appeal court sent them packing finally on the 13th day of November, 2015, when they ruled against the APC and its candidate describing the case being “dead on arrival….” thereby validating the mandate the people of Itu and Ibiono Ibom freely gave to Dr. Archibong.

This victory was a clear attestation of the collective will of the people and has been celebrated by all and sundry within the Federal Constituency and beyond. Interacting with journalists just after the Appeal Court ruling, Dr. Archibong said that his victory is the victory of his people and dedicated same to God Almighty first whom he recognized as the ultimate source and giver of power, and then to his people. His words: “I am dedicating this victory to God and to my people. I hereby declare that there is no victor, no vanquished. I extend my hands of fellowship to my brothers and sisters on the other side of the divide to join hands with me so that together, we can build a Federal Constituency of our dream. The ruling of today marks the collective journey of the people of Itu and Ibiono Ibom to move to fulfill their political destiny. I must say that the task of building a virile society requires our collective inputs, only an effective, responsive and patriotic leadership can create the needed balance between the government and the people…”

Dr. Archibong’s political and leadership career began back in the days as a medical student in the University of Calabar. From his first to final year of study he was the representative of his class and belonged to the University of Calabar Student’s Representative Council. He was a king maker who wielded tremendous influence as to who became the Student’s Union Government (SUG) President. His involvement in campus politics was to prepare him for future leadership challenge especially given the fact that student’s politics most times determine what plays out in the larger political environment. Dr. Archibong’s style of leadership coupled with his humble, sociable and unassuming nature has offered him a place in the Hall of Fame of Leaders who are called to genuinely serve their people and not their pockets. These aspects of his life has mainstreamed him in grassroots politics as he has paid his dues outstandingly to earn the confidence of Itu/Ibiono Ibom people.

From analysis of the resume of members, the 8th National Assembly is no doubt the most cerebral and well constituted body made of the finest florid of leaders ever assembled in the history of the Nigerian legislature. To fit in therefore, Dr. Archibong is one man who has adequately prepared and presented himself for public office with an unprecedented level of humility, vision, passion, intelligence, resourcefulness and legislative sagacity needed to add value to the lives of his constituents through practically attainable legislation. An assessment of his legislative capability reveals a young, cerebral and pregnant super brand who has a good grasp of parliamentary procedures, advocacy and intellectual erudition. It will reveal certainly that by the time Dr. Archibong winds up his four years of legislative service delivery in the green chambers of the National Assembly, the ever appreciative and uncommon people of Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency, whose passion for excellence and effective representation is unrivalled, shall earnestly yearn for more of his representation.

There is no gainsaying the fact that Dr. Archibong is a legislative firebrand, a bundle of talents and a blessing to the House of Representatives. This is evident in the quality of his debates and contributions on the floor of the House. Within the two years of his people’s centered representation since he was inaugurated on June 9, 2015 so far, he has sponsored four motions, four Bills, three petitions and two matters of urgent public importance, therefore carving out a niche for himself in the business of lawmaking as a people-centered legislator.

In July, 2015, barely one month after his inauguration, the quintessential lawmaker moved to overcome the fears first timers usually have when he took the floor of the House and presented a petition on behalf of one of his constituent, Etubom Ita Oku Ita from Obong Itam in Itu L.G.A titled “Unjust Termination of Appointment and Deprivation of Entitlements from Somotex Nigeria Limited: An Appeal for Review”. After a brilliant presentation, the petition was laid without a debate and referred to the House Committee on Public Petitions. The committee after inviting both parties for hearing and debates on the matter, found out that Etubom Ita Oku was unjustly removed from office by Somotex Nigeria Limited and immediately granted the prayers of the petitioner which included payments of his salaries and entitlements from 2004 till date and re-absorption back into the company.

In August 2015, exactly two months into the House, Dr. Archibong returned to the floor of the House with a debate on the deplorable state of the Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene Highway with a motion titled “Urgent Need for the Federal Government to Rehabilitate and Construct Calabar-Itu Highway Particularly Ene Atai- Mbak- Oku Iboku Section from the Rest of Nigeria”. After a good debate, the motion was adopted and referred to the House Committee on works. The result of the investigation of the Joint Senate and House Committee on Works made it possible for N6B to be appropriated for Rehabiliation work on the road in the 2016 budget. Just last month, the Federal Government awarded contract for construction and dualization of the said road spanning from Aba through Ikot Ekpene to Itu and down to Odukpani in Cross River State.

In the same August 2015, Dr. Archibong took to the floor again with another motion titled, “Urgent Need to Mandate The Federal Ministry of Aviation to Carry Out Screening on The Operational Reliability of All Domestic Airplanes Operating Within the Airspace of The Federal Republic of Nigeria”. Having been adopted and referred to the House Committee on Aviation, the motion received so much accolades and commendations from Nigerians across party lines, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The third motion Dr. Archibong presented on the floor of the House in October 2015 sought to add value to the industrialization policy of His Excellency, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel’s administration and was tiltled “Urgent Need for the Federal Government to Take Over the Nigerian Newsprint Manufacturing Company (NNMC), now Oku Iboku Pulp and Paper (OIPP) Limited in Oku Iboku, Akwa Ibom State, Over Seven Years After Privatization”. It can be recalled that the NNMC was one of the largest employers of labour in the state during its functional days. The Federal Government under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had sold the company to a private investor under the “guided liquidation” principle which stated that after five years the agreement will be revoked if the company is not revived. Dr. Archibong therefore took the matter to the House when he discovered that the guided liquidation agreement was breached by the investor. After a good debate, the motion was adopted and referred to the House Committee on Privatization for further legislative action.

In the same October 2015, Dr. Archibong took to the floor of the House with another very important motion that sought to create employment for Nigerian Youths and wealth for our Nation. The motion was titled “Need to Urge Manufacturers of Cell Phones, Electronics and Electrical Appliances to Setup Their Plants and Factories in Nigeria to Assist the Nation in Technology Transfer, Job Creation and Reduction of Capital Flights”. Again, the motion was adopted and referred to the House Committee on Commerce and Industry for further legislative action.

In 2016, precisely April, the federal lawmaker presented another petition belonging to Sgt. Augustine Effiong, a police officer from Ikot Usen, Ibiono Ibom L.G.A on the floor of the House. The petition, which sought redress for Sgt. Effiong who was wrongfully withdrawn from service was titled “Wrongful Withdrawal from ASP Promotion Course 2, 2006, Wrongful Prosecution for Impersonation, De-Kitting and Non-Payment of Salaries and Other Entitlements Since October 2006”. The petition was laid and referred to the House Committee on Public Petitions. The committee having sat on the matter and satisfied by the evidences and claims made by the petitioner found that the Nigerian Police was wrong in their actions, and ruled that the petitioner be reinstated and promoted accordingly with all outstanding salaries and entitlements paid.

Dr. Archibong again in the same April, 2015 presented another petition, on behalf of Major Hogan Okon Ene, a military officer, who was prematurely retired from service after sustaining major injuries during a national assignment. The petition, which was titled “Wrongful Retirement, Failure to Treat a Wounded Soldier, Discrimination, Intimidation and Gross violation of Human Rights by the Nigerian Army”, has been listed and awaiting commencement of hearing by the House Committee on Public Petitions.

In the month of September, 2016 Dr. Archibong came up with his first bill which sought to support economic diversification by creating farm settlements in different parts of the country to create jobs and employment opportunities for our youths. The bill was titled “An Act to Establish the National Farm Settlements and Empowerment Agency and for Matters Connected Therewith”. The bill, which has passed first reading in the House has been referred to the House Committee on Rules and Business for consolidation with similar bills.

It may be recalled that in the month of October last year, the Federal Civil Service Commission announced vacancies for employment and urged qualified Nigerians to apply through their application portal. Recall also that it was difficult for prospective applicants to access the portal as it only opened for a maximum of fifteen minutes after which it shuts down again; thereby making it impossible for applicants to apply. Dr. Archibong, along with two his colleagues having been briefed by their constituents on the epileptic nature of the portal, took the issue to the floor of the House and co-moved a matter of urgent public importance titled “Urgent Need to Investigate the Unwholesome Practices Involving the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) with respect to the Ongoing Recruitment Exercise Announced by the Commission”. The matter generated a lot of concern from members of the House condemning the actions of the commission. The matter was promptly adopted and investigated. The result of the investigation led to the opening of the FCSC portal for the application to be submitted.

It is no longer news that the communal clash between the Oku Iboku and Ikot Offiong communities in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States respectively broke out into a serious war in December 2016 claiming many lives and displacing many families. Having met with the chiefs and youths of the area and having also visited the area for on-the-spot assessment, Dr. Archibong quickly took the matter to the House in January, 2017 upon resumption from Christmas break. In a matter of urgent public importance titled “Urgent Need for the Federal Government’s Intervention on the Recent and Ongoing Killings, Maiming and Wanton Destruction of Properties in Oku Iboku in Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State by Assailants from Ikot Offiong in Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State”. In presenting the matter, Dr. Archibong elucidated the historical background behind the communal war and prayed among other things, for Government to send relief materials to the people of Oku Iboku to help cushion the effect of the war, describing them as ‘internally displaced persons’. Accordingly, the matter received attention of the House, and was duly adopted. The resultant is the heavy presence of the military in the area and setting up of a high-powered committee with representatives from both communities to look into the matter. His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel also visited the area to provide succor to the affected communities.

Another feat recorded by the lawmaker came in same January, 2017 when he sponsored and presented his second bill bordering around the status of the Maritime Academy in Oron titled “An Act to Establish the Maritime University, Oron to Make Comprehensive provisions for Due Management and Administration and for Related Matters”. This bill sought to make the Maritime Academy in Oron to assume full status of a university, awarding degrees to grandaunts. The bill which has so far received commendations across Akwa Ibom State, has passed second reading in the House of now awaiting public hearing.

Dr. Archibong’s bill for an “An Act to Provide for the Establishment of the National Agency for the Prevention and Control of Diseases and for Related Matters” and another bill for an “Act to Establish the Mining Areas Development Commission, etc. to have Organized Management and Administrative Structure for more Effectiveness and Development and for Connected Matters”, have been listed by the House of Representatives awaiting presentation on the floor of the House.

It is instructive to note that none of Dr. Archibong’s motions, bills, petitions or even matters of urgent public importance has suffered rejection from the House. This is evident of a man who understands the system, the place value of his people and to key in properly in order to address their problems and issues in the most constructive and legitimate manner.

His workaholic nature as a medical doctor has certainly rubbed off on his extra legislative and oversight functions. For instance, Dr. Archibong is a member of many standing committees in the House. He is a member of committees on; (1.) Niger Delta Affairs; (2.) Constitutional Review (a special committee where he is representing Akwa Ibom State); (3.) Federal Capital Territory; (4.) Federal Road Safety Commission; (5.) Diaspora Matters; (6.) Agricultural Institutions; (7.) Health Care Services; (8.) HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria; and (9) Water Resources. He is also a member of Ad-Hoc Committees including; (1.) Committee to investigate the Accounting Procedures of Federal Inland Revenue Service; (2.) Committee on Deadline of Digital Broadcasting; (3.) Committee on Effects of Illegal Lumbering and Deforestation in Nigeria; (4.) Committee to Investigate the FG Bailout Funds to State Governments; (5.) Committee on Investigation of the Harmful Effects of Coca Cola drinks and very recently, he has been appointed Chairman of the Sub-Committee on the Need to Re-Evaluate the Health Infrastructure of the Federal Capital Territory to Ensure that Communities and Districts are Duly Served.
In terms of constituency reach-out, Dr. Archibong has done well so far in two years of his representation. He is in constant touch with his people, feels their pulses, attends functions of his constituents whenever he is around and renders help where necessary and within the reach of his pocket. He believes that he is not in competition with anybody but to offer his assistance in diverse ways as need beckon. His empowerment strategy has remained a subject of discussion in many political gatherings. This is so because pundits have it that in the history of the federal constituency representation, the people have never had it so good. He has so far been able to demonstrate to his people that whatever belongs to them must always come to them no matter how small.

The 13th day of May 2016, shall remain memorable in the hearts of his constituents. On that day, Dr. Archibong gagged his people with various items of empowerment including building a befitting constituency liaison office to facilitate constant meetings and exchange of ideas with his people. That day he gathered his constituents at RCM school, Mbak Obio Itam to present his score card in a constituency briefing after only eleven months in office. The constituency briefing was attended by the who is who in Itu/Ibiono Ibom politics including His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel who inaugurated the constituency office and was represented by his then Special Adviser on Political and Legislative Affairs, Rt. Hon. Anietie Etuk. The items of his empowerment included:
– Fifty-six tricycles (KEKE)
– Twenty-one sewing machines and accessories
– Twenty-one hair dryers and accessories
– Ten motor cycles
– Twenty thousand (N20,000) each to fifty rural market women to boost their trade

Between the months of January and March 2017, Dr. Archibong has facilitated the training of three hundred and eighty (380) constituents in marketable skills and human rights advocacy, in consultation with the National Human Rights Commission, Abuja Graduate School and MAIKAT Consulting Nig. Ltd. He has facilitated employment of his constituents in various establishments including the University of Uyo, University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, and the security agencies. Dr. Archibong has also, in close working relationship with the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, attracted and distributed classic sports equipment from the National Lottery Commission to fifty-six primary schools across Akwa Ibom State. Water boreholes located at Government School, Afaha Ube Itam in Itu L.G.A and Government Primary School, Obio Ibiono, including another ongoing motorized borehole in Ntan Ekere Community, all stand to his credit.
Dr. Archibong is currently building a befitting 3-bedroom house for one of his constituents, Bishop Ekwere Utip (not his personal aide) in Enen Atai Itam Village, Itu L.G.A. The project, which is at roofing stage now has been applauded by people of goodwill within and outside the federal constituency, and has been described as the first of its kind in the area. Just recently, he has single handedly worked across the country to attract post graduate scholarships from the United Kingdom for more than twenty of his constituents to study in various fields and another undergraduate scholarship from the Japanese Government for ten of his constituents to study technology and engineering based courses.
Dr. Archibong in the final analysis, has begun well for the people of Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency and from available records of his five-star performance on the floor of the House, oversight responsibilities and constituency reach-out, he is poised to raise the bar of legislative representation and set an agenda in legislative business, which will bequeath us a modern Nigerian State that serves the people and take the dividends of democracy to all citizens. He remains a beacon of hope and a great source of inspiration to any person who was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
Henry Archibong is a man of humility with honour, loved and celebrated by many, inspired by God, a quintessence and bridge builder, a pragmatic democrat, and a perception manager par excellence. Today, the people celebrate the humble beginning of this super brand and his journey to stardom. To God be the Glory!!!

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