By Emmanuel Ndon
Akwa Ibom – Sasha Issenberg had left a fitting lesson on parameters of electoral victories which are often misconceived. The American journalist and author noted that; “The people who explain politics for a living – the politicians themselves, their advisers, the media who cover them – love to reach conclusion like this one:
Elections are decided by charismatic personalities, strategic manoeuvres, the power of rhetoric, the zeitgeist of the political moment. The explainers cloak themselves in loose-fitting theories because they offer a narrative comfort, unlike the more honest acknowledgement that elections hinge on the motivations of millions of individual human beings and their messy, illogical and often unknowable psychologies”.
His narrative seems to illustrate the ‘common’ things that accumulate a charismatic appeal but which are often neglected. Such things as frankness, imagination, knowledge of negotiation and understanding the social and economic needs and interrelations.
And, believe me, these things are often slurred over probably because as Otto Von Bismarck said: “People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election”. So, the thinking is that they may not be taken seriously.
Hon. (Barr.) Etetim Onuk may have had Issenberg’s theory in mind as he goes about seeking support for a second term as chairman of Itu local government area. Onuk has cut a different picture for himself and approach for his campaign. He appears to be a believer in “motivation of millions of individual human beings”, and would not want to take anything for granted.
As campaign speeches fill the air, Etetim Onuk hasn’t given much to rhetorics. His campaign is anchored on specific agenda of the immediate and long term, supported by a catalogue of his achievements from December 2017, when he was elected and sworn into office.
Onuk’s scorecard easily provides an insight into a down-to-earth leader who presents his “modest” achievements with accuracy and devoid of exaggeration.
Onuk may not have satisfied everyone, but he has impacted on the majority. His achievements which are well known indicate everything comparably more than a fitting testimonial for his reelection. Yet, he remains unassuming. “In terms of achievements, without sounding immodest, my scorecard qualifies me and places a necessity to go back to complete the ongoing and new projects”.
During his first term, the Onuk administration has completed the renovation and painting of the entire council secretariat, security village and the fence and given a face-lift to the dilapidated council hall, Admin block and the Kennedy Ekong Hall.
He has also constructed a civic centre for the people of Ikot Annie Itam while residents of Mbak Atai have also been provided with a 300KVA transformer to boost electricity supply at the council headquarters.
Within the same period, the council also embarked on the construction of 24 Lockup Shops at Etaha Itam market and restored electricity supply to the council secretariat and the security village.
A number of other life – touching projects are also at various stages of completion. They include; drilling of a borehole in the council secretariat complete with plumbing works with pipes laid from the secretariat up to the security village; near completion Etahaitam market office as well as rehabilitation of dilapidated AKISIEC office in Itu.
Under its health programme, the Onuk administration has successfully categorized health centres (into three classes) for optimum service delivery and had since commenced a 24-hour health care service in Mbak Atai and West Itam Health Centres.
Since the inception of the administration, grading of roads has received prominence so as to make for easy access to the hinterland. More than ten of such roads were graded in 2018 (at least one in each ward) and five in 2019. In a bid to bring security presence to the area, the council also provided a temporary office for Itu/Ibiono Area Command as well as residential accommodation for the Police Area Commander, the JTF commander and other heads of security formations in the area. This is a demonstration of his tactical approach and commitment to the security of lives and property.
Beyond these noble gestures, Onuk’s deft and administrative capacity has produced tremendous results for the growth and development of the area.
Within the period under review, the council has also purchased vehicles for its ranking personnel including the vice-chairman, secretary and leader of legislature. The party chairman in the local chapter and an aide also benefitted in the largesse. His robust relationship with the staff and the political class is only second to none. This policy of inclusiveness has stabilized the area politically and eliminates the frequent friction commonly found in other places.
Under his empowerment programme, not only did the council construct 24 Lockup shops at Etahaitam market, but female traders in the same market also benefitted from different forms of financial support. Similarly, at least ten students of Itu origin studying in tertiary institutions are currently enjoying scholarship awards from the council while more than 400 youths of the area have been engaged as revenue collectors for the council among others. Still, he has also facilitated the training and certification of another batch of 65 youths and women of the area under the aegis of Agri-business Small Scale and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS) under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The UK government has also restored sanity to Itu students union (National Association of Itu Students) by supporting them to conduct a credible election for its officers. He enjoys massive support from Itu political leaders, including elected and appointed officials.
Onuk has already cut his eyes for the future and his achievements so far, reveal him as the best man for the job. Given another opportunity, his 4-point agenda which revolves around youth empowerment and capacity building; industrial development; trade and investment, and agriculture holds the promise of an all-round transformation. In the short run, efforts will be intensified to boost commerce and tourism activities in the area with the convocation of the first-ever Itu Tourism, Investment and Economic Summit. There is also the construction of the local government Truck Park, awards of bursary and more scholarship, empowerment of entrepreneurs, women and youths under his post-COVID-19 economic recovery and empowerment scheme are all on the cards. Superintending over the coronation of the paramount ruler of Itu, fifteen years after ascension, is also a priority. Onuk had already inaugurated a committee to put the event together but was hampered by unforeseen circumstances including the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Perhaps the most appealing is his idea to construct itu trade centre at the Bridge Head aimed at spurring commerce in the area. But in the long run, the interpretation of his four-point agenda would have taken centre stage with its attendant impact. His youth empowerment and capacity building programme is targeted at the development of local content through what he calls youth up-skilling programme (YUP) specifically for engagement in the science park and Auto Assembly plant projects both in Itu local government area. He intends to put this through a strategic partnership with capacity building agencies, including industrial training fund (ITF), UNIUYO Consultancy, among others.
In the area of industrial development, the focus is on the convocation of yet another “Itu Economic Summit” aimed at concertizing modalities at setting up Itu Industrial Hub.
The main focus under his trade and investment agenda revolves around the construction of Ibom Trade Centre (ITC) in Itu -OMMA area. The objective is to bring technology to bear particularly in the aspect of preservation to take full advantage of aquatic resources of the area and deepen participation. Seafood is mostly perishable so, the centre will cater to the various methods of preservation, ranging from dehydration, drying, canning, flat -freeze, smoking and among other processing methods.
And finally, Onuk’s “Operation Let’s Go Farming” is an initiative for massive commercial and mechanized farming aimed at catapulting into a green revolution in the area.
To achieve his mission, Onuk has appealed for support from all stakeholders. “This is the first time”, he says, “in the history of Itu local government politics that East Itam Northern zone is occupying the elected office of the executive chairman, and it would be unfair if as the first beneficiary, I am denied what other zones have enjoyed in the past”.
Harping on the thrust of equity and performance, Barrister Onuk believes that a culture of the second term has already been established and is ongoing. “All the present political office holders, except the Honourable House Member are either in their second or third term”. His humanistic campaign is ongoing with the commendable appeal, hopefully, in the coming days, the ticket might just be his for the asking.