Bassey Ewa represents Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency in Nigeria’s House of Representatives. He was at a time, the Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly. Ewa is seeking to represent Cross River Central Senatorial District in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Greg Betiang recently caught up with Ewa and ceased the opportunity to ask him a few questions for www.calitown.com. Excerpts:
Please introduce yourself:
My name is Bassey Eko Ewa. I am from Ntan in Ekori, Yakurr Local Government Area of Cross River State. Presently, I have the privilege of representing Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency in the Federal House of Representatives.
You seek to represent the Central Senatorial District, CRS, in Nigeria’s Senate. What political competencies do you think better qualify you above all others for this position?
Legislative experience will be my ready answer. You see, I’ve been privileged by the special grace of God Almighty to have been a legislator all of my political life. I have been a member of the Cross River State House of Assembly for eight years where I was first the Majority Leader and later the Speaker of the House. I am currently serving out my third term in the Federal House of Representatives amounting to 12 years by the end of my tenure in 2019. Cumulatively, that will be 20 good years of being a legislator. Whichever way you look at it, I have garnered substantial experience and significant capacity for legislative and related work. You will recall that of the three arms of government, the Legislature has been the most affected by the disruptions of democratic rule by the military. In addition to that, it is the arm of government with the highest turnover of personnel during every election cycle. It is quite unfortunate that many lawmakers are unable to get re-elected back to the Assembly, sometimes due to considerations that are quite parochial. This development has no doubt affected the output of the National Assembly in terms of delivery of its mandate. Stability engenders availability of institutional memory which in turn emplaces coherence and quality of legislative work. In many democracies of the world, notably the US and most European countries, you have lawmakers who have been consistently re-elected by constituents for the reasons earlier enunciated. These people, some of who have spent their entire political lives in the legislature, upwards of 40-50 years, help strengthen that institution, which is actually the bastion of democratic governance. In the present political circumstances, Cross River Central requires someone who will not be a stranger to the complex internal workings of the National Assembly. We need someone who will hit the ground running because he/she will not need to learn the ropes from scratch. My stay in the National Assembly has afforded me a huge contact network that can be readily utilized for the betterment of our people. These are the major considerations driving my aspiration to be senator representing CRS Central in the NASS.
You have over the years become like a re-occuring political decimal; how have you managed to achieve this feat?
I will ascribe that to the grace of God upon my life. It is not of man but of Him who determines the destinies of men.
In all of the years you have spent in politics so far, what learnt lessons can you share with us? Are there some very memorable things you have and want to share with young politicians?
My biggest lesson has been that of patience and tolerance. My brother, I will not pretend that it has been all rosy. There have been moments of challenges, as much as there have been moments of great joy. There are several lessons and memories that I’ll rather reserve for my Memoirs which I hope to publish at the opportune time.
Let us have your thoughts on the lingering Old Ikom/Old Obubra, for and against argument centred around the central senatorial seat.
In politics, especially in Nigeria, zoning has come to define a lot of things. Of course there are pros and cons to zoning. For example, proponents of zoning will argue that it breeds equity and fairness. The antagonists of zoning always warn about the dangers of enthroning mediocrity and incompetence. Both sides have their valid positions. However, regarding the Senate seat of Central CRS, it is true that there is a raging debate along the lines of Old Obubra and Old Ikom. The people of Old Obubra, which incidentally is my geopolitical bloc, are arguing that since the advent of the Fourth Republic from 1999, the senate seat has been in Old Ikom which is made up of Ikom, Boki and Etung. From 1999-2003, we had Senator Matthew Mbu Jnr from Boki, between 2003-2015, there was Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba and from 2015-2019 we currently have Senator John Owan Enoh. This will be 20 uninterrupted years by 2019. For the sake of equity and fairness, it is only fair and just that the next senator for CRS Central should come from any of Obubra, Yakurr or Abi LGAs which form Old Obubra. On the other hand, the Old Ikom people also have their narratives to press their case. Some have argued along the lines of Federal Constituencies while some have argued that zoning should be jettisoned altogether because it has not, in their opinion, been a deciding factor ab initio. Nonetheless, my aspiration is not anchored primarily on the Old Obubra/Old Ikom debate. It is anchored more on my value proposition of providing experienced, purposeful, result-oriented and accountable representation for the people of Cross River Central Senatorial District.
In your critical needs assessment of CR Central Senatorial District, what political leadership should aspirants to the Senate like you provide?
Pretty simple, open and transparent leadership that inspires confidence in the followership. This can only be achieved if we elevate experience and accountability to the front burner of the selection criteria.
If the intricate processes of your party, the PDP, do throw you up as her senatorial candidate, what sectors in the district will you primarily focus on.
My focus will be infrastructural and human capital development. In my interaction with the constituents, I will make elaborations that are bare faced and easy to relate to.
How do you respond to talk around that you have enjoyed political patronage for so long and that you should step aside and give others a chance too?
Talk, as you know, is cheap. I can only say that my staying power has been testament to the fact that the people, who I represent, are convinced that I have done well enough to merit their continuous support. Political power resides with the electorate and they give freely to whoever they chose. Don’t forget that all the political offices I have occupied have been elective and not appointive. So in a sense, yes, I have enjoyed the patronage of the electorate. I remain grateful to God and the people for the privilege I enjoy to serve them. Don’t also forget that I have not remained in one position for all these years as my detractors are wont to portray. I have progressed from the House of Assembly (representing Yakurr 1 constituency) to the House of Representatives (for Abi/Yakurr constituency). I am not seeking to return to the House of Representatives. I am aspiring to progress to the Senate (covering six LGAs of Abi, Yakurr, Obubra, Ikom, Etung and Boki).
Critically appraise for us your years in the National Assembly and what your people stand to benefit if you go to the Senate.
My years of representing my people have yielded significant dividends. Let me first clarify that a legislator’s job is primarily to make laws and carry out oversight functions over the Executive. One of the most important laws is the Appropriation Act or more commonly, the budget. It is where the resources are tied to specific projects, programmes and other initiatives of Government. So, beyond lawmaking and oversight functions, a legislator may also be able to facilitate and/or intervene on behalf of his constituents for such government projects and programmes to be sited in his constituency. To this end, from my days in the House of Assembly to now, I have either facilitated from Government or personally sponsored several of such projects and programmes to be done for my people. The list is quite extensive and for lack of space, I’ll mention some here for the records. While in the CRS House of Assembly, I was able to ensure that Ugep was included in the Urban Renewal Programme, which then was initially limited to Calabar, Ikom and Ogoja. Thus my intervention led to the Ugep Urban Upgrade Project which brought about the modern road network that we currently have in Ugep today. During that period I was also instrumental to securing Government’s involvement in the prestigious Leboku Festival with the attendant repackaging and promotion of it as an international cultural festival. I also embarked on an educational assistance programme where I have given out scholarships, paid for WAEC/NECO/GCE and JAMB registration for more than 1,000 students spread across the 13 political wards of Yakurr LGA.
In the past 17 years, I have sponsored an annual medical outreach programme where a team of doctors and nurses, at my instance, have been carrying out minor surgeries on patients with appendicitis, hernia, eye problems etc. Approximately 10,000 persons have benefitted from this initiative of mine. My intervention in the provision of infrastructure and basic amenities in my constituency have yielded humongous results. Example of just a few of such projects include a combined 15km of roads, located in Mkpani, and Ekori (both in Yakurr) which are on-going; Ediba and Ebom (both in Abi) which have recently been awarded. I have also facilitated numerous motorized and solar powered boreholes with overhead tanks (water supply) projects in Ikpakapit (Ugep), Ekori, Mkpani, Nko, Agoi Ibami, Agoi Ekpo, Inyima, Assiga, Idomi, Imabana, Adadama, Ekureku, Itigidi, Ediba and Usumutong.
I also sponsored the equipping of the Ijiman Health Centre in Ugep as well as facilitated the construction of 3 and 6 classroom blocks in Secondary School, Idomi; Comprehensive Secondary School, Ekori; Model Secondary School, Ntan; Eko Inika Technical School; Primary School, Ekori Beach; Primary School 2, Ediba; Primary Schools in Adadama, Usumutong and Ekureku.
In terms of improving electricity supply, I have been able to cause the provision of transformers to Ediba, Ekureku, Imabana, Itigidi, Mkpani, Ekori, Idomi, Agoi etc. I also built and equipped an ICT centre in Ekori.
In addition to all of the above, I have embarked on several business development and empowerment programmes which involved skill acquisition training, provision of cash assistance to aid business start up, provision of cars, tricycles (keke NAPEP), motorcycles, cassava and beans grinding machines, hair dressing and barbing equipment, etc. Infact currently, all the 23 ward chairmen of my party, the PDP in both Yakurr and Abi LGAs own motorcycles to aid their movement, courtesy of me.
I am convinced that I have done reasonably well to discharge the expectations of my constituents. However, as a self-critic, I believe that I could have done more and will definitely do more to impact on the lives of my people. Like I earlier mentioned, if I get the mandate of the people of central CRS to represent them in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I want them to know that they would have increased my capacity to not only extend my modest achievements to the other LGAs in Central CRS but also improve on what I have already done.
Talk directly to the electorate in the Central Senatorial District, convince them that a vote for you is not an exercise in futility.
My dear people of Central Senatorial District of Cross River State, especially those of the PDP leaning, the political dynamics are changing right before us. Take a moment to ponder over the position of Central in the scheme of things currently. Central has occupied a very strategic position in the political equation of CRS from the beginning. However that position is seriously threatened by an interplay of factors, including the growing strength of the APC, which any reasonable politician must acknowledge, amongst other factors. We cannot therefore afford to make any mistake in our selection of a senatorial candidate, more so because, suddenly, the position of the senator representing Central CRS has assumed a much wider significance for obvious reasons. I therefore solemnly enjoin you to give me your support. Such support for me is a guarantee for the progress and development of Central CRS. I have the experience, capacity and know-how to navigate the intricacies of the NASS for the betterment of Central Cross River. I am convinced that I also possess the political network and capacity to lead the party in Central to electoral victory as your senatorial candidate. We cannot afford to gamble on this. The political threat is real. The developmental challenges are real. Please let’s join hands to put our best foot forward. I am that foot.
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