Resumed office as the Executive Chairman of Essien Udim Local Government Area on 7th of December, 2017 after a keenly conducted election of December 2nd of that same year, Hon. (Elder) Raphael Isobara has changed the narrative of developmental strides of the area within a timeframe of one and a half years.
Voted overwhelmingly by 72,000 voters into office, Hon. Isobara, a private sector driven servant-leader hails from Ekpenyong clan, one of the largest clans in Essien Udim Local Government Area.
Politically, Ekpenyong Clan is divided into two Wards of Ekpenyong Ward 1 and Ekpenyong Ward 11 respectively, and these two political Wards are divided by a natural boundary of a river.
Ask for a political jinx breaker in Essien Udim, then I present to you, Hon. (Elder) Raphael Isobara. The Council helmsman who has set the political pace for Ekpenyong clan as the first elected personality to assume the office of the Executive Chairman of Essien Udim Local Government since its creation in 1989.
Thanks to the ingenuity of her elders and political stalwarts, as a matter of equity and fairness, the Chairmanship position of the LGA was zoned to Ekpenyong Ward 11 where the success-driven Isobara emerged the Chief Security officer of Essien Udim.
Steering the affairs of an area blessed with politically enlightened and elites population, the Chairman upon assumption of office hint the ground running and set an achievable templates for safeguarding his operational drive towards delivering dividends of democracy to his people.
…and he hint the ground running against all odds
Despite kick-starting his administration when the country was facing serious economic downturn, even with availability of lean resources, his achievements in office within these past years has not only accorded him accolades from his people but has also repositioned Essien Udim as a reference point in Akwa Ibom State.
What is remarkable and indeed unique about Isobara’s administration is giving facelift to all sectors within the council Secretariat and the Local Government Area with premium paid to internally generated revenue sources.
In extolling the modest achievements of Hon. Isobara with this midterm, five milestones can be lucidly identified and reckon with. Taking lead is remodelling the council’s premises; commencing and completing perimeter fencing project of the Council/reconnection of the council back with the national grid, as he took it upon himself to offset the back drop of electricity outstanding of the council and opened up access roads to the Council and other internal roads which prior to this time were impassable .
With this stride, it will not be out of place asserting that Isobara is making Essien Udim admirable, great and appreciable again.
His second milestone is boasting the Local Government’s IGR through revitalization of the three popular markets in the area: Obo Annang Market, Urua Ikpe and Urua Akpan which are the major revenue sources of Essien Udim.
In what wouldn’t have been an easy sailing in revamping these age-long abandoned markets that consequently encouraged encroachment by communities into the market space, promoting open defecation and high way trading, the chairman regained the confidence of the people through people-orientated approach, and today, the three markets are operating within the confines of their operation, and revenue accrued to the area.
Narrating the journey towards revitalizing the long abandoned markets, the Chairman elucidated: “One major challenge we saw was that, we have three popular markets in this Local Government; Obo Annang Market, Urua Ikpe and Urua Akpan. We conducted investigations on those major markets which are the main revenue sources to this Local Government.
“On our visits to Obo Annang Market, we were confronted with an ugly sight. one of it from the explanations we were given, was that, it was fifteen years refuse dump in Obo Annang Market. How do you evacuate this? We asked ourselves. So we hint the ground running, contacted expertise advice and within few weeks we cleared up that place.
“Another challenge we had was that of previous governments neglect of that market over the years. Consequently, the villagers took advantage of the situation, they decided to encroach into over 30% of the market space, started building houses around the market place for their private use and they went as far as collecting revenue from that our investment.
“So, I went there, intimated them of government renewed interest. Backing words with actions, we graded round the market, evacuates the fifteen years refuse dump in the market and gradually, we began giving them confidence that Government is interested in what is happening in the market and we also gained their support.
Similar was the case at Urua Ikpe. Hon. Isobara while narrating his experience said: “At Urua Ikpe, we met ten years dump site within the market space and people were still trading and eating around the refuse heap. Similar to what I have been seeing in other States.
“So, we decided to clear up the heap of refuse. Surprisingly to us, one of the persons around there became annoyed with us so when we sent our team to commence work at the market, they beat them up. Why did they do so? When we engaged them in a dialogue, they claimed we have come to destroy their own toilet, because it was a toilet for them over the years, so would you blame?
“We said no, we are not destroying your toilet, that is part of the market, allow us to clear this place and we will provide an alternative toilet for you and that we did”.
The third milestone of Elder Isobara is human capacity development. A greater percentage of Essien Udim people cutting across all ages and class under the chairmanship of Elder Isobara are beneficiaries of his magnanimity through various skills acquisition programmes, payments of school fees/accommodation fees for students in the secondary and tertiary institutions, provision of social amenities.
Asides from rendering humanitarian services to his people, the chairman is also closing-up the hitherto broadened knowledge gap between classes of individuals with his wise counselling.Fourthly, the capacity to sustain the shaken burn of unity of the area that was greatly threatened during the last political intrigues of the just concluded elections of the State
And fifthly, the iconic underway 500 stands of coconut plantation to be sited within the council premises is yet another achievable vision of the people’s Chairman. Hon. Isobara who has a wider perspective of the private sector, in recognition if of the greatest challenge in a rural setting which is how to innovate the area and provide the things that make rural living bearable and desirable, Isobara embraces doing lots of bits of things, hence, the upcoming inauguration of the 500 stands coconut plantation.
Going by the afore narrative, the chairman is demonstrating the “I can do” spirit of an Essien Udim man, he is conceptualizing and envisaging an agriculturally driven economy with a total diversification from dependent on crude oil for his people.
With this, needless to say then that the Chairman has in recent times rose to the political crescendo of which no current politician has quickly become such a high profile achiever given the political dynamics of Essien Udim and the political gimmicks of her uncommon people.
Political History of Essien Udim and Its Peculiarities
Historically, Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, created in 1989, is a unique, and an extra-large Local Government, with 148 recognised large Villages, having 11 political wards that is created out of these number of villages, Essien is a 8 Clan Local Government.
With 56 primary schools scattered all over the area and 12 government owned Secondary schools, the Essien Udim is blessed with 117 private schools within its political geography.
The uncommon Essien Udim Local Government is believed to have the highest number of health facilities in the State, totalling 16 registered primary and secondary health facilities and lots of social amenities that make area, and it’s people unique, outstanding, different, peculiar and uncommon as they are fondly known.
With that in mind, Essien Udim people are not only peculiar but also resourceful and successful persons in their chosen fields of endeavour and they have this supernatural drive of achieving the unimaginable and standing tall amongst the outstanding.
Hand in hand with this is that previous leaders of Essien Udim have laid developmental foundations which Hon. Isobara is building on. Currently, the leadership of the present Chairman is focusing on access road network projects, he is also preoccupied with human capacity development and knitting the disparities between the political elites and the general masses.
In particular, the remodelling of the Council premises, perimeter fencing, restoration of electricity to the council, creating an enabling environment for advanced learning and the soon to be flagged-off coconut plantation underscore concerns for a secure Essien Udim in the future.
There is every reason to take pride in the so far modest achievements of Essien Udim Local Government Area led by Hon. Isobara, more joyous reason is the fact that there is hope for better days ahead, given giant strides recorded by the present administration and the foundation laid at the present.