Before 2015, he was more like a background figure pulling the strings behind the scenes. He manned the Ministry of Finance under the administration of Chief Godswill Akpabio with finesse. His position oiled the ‘uncommon transformation’ machinery of that administration. Outside the State Executive Council, he mobilized goodwill for the administration with philanthropic gestures. He, however, kept a modest profile.
His impeccable exploits, however, grew in leaps and bounds and when he, for the first time, vied for an elective office just before 2015, he was widely accepted. First, he ran for governorship before opting for the senatorial seat of Akwa Ibom North East (Uyo) Senatorial District.
He was elected as senator and reelected in 2019. Known in the national political scene as one whose works have directly or indirectly impacted millions in Akwa Ibom State, the name Obong Bassey Albert Akpan (OBA) is a household name. OBA, a 48-year-old proud father and responsible husband/senator representing Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District, and chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), has indeed made the people of Ididep Usuk village in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom, and the entire people of the oil-rich state, as well as Nigeria as a whole proud.
In today’s Nigeria, we have mostly political leaders who jostle for attention and applause without really having tangible footprints left on the ground for the ordinary people to see. Conversely, OBA’s attitude of supreme care and concern to the masses, or to his constituents, or even towards the entire country appears stainless, perfect almost. It is action-packed and electrifying. Through his sterling actions, he has not only silenced his critics every now and then, but he and his deeds seem to be practically not blameworthy. In fact, not only is he not blameworthy; he is praiseworthy. For, in the grand scheme of things, he has done what he draws up as his legislative duty despite one or two stumbling blocks.
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When he was cutting his legislative teeth in 2015 – when the people overwhelmingly and unswervingly gave him the ‘green card’ to represent them – little did the electorate know that they would be dissolving in laughter months afterwards: as they would clearly, glaringly and boldly feel and understand what it means to be represented.
To illustrate, OBA on kick-starting his representative role set about moving motions towards addressing the difficult economic straits and infrastructural decay into which the country had been dragged into: motion on the urgent need to halt the dilapidated and disintegrated state of Ikot Ekpene-Itu-Calabar Federal Highway; motion on the need to curb the soaring rate of unemployment in Nigeria; motion on the need to address the present economic state of the nation and motion on the need to save the 215 megawatt Kaduna Power Plant. The list does not stop there; besides, he also co-sponsored no fewer than six motions.
Just to add, out of his seven petitions presented on the floor of the 8th Senate, two of them led to the reinstatement of two federal public servants from Akwa Ibom State whose appointments were wrongfully terminated. The two included a police officer, Celestine Obot Williams from Ini Local Government Area. The officer after more than two decades of wrongful dismissal was promoted to the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP). The promotion took effect from June 11, 2020 and he is to earn his salaries and entitlement for the period covering 21 years.
I can tell you for nothing; this is the definition of representation. He represents his constituents, including those who did not vote for him or who did not vote at all- blame the lack of faith in our electoral system.
OBA’s constituency, convinced and satisfied, once again chorused that he repeats his feat for another term, barracking for him at the polls which ensured he secured a seat at the red chamber to help in bringing in laws and policies that would lessen the plight of the people.
Not sitting on his laurels, the leader of the Akwa Ibom State Caucus in the National Assembly has continued to repay the faith shown in him as evident in the developmental grounds he has gained. For instance, the hotshot legislator sponsored the fastest bill ever in the history of legislation in Nigeria. Titled, a Bill to Amend the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act D3 LFN 2004, it was read the first time in the Senate on Thursday, October 3, 2019. The Senate passed it 12 days later, on Tuesday, October 15. The purpose of the bill was to review and recover additional revenue accruable to the Government of the Federation from the Production Sharing Contracts pursuant to the Act of 2004.
For somebody who won the Most Outstanding Senator in Nigeria in the 2020 Democracy Heroes Award organised by Face of Democracy Project and held at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja (October 14, 2020) and the Excellence Award by the Federal Government through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on January 9, 2020, still in Abuja, OBA is an unassuming lawmaker who has stretched himself – with results doing the talking – despite the forces that appear to be throttling his efforts down.
The plain unvarnished truth is that I aver this is just a tip of the iceberg. And while we hope for more, we should give a big hand to the lawmaker whose laid-out plan is going like clockwork.
Let me still go further. The saying that “you never really know your friends from your enemies until the ice breaks” was demonstrated in Akwa Ibom in 2019. To cut it short: Of the three PDP senators elected in 2015, OBA was the only one who defied the pressure to switch allegiance from the PDP to the APC when a political whirlwind rocked the South-South state in the build-up to the 2019 polls. He stood and supported the party to win the state and ensure the second term of Governor Udom Emmanuel. It’s patently obvious that OBA not only has integrity and competence, he truly cares about the value of service over self.
Rewind to 2007, when the lawmaker was nominated as a commissioner into the Executive Council of the Akwa Ibom State government; he accepted the offer and was assigned to the Ministry of Finance. In the first flush of his role, OBA utilised his wealth of experience in the banking sector coupled with his background as a savvy economist to give effective leadership to the Ministry of Finance and its agencies. He made a mark that he wasn’t the type of legislator who would salt away funds.
The longtime assumption that Nigerian politicians only care about their pockets has been effectively debunked by the amiable and cosmopolitan legislator.
Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, the chill wind of the pandemic was greatly minimised as OBA, in his usual benevolence, made available cash and palliatives to several indigenes and organisations from across the state to cushion the effects of the economic challenges.
While some of his accomplishments have been downplayed by some, as is to be expected, it is worthy of note to state that his philanthropic gesture, particularly in education, moved the Governing Council of the College of Education, Afaha Nsit, at its 7th combined convocation, to confer on Senator Bassey Albert Akpan an “Educational and Philanthropic Award” in recognition of his laudable contributions to the development of the state’s educational sector.
For years, OBA has been running a scholarship programme initiated since May 2016. During the 2020 Yuletide/festive season, Senator OBA also empowered no fewer than 520 physically challenged persons with wheelchairs, guide canes, cash and bags of rice. So far, 5000 women and youths have benefited from his training programme in entrepreneurial skills with the accompanying cash benefits to the beneficiaries drawn from the nine local government areas that make up Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial District. Not to mention that there are 350 constituency projects spread evenly across Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial District to the credit of the vibrant Senator Albert Akpan. Of note is the fact that at festive seasons over the years, he has been very consistent in giving back to his people, stakeholders, communities, churches, organisations and institutions with bags of rice, cows, goats, cash and other items that go with merry-making seasons.
This raises a burning question of why his praise-singing appears not to be commensurate with the tremendous impact he has created.
Public support for the senator is rising. The sheer numbers of beneficiaries of his philanthropic acts are living testimonies.
This is what success in representation looks like. We should be having national dailies amplifying these great feats, not in a romanticising fashion, but saying it as it is, for posterity.
– Ita Abia is a public affairs analyst and writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State