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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Uyo Federal Constituency in the Red Chambers: 2019 or 2039?

By Ubon Marcus

Many months ago, some leaders and political heavyweights of Uyo Federal Constituency extraction endorsed Senator Bassey Albert fondly called OBA for second term as Senator representing Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District aka Uyo Senatorial District (USD). This writer acknowledges their legal entitlement to support OBA’s second term aspiration as democracy guarantees ones freedom of choice but frowns at the consequences of that support on Uyo Federal Constituency’s political advancement in the Senatorial District and the zoning principle of the Peoples Democratic Party.

 He relies on that premise to surmise that perhaps they unknowingly failed to take those factors into consideration especially as it affects the Federal Constituency which they hail from. In as much as one has the right to choose whom to support in democratic setting, it is expected that one should make an informed choice hence the need for voter education. It is therefore for purposes of enlightenment that this piece was birthed. I am aware that this article may not be well received by some persons as my noble intentions may be misconstrued. To such people I offer my most sincere apologies.

My objection to OBA’s second term bid has nothing to do with him as a person neither is it personal. On the surface Senator Bassey Albert appears to be a fine gentleman, one whom I hold in high esteem. His confidence especially as displayed during the legal tussle with Hon. Bassey Etim is enviable. As Senator he has performed well in my estimation although critics say they miss the analytical contributions from the Senatorial District during plenary which characterized the Ita Enang days at the Senate. OBA is a great mobilizer and political asset but someone who to me is an unfortunate victim of time and chance. His hard luck with time and chance could be encapsulated under the term “zoning”. In Akwa Ibom today, the term “zoning” has become a pleasant sound to some and a source of discomfort to others.

Zoning, a policy of the Peoples Democratic Party which guarantees rotation of offices for the purpose of equity and fairness has brought stability to the political system. However, the advocates of zoning did not take its unintended consequences into consideration. How do you handle a situation where a man lives up to expectation, is loved by the people who ordinarily would have wanted him to return for another term only to be told that he cannot serve anymore because someone from his area occupied that position years ago? Should someone who is supposedly doing well be sent home because of this? Should the zoning principle be reviewed to make room for incumbents with capacity or do we proceed with a blanket zoning policy? These are some concerns regarding the issue of zoning. However, until they are resolved we shall stick to the zoning practice as obtainable.

History records that with the return of democracy in 1999, Uyo Federal Constituency occupied the Senatorial position for a term (1999 – 2003). In 2003 Etinan Federal Constituency took her turn and remained there for eight years (2003 – 2011). 2011 witnessed the emergence of Senator Ita Enang of Itu/Ibiono Federal Constituency who served for four years (2011 – 2015). Senator Bassey Albert of the same Federal Constituency succeeded him in 2015 and will complete Itu/Ibiono Federal Constituency’s eight years in the Senate in 2019. From the above you can see that while all the Federal Constituencies in Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District have had a chance at the Senate, the Federal Constituency with the least years of representation has been Uyo Federal Constituency. Therefore, equity demands that someone from Uyo Federal Constituency becomes Senator in 2019 so as to complete the remaining four years of Uyo Federal Constituency (which has been on standby since in 2003). While this writer acknowledges the possibility of lawmakers remaining in office adinfinitum as obtainable in Legislatures world over, it is on the basis of an eight year period of representation practiced by constituent Federal Constituencies of Uyo Senatorial District that he bases his analysis.

The Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District zoning formula could be enunciated as follows:

Uyo Federal Constituency: 1999 – 2003 (4 years)
Etinan Federal Constituency: 2003 – 2011 (8 years)
Itu/Ibiono Federal Constituency: 2011 – 2019 (8 years)
Uyo Federal Constituency: 2019 – 2023 (4 years, in completion of the 1993 – 2003 tenure).

It is hoped that if this works out smoothly, it will birth the second round which is as follows:

Etinan Federal Constituency: 2023 – 2031
Itu/Ibiono Federal Constituency: 2031 – 2039
Uyo Federal Constituency: 2039 – 2047
However, it is pertinent to note at this point that this zoning structure is predicated on Uyo Federal Constituency’s victory in 2019.

Unfortunately, if OBA returns to the Senate in 2019 it will upset the entire chart and scatter the zoning plan as Itu/Ibiono Federal Constituency would have served for 12 unbroken years at the Senate. The zoning structure will therefore look like this:

Uyo Federal Constituency: 1999 – 2003 (4 years)
Etinan Federal Constituency: 2003 – 2011 (8 years)
Itu/Ibiono Federal Constituency: 2011 – 2023 (12 years)

Going by this, in 2023 Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District will face more problems than anticipated as the other two Federal Constituencies will scramble for the position. At the end, it could result in the demise of zoning as the strongest party often survives in such a situation. This is the unfortunate reality that supporters of Senator Bassey Albert have not taken into consideration. It is also possible that key players by then may agree to come to the drawing board and draw up a gentleman’s agreement. The question by then will be: will such an agreement be based on an eight year or twelve year tenure? I think the latter will be the case.

In that case, the zoning structure (if any) will be as follows:
Uyo Federal Constituency: 1999 – 2003 (4 years)
Etinan Federal Constituency: 2003 – 2011 (8 years)
Itu/Ibiono Federal Constituency: 2011 – 2023 (12 years)
Uyo Federal Constituency: 2023 – 2027 (4 years, added with the first 4 of 1999-2003 to make it 8 years)

At this point all Federal Constituencies will be deemed to have completed 8 years each at the senate with Itu/Ibiono Federal Constituency having an outstanding 4 years making it twelve.

The zoning plan will proceed as follows:

Uyo Federal Constituency: 2027 – 2031 (4 years, added to the 8 years explained above to make it 12 years)

Etinan Federal Constituency: 2031 – 2035 (4 years, added to the 8 years previously occupied to make it 12 years)

At this point all Federal Constituencies of USD must have done 12 years each at the senate. Key political players of that time may choose to go ahead with the 12-year plan or reduce it to 8 years each for faster participation by constituent constituencies. The zoning of then (if any) may appear as follows:

Itu/Ibiono Federal Constituency: 2035 – 2043 (8 years) or 2035 – 2047 (12 years)

Uyo Federal Constituency: 2043 – 2051 (8 years) or 2047 – 2059 (12 years)

Etinan Federal Constituency: 2051 – 2059 (8 years) or 2059 – 2071 (12 years)

If Christ tarries it will go on and on. However, I foresee a problem which may likely occur by then. The 12-year zoning plan will not work as other federal constituencies may not be able to tolerate being out of power for that long. Somewhere in-between there may be a scramble for power and the entire zoning arrangement will be thwarted. There are other fallouts which I foresee as well: someone from any of the Federal Constituencies who hopes to be a Senator someday and hopes to attain a suitable age or societal status as a parameter for electoral victory will most likely be too old that position.

The entire ugly situation can be avoided if two things happen:

1. If Itu/Ibiono Federal Constituency quits the Senate in 2019 and Uyo Federal Constituency steps in.

2. If Uyo Federal Constituency, having now been informed of the consequences of her support for Senator Albert’s second term agenda decides to forgo her Senatorial slot of 2019-2023 in order not to upset the zoning chart. It will be deemed as if Uyo Federal Constituency has donated her slot to the Ibiono Ibom born lawmaker which they adore so much.

As I bring today’s edition of the Sunday article to a close, permit me to end on this note. Etinan Federal Constituency is warming up for the Senate in 2023.  The implications of the seeming indifference of Uyo Federal Constituency towards her turn in the Senate in 2019 are enormous. It will be most unfortunate if constituents from Uyo, Uruan, Nsit Atai, and Ibesikpo Local Government Areas fail to grab this opportunity. This is therefore a clarion call for Uyo Federal Constituency to arise for the perils of indifference usually transcend a generation.

Thank you for reading.

Comrade Ubon Marcus
July 29, 2018.
(Ubon Marcus writes from Ikot Udobia, Etinan)

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