Unyime Idem: Breaking A-20year Jinx of Representation
By Nsikak Ekanem
When, on March 3, 2020, Representative Unyime Idem moved a “motion of urgent public importance” on the need for emergency national attention to tackle the conoravirus epidemic currently ravaging humans across the world, his fellow constituents in Akwa Ibom took to the social media for celebration. They were not celebrating because what proceeded from the mouth of Mr. Idem has the potency of nailing the killer-disease to death.
They were celebrating on account of considering that the people of Ukanafun/Oruk-Anam, through their representative, had made a stentorian statement worthy of record when the annals of who did what and how in Nigeria to fight the disease, which has been renamed Covid-19 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is documented. Their joy, which was still dominating social discussion on the topical issue of the disease, especially among the youths, in the constituency, as at the time of writing this piece has been more of celebration of paradigm shift in the representative of the rural community.
Mr Idem, who had a flourishing business career in the South-South region of Nigeria before venturing into full time politics, is the first representative of Ukanafun/Oruk Anam since 1999 to have made his voice heard on deliberations in the lower chamber of the National Assembly. Before assuming duties in the House of Representatives, the constituency, which has, since the return to democracy, had four representatives before him was wallowing in parliamentary obscurity.
In an article in Daily Newswatch issue of July 29, 2013 I had analyzed the first three representatives of moving on a downward curve of bad, worse, worst or best, better, good. Idem’s immediate predecessor, for want of words, was worsening the worst. His Goliath-sized physique was nowhere to be seen even by those who dutifully set their eyes on television, particularly on parliamentary issues. The worst of all, he lost connection with the grassroots, which he vigorously serviced before becoming a national lawmaker in 2011.
The only time before now that the constituency’s voice was heard was in the second republic, when the same area was divided into two federal constituencies with one represented by Mr Akaninyene Ukpanah, who later became a senator in the Ibrahim Babangida-midwifed ill-fated third republic. In his autobiography, From Election To Election: the chronicle of a career, the late Ukpanah stated that he was “unable to contribute to debates within the first eight weeks of commencement” because he “did not catch the speaker’s eyes”.
The situation of the constituency between 1999 and 2019 was not offering a true reflection of an area parading stunning array of persons that have had national, if not continental, recognition: the Don Etiebets, the Ray Ekpus, the Regina Askia, among other highflyers. It shows how politics in our clime, even in democracy, present persons of below Good-grade to represent the good people.
Even when Emmanuel Ukoette was worsening the worst his party, the PDP, rewarded him with a second term in 2015 and the worst kept fling. He only attracted headlines when, in his naivity, he defected from the party that elected him to APC.
True to presumptuous postulation by the party faithful, PDP is a religion in Akwa Ibom. Since religion inherently entails great deal of dogmatism, questions regarding what’s what and who’s who are often kept in the cooler even when it matters most for use; empirical analyses of issues are always treated as taboos and, therefore, attracts capital punishment of condemnation; rationalisation is thrown to the dogs. Everyone must belief, accept and conform, hook, line and sinker, to the detects of the religion. After all, the public institutions are dysfunctional or perverted in checking excesses of the power brokers, hence the people helplessly become supine.
In 2007 PDP fielded a man that is not quite comfortable with the use of English, the language of communication in the National Assembly, yet he defeated the candidate of the defunct AC, Udo Abraham, a 1983 University of Lagos graduate of law, whose legacies in Ukanafun Local Government Council are still of shining examples more than 25 years after leaving the office of the chairman. One cannot say that PDP in the constituency has not been having persons of worthy requisite desirous of representing the people. It is because, as it is mostly the case in our political parties, especially the win-able ones, the processes of nominating candidates are often fraught with frauds. Idem’s nomination by the PDP was evidentially the beginning of shifting ground for better representation of the constituency.
In less than one year in office, he has sponsored five bills and five motions. The other motions sponsored by the lawmaker, who is also Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Communication, are the need for digital satellite television (DSTV) and other broadcast satellite service providers in Nigeria to run pay as you go (PAYG) tariff; urgent need for the Federal Government to appoint 37 commissioners into Federal Character Commission; the need for Federal Government to renovate a dilapidated road in his constituency; and the need to revamp palm plantation, NIFOR sub station, in Oruk Anam Local Government Area in Akwa Ibom.
The bills are “The free internet access in public places bill 2020; the National Broadcasting Commission Act (amendment) bill 2020; National Community Service Scheme bill 2020; the Entrepreneurship Education bill 2020; and the Small and Medium Scale Entrepreneurship Development Agency Act (amendment) bill 2020. The motion to conquer coronavirus has served as springboard for 10 far-reaching positions, which include, among others, the lawmakers proceeding on break in order to sensitise their constituents on what has since become global pandemic.
While Idem’s celebration in the social media is understood from the standpoint of the breaking of 20-year jinx, the national legislator should guard against allowing the praise singing to get into his head, except he is ready to embark on a trip to spoil his future prospects. He should also be of example in using the coronavirus stay-at-home break to reach out to all nooks and crannies of his constituency on what is currently confronting the global human community. After all, in a representative democracy as ours, talking in the legislative chamber is one and relating robustly with the represented by the representative is another and the most important.