By Chief (Engr) Ita Bassey Ita
I am one of the very few individuals from the Southern Senatorial District who has hitherto, preferred to maintain a studied silence on the issue of who represents our people in the red chamber. My silence is borne out of the relationship I share with some of the candidates and speaks of my desire to afford the candidates a level playing ground. But then, as an elder statesman, who has seen the worst and best of our state and senatorial district, I owe it to my conscience and my people to speak up when occasion demands. Like the foremost Igbo writer, Chinua Achebe would say, “an elder does not sit at home and watch the she-goat suffer the pain of childbirth in tethers.”
In speaking the truth, I’ve elected to remain unbiased and unemotional, bearing in mind the huge responsibility that comes with it. I acknowledge the fact that the journey to who becomes our next Senator has fully began, and truthfully, this is one of the toughest election where no one is completely sure of who becomes the next Senator until after the election has been concluded and a winner announced. Among the various candidates in the mainstream political parties of APC, LP and PDP, no one has the monopoly of anything, be it–Contacts, Financial War-chest, Popularity, sellability and even streetwise credibility. Sadly, I’ve continued to read with utter dismay and disgust, the characteristic lies, propaganda and distortion of facts coming from foot soldiers of different political heavyweights in the race. In doing so, these individuals have unapologetically launched a journalistic warfare against any perceived enemy– be it imaginary or real–with reckless abandon. For those of us who can feel the political pulse in our senatorial district, it is clear that we are about to witness the fiercest of contest in the political history of our senatorial district since our return to democracy in 1999. It’s obviously a clash of the titans, bigwigs, super-wealthy and highly connected.
But despite the different political paraphernalia, it is important to understand that every good leader must have a verifiable rise, from the hay days to the days of glory, seemingly moving from grass laden with grace to attaining greatness. And these verifiable records of the frontline candidates are the fulcrum upon which this advisory article is established. For Ntufam Ekpo Okon, I’ve known him since the days of yore. He’s a go-getter and a pacesetter. As Commissioner for NDDC, he proved his mettle as a worthy Okoyong son. In his days of glory, he was a shining star among his contemporaries but as the law of nature would have it, time and season happeneth to all men. This is apparently not his season as he belongs to the older generation. As my contemporary, Ntufam Ekpo Okon has eaten his own piece of cake and should obviously not seek to eat into that of the next generation. He was Commissioner under Donald Duke at a more younger age. He moved on to serve as NDDC Commissioner and then State Party Chairman of the then ruling party. Those were his days and season of glory and like every actor, now is the time for him to exit the stage for the next generation.
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Daniel Asuquo (Dansuki) is another great fellow who has feasted on the magnanimity of time and season. He was opportuned to be Chairman of a very economically-important Local Government Area–Akamkpa Local Government–at a very tender age. Despite the hurdles placed on his way, fortune still smiled at him, not because he was the toughest of our generation but time and season happeneth to us all. Shortly after his politically masterminded return from detention, luck again smiled at him and was appointed pioneer DG of the State Electrification Agency(SEA) by the Senator Liyel Imoke administration. A position he resigned, contested and won the Akamkpa/Biase Federal House of Representatives seat since 2015 till date. Twelve solid years. Under the platform of the PDP, he dared favourably to clinch the Gubernatorial ticket but failed. In a bid to remain politically viable, my friend has decided to pitch his tent with the Labour Party–a sign that he has either approached his Political menopause or has technically accepted the fact that this is not his time anymore. His defection to the Labour Party reminds me of the ill-fated political sojourn of our Sweet Prince, Senator Bassey Otu in 2015, who despite his popularity and sellability, failed to a relatively unknown Gershom Bassey. Time and Season!!
For Asuquo Ekpenyong Jnr (Suki), this is undoubtedly his time, season and chance, and I will tell you why. In 1999 when Donald Duke, who coincidentally today, is his father-in-law, was Governor, our state saw a new generation of young people piloting our affairs. We had very young people as Commissioners and Chairmen of Council, but despite that beautiful beginning, my generation failed in nurturing National Leaders in the mould of Senator Joseph Wayas, one time Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. While others were busy preparing their People for National Politics, my generation felt fulfilled battling for Political powers within the four-walls of Calabar. Today, we can no longer boast of National Leaders of Cross River State extraction in the Politics of Nigeria. As a father, I’ve carefully understudied Asuquo Ekpenyong Jnr, and I dare say that, given the necessary push and opportunity, he may turn out to be one of our greatest Political export for his generation. As Commissioner for Finance, despite not being abreast with the politics of the State as at the time he came, he was able to discharge his duties blamelessly, with finesse and panache. Today, he prides himself not just as a Senatorial Candidate–the youngest of them all– but an integral part of Tinubu/Shettima Economic Team. I mean, what other evidence do one need to prove that Asuquo Ekpenyong Jnr, is a shining star? Not only is he still young with a lot of prospects, he connects readily and comfortably with the younger generation–his generation. He has a firm grip on the needs and aspirations of his generation more than the older folks whose sole aim of seeking power is mainly to remain political relevant in the state. Today in Nigeria, there’s a certain Betta Edu, who has taken the Nation by storm as the woman leader of a ruling party. She’s today doing exceedingly great as a National Leader only because this is her time and season.
On the many malicious lies been fed the public against Asuquo Ekpenyong Jnr, especially among young people, I wish to advise young people not to join their common enemies in killing their own generational prophet. The truth is, none of these Senatorial Candidates can perform better than Asuquo Ekpeyong Jnr, once given the opportunity, and the reason is quite simple. While the older folks have little or nothing to prove again, Asuquo Ekpenyong Jnr still have a lot to prove to his generation and cannot afford to fail them, lest he be consigned to the waste bin of history. In all fairness to the younger generation, I call on leaders, women and young people of Southern Senatorial District to give Asuquo Ekpenyong Jnr a chance.