…Reels out empowerment plans for Uyo Senatorial District people
Obong Bassey Albert (OBA) is the Senator representing Akwa Ibom North East (Uyo Senatorial District) in the 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In this interview, the former commissioner for finance spoke on; some issues of National interest, his first 100 days in the red chamber, his empowerment plans for the people and the expectations of the people in the Akwa Ibom election petition tribunal sitting in Abuja
It has been 100 days since you and your colleagues were inaugurated. A lot is expected from the present crop of Senators by Nigerians, how would you assess the 8th senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at this time?
Thank You. I thank God that, for the first time in the history of democratic governance in Nigeria, we have a different structure in the National Assembly. It is a Senate built on consensus. Consensus in the sense that, there is no party with a clear cut advantage and two third majority. APC has 59 Senators and PDP has 49. In terms of percentage ratio, it is about fifty three to forty seven percent. It is an absolutely peculiar set of Senators, built and driven by passion for service delivery and robust legislative inclination. Having been there for the past 100 days, we all have come to a realization that, moving Nigeria forward is a collective resolve. That is why we all said on the 9th of June, that we wanted a Senate President of the Senators, not a Senate President whose loyalty would not have been guaranteed by the members. We had looked at integrity, steadfastness, trust, passion, commitment, political sagacity and most of all capacity. That is why we went for his Excellency, Dr. Bukola Saraki . By the special grace of God, so far, in the course of carrying out our legislative responsibilities, I can attest to the fact that, he has justified the confidence reposed on him by his colleagues, and he will always remain the President of the 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Many Nigerians see Senator Bukola Saraki as a Unifying factor that will promote stability in the 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Do you agree with the assertion?
I don’t see Dr. Saraki as a unifying or stability factor alone for the 8th Senate, I see him also as a rallying point. He is a man with verge and vibrancy. He has the blood of PDP and APC flowing in him. He is a politician with mix. He believes in one Nigeria, and that is very crucial to our continued co-existence as a people. That is the reason why, no matter the level of prosecution he faces, he still remains calm, because he believes that, he is a man on a mission. A mission to move Nigeria forward, unite the country and ensure that the doctrine of separation of power is sustained. The senate is very stable. We believe that, the true taste of a man is not when he stands in the day of comfort, but in the days of atrocities and challenges. This is one of those challenging times for our great country Nigeria. As a people, we must have a collective response to ensure that, the unity of this country is not compromised on the altar of any other consideration. The issue of selective prosecution of perceived political opponents must be discouraged for our democracy to be sustained.
Is the legislative agenda of the 8th Senate ready for implementation?
We have set up an ad-hoc committee to draw up an agenda for the 8th Senate. We are confident, by the time we are back from the annual recess, the agenda setting committee will submit its report, and this report will be subjected to debate at the plenary by the Senators. I believe by the time we are done with it, we will come out with a workable framework that we believe will be able to restructure and sustain democratic institutions in Nigeria. What we believe is how best we can impact on the lives of Nigerians. How best can we ensure food is on the table of every Nigerian, if we don’t have the interest of the people at heart? The task of moving Nigeria forward and the task of getting resources mobilized for the benefit of the people requires concerted effort and we are equal to the task.
You recently moved a motion on the floor of the Senate about the deplorable state of Calabar-Itu Highway. So far so good has any action been taken towards curbing the menace of erosion in the area?
It was a major motion that was moved in the Senate chamber. As we speak now, it is so far the longest debated motion on the floor of the 8th Senate, which lasted for about three hours. That motion brought about the setting up of the Senate ad-hoc committee on roads in the country, which by the special grace of God, by the privilege of the Senate president, I am a member. The committee is saddled with a responsibility of looking at the state of roads across the nation. The committee has a lot to do within the shortest possible time and we have already engaged gear. I think the only challenge basically is paucity of funds, which has hindered the progress that would have been made by the committee. I believe strongly that as we resume from the recess, we should be able to drive the duty of the ad-hoc committee to the next level. Next level in the sense that, we are expected to visit all affected roads in the country, of which the Calabar-Itu highway is of concern and interest to the people of Akwa Ibom State. It brought me so much joy and fulfillment, having raised such vital motion, which is of valuable interest to Nigerians at large. It is also a way of reassuring Nigerians that the 8th Senate is alive to its responsibilities, and better positioned to ensure that no matter where you are or where you are from, you must have that sense of belonging.
Back home, a lot of people are saying that you have been quiet is the National Assembly. How would you react to this?
I am one of the most vocal Senators in the 8th Assembly. I came back to report progress and let my people know what has been happening in the past three months. My contributions in the floor of the Senate in the past few weeks on key issues of National Interest cannot be overemphasized. The people can access my numerous contributions in the National Assembly via my website www.senatoroba.org, to actually see the progress we have made so far. For me, three months is too short to judge someone, but I can say extensively and confidently that in three months, we have set the tone on directions our legislative representations will take in the months to come. In a Senate that has only four ad-hoc committees established as at now, if you are not vocal enough, how would you be a member of two? How best can you win the confidence of your colleagues, it is on the basis of your qualitative contributions on the floor of the Senate that primes effective participation and robust legislative engagements. The fact that you don’t see me often in Akwa Ibom, does not mean I am not speaking for your interest and development, my responsibility in the next four years is to represent my people (Akwa Ibom North East) in the red chamber and bring sustainable socio-economic development to the masses. I pledge to do my best within the limit of my power.
What are your plans for empowerment of the people of Uyo Senatorial District?
For me, making people happy is a way of life. I believe very strongly that, living well is not how rich one is, but his ability to impact on the lives of others. I owe my people a duty to ensure that they feel the impact of my representing them at the National Assembly. Empowerment is of different types. Giving someone money, does not necessarily mean empowering the person. If you support someone on the course of his educational pursuit, that is a major empowerment. The greatest module of empowerment in today’s modern world is education. When you give someone an opportunity to be educated, he can generate a lot, build capacity and empower others as well. Modern day empowerment does not revolve around buying cars for people alone. If you are empowering someone, you must aim at making such individual self sufficient, so he can stand to his feet and face the challenges of life and even further empower others in your absence. That is the actual measure of empowerment. I want to assure the people of Uyo Senatorial District that, in the next couple of months, they will feel the impact of some of the empowerment schemes I have lined up for them. Before the first six months as I promised during my campaigns, I will float massive empowerment programs that will cut across the elders, women, youths and even children of Uyo Senatorial District extraction. We hope to inaugurate a committee soon and every Local Government Area will be duly represented in the committee, the youths will also have a fair share as well as women. The committee will be saddled with the responsibility of coming up with a framework that will provide the necessary strategies that will effectively ensure we reach out to our people, especially in the rural areas. Our plans to adopt a bottom-top approach for empowerment of our people remains sacrosanct. We will also be looking at training and capacity building for our people in various trades and skills. We believe very strongly that, we can take at least one hundred people in the first batch, of which every ward within the Senatorial District will be represented. We will ensure that the right calibers of persons are chosen for the various training programs we are organizing for the people.
How would you assess Akwa Ibom State under the leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel in the last 100 days or so?
Akwa Ibom State is one of the fastest growing states in the country. Looking at the past 28 years, we have reasons to thank God for bringing us this far. We can only hope for a better Akwa Ibom under the leadership of Deacon Udom Emmanuel. The foundation for industrial development of the state has already been laid by the immediate past administration of Senator Godswill Akpabio. I am grateful to the almighty God for bringing Mr. Udom Emmanuel on board, whose main focus is on industrialization and poverty alleviation. Like I said earlier, three months is too short to pass judgment on any administration. In the past 100 days, he has demonstrated competence and capacity to deliver on the set goals and objectives of governance.
During the campaigns, you promised to foster Synergy and positive collaboration between members of the National Assembly and that of the State Assembly, to fast-track development of the people. Do you still believe this can be achieved in the course of time?
For us to achieve what we intend for our people, the state and nation at large, we must work together as a people. In the last couple of months, the relationship between the National Assembly members and that of the State Assembly has been very cordial. We are all supporting each other in discharge of our duties. This is a panacea for effective contribution of human and material resources for development of the state and nation. The Akwa Ibom State National Assembly Caucus, under the leadership of Godswill Akpabio, is working audaciously to ensure the leader of the State, Udom Emmanuel remains focused and committed to his constitutional obligations, by bringing meaningful development to the people at all times.
Are you confident that your party, the PDP will come out tops in the election petition tribunal sitting in Abuja?
Akwa Ibom is a PDP state. I have no doubt that, based on the substance of the cases at the tribunal and the ones so far declared, Akwa Ibom remains a PDP state. I believe that, from the Governor to the National Assembly members to the House of Assembly, PDP will emerge winners across board. Elections were properly conducted in Akwa Ibom, I voted and Akwa Ibom people voted as well. I don’t want us to see the loss at the National level as a reason for discriminative judgment. We have confidence in the judiciary, and I believe that the judiciary will base their judgment on the basis of substance and not on the grounds of political discrimination. Akwa Ibom remains a PDP state “undiluted”.
There are rumours from some quarters that, your nomination form bore Uyo Senatorial District, not Akwa Ibom North East. Is there any difference between Uyo Senatorial District and Akwa Ibom North East?
I am the Senator representing Akwa Ibom North East. What I had in my form, which I filled and submitted by myself, was Akwa Ibom North East. I even heard some rumours as well that myself and Senator Godswill Akpabio are representing Akwa Ibom North East. Godswill Akpabio is representing Akwa Ibom North West and I represent Akwa Ibom North East. There is no difference between Akwa Ibom North East and Uyo Senatorial District. It is only a matter of nomenclature. I want to use this medium to urge Akwa Ibom people to ignore propaganda brought forth by the opposition to destabilize the state. At the end, we are sure the truth will triumph. The people should remain calm and law abiding, as I will do my best to ensure many lives are touched within the shortest possible time.