Hon. Aniekan Bassey, Member representing Uruan state constituency in the AkwaIbom state House of Assembly is the Deputy Majority Leader of the 6th Assembly and Chairman House Services Committee. In this interview, Hon. Aniekan bares his mind on the performance of Udom Emmanuel, the leadership of the 6th Assembly and sundry issues to some journalists in his office. Excepts:
Sir, may we get to meet you?
Thank you. My name is Hon. Aniekan Bassey; I represent Uruan in the 6th Assembly. By God’s special grace and support of 25 Members of the House, I am the Deputy Leader of and Chairman House Services Committee.
It has been more than one year since you were sworn in. how has the journey been so far?
Well, so far so good; it has been very eventful though it has not been easy. I have kept faith with my constituents in terms of campaign promises. We have tried to give our people a sense of belonging by carrying them along and providing them with means of livelihood. So far, we have trained more than 600 youths in Jamb CBT and computer studies out of which 60 of them received free Jamb form from me. We also organized Jamb classes for them and transported them to their respective exam venues. I am glad to announce that for the first time, Uruan students recorded 90% pass in JAMB. Also, in conjunction with National Directorate of employment, we have trained more than 60 Uruan persons in phone repairs, hair dressing, fashion design, beads and hat making, computer studies and paint manufacturing. Two youths from Uruan were sponsored to Turkey to further their football career. They are Godwin Okon Edet from Ekpene Ukim and George Effiong Asuquo from Ikot Udo all in Uruan. Fifty Uruan women have been given grants to start a business of their own. We also helped in the award of contract for building of the Ishiet Fish Market (Urua Esuk Ishiet) and the surrounding roads. Since Health is Wealth, I decided to carry out free medical exercise as part of my campaign promises, constituency project and to contribute my quota to the medical well being of my people. More than 5000 Uruan people benefited from the free medical exercise. We dispensed 662 lenses; more than 300 dental surgery and treatment took place. We had 73 general surgeries (Hernia, Lipoma, Ganglion Excision, Hydrocelectomy, etc). Others had diabetic, HIV/AIDS and hypertension screening and treatment.
I have also sponsored and co-sponsored a good number of bills, motions. An example is the bill for a law to provide for control of rents for premises, recovery of possession of premises and for matters connected therewith. When one of my constituents by name Daniel was murdered in cold, I raised the matter on the floor of the House. Today that case is receiving prompt attention in court. It may interest you to know that I have attracted projects such as upgrading of Nung Ikono Ufok market, installation of 300KVA/33/0.415 industrial transformer at Ikot Inyang Esuk, renovation of town hall at Ekim Enen, renovation of 4 classroom blocks at Ikpa Urua, construction of 6 nos classroom block at Akani Obio Uruan, etc.
Generally, how will you rate the 6th Assembly?
By my personal assessment, let me say that we have performed beyond average. When we came in, we resolved to work in harmony with other arms of government especially the executive arm to move the state forward. That is exactly what we are doing; giving legislative backing to government programmes. Even with paucity of funds, the 6th Assembly is determined to put the interest of the Akwa Ibom people first. This support is reflected in prompt passage of bills sent by the Executive. We have also been carrying out our oversight functions as and when due.The House leadership under Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke deserves commendation. So far his leadership capacity is not in doubt as he has not only carried every member along, but has ensured that our interests are well protected.
Some say the 6th Assembly has become a rubber stamp in the hands of the state Government?
No, no, that is not true; it is called harmonious working relationship. There is a saying that when a man loves his wife so much and does whatever she request, it means the woman has used juju on the man. That is not true at all. What happens is that the woman has discovered the man’s secret and is doing what he wants. So we are not stooge to any body. We have simply understood ourselves and we are determined to make a difference by ensuring that the state is the ultimate beneficiary. Does it mean we do not disagree with the Executive? We do in most cases but in politics, you must disagree to agree. The difference is that we do not allow the disagreement to strain our relationship and we do not wash our dirty linens outside. If supporting Udom Emmanuel to make Akwa Ibom better is rubber stamping, then we as a House are determined to become rubber stamp so the state can move forward.
Talking about paucity of funds; some of your colleagues have organized constituency briefings. When are you doing yours?
Empowerment and Constituency briefing is a continuum. I do that daily and I meet with my people daily. It is not until I gather my people in one location in Uruan, then would it be said that I have carried out briefing. In fact, I interact with my people daily in my house. I attend to their needs on a one-on-one basis. In my own little way, I have been briefing my constituents on my activities. Just few days ago as part of my briefing, I gave out scholarship to five Uruan students in higher institutions. I will be doing so in batches as they get admissions. This scholarship will run till the end of their academic programme. Do not forget that the beneficiaries were part of the students I bought Jamb forms for and paid for their lessons and computer training. I have also sponsored one of my constituents for surgery at Ibom specialist. I can go on and on to mention cases of my daily empowerment. I have lost count of them. Few months ago when I organized free medical exercise at Adadia, I took time out to inform my people of what I have done and the next plan of action. For the enlarged briefing; it is in the pipeline. When we are ready we shall make it public. You can agree with me that as a lawmaker, I maintain constant rapport with my people. For me, that is the way to go.
There have been calls by several groups, LGAs, and individuals on the State Governor to consider a second term. Do you think he deserves another shot?
Very well, our governor deserves another term in office come 2019 and I am totally in support of that. Deacon Udom Emmanuel is God-sent to Akwa Ibom State with superior performance especially at this trying period in the history of our dear state having brought his wealth of experience to bear in the management and application of resources to the development of every segment of Akwa Ibom State without bias. We all know that the state depends largely on federal allocation to fund its operations. As at May 2015, price of crude was at its lowest ebb far below what the last administration was getting. Mr. Udom Emmanuel brought his managerial acumen and wealth of experience in managing our resources and we are better off for it. The projects he has done so far are there for all to see. When states were going for bailout funds from the federal government, the state did not collect. He has attracted foreign investments; curtailed wastages in the system and has made government business simplified. He has done well even in the face of recession. He has introduced politics of inclusiveness where the electorates are given a sense of belonging. He has not been biased in siting of projects and in his appointments. Even Uruan has been blessed by this administration in terms of projects and appointments. So why not, he deserves a second term and my people will support him.Uruan people are indeed happy with the performance of the Governor;we love, cherish and are 100% in support of his administration. The youths, the elders and other stakeholders in Uruan are unanimous in their support for him come 2019.
But a section of the state complains that he constantly make loan request to the House and the House approves without hesitation. Don’t you think he is mortgaging the future of the state?
(Cuts in) Let me say that no government successfully runs its operations without bank loans and what the Governor is requesting for is not loan in the sense of it. What he is doing is seeking the House approval to provide bank guarantee to contractors handling one project or the other for the state. Now instead of releasing project funds to contractors directly, they get funds from the bank to execute these projects while the state government guarantees the bank of payment and does so on a monthly basis until completion of the project. This to me is commendable and is inline with global best financial practices. The implication is that state funds will be applied judiciously in other vital sectors instead of being tied to particular projects.
You said Uruan people will support Udom’s second term bid; right?
Yes, my people will do exactly that. We did it in 2015; we are ready to do it again and again.
But there is news making the rounds that your people have vowed not to support him come 2019?
To the best of my knowledge, that is not true and can never happen. I represent Uruan people in the 6th Assembly; if there is any decision of such, I will be in the know.
One Engr. Offiong Usen Akpabio, one of the political leaders of Northern Uruan is quoted to have said that Uruan people will not support Udom’s second term bid unless he fixes Mbiaya road. The comment was made at the residence of Dr. Godwin NtukUdeh, former Commissioner for Transport during a get-together in his honour.
I have heard that such a comment was made by Engr Offiong Usen but I do not believe that he made such a comment he himself being one of the political leaders of the area. I did not attend the said event and cannot therefore be categorical as to what he said and what he did not say. In the event that he made such a comment, then it is most unfortunate but I believe that he may have been quoted out of context. Besides if such comment was made by an individual, it cannot reflect the voice of the entire Uruan people.
What will you say about his comment that only four persons from Mbiaya makes elections happen in the whole of Uruan?
Like I said earlier, I want to believe that Engr. Usen was wrongly quoted. Everywhere in Nigeria, Akwa Ibom and Uruan in particular, elections are prosecuted and won on a unit by unit and ward by ward basis. It is not and has never been an individual or personality thing. A politician from Mbiaya for instance cannot come and prosecute election for me in my ward and unit. Besides, during elections, movement is restricted and a voter cannot vote in more than one unit. It is our individual votes that culminate into the final results since it is one man, one vote. Four people from Mbiaya cannot therefore prosecute election in Uruan. That is why I said the Engr. Usen may have been quoted wrongly.
Are you saying that such comments should be discarded and not taken seriously?
Yes, it should not be taken seriously. Maybe our political enemies are at work to tarnish the reputation of Uruan and soil our cordial relationship with the state governor. Do you know that Uruan has fared better under Udom? Let me shock you with a list of projects done by this government aside appointment. The Udom-led Administration through his policy of inclusiveness; has attracted and sited such projects as the proposed Ranch in Adadia, Unity Luxury Estate at Ibiaku Issiet/ObioNdo, the 19.3 km Anua-Mbak-Issiet road and Nduetong-Ita-Mbiakong road, the creation of additional Clan in Southern Uruan the already commissioned AkwaIbom Prime Hatchery at Mbiaya. Even the Mbiaya road in contention is being looked into by government. Why Uruan having benefited this much should says it won’t support government. There is political mischief somewhere and I know Uruan people have risen up to the challenge. For me, we are already in mainstream politics; our support for Udom is total, unalloyed and 100%. I therefore urge all well meaning Uruan people to forge ahead in the support for Udom Emmanuel and should not give room for detractors. The youths, students, elders and political leaders have resolved to live and die with Udom until 2023. As their representative and spokesman, I concur to that decision.
Do you intent to go for a second term come 2019?
Hmm. Let me say that power and authority belongs to God and he gives it to whoever he pleases. If God Almighty and my people find me worthy again for another term, it is their duty to vote me in. Besides the time is not right for that yet. My primary concern is to better the lives of my constituents through quality representation. The journey has only begun.
What is your view about the rumoured sickness and death of President Muhamadu Buhari?
It is not a big deal. Anybody can be sick and anybody can die. As Nigerians, we have a duty to pray for our leaders including Muhamadu Buhari. Those handling him are not helping matters at all. We have gone through this road before. They should have learnt from it. I wish him quick recovery so he can come back and face the myriad of challenges we have here. In his absence, the Vice President is already in charge and I think the constitution is very explicit on this. We should therefore stop peddling falsehood on the health status of our president or any leader at that. They deserve our support and prayers.
Finally, what is your advice to Akwa Ibomites?
My advice to Akwa Ibomites is that they should continue to support government in their determination to better our lives. Udom needs our prayers. He had a pact with us in May 2015; that he is doing very well. Since one good term deserves another, come 2019, we should come out en masse to renew that mandate. When you tell your leader to continue with what he is doing, it means he is doing very well. Udom Emmanuel has brought superior performance; he should continue. Uruan people are solidly behind him. We pray God Almighty to continue to keep and guide our Governor in his quest to take the state and Uruan in particular to Eldorado through life-touching projects.
Hon. It was nice chatting with you.
The pleasure is always mine.