By Imo owo

As the countdown begins to the 2023 polls, the debate as to whether or not the current Member of the House of Representatives representing Ikono/Ini Federal Constituency, Obong Emmanuel Ukpong-udo, deserves another term in office has hogged the headlines in recent months. This follows ballyhooing from the camps and sponsors of intending aspirants about the need for a supposed gentleman’s agreement for tenure rotation between the two Local Government Areas of the constituency to be upheld.

There are constitutional guidelines that govern the electoral process especially as it pertains to the selection of the candidates. Unfortunately for the dissenting voices, the issue of zoning happens to be unconstitutional – and this is not to undermine its cogency especially in a multi-ethnic clime like ours. Ironically, for all the noise, what is actually constitutional is Ukpong-udo’s right to run for office!

Ukpong-udo rode the philanthropic and humanitarian road of self-denial to emerge the representative of the Ikono-Ini people at the Lower Chamber of the Nation’s Parliament. Pre-politics, he consistently applied himself to the empowerment of Akwa Ibom sons and daughters economically and socially at every opportunity and only sought political office as a platform for wider impact. Since assuming office, he has not only continued on the same trajectory, he has upped the ante, thereby affirming his altruistic disposition as inherent; a much-desired but scant trait in Nigeria’s contemporary polity.

Emmanuel Ukpong Udo pictorial evidence of doing good

Miscellaneous financial assistance has become the weekly ‘birth right’ of families in Ikono/Ini – thanks to Ukpong’udo’s benevolence – whether as support for celebratory events like marriages, children dedication, or in melancholic times like in bereavement, failing health or mishaps. From the widow with 6 children from Ibiono Ewura in Ini Local Government Area, to the beverage retailer from Nsit Ikpe Ward 1 who went bankrupt due to hospital bills following an automobile accident; and the palm wine dealer from Itak in Ikono Local Government Area, with a cancerous tumour diagnosed since 2016; the list of beneficiaries is endless.

Ukpong-udo, the legislator, has about 12 Bills, Motions and Petitions to his name on the floor of the Green Chambers appertaining to crucial issues in education, healthcare, labour and employment, as well as the administration of justice, which affect the life of the common Nigerian man, woman and child; issues like addressing the mass exodus of Nigerian doctors, building the capacity of teachers and improving the working conditions for the Nigerian workforce.

More than just a political jargon, (economic) “empowerment” has become realism among the people of Ikono/Ini Federal Constituency during the last two and a half years. Without derision, it has to be said that many persons who had never previously counted in hundreds of thousand of Naira have actually owned millions as a result of Ukpong-udo’s munificence. This follows the consistent disbursement of several tranches of entrepreneurial support packages ranging between 0.5 million to 2 million Naira to over 215 members of his constituency; an unprecedented exercise in the annals of the representation in the constituency.

Pensionable employment opportunities have been secured for at least 70 indigenes of the constituency at the federal level in the Civil Service, the Security Agencies as well as other departments and parastatals. This translates to a stable career for the beneficiaries, as well as financial support for innumerable direct and indirect dependents, family and friends. While many other such employment processes are currently in the pipeline, another 62 persons have so far benefitted from short-term employments (with more than half of this number still in employment) with an even longer list of extended beneficiaries.

As many as 433 indigenes have benefitted from various forms of poverty-alleviation initiatives and grants like the U-Martha Alternative Income Scheme as well as those from the federal government. These subventions will have helped to solve some pressing personal or domestic needs of the beneficiaries and their dependents (for instance, during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic). This is a stark deviation from time past; when these opportunities were invisible in plain sight with the local citizenry largely oblivious of their existence, talk less of accessing them.

As at the last inventorying in December of 2021, pregnant women from the constituency not only successfully delivered their new-born babies free of charge at the General Hospital Ibiaku Ntok Okpo, they also received financial support from Obong Ukpong-udo’s well-planned ‘Macaire Mother and Child Care’ welfare programme. This unprecedented and novel conception, which has over 365 beneficiaries so far, further accentuates how prepared Obong Ukpong-udo came to serve his people.

Ukpong-udo has provided several scholarships as well as exigent financial support for no less than 40 students who had challenges in furthering their education. These gestures have sometimes been redemptive in nature like in the case of a graduate of Law who was bailed out in time by Ukpong-udo from nearly missing out on his placement in the Nigerian Law School due to financial constraints.
In the same vein, he has bankrolled the construction and renovation of educational infrastructure, as well as the provision of educational materials in at least 5 schools within the constituency. He has also bankrolled several capacity development programmes for both the young and old.

Speaking of infrastructure, after about 20 years of neglect and abandonment, Ukpong-udo has triggered the “resurrection” of the Nkari Dam project in Ini Local Government Area. New market stalls have been provided for traders in the constituency. Health facilities, Multipurpose civic and entrepreneurial centres, Traditional Rulers’ Council Halls as well as road projects have either been completed and handed over, or are at different stages of construction and renovation in both Local Government Areas of the Constituency.

These are not fictitious or exaggerated data; they are verifiable evidences of far-reaching dividends accruing to the people of Ikono/Ini courtesy of Obong Emmanuel Ukpong-udo’s pace-setting representation. As a result, many families in Ikono/Ini today, irrespective of political affiliation, are now feeding better. Infant mortality is at an all-time low. Businesses and business owners now have a new lease of life. Education and healthcare infrastructure are wearing a new look. The youth are gainfully employed and are taking better care of their parents and siblings.
In all, the average man, woman and youth of Ikono/Ini feels a deeper sense of belonging from interfacing in closer proximity to a leader who is readily available and accountable to the people.

Methinks that democratic leadership is supposed to be chiefly in the interest of the people and this makes the recent brouhaha about zoning in Ikono/Ini Federal Constituency noncore. But since everyone also has an opinion, it is suffice to ask: will upholding a non-constitutional “zoning” arrangement be more beneficial to the people of Ikono/Ini Federal Constitution, or does Rep. Emmanuel Ukpong-udo deserve another term in office (where he will become a ranking member with more privileges) to continue his exemplary stewardship and doings of the last 30 months?

You be the judge.

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