By KufreAbasi Essien
Recently, Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel forwarded the names of 20 persons to the State House of Assembly for appointment as Commissioners and Special Advisers. Paul Udofia, Ime Ekpo, Nse Essien, Eno Ikpe, Idorenyin Udo, Mr. Linus Nkan, Uduak Udoinyang, Charles Udo, Orman Esin, Iniobong Essien, Dominic Ukpong, Uwemedimo Nwoko, Victor Antai, Monday Uko, Glory Edet, Udo Ekpenyong, Akan Okon, and Ephraim Inyang made the list as nominees for position of commissioners; while Ekong Sampson and Ekemini Umoh were nominated for appointment as Special Advisers to His Excellency.
The 20-man list which has been referred by the Speaker Hon Onofiok Luke to the House Committee on Judiciary, Justice, Human Rights and Public Petitions, for further legislative action shows that 9 of the nominees were part of the immediate past State Executive Council dissolved by the governor on October 15, 2016, and expectedly, this has drawn numerous reactions from the public.
But this is not the time to criticize the list of nominees sent in for screening by the governor. What we should rather concentrate on is the process that the nominees will pass through in order to emerge substantive commissioners. This therefore calls for a focused attention on the screening process that shall be initiated and sustained by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.
Again, this brings the focus to the leadership of the State House of Assembly, the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, who recently, has been criticized by some commentators, for reasons best known to them, as being too loyal to the governor. This already has put the Akwa Ibom people in a frame of mind which the House of Assembly must do all that she can, within her powers, to restore the trust and confidence of the people of Akwa Ibom people in her ability to carry out a thorough and unbiased screening of the nominees sent in by His Excellency. A hasty endorsement of the list of nominees accompanied by a chorus of the ‘take a bow’ symphony will only reinforce the sketchy doubts and fears in the minds of critics of the House and her posturing of compromising loyalty to the executive arm of government.
Apparently, the task before the House now is for her to demonstrate her independence by the way she will handle the screening of the nominees. Will the Akwa Ibom State House of assembly fail this test? Will the speaker’s perceived demonstration of loyalty to the governor translate into mortgaging the independence of the legislative arm of government in the state? My fear, just like that of many well-meaning sons and daughters of Akwa Ibom State is that, if the State House of Assembly fails at helping the governor select the best hands to work with him as members of the executive council, then the state will suffer stagnation arising from a paralyzed execution of the governor’s dream of building a new Akwa Ibom which seeks to create a mark through the much touted path of industrialization and the Dakkada philosophy.
The extent to which the quality of Commissioners and Special Advisers to the governor can affect the performance of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration is vast. This dictates that the screening exercise should be taken as an exercise that can make or mar the progress of our dear state. The job and process of selection should therefore engage some parameters which, when placed in public domain, will reflect a State House of Assembly that actually did her work in providing the necessary checks and balances in governance of the state. The public also has the responsibility of building opinions that could help the lawmakers to capture the public mood, with a view to asking educated questions and taking informed decisions that are free from bias and politically skewed perspectives. This piece will attempt to mention few of these personal opinions.
Those to be appointed commissioners must be known to be people of integrity. This is especially so when the campaign against corruption is taking centre-stage in the country. After all, no Akwa Ibom person would love to be embarrassed by the discovery of a serving commissioner whose integrity (especially financial integrity) is religiously punctured by the law enforcement agencies. Besides this, the present economy of the state does not need the services of men of questionable integrity as such will be inimical to our image and resources.
Naturally, the search for commissioners should involve a diagnostic survey of the antecedent of the nominees. There should be a forensic examination of their past to check for any case of fraud, misrepresentation or incompetence.
Also, the expertise and experience of the nominees must not be ignored. Their possessions of the necessary skills and abilities that can be deployed to solve the numerous challenges facing the state should be verified and shown to be demonstrated or to have been demonstrated by the nominees.
These checks can be comfortably factored into directed questions that could be framed and marshaled out by the lawmakers during the screening process, succeeding some necessary background checks on the nominees.
But the question remains: shall the lawmakers be bold enough to nullify any nomination that falls short of expectations? Or shall they chorus, “Take a bow?”