I may not be a very good student of history. But I do remember that the last time I checked, Chief Ita Solomon Enang was the longest serving member of the legislative arm of government from Akwa Ibom State. In fact, as far as the stretch of imagination could lead, the man from Ididep in Ibiono Ibom local government area remains the greatest beneficiary of democracy in Nigeria having to feed from the public coffers for 16 uninterrupted years.
Now these 16 years could increase to over 20, depending on if, or not the arithmetic includes his tenure as both a councilor and state assemblyman. Don’t get me wrong, Distinguished Senator Ita Enang to any unbiased assessor, is no pushover as far as legislative business is concerned. With a sound background in Law, a flourishing career in legal practice and several years of cognate experience on the various carpets of the legislature, there is sure little more that can be demanded as experience in the cv of a lawmaker; perhaps only a little more than these can account for his current position as the Chairman of the State Caucus in the National Assembly.
However, on Saturday, December 27, 2014, Mr Enang made himself available before the opinion court of the masses, and as Nigerian football commentators would say, he fired blank from all cylinders, when featured on a local radio programme. In a move that defy all the mechanics of logic, and as the moderator of the programme did say, Ita shot himself on the foot by recanting his earlier position and pouring invectives on the leader of his political party in the state over the conduct of the primaries for the various positions in the 2015 state, national assembly and governorship elections. Three weeks later, on January 17 the Senator again found his way to the electronic media to pour invectives on Mr Udom Emmanuel’s candidature and since then, he has been defining his voice in all manners of media attacks against his Governor.
Time will not permit me to recount all the vituperations of the self-styled “udo mfoniso”(second most fortunate man or fortunate second son), but for this piece, I may choose to examine only one aspect of his outburst. Udo was clearly heard crying about injustice, manipulations and sharp practices that led to his elimination from the 2015 contest. His claim furthered that delegates were non partymen, and that the delegates were kidnapped or kept hostage, blindfolded and later compelled to vote against him. Quite funny, isn’t it? But please don’t laugh.
In 2007, Chief Ita Enang was among the three main gladiators in the Uyo Senatorial District epic encounter. I can vividly recall the small advert billboard beside Urua Akpan Andem on Udo Umana Street, and another at State Secretariat Gate, and with the large flowing flex billboards and banners of Chief Ime Albert and Barr Effiong Bob, it was almost clear that Ita was an outsider in the contest. He lost woefully in the primaries and Effiong Bob returned to the senate for a second term.
But Udo took his ‘mfoniso’ to Abuja and there performed the most audacious miracle in history. A young medical doctor Dr Henry Archibong who clearly won the PDP ticket for Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency was stunned when Obong Ita Enang returned to Uyo with the ticket as the winner for a primaries he never participated.
Ita Enang was a House of Representatives member in an election he never picked a form. Not only did that action cost Archibong his ticket, it also scattered the political equation in the two – local government federal constituency, as Chief Ita was allegedly usurping the turn of Itu in that position.
During the PDP flag-off ceremony, I took time to look at Henry and I saw glimpse of tears at the corner of his eyes, tears that I could submit smacks relief, and fulfilment; obviously different from the tears of frustration and dejection that occasioned his stolen mandate almost eight years ago.
In 2011, when Ita Enang threw his heart into the ring for the second time, nobody gave him a chance. But the appearance in the scene of a powerful government official from Nsit Ubium, who was no more comfortable with the budding political ascendency of his kinsman Chief Effiong Bob, was all that Ita Enang needed to mount the podium as the candidate of the PDP for Uyo Senatorial District. Although a rather arduous assignment, it took the beseeching Governor Akpabio to convince the electorate that Ita Enang could be given a chance to prove the Thomases wrong. I can still hear the voice of the Governor who after listening to resounding boos on Obong Enang and chants that revealed his poor disposition to generosity, raised his hands and pleaded with the people, “ebo ke ado ubok Araldite, nyakap super glue ndianga ke ubok amo,” meaning that if you say he (Ita) is not generous, I will convince him to learn to start giving. How far he was able to hearken to the governor’s plea, is a subject for another discourse-a story that can best be told by members of his senatorial district.
Again, the leader of the State caucus at the national assembly made an unnecessary fuse about the location of the Federal Polytechnic which is located in Essien Udim. As someone who was enjoying the status of leadership in the state, a former deputy Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Ita Enang yielded to the temptation of ethnic bigotry by condemning the citing of the Polytechnic outside his local government. For someone at his level, Senator Ita Enang who himself had failed to recommend the project to any of Uyo or Etinan Federal Constituency but rather favoured his own village irrespective of the environmental or geographical challenges thereat. Obong Ita may believe that he has succeeded in stirring a hornet nest against the State Governor, has till date not produced a single document that shows that a location in his backyard was hitherto earmarked for the polytechnic project. To show that his naked dance is highly unsolicited, Ita has remained a lone ranger in the media attacks against the governor.
What did we not hear from the lips of the senator on that fateful day? That if he was not allowed to return to the senate, then the zoning formula that favours Itu/Ibiono federal constituency, should be scuttled and another federal constituency be supported to produce his successor. As someone who was in the heart of his people, how come he has not earned a single sympathy from any bloc in his senatorial district after he was roundly defeated in that crucial primary? Is Ita not aware that he is alienating himself the more from his people, by saying that no one else is qualified from among his kinsmen to speak at the red chambers?
The funniest miscalculation by the Senator as earlier noted was the assertion that Udom Emmanuel did not know all Akwa Ibom people by names, and as such would not be able to attract development into the state. This fallacy has reduced Udo’s profile as an elder in the State. Quite disastrous that at a time a unity programme of even spread of development to all parts of the state, Ita is advocating development that is based on the interest of only those that one knows by name. Does our senator expect Udom to go and start making an extempore recitation of all the fishermen on the Ibaka-Eastern Obolo shoreline before executing the industrialization projects in those communities?
If the outgoing senator insists on working against the interest of the PDP which provided him lifeline for 16 uninterrupted years, then why has he not routed his support to Eket Senatorial district through any other candidate in another party, I mean why talk of zoning in the senate seat and then remain adamant in the governorship position?
Perhaps the easiest identified issue that backfired against him was the poor condition of the road that leads to his house, which he deplored. A senator and a three time member of the House of Representatives, that cries about his own road of less than half a kilometer, leaves one to wonder how he was able to attract projects to his constituency. Ita Enang who now anchors programmes on the radio has forgotten that he would have been more appreciated by his people if he utilized that opportunity by reeling projects and programmes he attracted to his community(ies). It is an incontrovertible fact that Chief Ita’s former colleague, Rt. Hon. Nduese Essien, while in the lower chambers of the National Assembly for 8 years, was able to attract a network of roads, among other projects to communities in his constituency, including some in his own village, to his own house. Yet after 16 years, Obong Ita Enang is still blaming Governor Akpabio, even when he failed to use his position and develop his community. Is this the same federal lawmaker who has severally thanked the Governor publicly for creating an access, and opening up his community through the Nung Udoe Itak – Okoita-Use Ikot Amama road?
On Monday, January 20, 2015, Chief Nduese Essien on the same radio station made one observation that may perhaps be the summary of Ita Enang’s current razzle-dazzle. Politicians in Nigeria have decided to constantly sacrifice their integrity and personality on the altar of do-or-die politics. The same system they benefited from at the expense of others, is what they are now fighting against simply because of an apparent defeat. Said the former Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, “when I lost nominations as Senator in 2007, I refused the advice to defect but kept working hard for the success of the party, and because I never went astray, I was rewarded with an appointment as a Minister in 2010, and thereafter several other appointments have followed.”
Maybe the patience, steadfastness and persistency in Henry Archibong’s story should help Chief Enang to retrace his steps from the unnecessary macabre display. Eight years after being robbed in broad daylight in 2007 by an Ita Enang who never picked a nomination form for that position, Dr Archibong is today in a pole position to emerge as the next representative of Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency.
For those who listen to Senator Effiong Bob as he addressed one of the campaign rallies, he asked Ita Enang to call the bluff and be a good loser. Listen to Bob, “in 2011, I lost to Ita Enang in controversial circumstance, but I did not leave the party, I did not oppose Ita Enang, rather I went round Uyo senatorial district after the primaries canvassing for support for him”.
While this piece is not meant to take a swipe at the respectable Senator, it is safe to chip in that it may not be in his best interest, and that of his party if Ita Enang keeps fanning the embers of disenchantment against the PDP in the forthcoming election. Obong Enang must look beyond 2015 and know that there is life after politics.
Unwarranted provocative comments such as the one below, do no good to the respect a high profile politician will expect from his admirers, “it is true that I endorsed Udom Emmanuel as the most qualified aspirant before the primaries, but the primaries was conducted like political ebola(whatever that means) and I have hereby withdrawn the endorsement and Akwa Ibom people should look beyond the party and elect someone who knows everyone by name.”
The true character of a man is more defined by his actions in times of distress, rather than in times of comfort. Ita is still asking several questions, but the people know that certainly, these questions were not there when Chief Enang was in a comfort zone.
Mfonobong Ukpong(firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State