The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Distinguished Senator (Obong) Bassey Albert Akpan fondly called OBA was born on October 28, 1972, into the family of Chief Albert Robert Akpan, a successful businessman, prominent politician and philanthropist in Ididep Usuk village, Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area. Chief Akpan was a devout Christian and he raised his children as scripturally stipulated in Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way He should go: and when He is old, He will not depart from it.”
Evidently, Senator Albert is not only an ardent believer of the Gospel of Jesus Christ but lives according to the dictates of the Holy Scriptures. Senator Albert started his secondary education at the famous St. Patrick’s College, Calabar, Cross River State, before proceeding to the University of Uyo, where he bagged a Bachelor of Economics (Second Class Upper Division). In further pursuance of academic excellence, he obtained a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the prestigious University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
And as postulated by the sage, Nelson Mandela that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world“, Senator Albert has kept expanding his educational depth, not only by obtaining more certifications from the best universities, colleges and institutions in the world but has supported thousands of youths, including the physically challenged, to achieve their dreams of getting quality education through his educational scholarship awards and grants.
In May 2016, Senator Albert initiated an undergraduate scholarship scheme, which 381 students of Akwa Ibom State origin have so far benefited from. The scholarship covers full tuition fees and upkeep allowance throughout the duration of the beneficiaries’ programmes. As at the beginning of the 2019/2020 academic session, 114 have successfully graduated and obtained degrees, while 267 are still on their respective programmes in various higher institutions of learning across Nigeria.
In 1997, OBA started his professional career braced in Hill Harper’s “Believe in yourself, work hard, work smart and passionately present your best self to the world” armour which propelled him to the acme of his chosen profession. He joined the International Operations and Consumer Banking/Retail Banking Unit of the United Bank for Africa (UBA). In 1999, he moved on to become manager, Corporate Banking group at the Continental Trust Bank at the bank’s head office in Victoria Island, Lagos. He later joined First Inland Bank Plc in 2003 as Uyo Branch manager, where he won the bank’s Best Performing Branch Manager award in the South-South region. He also won the award of the Best Performing Branch Manager Nationwide in the bank’s midyear review of the 2004 financial year.
In 2005, he joined First City Monument Bank as assistant vice president, where he was the general manager in charge of Akwa Ibom and Cross River states. He was responsible for directing and overseeing the day-to-day running of over 15 branches across the zone and as the zonal head, he articulated and developed key market penetration strategies for the bank, for sustainable market share and growth.
What is more, Senator Albert has successfully collaborated the classical quote of a former Allied Signal CEO, Lawrence Bossidy, “I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people not on strategies.” He has not only employed hundreds but has also facilitated thousands to be gainfully employed in both private and corporate institutions, companies and government parastatals as well as assisted more persons to start up their own businesses through loans, grants and empowerment programmes.
In 2007, when the call to public service came through his nomination as a commissioner into the Executive Council of the Akwa Ibom State Government, he accepted and was handed the Finance Ministry to manage. I’m forced to believe that when Confucius made this statement, “He who wishes to secure the good of others, has already secured his own”, he was referring to men of proven integrity like Senator Albert.
With his wealth of experience in the banking sector and background as an economist, he was able to grow the State’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to N15.6 billion as at the last quarter of 2013. He was also the chairman of the Inter-ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee; whose job was to ensure that government projects were completed using direct labour initiative, to save funds for the state. He saw through successful completion of over 6000 life-touching projects in the health and education sectors, as well as areas of rural and human capital development. He was instrumental to negotiations between the state and Standard Chartered Bank for the approval of a loan of £325.24m to execute projects in the state.
In April 2009, Senator Albert chaired the first-ever Akwa Ibom State Revenue Summit. The summit with the theme: “Maximizing Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) Potentials in Akwa Ibom State – A Collective Responsibility”, had in attendance stakeholders from diverse socio-economic sectors in the state and was organized as part of strategic efforts to boost the internally generated revenue (IGR) of the state.
Senator Albert through the instrumentality of his office turned boys to men. The era saw young men and women get married, build residential homes, buy cars and establish different business ventures. A feat many have concluded is second to none in the history of our dear Akwa Abasi Ibom State.
Muhammad Ali said and I quote: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room on earth”. Therefore, we can boldly say that indeed Senator Albert has paid he’s in full. John Scullery in his wisdom wrote, “The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.”
In 2014, the distinguished senator declared his intention to contest for the governorship seat of Akwa Ibom State. Even though he was a front-line aspirant, he decided to respect, as a loyal party man, the zoning policy of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which paved the way for Eket Senatorial District to produce Mr Udom Gabriel Emmanuel as governor of the state. He went further to contest and win the seat of Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial District under the umbrella of the PDP and was sworn in as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on June 9, 2015. He distinguished himself in character and performance at the Senate, with the sponsorship of several bills, motions, petitions and other matters of strategic relevance, not minding the fact he was a first-timer.
For his sterling services and performances in the 8th Senate, Albert was again fielded by his party, the PDP, in the February 2019 election to represent Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial District at the 9th Senate and his constituents voted for him massively to secure a return to the Red Chambers.
In the 9th Senate, he was appointed chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), and a member of several other committees. His Industrial Revolution Bill in his first term was mainly aimed at accelerating the build-up of industrial capacity within Nigeria, increase manufacturing contribution to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and drive the process of intense industrialization based on the sector where Nigeria has a comparative and competitive advantage. Other benefits include to facilitate jobs and wealth creation, provide for economic and revenue diversification, ensure import substitution and export diversification as well as broaden government’s tax base. It is also very significant to note Senator Albert’s Gas Flaring (Punishment) Bill, among others.
Few months into his second term in office saw Albert sponsoring and co-sponsoring life-changing bills and most especially broker a deal for Nigeria: The multi-billion dollars NNPC/Chevron EGTL Project. Senator Albert’s role in the settlement of the Escravos Gas to Liquids dispute which has plagued the oil and gas sector for over a decade.
The historic and outstanding contributions of Senator Albert to the growth of the oil and gas sector in Nigeria earned him an honorary award by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). At the award presentation in January, lots of encomiums from key players in the oil and gas industry notably the minister of state for petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva; the GMD of NNPC, Mr Abba Kyari; and foreigners were openly bestowed on him.
It is noteworthy to state here that as a loyal and committed party man, Senator Albert had in the last general elections demonstrated capacity. The 2019 elections saw him stand as the only remaining PDP senator from Akwa Ibom State who did not defect alongside the other two who moved into the opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC). He mobilized his ever-teeming supporters for all PDP’s candidates which contributed greatly to the victory of the PDP in our state.
As the vizier, Senator Albert has served his master, the PDP, for many years and is known and admired for his loyalty and devotion to God. His honesty, however, had made him many enemies in the system, who contrived stories of his ‘duplicity and perfidy.’ This is fueled by jealousy as he keeps expanding his towering influence due to numerous achievements.
Lailah Gifty Akita in her book, “Pearls of Wisdom: Great Mind,” wrote, “If you saturate your mind with positive thoughts, it will sustain you in any situation”. The God-fearing, focused and people-oriented Senator Albert though aware of the antics of his enemies has refused to be overwhelmed by their judgement but instead, he has continued to win new territories. One of his latest accolades includes an award of excellence by a reputable organisation in Nigeria, Face of Democracy in Nigeria (FDN), as the Most Outstanding Senator in Nigeria
It, therefore, suffices to say that Senator Albert will always choose to put his people’s hopes and aspirations above self and will in his usual manner work towards uniting his people.
-Umoh Ekanem is a public affairs analyst and lives in Uyo.