From Joe Effiong, Uyo

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary who is also the immediate past Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Onofiok Luke, is a household name in Akwa Ibom State and beyond. Among the youth, he commands a mass following; the women admire his youthful doggedness and ability to rise from seeming grass to grace, while the political elders see in him, the reliant-personality with a Midas touch to galvanize the matrix of Akwa Ibom dream into a beneficial reality.

He speaks on various issues in this interview.

The office of governor for which you are declaring to contest, as they say, ‘no be a tea party’. At your age, some people say you’re too young for such ambition. What do you have to say?

I represent the bridge between the past, the present and future; I represent the young and the old, the analogue and the digital generation, the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. This gives me a unique perspective on issues that cut across the various strata of our society.

I am equally schooled and educated as a trained lawyer with a First Degree in Law from the University of Uyo, and a Master’s Degree in Law from the University of Calabar. I am an active member of the Nigerian Bar Association, and an alumnus of the Harvard Business School Executive Education Programme in partnership with Nigerian Institute of Management, Alliance Manchester Business School, London Business School Executive Education, and Yale University, in partnership with the Nigerian Leadership Initiative.

I have had a brief private practice with F.N Ekwere, Co–Shepherd and Fortress Chambers. I have served as a Legislative aide to the Late Enobong Ernest Ukochio, Member representing Esit Eket/Ibeno State Constituency in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Personal Assistant to Governor Godswill Akpabio, served as the Pioneer Speaker of the Nigerian Youth Parliament. I was elected in 2011 to serve Nsit Ubium State Constituency in the House of Assembly and re-elected in 2015, unanimously elected as the 11th Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, under Governor Udom Emmauel. I have sponsored many private member bills some of which have been passed into law –all end at creating an enabling environment for the development of the state

Today by the amazing grace of God, I am serving my people as the representative of the Etinan/Nsit Ibom/Nsit Ubium federal constituency in the House of Representatives and I served as Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary.

So many of the aspirants are talking about changing the socio-economic landscape of the state; the same story the people have been fed with before. What are your different offerings?

We have been blessed with good leaders who have contributed in great measures towards the development of the state, with transformative projects and progressive policies in areas such as agriculture, education, and infrastructure etc.

I intend to use my wealth of experience as a public sector administrator, a lawyer, and an advocate of good governance to serve this state by bringing government closer to the people for socio-economic development, and to reposition Akwa Ibom State for greater prosperity under the theme of Building Together, Growing Together.

My objective is to rally the abundant human resources towards building a vibrant and diverse economy in Akwa Ibom State, while leveraging our infrastructural development and active youthful population to create jobs and provide visionary and selfless leadership to consolidate on the gains of past and present administrations.

Can you be more specific?

The clarion call of my campaign is Building Together and Growing Together. If we are going to build together, then we must grow together. That was an important lesson that our mother taught us. She never left any of my siblings behind. And what does it mean? It means nobody will be left behind!

I have already presented a 9-point agenda document on the Project Building Together; Growing Together, which contains a summary of my thoughts, the issues that I have identified as the most critical in our state, and my plans to address them. It outlines the main pillars upon which our administration will run, and I am honoured to be able to share it with you. I do not lay claim to monopoly of knowledge on these issues; I will therefore be ready to welcome your feedback and inputs, all aimed at building our state together and growing together thereof.

Akwa Ibom is one of the most peaceful and resource-rich states in Nigeria, blessed with brilliant minds. It is therefore important for us to invest in human capacity development to improve skills and empower our people to build and grow, while improving infrastructure and attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the state.

I want to assure you that I am fully prepared for the task of serving and building the Akwa Ibom of our dreams, and I intend to hit the ground running when given the opportunity.

What are the areas you would be focusing on?

Our policy direction will be rested on nine pillars: Food Sufficiency & Agricultural Development; Education; Healthcare; Technology Development; Entrepreneurial & Industrial development; Tourism, Sports & Entertainment; Youth, Women & Social Inclusion; Security, Environment & Infrastructure; Good Governance & Administration.

Let me take education which is a major pillar of development in our effort towards building our people and their capacity, for instance. We intend to invest in building the capacity of the faculty reviewing the curriculum to meet with the current reality and providing infrastructure to ensure safer schools initiative. Our administration will also upgrade infrastructure in schools and improve the welfare of teachers and students across the state through the provision of educational support via merit-based scholarships and bursaries, and upskilling opportunities for teachers.

Akwa Ibom State is an emerging technology hub, and we will make it a priority to provide access to IT education, mentorship programmes and technology incubation facilities for our youth. We will ensure that Information Technology becomes a fundamental part of our educational system in Akwa Ibom.

The rural communities appear to have been perennially neglected despite much verbalization about their development.

Our government will be for everyone – from remote communities in the marshlands of Eastern Obolo to those in the highlands of Itu, from communities like Nditia and Ikot Udota in Eket LGA, to communities such as Obot Mme in Ini LGA and Ikpanya in Ibiono-Ibom LGA, to Akpa Mfri Ukim in Uruan LGA and Okorutip in Ibeno LGA. From communities like Eyulor in Urue Offong/Oruko LGA, to Udesi Isong Inyang in Mbo LGA, from Esuk Oro in Oron LGA to Utu Ikot Ekpenyong in Ikot Ekpene LGA and Uta Ewa in Ikot Abasi LGA, among others.

Our government will be one where every ethnic group in the state will be relevant. It will be one where meritorious public service and integrity will be rewarded, and capacity will be sourced from the state and beyond.

The youth are rooting for you but they are also apprehensive whether they would get disappointed at the end, as usual.

Their apprehension is understood based on antecedents. But I have told the youth caucus, council and other youth groups that I have shared the same challenging moments with them. I have worn t-shirts, been a band boy and mobilized for the successes of different administrations. I know what it means to be given an opportunity at the leadership table. I am their best choice and will be a trustee of honour regarding our collective patrimony. Let’s stand together to build our state and future so that we can also grow together.

To those who feel I’m too young and those who feel I have spent so many years in public service, have I been found wanting in character, competence and delivery throughout my spell in the different offices I have occupied? That should be our take-home.

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Source: news