Senator Bassey Albert.
“Great achievements build a monument which shall endure until the sun grows old” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
With the exception of the Senate President, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, who by virtue of office now has centrifugal and complex roles of national dimension to play in the 10th Assembly, the other two Akwa Ibom new senators certainly have a tall ladder to climb. No wonder they already wear interpretative symptoms of worries and fears on their faces. Keen students of history, like this writer, who have followed records of senators in the past twenty something years, know that that is in connection with the immediate past senator who represented Uyo Senatorial District in both the 8th and 9th Assembly, Obong Bassey Albert Akpan (OBA).
OBA broke record as a first-time senator when he was appointed Chairman, Senate House Committee on Gas Resources (2015-2019). In his second term, he again was deservedly elevated to Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Upstream Resources. Findings have shown that these were high profile committees hitherto assigned only to ranking senators. It is even more interesting to note that OBA’s historic appointments came between two different Senate Presidents across different times and assemblies, Senators Bukola Saraki and Ahmed Lawan, while OBA still belonged in the opposition party.
But neither of the Senate Presidents had any regrets afterwards. OBA most excellently proven his mettle and justified the confidence reposed in him as his signature was conspicuous on many landmark successes attained by the National Assembly of the time in the Oil and Gas Industry. These were reflective in the ripple effects in committees he chaired. They include the eventual passage of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA); re-visitation of the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract, which earned the Federal Government an estimated $500m in 2020 and over $1bn IN 2021; resolution of a decade-long rift between the Federal Government and Chevron Limited for the Escravos Gas to Liquid (EGTL) Project, with a reversal of the contract sharing formula from 25% (Nigeria) and 75% (Chevron) to 60% (Nigeria) and 40% (Chevron), which dilated the country’s treasury.
Cerebral and dynamic, OBA reportedly had the highest number of motions and bills in the 8th and 9th Assembly than any Akwa Ibom person of his era. In the area of representation, he singlehandedly has on his scholarship scheme about 485 indigent students across all levels of tertiary institutions of learning in Nigeria, including 15 postgraduate overseas scholarship, 29 of whom bagged First Class honours as at December 2021.
There was also the record-breaking intervention that saw the reinstatements of a Police Officer, Mr. Celestine Williams, who was illegally dismissed by the Force for 21 years and that of as an Assistant Director in the Servicom Unit of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Antia Thompson, who was sacrificed for exposing corruption. On a wider scale are other sustainable people-targeted empowerment models that distinguished OBA amongst contemporaries.
It was therefore no surprise that he became the cynosure and envy of all with a rich catalogue of several high profile awards and recognitions from home and abroad. A few of such include South South Senator of the Year (2017); Ibom Pride Award of Excellence by Akwa Ibom State Association of Nigeria, USA, Inc, (AKISAN) 2019; Most Outstanding Senator in Nigeria at the 2020 Democracy Heroes Award; Excellence Award by the NNPC; and Legislative Icon of the Year by Global Peace Foundation International (2021), etc.
That former President Muhammadu Buhari singled OBA out for special presidential recognition and went ahead to seal-stamp that gratitude with the conferment of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) further spoke volumes. OBA’s strategic relevance and influence were such that when once he had spoken on any matter of critical sub-regional concerns, no other senator from Akwa Ibom State had no option than to concur, because OBA was seen as a senator representing the entire State.
As history has shown, to many senators, the imprints of their initiatives and empowerment programmes either died before or soon after they have left office. But OBA’s models endureth with residual impacts. It must be emphasized that the above were no detailed itemization of OBA’s attainments as a senator but a mere glimpse of high point samples of his cumulative performance that now stands as a standard for successors.
Hence, in the klieg lights of OBA’s towering record, the new crop of senators are like tourists standing at the base of Kilimanjaro Mountain, gazing curiously and frightfully at the smoking heights where Obong Bassey Albert has hoisted a tall flag, wondering how he got there to have his name written in gold on Nigeria’s big map of leadership. They are overawed and overshadowed by the tall legacy bequeathed by OBA, arguably the most outstanding senator Akwa Ibom State ever produced in the past two decades.
Judged by the recruitment pattern of the 2023 senatorial district election in Akwa Ibom State, the personality and credentials of senators in the current dispensation, it is most unlikely that any of them shall have the competitive capacity to come as close as halfway to OBA’s record in the National Assembly.
Although time has a lot to prove, some I’ve spoken to are of the elastic opinion that A’Ibom’s season of downward curve may have begun!