Senator Bassey Albert

By Abasifreke Effiong

On Monday 30th December, 2019, during an end-of-year meeting convened by the Uyo local government council at its secretariat Wellington Bassey way, Obong Bassey Albert better known as OBA, senator representing Akwa Ibom North East senatorial district was quoted to have admitted to being a cultist, a ‘cultist for christ’, while addressing the Christmas event.

OBA said, “they have said that I am too close to the youths. They have said that OBA is a cultist. I am a cultist, for christ.” A number of persons who are directly and indirectly involved with the senator have tried furiously to knock off the import of the statement from public discourse with some rather incoherent logic, despite the fact that the meaning of the statement remains explicit, simple and straightforward.

There is no contention about OBA’s right and freedom of association. But the credence he sought – using “christ” and “closeness to youths” as veils in that his cultism admission was blasphemy and manipulative. OBA’s blasphemous “cultists for christ” balderdash has raised questions which the senator will have to address. Who said that OBA is a cultist? Which youths was OBA referring to? What were the embedded motives of OBA’s statement? Answering these questions within the context of OBA’s statement will be beneficial in ways more than one.

Who are the ‘they’ Senator Albert referred to when he said, “they said, I am a cultist”? The first time cultism-related leadership in relation to the 2023 governorship entered the media space in Akwa Ibom state was at a meeting between the governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel and the clergy – fathers of faith, as they are called – in the state. At that meeting, the governor reportedly appealed to the clergy to support his desire not to handover the state to a cultist by the time he will leave office in 2023. For me, that was a genuine appeal even though the governor cannot excuse himself that he was driven on the crest of a massive cultism-induced support to power in 2019, a position OBA is clinging onto. Governor Udom Emmanuel has invested huge capital in the spiritual uplift of the state; as such would not want the state to lose such capital by entrenching an inglorious reign of cultism. Prior to OBA’s statement, it was only the governor that talked about cultism and public governance in the state. So, was OBA’s comment viewed by many as infantile and irresponsible a subtle and indirect blackmail against the governor who said that he will not handover the state to a cultist?

Why was OBA desperately responding to the governor’s cult/governorship narrative if it is true that “cultism is a religion and everyone who supports a religion is a cultist” as advanced by his supporters? Why is OBA jittery? Could he be suspecting that those who accused him of breeding cultists during the last administration have told the governor that he is a cultist? Is he afraid that the cults he is alleged to have bred may come after him should he lose political relevance? Senator Albert is not alone in the governorship race; there are other respected Akwa Ibom persons including, Senator John Udoedehe, Mr. Udom Inoyo, Engr. Mike Enyong, Mr. Akan Okon, Senator Ita Enang, and Barr. Onofiok Luke. Why has the governor’s blanket statement pinched him alone?

Senator Albert claimed that he was accused of being a cultist because of his closeness to the youths. Which “youths” was he talking about? Was he talking about his closeness to the hundreds of unemployed youths who hang around his house at Shelter Afrique every Christmas? Who is not close to the youths amongst those seeking the governorship? OBA is not popular among responsible youths than Onofiok, Akan, Ita, Mike, John, and Udom. Therefore, his claim that he is close to the youths was superfluous, deceptive and manipulative. Strictly, his motive on this was to manipulate the youths to buy into his profane sentiments, while extracting their endorsement using a very crude and out-of-fashion propaganda.

Good leaders do not seek to manipulate the people they want to lead, they inspire them. In the eternal words of Myles Munroe, on “keys to becoming a leader”, true leaders do not use their capacity to tantalize the sheepish emotions of the people with their words. True leadership is completely opposite to manipulation, it’s about inspiration. OBA’s claim of closeness to the youths was aimed to “tantalize their emotions.”

Also, OBA wanted the youths to think that his governorship ambition is driven by their interest. This is not true. The governorship is his personal quest for power, not for the service of the youths. How many youths have OBA sacrificed his resources and pride to give the kind of opportunity he was given by Senator Godswill Akpabio? Senator Albert was appointed commissioner for finance, Akwa Ibom state at the age of 35 in what was a deliberate capital investment in the youths by the Akpabio administration. Twelve (12) years down the line, OBA has sat as chairman senate committee on gas resources, and currently sits as chairman senate committee on petroleum (upstream). These are very ‘juicy’ committees. How many sustainable jobs and business opportunities has he opened for the youths he desire to be seen as having so much love for through these committees?

It is time for those whom the “gods have cracked their kernel” to give account of the strategic capital investment they have made in the state for the youths, not rice, wrapper, house rent and ‘tokunbo’ car empowerment. Engr. Michael Enyong who has not enjoyed half of the public privileges OBA has enjoyed, has shown record that he has facilitated 55 exotic employment in federal institutions for his constituents. Emmanuel Ekon who chaired a low grade committee in the house of representatives as compared to OBA’s has attracted a whooping N700 million worth state-of-the-art carpentry workshop/equipment to Technical College, Abak. Buying of ‘tokunbo’ cars and rice and lining up ‘youths’, who are defined by ‘brotherhood’, ‘families’ and ‘churches’, (for whatever that means) and distributing it to them, has not conferred on anyone the status of a seer and mouthpiece of the youths. The rice OBA shares is bought from the rice farm of his contemporary, a senator from Kebbi state. One can imagine the number of youths and women who live off the farm and its valu-chain. If OBA were to be genuinely interested in sustainable human capacity development, he would have as a mark of love for the youths attracted investors from his vantage position in the senate to invest in rice production in his local government, Ibiono Ibom which has vast landmass for rice production. He would have been interested in maximizing the enormous agric potential his local government is known for to create employment and a value-chain. People who genuinely love the youths think about lifting them out of poverty, not using their vulnerability to manipulate them to conform with their wishes.

I will not contend with those arguing that OBA is popular. It can also be said that he has far-reaching business interests than any youth his age from Akwa Ibom who rode on the benevolence of the public to stardom. Bassey Albert should be proving his love by publishing the lists of Akwa Ibom youths who are drawing salaries from his investments anywhere in Akwa Ibom state. John Maxwell noted in one of his leadership treaties that, “a successful person finds the right place for himself. But a successful leader finds the right place for others.”

Senator Albert is interested in the governorship. I totally agree with him that ‘no man can stop his destiny’, provided divinity had included what he seeks in the chronicle of his life. In seeking endorsement for his ‘destiny’, Senator Albert should know that as a christian-dominated state, the people also have a destiny to reject his mindless, manipulative and blasphemous profanity. OBA should seek the support of the youths genuinely and courteously, not incite them against the governor and others whom he indirectly accused of calling him a cultist. The motive of his statement at the Uyo christmas get-together was clearly inciteful.

Akwa Ibom state needs a governor who will inspire positive influence. Senator Albert does not trust the peopel who work day and night for him. He said so at the congress of the Nigeria Union of Journalists on 23rd December, 2019 while advising the chairman of the union. At that congress, OBA said, “don’t trust any man; don’t even trust me, because I don’t trust you.” The import of that statement may have been lost on him, but the audience was startled by those words of caution which left a strong query on the character of the man who wishes to become governor.