When we first began this legislative journey, the point which we have arrived today may have looked very far in our estimation. But here we are, widely acknowledged as one of Nigeria’s most vibrant state legislatures.
In considering the event of today with deep reflection, I invite your memory to recall, with relishing profundity, the memorable words of the legendary Jamaican reggae superstar of blessed memory, Robert Nesto Marley that, ‘In the great future, we cannot forget the past’. Today is the future we envisaged in 2015 when we accepted the call to serve our people.
Today is indeed a great day in our lives as public servants. Above all, like no other day, today gives us exclusive opportunity to collectively review our contributions to the growth and development of our immediate constituencies, our dear Akwa Ibom State, and to the Nigerian nation at large.
Recall that this Assembly started off on the cradle of one of the hardest economic periods this country has been through in recent memory; a period of excruciating nationwide recession which not only stifled economic activities, but affected the administration of government and flow of funds for execution of statutory functions. Nevertheless, we effectively executed our respective legislative assignments to the Glory of God.
Four fundamental factors contributed to our achievements: collective understanding and unity of purpose; resilience in spite of internal and external challenges mostly occasioned by politics; robust relationship with other arms of government as propelled by our ‘cooperation of power ideology’; and uncompromising adherence to the Rule of Law as the cornerstone for functional democracy.
We conceived fantastic ideas as expressed in our bills and our motions; we entrenched the most creative, innovative, celebrated and functional legislative processes; and became eminently committed to our statutory responsibilities.
IDEOLOGICAL ANCHOR OF THE 6TH ASSEMBLY
Permit me to use this moment to remind us of the driving philosophy of the 6th Assembly, which has provided the steam for whatever we have achieved in the last four years. It must be noted that the 6th Assembly of Akwa Ibom State took off with some self-imposed targets intended to catalyse the fulfilment of our end of the social contract with our constituents.
From inception, Members of the 6th Assembly were aware of their principal responsibility of lawmaking and the effort required not just to realize their objectives but to make a difference. The outcome of this determination is not just the number of bills which have been presented on the floor of this House but the potency of those laws and how far-reaching they will be in the Akwa Ibom project.
By sectoral stratification, the bills touched on concerns of the common man ranging from employment to healthcare delivery, the judiciary, education and social welfare. They were also anchored on the sustainable development and industrialisation agenda of the present administration. Through research, informed deliberations and inputs of stakeholders and industry experts, we have today what can conveniently pass for progressive, people-oriented, democracy-enhancing bills with unique credentials.
This assembly will be remembered for some of our modest innovative efforts all of which were inspired by our strong desire to recreate the Akwa Ibom state legislature and inject some more life into the institution. We introduced the Akwa Ibom Assembly Legislative Agenda in 2016.
• We introduced the quarterly assessment of budget performance by the state legislature, moving away from the bi-annual tradition.
Having identified our role as the clearing house of government, we prompted regular engagements with MDAs to ensure accountability. We reviewed, supervised and monitored budget performance. I can say today authoritatively that every accomplishment of this administration in infrastructure, security, job creation, industrialisation, solutions to the social welfare needs of the people, and in social justice, has the stamp of the 6th assembly boldly etched on it.
Our strategic periodic expenditure assessment has now become a standard operating principle in the Akwa Ibom state legislature. And no matter the robust cooperation we enjoyed from the Executive, this assembly never shied away from stamping its foot on issues of public interest through legislative interventions that tackled issues of injustice, development and inclusive governance.
As we bring this Assembly to a close today, we can conveniently forward to Akwa Ibom people a clean bill of health on the current administration in the state. This government has exhibited transparency and responsibility in its fiscal conduct. In line with our powers in Section 125 (5) of the 1999 constitution, this House has through the Public Accounts Committee continued to subject the executive to annual ratification of incomes and expenditures made. In March this year for instance, this House ratified the Audited Account of the state, following the submission of the statement of account of the state for the fiscal year 2018.
While we interfaced with local agencies, we expanded the network of the state legislature to International Agencies and foreign missions in the country with the hope of stirring beneficial partnership and positive collaborations.
This assembly has proudly redefined legislative representation. We believed and executed pro-people agenda, one which transcends the traditional mandate of lawmaking. We expanded the frontiers of representation to encompass partnership with organisations and agencies for the purpose of meeting the immediate empowerment needs of our constituents.
Although there are so much we projected to achieve but could not, there are few bold steps which we took to set the Assembly up for enduring success.
That we maintained the independence of this House and protected the institution from abuse was self-evident. Even in the instances where our positions on a matter tended to be oppositional, our status as an independent House remained sacrosanct.
Capacity building prominently features in the list of our notable achievements in the last four years. Capacity enhancement for members and the training and re-training of Assembly staff in respective areas of strength and responsibilities. This aspect of the assembly’s trajectory became even more manifest in our establishment of the Akwa Ibom Legislative Internship Programme (AKILIP). We have just graduated the first batch of interns and hope that the next assembly will see the need to sustain and enhance this timely-conceived idea.
Also, we established a strong feedback mechanism. If democracy must be participatory, then actors in a democratic government must include even those who do not hold elective offices. The citizens must play more roles that count; they must carry out periodic assessment of their representatives. This is the role that we sought to achieve when we introduce what we now call the Mid-Term and the Full-Term Report. These reports are to help constituents stay up to speed with their house members and be better informed on the achievements of the members.
Deliberative democracy was one of the cardinal programs of our assembly. We tried to create regular parleys with interest groups to achieve better engagements with our people. This objective inspired the opportunities which we created for citizens, interest groups and professional bodies to pay us regular visits and to exchange ideas with government through the state assembly.
We journeyed here four years ago full of energy, vision and promises to our constituents, who in turn had high expectations and hopes in us. Now, after four years of service, it can be said with a sense of modesty and absolute praise to God, that we have done our very best and have set a record which we shall always be proud of.
The experiences we have had as Members of the 6th Assembly have tested the quality of our patriotism and ability to serve, created opportunities to see things better, exposed our strengths and weaknesses in critical moments, and deepened our knowledge of democratic ideals to make us better public servants. There is no doubt that the lessons we learnt have broadened and sharpened our minds and helped us appreciate better and deeper our place in the history of the State.
As Speaker of the House, I will be leaving today with cherished memories of the bond which we created, the intellectual engagements which we enjoyed and the brotherhood which we shared. I will however also be leaving with the sad memory that we did not end this assembly in the complete number as we started. Regrettably, this House is today dissolving with a 21-member status rather than 26 that was inaugurated four years ago.
Like many other Akwa Ibom persons, I was left in shock when I woke up on the morning of November 19, 2018, to find that the entrances to the state House of Assembly had been barricaded by allegedly hired thugs. We had set out that morning to hold a sitting where we were going to give legislative backing to the naming of the state-owned Airport after His Excellency Architect Obong Victor Attah.
It is with pride and without any fear of contradiction that I make bold to say that the 6th Assembly, by comparative assessment of today and yesterday when we came, has not disappointed Democracy, Akwa Ibom people or the Constitution. Yet we believe we could have done more. We had set out, for instance, to build the legislative budget office, a standard clinic, a press and conference center. But we could not achieve this principally owing to very little available resources. We hope that the next assembly will be able to take up these projects.
It is also pertinent to state that in the last four years we have fought and won battles against the forces that wanted to wreck our ship of destiny in the turbulent ocean of personal dreams and ambitions. The cardinal aim must have been to divide or distract us from meeting our target. But to the glory of God with whose wisdom we operate, we were able to weather the storms and sail safely ashore. Let us therefore not hopelessly regret opportunities we have lost and forget those ahead of us; let us not gloat the successes and triumphs we have had to the mocking of modesty; and let us always think of how to make life better with public trust.
As this is the last occasion for me to review the past with you, my highly cherished Honourable colleagues, as the Speaker of the 6th Assembly, I say may the peace and blessings of the Almighty God continue to be with each and every one of us as we offer ourselves to the service of God, our fatherland and humanity in general. And should I have offended anyone in the course of our service, I ask for pardon. In all sincerity, I bear malice against none but love for all of you.
Let me also state here that I owe a massive gratitude to our governor, Deacon Udom Emmanuel. He has been an ally in nurturing a viable legislature. Indeed Akwa Ibom state has found a true democrat in the man whom God has given to us at a time like this as leader, His Excellency, Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel.
The People’s Democratic Party, our great party will always be applauded for the sound political platform and support it has been providing. I thank our party Chairman Obong Paul Ekpo for his unifying disposition and the spirit of love which he has instilled in the party.
I cannot find enough words to express my appreciation to my kinsmen, the people of Nsit Ubium State Constituency. With tears in my eyes and nostalgic feelings I will forever remember that fateful afternoon at the PDP state office at Nsikak Eduok Avenue when I obtained my nomination form for a second term in office as your representative. You came in droves all the way from the hinterland on foot and even on bicycles to show solidarity with me all motivated by your genuine love for me. You bore my burden without regrets till date and even at the elections. What greater love has a people for their son than this?
The staff of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, from the management to the junior cadre, who have been my hosts in the past eight years have been very distinguished. I have had no cause to regret working with you because of the spirit of comradeship we both have enjoyed. You never sabotaged my administration via strikes or protests. You embraced collective bargaining, dialogue and extensive consultations in all administrative matters. I thank you with all my heart and urge you to extend this warmth, loyalty and solidarity to the 7th Assembly.
I thank my personal staff whose sacrifices were central to our making the mark today. I could never have wished for a better team.
I must show my appreciation to the church body and the clergy in the state for standing by me with prayers and good counsel all through my tenure. The church without bias rallied round me devoid of sectarianism. In all religious spheres, it has been positive speakings and pronouncements laden with blessings and good will. Today, I am ending well not because I am worthy neither am I a special breed, but because the prayers of the church for me across the state have availeth much. I thank particularly my spiritual father, Rev. Ntia I. Ntia.
Gentlemen of the press, I thank you for your support. Media attacks on the legislature which were commonplace in the past never surfaced in my tenure. I thank you for being true friends, good developmental partners and lovers of progress. Thank you for extending to this entire assembly the goodwill which you have shown me all these years. I pray God to bless and reward you for your good works and urge you to keep on partnering with me as the stakes are now higher. I implore you to show similar solidarity with the leadership of the 7th Assembly as well as the leadership of our dear Governor. Remember that he must succeed for all of us to succeed.
My families, both nuclear and extended, have been supportive. My wife, Dr Uduak Luke, and my children, Etiusungisang, Uduakobong, Enoabasi, and Uwakmfonabasi, have shown tremendous understanding with me for the sacrifices I have had to make in the course of my public service. Special gratitude goes to my mother, Deaconess Lawrencia Luke and to my siblings and their spouses for proving to be a solid family at all times.
Thank you brothers and sisters in Akwa Ibom and beyond, who loved and believed in me without me. Destiny shall sure unite us someday when I can find appropriate words to express my deepest appreciation. For me, as the Apostle Paul wrote in 2nd Timothy 4:7, I believe that I have finished this race and I have kept the faith.
And now, I shall take a bow.