By Missang Oyama
BEHIND THE BACKDOOR WITHDRAWAL OF CHIEF (BARR) OKOI OBONO – OBLA’S CONFIRMATION AS NON-EXECUTIVE COMMISSIONER ON THE NCC BOARD.
We have read with utter dismay the barrage of blatant falsehood, pathological lies, unfounded rumors and shameless propaganda being peddled against the person of distinguished Senator John Owan Enoh in the social media, other online news portals and the mainstream media. The narrative which is laced with innuendos and innumerable tissues of lies is centered on the baseless allegations that the Senator masterminded the eventual non-confirmation of Chief Okoi Obono-Obla by the Senate as a nominee of Mr. President on the board of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as a Non-Executive Commissioner to represent the South-South geo-political zone. Such puerile and infantile commentary on this matter should naturally not warrant any serious attention.
However, we feel obliged to volunteer this response not necessarily to give credence and undue relevance to the cheap and mindless blackmail against distinguished Senator John Owan Enoh but to put the facts straight. We are also minded by the Senator’s indebtedness to history and posterity, the burgeoning followership he enjoys across the length and breadth of our Senatorial District, the sacred mandate he holds in trust for the people and the concern of his friends and associates. To that extent, we are offering this disclaimer by laying the cards bare before the court of public opinion.
We believe that the ongoing misrepresentation and the tantrums being targeted at the distinguished Senator are borne out of sheer mischief and a desire to satisfy a predetermined position that he was not in support of the elevation of Chief Obono-Obla. This position is as needless as it is reckless. In the first instance, Okoi Obono-Obla and John Owan Enoh have a smooth relationship. As Chief (Barr) Utum Eteng rightly noted, Senator John Owan Enoh has visited Chief Obono-Obla’s office a couple of times and their discussions are always centered on the development of Central Senatorial District of Cross River State.
Senator John Owan Enoh has always supported all political appointees from the Central Senatorial District and the entire State during screening at the Senate. Certainly, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla’s case as a brother and friend shouldn’t be an exception for any conceivable reason in the world. He had promised to support Chief Obono-Obla and he lived up to his billing. It is on record that Chief Obono-Obla was screened and recommended by the Senate Committee on Communication. There is no gainsaying the fact that Senator John Owan Enoh worked with his colleagues to get Chief Okoi Obono-Obla recommended by the committee. The Senator had chosen to keep whatever he did in favor of the Chief quietly under wraps; he never thought there was any need to drum it into the ears of anyone.
At this point, it is imperative to make some clarifications with respect to the screening, clearance and subsequent confirmation of political appointees by the Senate as nominated by Mr. President. This is because the faceless proponents of these wholesale lies being fed to unsuspecting members of the public have brazenly displayed crass ignorance and extreme naivety on the workings and procedures of the Senate with regards to the matter under consideration. Let it be known that the screening of chairmen and members of boards, agencies and other parastatals of government is first committed to the relevant committees with oversight functions. Thereafter, a report is made by the relevant committee with recommendations after screening the nominees and laid before the committee of the whole which is the entire Senate at plenary. It should be noted that the Senate under its rules is not bound by the recommendations of its standing committees.
The Senate would thereafter confirm the nominees as recommended by its standing committees relevant to the said nominees at plenary through an open democratic process of voting which could either be voice votes or lifting of hands. It is after this, that a nominee is said to have been confirmed or not. Meanwhile the votes and proceedings of that particular day’s seating would have to be approved by Senate at plenary in its next seating day. It is at this final approval that a nominee’s confirmation is said to have been secured or not.
That said; let’s get back to the substantive issue for consideration here. After Chief Okoi Obono-Obla had scaled through the initial stage at the Senate Committee on Communication, his name with his other colleagues nominees were forwarded to the Senate at plenary and the matter came up for consideration on Thursday 17th November, 2016. Prior to this date, Senator John Owan Enoh had left Abuja for a weeklong of activities back home. That week coincided with two major events for the distinguished Senator.
It should be recalled that on Saturday 4th June, 2016, when he turned 50, Senator Owan Enoh launched his foundation-The John Owan Enoh Foundation for Diabetes with a clear vision to tackle the menace of this silent but deadly killer in the Central Senatorial District of Cross River State. Incidentally, 14th November was World Diabetes Day as taken by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). For the foundation, this was the first major event since it was launched and the Senator thought it wise to participate fully. So, on Monday 14th November, Senator John Owan Enoh took part in the street walk in both Etung and around Ikom Urban to create awareness and enlighten the people about the scourge of diabetes. Note that this program had been planned some months away and it was quite successful with seminars and talk shows in the mix. We should add that this event was replicated in the head quarters of the other four Local Government Areas in the Senatorial District.
The second major event for that week was the burial rites of his father in-law. Senator John Owan Enoh had lost his father in-law earlier in October, 2016. The funeral was slated to run from Thursday 17th to Sunday 20th November, 2016 in Ajassor, Etung Local Government Area. It was only thoughtful for the distinguished Senator to stay back as preparations were in top gear for the funeral after the World Diabetes Day activities. Please remember that the Senate Committee on Communication Report on the screening of the nominees to the Board of NCC came up for consideration on Thursday 17th November, 2016 while the Senator was away. It is important to note that the Senator was unaware that this report was going to be considered while he was away.
The Senator resumed full legislative work on Tuesday 22nd November, 2016 unsuspecting of any move that was targeted against Chief Obono-Obla’s supposed confirmation while approving the votes and proceedings. The distinguished Senator went to the chambers after a brief meeting with committee staff not knowing what transpired before the votes and proceedings were approved. It was only while getting into the chambers the next day, Wednesday 23rd November, 2016, the distinguished got a call from Chief Okoi Obono-Obla but could not take it immediately because he was already stepping into the chambers for plenary.
It was while at the plenary on the said day (23rd November, 2016) that the attention of Senator Owan Enoh was called to a certain corrigendum made on Tuesday 22nd November regarding the votes and proceedings of Thursday 17th November. Swiftly the distinguished Senator moved to confer with the Senate Committee Chairman on Business and Rules who was said to have moved for the corrigendum to the effect that the Senate President had ruled wrongly in favor of Chief Okoi Obono-Obla’s confirmation at the previous seating (Thursday 17th November). Not satisfied with the explanation he got, the distinguished Senator preferred to await the adjournment of the Senate plenary before contacting the Senate leadership on the matter.
Again, be reminded as earlier stated that Chief Okoi Obono-Obla had called while the Senator was walking into the chambers for plenary. Senator Owan Enoh had to return Chief Obla’s call while waiting to meet with the Senate Leadership on the matter. It was from the call he discovered that the reason the Chief called earlier has to do with the matter of his non- confirmation by the Senate. Invariably Chief had known this ahead of the distinguished Senator. In any case, the distinguished Senator had a cordial discussion with the Chief. However, less than 30mins after their conversation, the Senator received a text message from his liaison officer in Ugep, Mr Iwara Augustine Omini (aka Hydro) to the effect that Chief Okoi Obla had called him alleging that the distinguished Senator was behind his non-confirmation by the Senate. This was followed soon afterwards by a forwarded text message from Chief Obla to the same liaison officer in Ugep to the effect that there was a conspiracy against him (Chief Obla) and the liaison officer didn’t alert him. The message alluded to the assistance Chief Okoi Obono-Obla had rendered to Mr. Iwara Augustine Omini in the past and concluded with, “Thank you for everything”. In the same vein, the Senator received phone calls from some quarters with reports of his alleged conspiracy against the confirmation of Chief Okoi Obono-Obla by the Senate. Such damning and grave accusations cannot serve as morale booster in any situation.
The fundamental questions the Senator finds extremely galling are: (1) why should he conspire against someone he supported through the Committee stage? (2.) What would be the basis for such conspiracy against a brother and friend? (3.) What would warrant a conspiracy against someone he had sought to work with across party lines for the good of our people? Senator John Owan Enoh in his political career as a parliamentarian has shown great capacity and dexterity in bi-partisan alliance in governance after elections are over. He has a rich history of broad mindedness and has often displayed a progressive brand of politics with an all-inclusive disposition.
It is on record that under the representation of Senator John Owan Enoh, all our sons and daughters in the Central Senatorial District and across the State who had gone through the process of screening at the Senate have been successful. In some instances, the distinguished Senator would have to visit some of these nominees privately to pledge his support for their nomination and confirmation at the Senate. You would recall that under his representation, we’ve had the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief of Naval Staff, a career diplomat and the current Nigerian High Commissioner to Malaysia (Ambassador Jane Odeka) and recently, the NDDC Chairman; all of them from the Central Senatorial District of Cross River State confirmed by the Senate.
Even when there was pressure on him to sponsor a prepared petition on the floor of the Senate against the ministerial nomination of the current Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, the distinguished Senator refused to be used for such mischief. Appreciating that the ministerial nominee was from the same Senatorial District with him, the distinguished Senator’s logic was that since he lacks the power to appoint, therefore he must do nothing to subtract from what comes to his Senatorial District. This same conviction he has applied to the nomination and confirmation of Chief Obono-Obla.
Let it be known that distinguished Senator John Owan Enoh is set out to give the people of the Central Senatorial District of Cross River State, a responsible and responsive representation at the upper legislative chamber. Barely one year and six months into his representation at the Senate, the Senator has bagged five bills in his kitty at various levels of legislative attention. Only recently, his Bills on e-Payment Management in Nigeria and the Foreign Exchange, Control and Monitoring (2015) scaled through second reading on the floor of the Senate.
On Sunday 4th December, 2016, the Senator will be taking his robust educational support program to an unprecedented height in the history of the Senatorial District with a whooping 4,020 students at different levels of academic pursuit as beneficiaries. These beneficiaries are collated from the 66 Wards of the 6 Local Government Areas of the Senatorial District with an even distribution. 790 of this number are from Yakurr Local Government Area with 245 of this number coming from the 4 Wards of Ugep, Chief Obono-Obla’s homestead. Therefore, the issue of Chief Obono-Obla’s confirmation has nothing to do with Ugep as it has been mischievously insinuated. As long as Ugep and indeed Yakurr fall within the Central Senatorial District, the distinguished Senator appreciates the sacred duty that he owes. His financial and entrepreneurial empowerment programs for our people are ongoing.
Distinguished Senator John Owan Enoh is not someone who would conspire against the elevation of anyone. Ugep and the entire Yakurr nation like other parts of the Senatorial District are well captured in his development agenda. To this end, we must state unequivocally that distinguished Senator John Owan Enoh never conspired against Chief Okoi Obono-Obla’s confirmation at the Senate and he was not privy to such sinister plot if there was any. The Senator on knowing what had transpired in his absence swiftly swung into action to work out a possible solution to the issue.
In the light of the foregoing therefore, we are asking all our people in the Central Senatorial District in particular, Cross River State by extension and Nigeria in general to disregard the ongoing mudslinging, unconscionable falsehood and outright mischief targeted at the person of distinguished Senator John Owan Enoh. This strenuous attempt to damage his hard earned reputation has failed on arrival. There is no modicum of truth in the current vicious campaign of calumny against the distinguished Senator representing Cross River Central Senatorial District, John Owan Enoh Owan.
Missang Oyama is an Economist and a PR Consultant. Oyama writes from Lagos, Nigeria.