Senator Aniekan Bassey, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures in Nigeria, and former Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, is the Senator representing the Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial District and an Executive Member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Africa Region). He is the Deputy Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture Production Services and Rural Development. In this interview, he speaks on his legacies as a Speaker and contributions to the Akwa Ibom Project. Excerpts:
How did you begin your political journey?
I started my political journey in 2014 as a greenhorn without any political sagacity and that was shortly before the 2015 General Elections. I took the bull by the horns and contested and won the ticket of Uruan State Constituency seat on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015. It became my responsibility to represent the people of Uruan State Constituency in the Sixth Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. I became the Deputy Leader of the House within six months as a first-timer. I was subsequently made the Chairman of a special committee of the House, the House Services Committee. I did very well in terms of representation, lawmaking, and oversight. In 2019, I was called upon again by my people to go for a second term. I did and through their support and benevolence, I won and further represented Uruan State Constituency in the Seventh Assembly.
In the Seventh Assembly, by the providence of the Almighty God and through the support of Honourable Members, I became the Speaker of the House. By God’s grace, I brought unity, focus, and direction to that Assembly as Speaker and because of that, that Assembly was christened the People’s Assembly. We worked assiduously to ensure the unity of the House and instilled purposefulness, knowing that we were the hope of the common man. I presided over the Assembly for four years as Speaker. I ran the Assembly with the mentality that the House should not be the face of Aniekan Bassey but one that will work independently through its Committees for the progress and betterment of the Akwa Ibom Project. So, I played the role of an unbiased umpire who listened in silence to the arguments of members and judged accordingly.
So, I did not make any decision of my own. Every decision of that Assembly was based on the argument and the decision of the entire Members of the House. The Seventh Assembly, which I presided over, was made of credible politicians who were round pegs in round holes. For instance, the Leader of the House, Sir Udo Kierian Akpan, was a former labor leader and Commissioner in the state and the longest-serving Member of the House. The likes of Hon. Nse Essien, a sports enthusiast, chaired the House Committee on Sports, Youths, and Security; Barrister Aniefiok Dennis Akpan, a lawyer and a man with a great communication background, chaired the House Committee on Information. The current Speaker, Elder Udeme Otong, a seasoned Nurse and a medical practitioner, chaired the House Committee on Health. So, every House Committee was perfectly chaired by properly fitted individuals and all the Committees worked independently but in unity to achieve the common goal of building a better Akwa Ibom, bringing synergy between the three arms of government. Our duty was to successfully interpret the blueprint of the Udom Emmanuel-led government, which was hinged on peace and industrialization. So, my journey into politics has been quite eventful and I believe that has catapulted me to the acme of legislative business, which is the Senate.
As the Speaker of the Seventh Assembly, what was your relationship with the Executive arm of government?
As the then Speaker and head of the Legislature, my relationship with the Executive arm of government was very cordial. Yes, the Legislature is a distinct and separate arm of government but as a people-oriented Assembly, we had, from our first day in office, adopted the principle of Cooperation of Power, as a complement to that of Separation of Power. We believed that in the Cooperation of Power lies the ultimate Separation of Power. So, in the Udom Emmanuel-led Executive arm, we found a partner in progress, and through our separate stations, we joined hands in taking Akwa Ibom State to the next level of development. One thing people never understood was that the then-governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, was a listening Governor. As Governor, he listened to our discussions and suggestions for better governance and acted accordingly in most cases and that led to the many successes of his government. So, there was mutual respect and understanding. That is why the Seventh Assembly was a rancour-free Assembly and its relationship with the Executive arm brought about people-oriented policies and development.
What were your legacies as the representative of Uruan State Constituency and as the Speaker of the Seventh Assembly?
As the representative of Uruan State Constituency and the Speaker of the Seventh Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, though some of my legacies were personal, the most important legacy I would want to be known for was bringing peace to Akwa Ibom State, which was in line with the goal of the Udom Emmanuel-led administration, working in unity for cooperation and collaboration of power for the common good of the state and our people.
Still on legacies, looking back, I am happy that I led an Assembly that successfully and positively pushed the Akwa Ibom project to an enviable height through our primary responsibilities of lawmaking, oversight, and representation. That Assembly received over 79 life-touching and development-oriented Bills including the 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 Appropriation Bills. It is also worthy of note here that out of these 79 Bills, 26 were passed into Law out of which 14 were assented to by the then Governor. I was also able to link the Assembly Complex to the national grid, purchase a brand new 500KVA Cummins Power Generator to supply power to facilities within the Assembly premises, install brand new borehole system with complete reticulation within the Complex, and make the Chamber a Masterpiece by upgrading its facility to a world-class standard with the installation of the latest TAIDEN Technology, the TAIDEN MCA-Stream Multi-Channel Audio Digital Transmitting Technology and 44-TAIDEN HCS-4800 Series Fully Digital Congress System.
Let’s talk about your pet project, the RHAB-YESS Foundation. Do you see it as part of your legacies?
The unparalleled achievements of my pet project, the RHAB-YESS Foundation, are part of my legacies as the then Speaker of the Seventh Assembly. Before the end of my tenure as Speaker, the RHAB-YESS Foundation was able to build and donate to the State House of Assembly a befitting ultra-modern Research/ICT Centre with state-of-the-art equipment. The RHAB-YESS Foundation was my way and remains my way, of reaching out to indigenes of Akwa Ibom State, irrespective of political or ethnic inclination, particularly young entrepreneurs and rural women as well as indigent students. Every month, throughout my four-year tenure, the Foundation gave out financial support to young entrepreneurs, and rural women and scholarships to indigent students across the 31 Local Government Areas. The Foundation spent, every month, between N3 million to N10 million, depending on its target, to support this set of persons. So far the Foundation has given shelter to vulnerable widows across the state, supported over 2000 youths and rural women in Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), and trained 34 artisans in woodwork, metal fabrication, automobile work, and oven-baked spraying. The Foundation’s scholarship scheme, though strictly for indigent students, has been top-notch. It has been a fantastic push for me all the way and by God’s grace, we have lifted people out of poverty. These are my legacies.
What is your relationship with the current Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Pastor Umo Eno?
We have a very good relationship. You know I was one of the very first set of persons that adopted him through the House of Assembly when he was presented to us by the former Governor. When you know the stuff that Pastor Umo Eno is made of, you will agree with me that he is a very humane leader, a man with empathy and humility. He has started very well but then it is too early for people to start evaluating his performance. So, if given the needed support by the Akwa Ibom people, which I am appealing for, I do not doubt that Governor Umo Eno will perform beyond our expectations.