By Borono Bassey
I do not intend to belabour you with tales about the composition of the crowd of Etim Ekpo indigenes who even at 9pm, were still trooping in to Honourable Ekpo Eshiet’s country home in Obong Ntak, Etim Ekpo L.G.A., to apparently rejoice with a man many of them had described on that event as “a dependable son of Etim Ekpo” over his elevation as a full board member in the Akwa Ibom state Local Government Service Commission.
Rather, this piece is intended to push forward into public domain the crucial lessons about political leadership and human relations which I picked by way of my privileged attendance at the modest reception ceremony which formed part of the activities marking the swearing-in of Hon. Ekpuk Eshiet as a board member in the Akwa Ibom state Local Government Service Commission.
The first crucial which that event impressed on me came when Hon Ekpuk Eshiet gave his brief remarks at the event. For when the time had come for him to address his kinsmen, the people of Etim Ekpo, Honourable Ekpuk Eshiet stood and after the usual chants of protocol, injected a health dosage of optimism through these words which he spoke in his Annang dialect:
“Leaders who understand the system of government called democracy will never lose sight of the amount of power that this system of government gives to the people. It is this understanding that makes leaders who want to succeed to stay closer to the people. Now, a few people may have wondered why I decided to bring the reception ceremony marking my swearing-in as board member down here to the village and I will say the reason is very simple: to come back and rejoice with the very people among whom, His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel magnanimously chose me from to serve under his visionary administration. I could not have in good conscience conducted this reception ceremony in Uyo because I have always been in your midst all the while that this appointment did not come. This explains why I told all my kinsmen of Etim Ekpo descent who called to asked where I will be receiving my guests after the Swearing-in ceremony at Government House that the reception will be held here in Obong Ntak.
Now, the thing is this: Without mincing words, I can boldly say to all indigenes of Etim Ekpo and indeed Akwa Ibom people that we are very lucky to have a Governor in the mould of His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel. This is a Governor who clearly understands the direction Akwa Ibom state should be going at this time. With his understanding, the Governor has subsumed his vision into a 5-point agenda of Wealth creation, economic and social inclusion, poverty eradication, infrastructural consolidation and expansion and job creation. All that the Governor needs from you is your unflinching support as he works towards achieving these programmes. I assure you that as we stand by the Governor, Etim Ekpo will be better for it.”
In the midst of the reverberating rounds of applause, ecstasy and cheers which trailed his short but very impactful remarks, I could quickly draw conclusions about how he sees the people of Etim Ekpo. From his words, I was able to weave together the impression that this was a leader who clearly understood the fact that he was chosen among the people and that the decision of Governor Udom Emmanuel to select him as one of the political appointees of the area had placed on his laps the responsibility of working in league with other appointees and indeed the Governor to bring dividends of democracy to the people of Etim Ekpo.
Again, Hon Eshiet’s words gave him out as someone who clearly understood the fact that few factors engenders the development of a society like the decision of the people to give maximum support and cooperation to the administration of a Governor. This decision to support a Governor to succeed is usually expressed in terms of a peaceful atmosphere, timely commendation for intervention initiatives carried out by the Governor among other things. So Hon. Ekpuk Eshiet felt it was apt to remind the people of the need of Etim Ekpo people and indeed the over 5 million Akwa Ibom people to rise and work with Governor Udom Emmanuel as he steers the ship of sustainable development in Akwa Ibom state.
His singular decision to leave Uyo where he resides and drive for at least one full hour to the village for the purpose of rejoicing with the people of Etim Ekpo Local Government Area after his swearing-in ceremony at the Government House, stamped on my subconscious the important fact that leaders who are the closer to the people are more likely to earn their trust and that translates to the ease of bringing them together for the purpose of achieving certain impactful goals. As I sat there at that reception event and watched the level of camaraderie that showed through his interactions with the men, women, and youths of Etim Ekpo, it was not difficult to notice the genuine happiness the people had felt as a result of his appointment.
At certain intervals, Hon Ekpuk Eshiet would dance with the people, laughed boisterously with each of the segments of the people and so it was not even hard to see senior citizens of Akwa Ibom state like the very distinguished Senator Anietie Okon, Rtd DIG Udom Ekpoudom and others who had graced the reception ceremony to take their turns to dance and sing along with the people.
When I interacted informally with a few indigenes of the area who graced the event all of them were echoed the fact Hon Ekpuk Eshiet falls among the breed of the type of politicians they keep praying for.
In fact one of the women who told she was from a village called Ibio Nnung Achad said one of the very impressive traits that sets Hon. Eshiet apart from many politicians is his down-to-earth relations with the people. She said, each time Hon Ekpuk Eshiet was in the village, his country home usually becomes a converging point for a lot of Etim Ekpo people.
In her words “It is not every politician’s home that people go to. People usually go to the home of a politician who usually receives the people with open arms. They go to the home who listens to them and inspires hope in them and that is what Hon. Eshiet has been doing through these years. That explains the crowd you see here today. As you could see he is mixing freely and smiling with everyone irrespective of class and age. That is the politician we always pray to have.”
In all, apart from affording the new board member another opportunity to rejoice with his people as it is in his character to do, that reception ceremony also provided a veritable platform for the people of Etim Ekpo – both those living in the village and those who came in from Uyo, to bond thereby strengthening the cord of unity among the people.
On my way back from that event, I could only wish that most political appointees in Akwa Ibom state would understand, like Hon Ekpuk Eshiet clearly does that a leader who stays closer to the people makes the job of followership more easier, impactful and enjoyable.
Indeed that event taught me many timeless lessons that would last me a lifetime.
Congratulations to Hon Ekpuk Eshiet and the good and peace-loving people of Etim Ekpo!
Borono Bassey, a public affairs commentator, wrote in from Uyo