Any Lawmaker who doesn’t hold Constituency Briefing is a bad Lawmaker – AKHA Member, Usoro Akpanusoh
(AKHA Member, Usoro Akpanusoh)
Hon. Usoro Akpanusoh is the Member representing Esit Eket/Ibeno state constituency in the sixth Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, and doubles as the Chairman, House Committee on Finance and Appropriation. He recently marked his 45th Birthday which was celebrated with a thanksgiving service at the Christ Embassy Church, Eket and a Constituency Briefing/Interaction at his Constituency office, in Uquo, Esit Eket local government area. In this interview with the Publisher/Editor-in-chief of RADAR newspaper, Otuekong Franklyn ISONG, the soft-spoken lawmaker bared his mind on a number of issues.
People are giving many names to what you did on Sunday during your 45th Birthday celebration in Esit Eket, would you shed more lights on what you did?
What I did on Sunday was my second constituency briefing and if you look at it, it is like two quarters, since I was sworn-in as a member of House of Assembly.
The first one was when the tenure of local government council officials ended, which I called the people of my constituency to ask them if there was need to extend the tenure of the then local government officials or whether there was need for us to form transition committees in local government areas across the state.
The people of Esit Eket/Ibeno state constituency said there was no need to keep the former local government chairmen since their tenure had expired. Or if the governor was not ready to conduct election, there should be an amendment to the present Local Government Law. So, that is exactly what I said on the floor of the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly, when the issue of Transition Committee came up. I said that my people have asked me to oppose the tenure elongation and propose an amendment to the law to bring in Transition Committee members. That was the first constituency briefing and other issues were also discussed.
This is the second constituency briefing, because I thought at 45 and as people’s representative, it would have been easy for me to come and buy drinks and enjoy with my friends in Uyo but, I felt that I should go to church to thank God, and after the church service, I went to my village to do the reception, and I used that as my constituency briefing too.
It is different from an empowerment; I did mention during the interaction that I was going to do an empowerment programme in my one-year-in-office. We are getting set for training programme for women, youths and elders. So this is different from empowerment programme. It is a constituency interactive programme; to interact with my constituents and to allow them to ask me questions as regards what they feel that I should do as their representative.
During the interactive session, a whole lot about my representation were unfolded to the Esit Eket and Ibeno people. Such programmes were the things, I have done in the House of Assembly, for example, we had fire incident at Mkpok, Iwochang and Ibeno, which I moved a motion that government should send relief materials to the affected people, and government responded within two days. The resolution and information were also sent to National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in Abuja.
So a whole lot of things concerning my activities as the Chairman of Appropriation Committee in the House of Assembly and the projects that I was able to influence into the 2016 budget for my people. We have done a lot with the help of the wife of the governor, assisted the orphanage and assisted multiple-birth mothers. We empower women through micro-finance. We assisted over 20 students in paying their school fees.
During my birthday thanksgiving, my colleagues came and joined me in the church. After the church, they left, because it was not a House of Assembly issue; it was me and my constituents.
How do you cope, having two local government areas in one-state constituency, while most of your colleagues have one-local government in their constituencies?
In fact, that is one of the issues that were brought before me as a question during the constituency briefing. The entire people of Esit Eket and Ibeno are agitating for a separate state constituency for each Local Government area and we have agreed to pursue it. When INEC revisits constituency delineation, we are going to put our own case before it and, we believe that we will succeed.
But, how I manage the two local government areas as one state constituency is complete wisdom, because, I look at them as one local government without any bias against one or the other.
If I have two things, I give one to Ibeno and the other to Esit Eket. So, I try to balance the dividends of representation and I have been doing that.
However, we have been trying to ask the leadership of the House of Assembly and His Excellency, the Governor, to consider some of us that have two local government areas as one state constituency, because the same salary that those who have one local government as a constituency, is the same salary that, I take and even, in the allowances and impress are the same thing that we take. So, I try to appeal to the government to consider us.
So far, we’ve tried our best. One thing, I tried to tell my constituents is that their expectation from government should not be too high, in view of the present dwindling economy of the country, which has, also affected the economy of the state. The economy is not very friendly and we need to pray that we get out of this soon. That is what I have been trying to explain to my people. For example, if they had expected ten, and I can give them five, it is based on the present economic situation in the country.
People have to be conscious of this, because of the present situation; people believe that the same money the previous government used to collect from federal allocation is what the present government is collecting, which is not true. Rather government is trying to put in place a mechanism that will try to increase its internally generated revenue in order to attend to the needs of the people of the state.
It appears, currently, you are one of the state lawmakers or call it, a serving public office holder that reside in the village with their people. What informed your decision?
Yeah! One personal philosophy, I have is, it is better to stay and live with the people than stay and live outside of the people. When you stay with the people, an outsider will find it very difficult to stand you out.
But when you single yourself out from them and only return to seek their votes and support during political parties’ primaries and elections, they will reject you and vote against you. I have been in the village before, I even, became a House of Assembly member through their votes, and I am used to the character of my people and their behaviours. So, it is more fulfiling to live amongst your constituents. Sometimes, their problems are not really much; sometimes, it is small assistance to do one or two things; sometimes, not even the money, but for you to be there and advise them on how they can live their lives if they have serious problems.
I stayed with them before election and I promised them that I will continue to stay with them after the election.That is why, if I have any function in this state, I will not do it in Uyo, but I will take it to my village. So it is not difficult for me as a person to cope being a lawmaker and living with my people.
Even after my tenure, I will still stay in my own community; I feel safer and secured staying with them, because in the night, I have more than 300 boys staying in my compound, even till about 3am. So I feel protected. We don’t have to abandon our people in our villages for the sake of politics only for you to go back to them when you want to contest election, they will reject you. It is not good to be disconnected from the people, at all, as a politician. The duty of politicians is to see their own people eating and dinning with them; sharing ideas and I came into politics to stay, I don’t want to go out of politics. That is why, I like to stay with my people.
What is your advice to your colleagues who do not hold constituency briefings?
My advice is that for you to stay in politics, you should always give back to the people. Don’t go to the people when you want to contest party primaries. Don’t go to the people when you want favour from them. But, always set aside a specific time for you to go and brief your constituents on what has been your effort on the effective representation you promised to offer them. There will be a lot of pressures, but you have to also define a tactics of resolving these pressures, because any politician who does not relate well with his people is not a good politician.