Thursday, 28 May 2015

A valedictory address by Comrade Ini Ememobong

A valedictory address by Comrade Ini Ememobong

I agree totally with the American poet Henry Longfellow when he said “great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending”. This great journey which commenced on the 1st of July, 2013 must of necessity come to a glorious end on the 29th of May, 2015. At this exit point, it has become instructive that I cause this gathering to hold so that we can give fillip to the Biblical proclamation that, better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof. Only a forum of this nature can offer opportunities for exciting intellectual intercourse, where critical retrospection is juxtaposed with the contemporary, with a view to constructing a desirable future. It is therefore my honour and privilege to very heartily welcome you to this meeting.


For those conversant with history, my appointment was announced by His Excellency, Chief Godswill Akpabio on the 13th of June, 2013 a day after the June 12 crises of university of Uyo; the same day that 5 of my colleagues in NANS lost their lives on their way to Uyo, to contribute   to solving the issues that led to the UniUyo crisis.

What a day to be appointed! The circumstances surrounding my appointment necessitated that I hit the ground running. I couldn’t afford the luxury of making any mistake then, as such could have had very fatal consequences. We had to manage the local situation which we had in our hands, in addition to the external pressures which arose from the death of the five comrades who were on their way to Uyo. Wide consultations had to be made, long and seemingly unending meetings had to be held, the needful had to be done, just in a bid to enthrone peace. To the glory of God, we did not record any follow-up crisis and the University went on to reopen its gates for academic exercises. It was only after we had returned lasting peace to the university that I had the time to settle in to other the demands of my office, which record I will present here under sub headings for the purpose of convenience.

One of the areas which this office has been more effective has been in the area   of critical intervention and relations with other key stakeholders. Numerous issues that threatened to escalate into full-blown confrontation were resolved before they got out of hand. We developed an early warning system that kept us abreast of the temperature of the students in their various local government areas and campuses. Central to the problems at the local government students movement, is the issue of payment of bursaries by local governments. To douse this tension, my office created an opportunity for the leadership of the Local government area to meet with the student leaders- these meetings yielded great fruits and I can boldly mention that many local government areas are beneficiaries of this intervention.

Campuses were not left out of my strategic intervention. At the Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, I led the process of diffusing the building tension fed by the absence of an elected union in that institution for twelve years. A peaceful protest was held by the students and I quickly hurried in to intervene; suggested a transition programme which the management adopted for the enthronement of the first democratically elected students union government for that institution in more than a decade. I am happy that the chief beneficiary of that process is here with us, Comrade Ubokmfon Iwok-the President of the Students Union of that institution.

At the Akwa Ibom State College of Education, students had served management a notice of intention to hold a peaceful protest against the new fee regime which was introduced. The provost sought for my intervention and I quickly responded by initiating negotiations with the student leaders on that campus. The result of this negotiation was not just the abortion of the intended process, but the endorsement of the new fee regime (as amended) by the students and total compliance.

As the pioneer Special Assistant on Students matters, I had to undertake a spot on visit to the various tertiary institutions in the state to ascertain their needs and draw the attention of Government to that direction. Interestingly, I had to undertake the tours of the campuses twice, at my entrant and just before my departure. The benefits of those tours are huge e.g it was during the first tour that I met and donated 2 wheelchairs to physically challenged students at Uyocity Polytechnic.

I must state here for purpose of clarity, the preparation and submission of grants and bursary estimates is the exclusive preserve of the states’ scholarship board. However, upon my assumption of office, I made the advocacy for the release of the funds my priority. This priority paid off greatly, as the Governor graciously approved and directed the disbursement of funds for the 2012 bursary payment to Akwa Ibom state students.

Medical grants have been paid, while the grants to law students are still pending. I and the Honourable Commissioner for Education, Professor Atim Antai have been working tirelessly to secure the release of funds for that purpose before the end of this administration.

In the course of the execution of my assignment, there have been various other activities that I caused to happen, which stricto sensu were not official, but added colour and recognition to the students movement. I recall with joy, the dedication service which we held at Destiny international Mission during the international students day 2013. At that event, we committed our ways to the Lord, sought for His guidance and direction; looking back I can boldly proclaim that God has been with us. I register my deepest appreciation to Arch. Bishop Cletus Bassey, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Akwa Ibom State and Presiding Bishop of that great church for his exhortation and prayers. Immediately after the service in church, more than 250 student leaders were treated to a sumptuous lunch at the government banquet hall by Her Excellency, the First lady of the State, Mrs Ekaette Unoma Godswill Akpabio. We will recall that all those in attendance smiled home.

Again, may I remind you that in the December of that same year, the then secretary to the state government, now governor-elect Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel played host to more than 300 student leaders where he gave 3 million naira,50 bags of rice and 10 cows for end of year festivities. In December 2014, student leaders also received very handsome packages from Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, who was then the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP.

During the formation of the state campaign team for the governorship candidate, the Party hierarchy under the leadership of Obong Paul Ekpo, upon my appeal and the very weighty support of Sir Emem Akpabio, created a separate committee for students mobilization- this has not happened before, not even in the Presidential committee. Students are usually grouped under youths, but we insisted on the demarcation and it was granted.

There has not been any state event worthy of note that students have not been recognised or their attendance sought. We have etched ourselves on the consciousness of the Akwa Ibom society as a very strong mobilization force. we have supported the out-going government in ways more than few. We authored under the aegis of the Akwa Ibom Students Leaders Forum several press statements in support of the administration, held press conferences etc.

I must confess that this is one area that I could not do much due to the time we had and the atmosphere prevalent. I desired that the problems of National Association of Akwa Ibom State Students be solved finally by the election of a National Executive for the association. This was not possible due to factors like political tension, paucity of funds, non-cooperation of some stakeholders among others. However, since nature abhors vacuum, the forum of chapter Presidents had been standing in for the National Executive Council, when the need arose. A clear instance was during the agitation for the payment of busary, the Presdent of UniUyo chapter of NAAKISS Com. David Effiong, who at that time was the Chairman, Council of Chapter Presidents, led the discussions on behalf of the association at the meeting we had with the Executive Governor on the 28th of May, 2014.

Regrettably, the crisis rocking the state wing of the National Association of Nigerian students persisted throughout my tenure and efforts at resolving it proved abortive. High level interventions were made, yet the process of a credible election could not be conducted by those responsible to so act. There was none and as I speak, there is no Joint Campus Committee of NANS in Akwa Ibom State. This remains the official position of Government, which is also verifiable from the security agencies and NANS(both Zonal and National).
Through my motivation the Presidents of the Worldwide students Unions of local Governments coagulated to form the council of local government worldwide Presidents. This body has grown to become a very strong mobilization force and communication channel to our structures at the grassroots.

I stand here today, totally indebted to God Almighty for giving me this rare opportunity to serve mankind within the dictates of my office. I thank His Excellency, Chief Godswill Akpabio for appointing me and giving me the opportunity to serve Akwa Ibom State particularly, her students. I thank him for always having a listening ear and loving students passionately. It is true that once a comrade, always a comrade- he has shown that the aluta blood runs in his veins; that is why the students movement honoured him as the Grand Commander of Aluta movement.

I cannot fail to thank my elder brother and backbone, Hon. Barr Onofiok Akpan Luke for his prayers, encouragement and support; your philosophy of selfless service guided me throughout this critical assignment. I am deeply grateful. To my sister and friend, Mrs Christy Edwards Usen-Akpan,I thank her for being there when it mattered most. I am sure that her labour of love will never be lost.

The Honourable commissioner for education, Prof Atim Antai was never tired of receiving me at her office and home, whenever I had course to seek her intervention in matters related to students. Her motherly advice helped greatly; to such warmth and support I owe you a debt of gratitude.
My elder brother, Hon. Akan Okon was very helpful during my period in office, he always sought to know how the movement fared. I thank him for the financial support provided for us to undertake Operation Campus Storm (the last campus tour), which we did during the campaign period. I am most grateful, sir.

Worthy of spectacular mention today is a friend, brother and lieutenant, Comrade Ubon Marcus, Former Vice President of NANS and Chairman Akwa Ibom Students Leaders Forum. You made my job easier, took all the pressure I mounted in a bid to attain excellence. You coordinated the student’s movement with integrity and focus. 
You never compromised even in the face of tempting offers. I am sure that your day of reward is drawing nigh. Com. Mrs Uyai Edidiong Udofia deserves all that gratitude I can afford, her support has been unwavering and selfless. Her commitment to the emancipation of the woman is total. Comrades David Effiong, Lucky Imo Inyang, Nkereuwem Mendie, Itohowo Bassey, Udeme Inyang, Ubong Ekanem, Ewa Okpo,Ibianghake, Jones Bassey,  Lucy Edoho, Edidiong Ubiak, Felix Benson, Uwem Bernard, John Atem and the Republicans, Samueal Ayara, Anietie Inyang and the newly elected Vice President South-South of the National Association of University Students IniObong Uko- I thank all of you for working hard to make a success out of this state assignment. To every other student leader whose name I cannot member for want of space, I am grateful.

Deserving special commendation are: My bosss, elder brother and mentor Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, who always made me see that impossibility is non-existent. His passion for service encouraged me to do the very best I could at all times. He made my appointment interesting, sent me on tasking errands that enhanced my capacity. Thank you for everything.

My Darling wife, Chinonyerem, who has been a ‘victim’ of this appointment is worthy of praise. She sacrificed her joy and time to ensure that my job went on well. Her knees were on the ground in the place of prayer interceding on my behalf. She became a father to the children and covered my tracks. I am grateful.

My Ministers Emmanuel Inyang and Usen Ekpo- I thank You; the Project Team Bassey Esang, Victor Robert, Ofonime Udobot and their spouses were pillars of support that I rested on at very critical times.

I seek forgiveness from those who felt I should have done more and mercy from those who think I did nothing. I hereby submit myself to history and posterity as the ultimate judges of human conduct to judge my tenure in office. I bow out with satisfaction, knowing that there was nothing we could have done, when there was need to do, which was possible to do that we did not do. I hope that by my record of achievement in this office, I shall have satisfied Lincoln’s standard that “man owes humanity without question to leave every environment better than he met it”.

Let me end by admonishing all student leaders to remain united and in love, for only through this can the movement succeed. Blackmail and back stabbing will take us nowhere. With the current prominence attained by us within the polity in Akwa Ibom state, we have become the proverbial city upon the hill, with the eyes of the people constantly on us, we cannot afford to disappoint.
Thank you.

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