IN THE NEWS: Ecstasy, Massive Support Trails Senator Bassey Albert’s Wards Tour
By: Patrick Albert
………..For Bassey Albert Akpan, his effective representation and performance in the Senate for Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District, since his sojourn into the red chambers in May 2015, has made him a darling of his constituents.
Throughout the length and breadth of the senatorial district made up of nine local government areas – Uyo, Itu, Ibiono Ibom, Nsit Ubium, Nsit Atai, Etinan, Ibesikpo Asutan, Uruan and Nsit Ibom, Senator Akpan, a financial expert and economist turned politician, commands an unprecedented followership amongst the electorates.
The Director General of his re-election team, Akwa Ubok Abasi Campaign Organisation, Elder Imoh Okon gives an insight of the man popularly known as OBA. Elder Okon, Executive Chairman of Uyo Local Government Council says “Senator Bassey Albert is focus minded, courageous and confident. He has integrity and very knowledgeable. You can imagine his exposure, someone that has worked in a bank as a Vice President. See how he rose to a leadership level in First City Monument Bank (FCMB) at such a young age. If you want to talk about financial muscle, he has it.”
What is more, his stoic decision to remain in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), despite the gale of defection which swept away the other two PDP’s senators representing Akwa Ibom South and Akwa Ibom North West in the National Assembly, – Nelson Effiong and Godswill Akpabio, has catapulted his rating politically.
Senator Albert, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Gas Resources, is now more than ever, celebrated as a firm, dependable and courageous representative of Akwa Ibom North East (Uyo) Senatorial District – the heartland of the Ibibios, the major ethnic group in the State. Even beyond the ranks of his admirers and political followers, OBA is now seen as a young man, who should be entrusted with fresh mandate not only to return to the National Assembly as a senator on Saturday, February 16, 2019, but as someone, who should be assigned higher responsibilities in future.
A measure of his wide acceptability reflected in the tumultuous reception accorded his campaign train as he toured the 94 Wards in the nine local government areas of Uyo Senatorial District which he kick-started as soon as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lifted the veil for the commencement of the Presidential and National Assembly Campaigns on Sunday, November 18, 2018.
The campaign tours which was concluded on Wednesday, February 6, 2019, revealed the firm grip that he and his party, the PDP have in the senatorial district in the forthcoming polls. At every occasion, his popularity was quite obvious. Huge crowd and heavy vehicular traffic trailed each of the routes and ward’s centres he went on campaigns. In an unbridled show of solidarity, motorists, cyclists and even cultural troupes created a carnival-like mood as they raced the routes and danced with an air of panache, creating ecstasy with a thunderous shouting of OBA – with an ear-piercing decibel.
Traditional rulers and clergies equally turned up in large numbers to witness and pray for him to excel and win the senatorial contest. There were no words of encouragement that were not expressed during the tours to celebrate a man ‘who has not let us down’ since his sojourn to the red chambers (Senate) of the National Assembly in 2015. Also, the wards’ tours afforded his teaming supporters more auspicious fora to express appreciation for his effective representation and massive empowerment of constituents –a regular routine by Senator Albert.
Till date, the echo of his empowerment programme held on Friday, April 20, 2018 at the Uyo Township Stadium still reverberates. The empowerment programme was adjudged as the best ever due to its rich content – multiple items for distribution, ranging from cars for private use/vehicles for transport services, industrial equipment for cottage industries, hundreds of traders (men and women) who got funds to expand their businesses, scholarship beneficiaries up to post graduate levels and the general impact on his constituents.
Speeches given by guests at the empowerment programme tagged “Celebrating God’s Faithfulness” depicted the impact accordingly. The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel opened up his heart on OBA’s impressive record thus, “We want to appreciate and thank God for the life of our Distinguished Senator, who has represented Uyo Senatorial District exceptionally. Bassey Albert has done exceptionally well.
“When you see the calibre of people you have seen here today, you know he has given us effective representation. National Assembly is not like any other area. You can only have a good position when you return for a second term. This one you are seeing is an act of exceptional circumstance and out of his own sterling qualities that they have given him Chairman of Gas Committee.
“Look at those who have gone there three to four times, have they been able to carry out this kind of senatorial briefing? I am speaking sincerely and honestly. As a State, we must sit and determine how many good representation we have at the National Assembly, both House of Representatives and Senate. We must send back those who have represented (us) well so that they can chair exceptional and excellent committees. We must send such people there and specifically we must start today. Check the North, they know how to play such politics well. Uyo Senatorial District, if you want OBA to chair a good committee, you must start today to decide. When you delay in your decision, you lose out.”
The chairman on the occasion and former Military Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga was unequivocal on his assessment of the senator. The retired combat Airforce officer remarked, “I witnessed the empowerment by the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio (as at then). I left that arena that day without doubt in my mind that that was the ultimate. But from what I have seen here today, this is another definition of the ultimate.
“With what we have seen here today, Uyo Senatorial District has already made up their minds. For those who are interested or might be interested in the kind of job Senator Bassey Albert is doing, let me tell you today, if you don’t have the capacity for national reach and empowerment, please it is better for you to stay at home or join the winning train.”
Another speaker and a key stakeholder in the zone and the State, Senator Effiong Bob, himself a two-term senator said, “I am not surprised and should not be surprised because when OBA started the journey, people did not know that he can do what he has done. Well, today, he has shocked many people. That is why this stadium is filled with people of goodwill including His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel. Having been where he is, I know what he can do and he will do more.”
For Obong Paul Ekpo, State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Albert is a gift to the zone. He said, “I take everything that have been said here today as real. I want to say that the tone was properly set. The chairman on the occasion, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga, admonished others who may attempt representing us in Uyo Senatorial District that if you do not have this capacity, you must have a rethink.
“We are saying that we are very proud of OBA not because he remains a friend, but because he has not disappointed the Senatorial District. We were wondering whether we will have a replacement but when eventually we agreed by our votes that he should be our representative, at the moment OBA arrived the Senate, OBA with the uncommon spirit, was able to connect with the Senate.”
Against such background, the sentiments of love for his stellar performance replayed at the various wards tour undertaken by the senator. Traditional rulers being custodian and conscience of the society were not left out. A Clan Head in Uyo Local Government Area, His Royal Highness, Etebom Reuben Eshiet said elders were solidly behind the senator to return to the National Assembly.
Speaking during Senator Albert’s campaign tour to Ikono II Ward 9 at St. Joseph Primary School, Ikot Ofon, Uyo LGA on Thursday, January 31, 2019, Etebom Eshiet, who is the Clan Head of Ikono, said “For us in Ikono Clan, it is mandatory to vote for Senator Bassey Albert Akpan. That decision cannot be challenged. We know what is going on. We have decided where our votes will go. We will keep praying for Senator Albert and the entire State.”
Another traditional ruler, Etebom Donald Archibong Uboh, clan head of Itam in Itu Local Government Area, was very explicit about their support for Governor Udom Emmanuel and Senator Bassey Albert. He said while receiving Senator Bassey Albert at his Palace on Monday, January 7, 2019, “We, the traditional rulers are fully aware of the political gimmicks in Akwa Ibom State. Governor Udom Emmanuel is a good man. He deserves to be encouraged for a second term. Stand firm with Udom Emmanuel. God will perfect things for you all.”
In same vein, His Royal Highness, Etebom Nsidibe John Etuk, Clan Head of Ibesikpo during the Senatorial District Wards’ campaign tour to Asutan Ward 1 and Ibesikpo Asutan 3 and 5 held at the Circus, Nung Udoe, Ibesikpo Asutan LGA on Saturday, January 26, 2019, conveyed the support of the traditional institution in the area.
The royal father thundered, “I’m here to confirm to you that the traditional institution in Ibesikpo Clan and the entire Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area are solidly behind Senator Bassey Albert Akpan. We appreciate the good works of Governor Udom Emmanuel. We are particularly delighted with his peaceful disposition in governance. OBA has represented us well and he deserves our encouragement. We encourage our subjects to utilize their PVCs to vote for OBA, Udom Emmanuel and others we have decided to support. We know where our interest lies.” The traditional ruler spoke amidst thunderous applause.
To douse fears of the much talked about “Warsaw saw war and War saw Warsaw” being trumpeted by the opposition, Mr. Kufreabasi Edidem, candidate for Itu State Constituency, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly reacted thus, during Senator Bassey Albert Wards’ tour to Itu LGA, on Monday, January 20, 2019, “We will vote and protect our votes in each units and wards. No Federal might will work in Itu LGA.
“Our people are very conscious of what is needed under the present political dispensation. Akwa Ibom State belongs to Peoples’ Democratic Party. Nothing will change during the forthcoming polls. All PDP’s candidates will win in the State. Uyo Senatorial District is lucky to have a lion-hearted character like Mr. Bassey Albert Akpan as our representative in the Senate. His doggedness and strength of character has kept him in PDP despite the antics of the opposition to lure him. We are solidly behind him and Gov Udom Emmanuel as well as other candidates of PDP.” The candidate for Uyo State Constituency, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Hon. Anietie Ekah, was equally in love with the performance record of Senator Albert. “We are exceptionally lucky to have him represent us,” Ekah said.
The wide acceptance of OBA is also echoed by political bigwigs including Rt. Hon Usenobong Akpabio, a former House of Assembly member, Comrade Ikpe Obong, a former National Secretary of Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) and Mr Ide Owodiong, an oil magnet in the country, who also sought the senatorial ticket but lost out in the PDP primaries held on Tuesday, October 2, 2018.
In an exclusive interview, Comrade Ikpe Obong gave a graphic assessment of Senator Albert and his leadership capacity displayed in the senate for the district. Obong said, “The decision to return him is therefore based on convictions. The people therefore are the examiners. So we, who contested against OBA cannot complain over the result.
“OBA has performed above expectations such that even if I didn’t love him before, he has endeared himself to me by his aggregate performance, effectively and selflessly defending and propagating the feelings and position of his people at the Senate without fear of anybody. Even as a first-timer, he has successfully filled the gap that people thought would have been created following the exit of other Senators in the State.
“Today, everybody knows, we have a Senator at the Senate and we are so proud of that and he is the only standing PDP Senator form Akwa Ibom State. He is a loyal party member and it has to do with conscience. He truly loves Akwa Ibom people. I go with OBA without any reservations. I go with OBA without any condition. I go with him without demands. I say this in print without any fear.”
Remarkably, Senator Albert used his outing mainly to canvass for votes for the Presidential Candidate of PDP, Mr. Atiku Abubakar, Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, the three candidates for the House of Representatives and the candidates for nine seats for the State House of Assembly in the Senatorial District.
The banker and financial expert turned politician said the administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel has changed the face of the State’s development, especially in the area of road and health infrastructures, human empowerment, industrial growth and economic advancement. He said the second term bid of Governor Emmanuel was not negotiable.
“When we supported Godswill Akpabio for eight (8) years, we were hailed as patriots. Today that we are supporting Governor Udom Emmanuel for a second term, we are being labelled as tribalists. We are not. We are only affirming equity and justice. The tenures of Arc. Victor Attah and Godswill Akpabio were never aborted, and we owe no apology to anyone in declaring our total support for Gov. Emmanuel, in line with the existing zoning arrangement in the State,” he noted.
According to him, his return to the Senate will enable him to offer more dividends of democracy to the constituents. “It is my resolve to do my best for you all in view of the massive support you have given to me. I will continue to serve you and offer more dividends to better the lives of my constituents,” he added.
Serving commissioners in Akwa Ibom State, Dr Iniobong Essien, Sir Raphael Bassey, Mr. Charles Udoh and Mr Akan Okon, all praised Senator Albert for keeping faith with the grassroots, stating that this is the first time in the history of the Senatorial District that a candidate is campaigning on a ward to ward basis. Dr. Essien, Commissioner for Environment and Mineral Resources, Sir Bassey, Commissioner for Housing, charged the people not to deter, but to forge ahead in their campaigns to deliver all candidates of the party in the upcoming polls. Akan, Commissioner for Special Duties and Aviation Development, said Itu people decided to back Senator Albert’s re-election bid based on his performance and what he has been able to attract to people of the Senatorial District. Mr Udoh, Commissioner for Information and Strategy said the senatorial district is very proud of the senator. “His service record is self-explanatory. This is why we are returning him to the senate.”
The Chairman of Uyo Capital City Development Authority, Prince Enobong Uwah said constituents in Uyo Local Government Area are solidly behind him and will vote for him wholeheartedly. Uwah, who is the Secretary of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s re-election team, Divine Mandate Campaign Organisation said, “We have seen his performance and we are behind him to return him to go back to the senate come February 16, 2019,”
With a note of finality, Senator Albert said, “We have a good track record of performance. In Uyo Senatorial District, made up of nine (9) LGAs, I’ve carried out life-touching programmes and projects. I’ve, as part of my empowerment programmes, offered scholarships to over 200 students, covering Master’s degree levels. I’ve also given out over 67 vehicles to constituents. Market women and Traders generally have benefitted immensely. I’ll do more in my second term. Let’s stand up for what is good. Support me to be re-elected. Support Gov Udom Emmanuel and all Candidates of PDP to be elected.”