By DAN AMOR
There are politicians and there are politicians. Chief Alex Egbona who clocks 57 today, October 15, 2021, is a politician of note. A veteran of many political battles, Egbona has come a long way. A man of immense vitality and nobility of outlook, he started politics from the grassroots as councillor in Abi Local Government Area of Cross River State and rose through the rungs to be one of the notable politicians in the state and in the country at large. But the people are the central point of his political philosophy. In an exclusive but explosive interview published on page 34 of Sunday Sun of June 9, 2019, Hon. Alex Egbona, former Chief of Staff to the former Governor of Cross River State and member representing Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, outlined the fundamental underpinnings of the whole corpus of his contract with his constituents.
Debonair, soft-spoken and brilliant, Egbona who is accommodating and does not wallow in the arcane politics of bitterness, agonizingly lamented the unnerving weight of insecurity and poverty in his constituency occasioned by the lingering internecine crises between some communities in Abi/Yakurr in Cross River State and their neighbours in Ebonyi State. Aware of the indisputable fact that in the absence of peace and tranquillity, development is often found in the dividing line between savagery and barbarism, Egbona had declared that his major priority was to provide a lasting solution to the Cross River, Ebonyi communal rifts. About three years down the road, peace and tranquillity have returned to his domain of Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency.
Asked what he would like to address immediately in the House, Egbona quipped: “One of the first issues I would like to address is the lingering feud between some communities in Ebonyi State and Adadama Community in Cross River State. Many people have been killed as a result of the face-off. Others had fled their homes. In the last few weeks, I have engaged my colleagues from Ebonyi State who are from the neighbouring villages and we are working out peace strategies. In the House, we will take these peace processes higher. The earlier we can get the people to live in peace, the better for the two states. This issue is really disturbing to me. I will do whatever I can within my powers to make sure that the rifts come to an end. There is nothing bigger and better than peace. Even if we make all the good laws on earth, and do all the empowerment schemes we can do for our people, if they are not at peace with each other, we have achieved nothing.”
Given Egbona’s composite mien as a humanist and grassroots politician who is passionate about the upliftment of his people, it is indeed a new dawn for the people of Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency. Over the years, concerned indigenes of Abi/Yakurr, people of the semi-Bantu stock of Cross River State who constitute a variant of the Ekoi tribe on the South Eastern Belt of the Bight of Biafra or the Niger Delta, have been lamenting with a heavy heart, the state of their largely agrarian area. They have been trying to articulate possible solutions to the pains, hunger, thirst, dislocation, deprivation, suppression, oppression, depression and death, that dot their landscape in spite of the abundant opportunities and privileges which abound in Nigeria. With an intimidating numerical strength – more than two-thirds of the entire population of the entire Cross River Central- the people of Abi/Yakurr are supposed to call the shots in all electoral matters in the state. Yet, unfortunately, due to lack of adequate representation in government, especially at the national level, the life of the average Abi/Yakurr person is that of diminished and marginalized existence in political, economic and social spheres.
Indeed, before the emergence of Dr. Alex Egbona at the National Assembly, the condition of Abi/Yakurr people was getting worse because they had nobody to intervene for them. This collective failure of the people to produce visionary leaders who would speak for them at the national political arena had spelt doom for them. Politicians often explored their numerical strength, exploited their votes with mere tokens of gift items and then left them panting like a fish on a dry sandy beach. Repeatedly disappointed by extravagant promises and unfulfilled expectations, the people had become cynical about government and the public morality of its agencies and agents. Despite their huge agricultural potentials, the people of Abi/Yakurr remain mere epitome of the proverbial saying that “in the midst of water, soap enters into the eyes of the ignorant.” Agriculture which is the mainstay of the people’s economic life has drifted into oblivion due to lack of financial support to go beyond subsistence endeavours made worse by a plethora of inter-communal wars.
About 61 years into self rule in Nigeria, and 22 years into the current democratic dispensation, the people of Abi/Yakurr were yet to enjoy the benefits of modern development or the dividends of democracy until Dr Egbona came on board. As a result of the absence of sincere, honest and proper representations in the scheme of things in Nigeria, the people of Abi/Yakurr were always left with the wrong end of the stick. Consequently, a fundamental element of distrust had embedded itself in the psyche of the people like a cankerworm. Specifically, since the dawn of the New Democratic dispensation in May 1999, the people could not collectively gather enough momentum through pre-emptive initiatives to appropriate to themselves the requisite benefit of the new era especially at the federal level. It would be recalled that in 2009, there was a devastating windstorm that ravaged some Abi/Yakurr communities like a tsunami which rendered thousands of residents homeless as rooftops and even some whole buildings and crops were uprooted.
At the same time, a similar holocaust visited Esan East Federal Constituency in Edo State. Whereas Hon. Barr. Patrick Ikhariale, the elected Rep for that constituency in the lower chamber of the National Assembly at the time, tabled the matter on the floor of the House as a matter of urgent national importance, the fellow who represented Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency, Hon. Bassey Ewah, was in limbo. Relief materials running into hundreds of millions of naira were mobilized to Esan East Federal Constituency by the Federal Government while those communities affected in Abi/Yakurr only got relief materials from the Cross River State Government and Dr. Alex Egbona who was then Chief of Staff in the Governor’s Office. It was as bad as that. This is because the Abi/Yakurr people had continued to recycle the old brigade of self-serving politicians, who buy their ways to the centre, collect what belongs to the people and use it to build empires over the painful anxieties of the oppressed people.