By Promise Etim.
The race for the Senate seat for Akwa Ibom North East has never been this competitive, since the return of Democracy in 1999. This is unconnected to the fact that the current occupant of the office, Obong Bassey Albert Akpan had to work his socks off to get the party’s nomination, with stiff battle from strong contenders likes of Rt. Hon Usenobong Akpabio, a former House of Assembly member, who represented Uruan State Constituency between 2003 to 2011, as well as a former NUT National Secretary, Comrade Ikpe Obong and an oil magnet, Mr Ide Owodiong.
Despite the several factors that characterized the primary election, Senator Albert secured about 82% of the total votes cast by delegates on the election held on the 2nd of October, 2018, to secure the party’s nomination.
Although many believe that the achievements of the former finance commissioner earned him a second term ticket, others are of the opinion that delegates of the party considered amongst other imperatives the interest of the Senatorial District in the scheme of things in the State and National politics, at a time the people need a voice to defend them firmly.
Moments after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lifted ban on political activities on November 18, 2018, Senator Albert informed his constituents that he will be campaigning in all 94 wards of the Senatorial District.
That plan was rather strange. This is because in the political history of the Senatorial District, no candidate has done such a massive campaign.
It could be recalled that the Senator told the media during a briefing that his decision to tour the wards was based on the backdrop that he needed to edge more closer to his constituents and feel their pulse while gathering feedback from them with respect to key developmental issues, to enable him bring them to the fore for political, economic and social interventions from relevant stakeholders.
The campaigns began with a worship and praise service on the 19th of November, 2019. The service which was held at the Senator’s constituency office, had in attendance members of his family, National and State Assembly members, Political Stakeholders from Uyo Senatorial District, members of the Akwa Ubok Abasi Campaign Organization and supporters of Senator Albert from far and wide.
At the service moderated by Rev. Angela Ashong, Senator Albert and his campaign organization were reminded of the significance of putting God as top priority in their daily activities, ahead of personal gains. She admonished all to consider empowerment of the needy and less privileged in the society, as this she said is the surest way to key into God’s blessings abundantly.
While briefing his constituents of his proposed campaign activities, Senator Albert posited that he will use his tour of the 94 wards to wholesomely outline why he is rooting for the reelection of Mr Udom Emmanuel, which he said a vote for the Governor brightens the prospect of Uyo Senatorial District taking back power in 2023.
On the 17th of December, the campaign trail began their journey in Nsit Atai, where they were received by the Honourable Commissioner for Housing and Political leader of the area, Otuekong Raphael Bassey, Council Chairman, Lady Emem Ibanga, House of Assembly member, Hon. Mark Esset among other political stakeholders of the area.
At the rally, Otuekong Raphael lauded Senator Albert for his representation and pledged to work assiduously to see to his reelection, in order to ensure he brings more development to people of the area.
Despite being endorsed by the people for a second term, Senator Albert at another rally in the area was quoted as saying “I don’t deserve to be thanked, because you elected me to speak on your behalf at the red chamber”. He promised not to betray the confidence and trust the people of Nsit Atai and Uyo Senatorial District in general have in him.
The campaign team on respective days also toured the 10 wards of Ibesikpo Asutan. The message of the political leader of the area, Prince Uwem Ita Etuk, was simple and clear. He harped on why they will rally behind Senator Albert, having scaled through the party’s nomination. Etuk advised politicians at one of the rallies to take a clue from the leadership strides of Senator Albert, and live a life that will ensure peaceful coexistence with their opponent after election. He cited the support Senator Albert enjoys from Comrade Ikpe Obong and the people of Ibesikpo Asutan since he emerged candidate of the party for the Senate seat as typical examples.
Member representing Ibesikpo Asutan State Constituency, Rt. Hon. Aniekan Uko, while acknowledging the strides recorded by Senator Albert, stressed that Uyo Senatorial District could not gamble with the mandate of the Senator maintaining that the National Assembly was not a place for nodding tie and wearing expensive suits, but rather a mandate for quality representation and capacity to key into the mainstream of National politics, which he said the Senator possesses. At Ibesikpo Asutan ward 5, a former aspirant on the party’s platform, Comrade Ikpe Obong, collapsed his political structure to the Akwa Ubok Abasi Campaign Organization.
At separate rallies held in Southern, Northern and Central Uruan, the people gathered in thousands to listen to the message Senator Albert brought, to ascertain if they were in line with their collective interest. One major concern was the erosion ravaged road that traders ply to the popular Ishiet Market, which had brought untold hardship to them, as evidenced increasing cost of transportation thus discouraging many from visiting the market as before.
Senator Albert responded that he will place this as a priority, similar to what he did when he drew the attention of the Senate to the dangers posed by gully erosion at Calabar Itu Road, which he said Senator Barnabas Gemade led committee visited for first hand assessment and appraisal.
n a rally at Mbiaya Uruan, another aspirant in the party primaries held last year, Rt. Hon. Usenobong Akpabio, said: “We can now see the wisdom of the party in the choice of Senator Bassey Albert. He has stood for us and will still stand and defend us.
Political leader of the area, Chief Ekpe Atakpo, posited that God had destined Senator Albert for Uyo Senatorial District at a time like this, and called on the people to rally around him and other candidates of the party at the polls. He particularly thanked Governor Udom Emmanuel for remembering Uruan in his developmental plans, citing that the area was completely neglected by previous Governments in terms of infrastructural development.
Aside from politics, which dominated most of the campaigns, there were still room for some human capital development. When Senator Albert and his campaign team visited Nsit Ibom, hope of respite came the way of students and the entire people of Five Towns Comprehensive School, Afaha Nsit, as Senator Albert moved by the dilapidated nature of the school, promised to build and donate five classroom blocks in the school, to accommodate the students which reportedly squeeze into the two classroom blocks available. He enjoined the community to begin the process of handing over the school to the State Government. The gesture was lauded by the political leader of the area and Director General of the Divine Mandate campaign Council, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga.
At East and West Itam in Itu local government area, speakers at respective rallies elegized the Chairman of Senate committee on Gas, and pledged to work for his reelection. Political leader of the area, Senator Anietie Okon said the bond between the PDP and Itu people cannot be broken in the forthcoming elections.
Commissioner for Special Duties and Aviation Development, Mr Akan Okon, praised Senator Albert for his consistency and commitment towards the success of the Udom Emmanuel administration. He said the Governor having seen to the establishment of 15 Industries in the State and prioritizing education and health of Akwa Ibom children, deserves to be given an opportunity to consolidate on his achievements and do more for the people.
For Nsit Ubium people, it was more of an homecoming for Senator Albert, as he was received by thousands of supporters at the various wards. At a rally held at St. Finbarr’s Primary School, Ubium North, political leader of the area, Senator Effiong Bob, was quoted as saying “Senator Bassey Albert has not disappointed Uyo Senatorial District. He has represented us very well, and we will stand by him”.
He advised the people of Uyo Senatorial District, not to be deceived to mortgage the interest of the District against 2023. He warned that the talks from the opposition for a single term of four years were deceptive, and charged them not sell their birthright for a pot of porridge. Senator Bob urged the people to work massively to ensure the return of Governor Udom Emmanuel for a second term, as this he said was the only way to guarantee Uyo Senatorial District Governorship of the State in 2023.
Speaker of the State House of Assembly and candidate of the PDP for Etinan Federal Constituency, Barr Onofiok Luke, promised to work with the Senator to bring unprecedented development to Etinan Federal Constituency. Luke stressed the need for the people to defend their vote on the respective days of elections, and not shrink in the face of intimidation by the opposition, as the choice of the people as reflected on the ballot will be paramount at the end.
The campaign train also stopped at Etinan on two separate occasions, to sell their programmes to the people. Speaking at a rally in Efa, Chairman of House of Assembly Service Commission, Bishop Andrew Uwanta, lauded the steadfastness of Senator Albert, and encouraged him to do more when he return to the red chamber of the National Assembly after the polls. Chairman of PDP, Akwa Ibom State, Obong Paul Ekpo, corroborated Bishop Uwanta’s position, and charged politicians from the area to borrow a leaf from Senator Albert, whom he described as a man of his words.
For the people of Uyo, the interest of the Senatorial District in 2023 is paramount. This was reiterated at the various campaign venues the Akwa Ubok Abasi team visited. A former Chairman of Council, Rt. Hon. Justin Ekong, while addressing a rally at Christ the King Primary School, Wellington Bassey Way, warned political jobbers, not to use Uyo as ‘a Laboratory for Obnoxious Political Experiments’.
Champion of Uyo Politics and Chairman Uyo Capital City Development Authority, Prince Enobong Uwah while thanking the people for their support for the PDP reminded them of what they stand to gain when they vote for the PDP in the upcoming polls.
At a rally in Oku Uyo, Director General of Akwa Ubok Abasi Campaign Organization and Chairman of Uyo Local Government Area, Elder Imo Okon, said the impact of PDP in the State has not only been felt by Akwa Ibom people, but also by outsiders. He said the development informed the decision of several non-indigenous groups (Arewa, Igbo and Yorubas) to turn up in numbers to register their support and solidarity to the PDP.
The rallies were rounded off on Wednesday 7th February, 2019, with a visit to Uyo Ward 7, Ibiono Ibom wards Northern, Central and East. The atmosphere was electrifying and pulsating as Senator Albert was received by his people. Commissioner for Environment and Mineral Resources, Dr Iniobong Essien, harped on the need for Ibiono Ibom to rally behind their son and give him 100 percent votes on the day of the election, as well as vote for Atiku Abubakar, Governor Emmanuel and other candidates of the party. Chairman of Council, Hon. Ekomabasi Akpan, commended the Senator for taking the Governor’s campaign as his own personal project.
At the end of the tours, Senator Albert promised to do more for the people in his second term. He however listed some of his achievements in the Senate to include: sponsorship of four bills, which have direct bearing on the nation’s economy namely: Industrial Revolution Bill; Youth Empowerment Bill; The Petroleum Industry Governance Bill and Gas Flaring Prohibition Bill. He has also sponsorship of several motions and petitions, which has seen to the reinstatement of two Akwa Ibom indigenes who were wrongfully dismissed from public service.
In terms of human capital development, Senator Albert offered scholarship to no fewer than 200 constituents in various State and Federal institutions across the country; provided of some basic amenities in some communities; empowered over 2,000 women and petty traders; enhance means of transportation for constituents; water projects; training of Youths among others. The empowerment programme and constituency briefing he organized in April 2018, captured more than 4,000 constituents, who were given financial incentives to grow their businesses, while 500 students were given unconditional grant of N40,000 each.
Based on his ability to connect with the people and in depth campaigning, most bookmakers are of the opinion that Senator Albert is projected to sweep about 95% of the total votes on February 16, 2018 and return to the red chamber for a second term.