Senator Akon Eyakenyi
Senator Akon Eyakenyi

Senator Akon Eyakenyi: Classroom to Red Chamber of Nigeria’s National Assembly

By Thomas Anom

She has lived her entire life in the eyes of the public first, as a classroom teacher, and currently, a senator. She is Senator Akon Eyakenyi, Ph.D, representing Eket Senatorial District of Akwa Ibom State in the Red Chamber of Nigeria’s bicameral Legislature.

From the days of her little beginning as an auxiliary teacher in Government School No.1, Oron, now Convent Primary School, Oron, She has been open to public scrutiny, and over time, she has been found worthy of trust in her conduct.

As a classroom teacher, her principals most times entrusted her with some critical foundational classes. Deaconess Ubong Bassey, her principal at a time, insisted that she must teach more than two classes with several streams alone in famous Mary Hanney Secondary School, Oron. While at the Methodist Boys’ High School, Oron, she taught Christian Religious Knowledge with multiple streams.

On February 24, 1960 at her birth, the relatively unknown Mbokpu Eyo-Akan village in Urue Offong/Oruko Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom, erupted with joy following the birth of the beautiful baby child, celebrated then as God’s gift to the Oro community.  Baby Akon was born into the family of Chief & Mrs. Charley Uweh Isangedhi. Her village saw her as a child of freedom because the year of her birth was Nigeria’s year of independence.

Education

She attended Government Primary School, Uko-Uyukim, Oron, where she obtained her First School Leaving Certificate in 1974, and immediately proceeded to Methodist Teacher’s Training College, Oron from 1974 to 1979 for her Teachers Grade II Certificate. 

In 1983, she enrolled at the then University of Cross River State, now University of Uyo, for Education and obtained her Nigerian Certificate in Education in 1986. She obtained her B. Ed from the University of Calabar in 1990, M.Ed in 2000, and Ph.D in Curriculum Education from the same institution in 2014.

Career

She started her teaching career in 1986 when then Cross River State Education Board appointment as Mistress I & II till 1993. She was also the Co-ordinator of the Better Life Programme for Oron Local Government Area from January – November 1991. 

 In the same 1991, she was rewarded with a political appointment as Supervisor for Education, Youths, Sports and Culture in Oron Local Government. In 1993, she became Education Officer with the state Ministry of Education, and subsequently, Senior Education Officer from 1994 to 1999. Thereafter, she was appointed to serve as a member of Akwa Ibom State Secondary Education Board from 1999 to 2000, where she contributed to the improvement in secondary education in the state.

Due to her diligence and resourcefulness, former Governor Victor Attah in 2000 appointed her as Industry, Commerce and Tourism Commissioner. Her stint was marked by sterling performances, some of which include the revival of moribund industries such as Champions Breweries, the introduction of the Le Meridien Ibom Hotels & Golf Resort, and other laudable economic projects. She created an investment haven, which encouraged investments in the hospitality sector of the state economy.

Attah’s successor, Godswill Akpabio, the incumbent Niger Delta Affairs Minister, in 2013 appointed Eyakenyi as Chairperson of Akwa Ibom Technical School Board in 2013, a position she held till former President Goodluck Jonathan tapped her as Lands, Housing and Urban Development Minister in 2014.

National Assembly

Eyakenyi in 2018 declared her intention to run for the Red Chamber of the National Assembly to represent Akwa Ibom South (Eket) Senatorial District. In October 2018, she participated in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primaries for the senatorial seat and emerged the winner. On March 23, 2019, she was declared by the national electoral agency, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), senator-elect. 

This is Senator Akon Eyakenyi’s first time in the National Assembly. Drawing on her public service experience, beginning with the classroom, Eyakenyi was able to hit the ground running within three weeks in the senate, showing focus, zeal, and determination to serve her constituents. She immediately flagged off Youth Skills Acquisition Training Scheme, starting from Oron Federal Constituency in August 2019. Eket and Ikot Abasi Federal Constituencies took their turns in September and October respectively. So far, she has trained over 400 youths of her constituency in scaffolding, industrial safety, and rigging.

It seems Senator Eyakenyi is determined to contribute to a drastic reduction of youth restiveness- thuggery, cultism, drug abuse, etc- in that axis of the Niger Delta by engaging them in useful ventures that will up their living standards. She holds the view that the best way to help a man is not to give him fish but teaching him how to fish.

She sponsored a football tournament for the inmates of the Eket Correctional Centre besides making donations for the upkeep of the centre. The Senator is also concerned about the health status of the electorate, To this end, in November 2019, she co-sponsored free medical services for the peoples of her constituency where a number of persons were treated for several ailments. Besides free drugs for patients in need, over 600 eyeglasses were given out to people. Some major and minor surgeries were performed during the healthcare outreach that lasted for more than 10 days.

She further reached out to those who elected her by reaching out to students with grants, extended empowerment packages to women, and the physically challenged. Last Christmas and Easter celebrations, she brought smiles to hundreds of citizens by her political socialisation initiatives. She celebrated her birthday last February 24, with empowering over 250 widows selected from across the state. Each of them went back home with packages from the classroom teacher turned peoples’ politician.

Besides supporting many indigent students in school, she has been sponsoring burials for many, footing medical bills and rents for those at the verge of being thrown out by their apartments by their shylock landlords as well as assisted some others to start-up businesses.

Eket political watchers say their representative has been active on the floor of the senate. She presented her first motion on Urgent Need to Address the Sorry State of Computer Education by Providing Training for Teachers and Basic Computer Facilities in Public Schools on July 2, 2019. It was well received and deferred till the setting up of Senate Committees, and eventually referred to Senate Committee on Education (Basic and Secondary). The committee went to work and subsequently came out with a robust report that was adopted and forwarded to the relevant agencies of government for implementation.

Apparently spurred, she sponsored another motion on Urgent Need to Address the Menace of Banditry in the Gulf of Guinea And Nigerian Waters. It caught the attention of her colleagues, leading to a broad support across political divides and geopolitical blocs. The motion ignited some policy responses after the Senate Committee on Maritime Transport produced gave it a deserving treat.

Distinguished Senator Akon Eyakenyi co-sponsored other motions: including the Motion On The Need To Increase Funding To Primary Health-Care Centres, Urgent Need To Ascertain The Status of Nigeria’s Extended Continental Shelf Project And The Constitution Of An Ocean Advisory Committee, The Deplorable Conditions Of Ikot Ekpene-Umuahia Highway linking Akwa Ibom and Abia State, Existing Petroleum Subsidy, Ensuring Self-Sufficiency In Demotic Refining of Petroleum Products, Urgent Need To Look Into Incessant Loss of Commuter Lives on Our Waterways, The Urgent Need To Establish A Medical School At Modibbo Adam University of Technology, Yola And To Upgrade The Federal Medical Centre, Yola, To A University Teaching Hospital, Urgent Need To Review And Recover Additional Revenue Accruable To The Government of the Federation From Sharing Contracts Pursuant To Section 16 Of The Deep Offshore And Inland Basin Production Sharing Act Cap D3 LFN 2004 and Urgent Need To Perform The Housing Mortgage Financing In Nigeria To Meet The Escalating Housing Demand In The Country. 

She sponsored a bill to repeal the Act establishing the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, to establish the University of Maritime Studies, Oron, and Related Matters. The bill has since been referred to Senate Committee on Maritime Transport and a public hearing was scheduled to hold before the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eyakenyi has been inducted into Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians, and other reputable organisations.

Leadership

Since her election in 2019, Distinguished Senator Eyakenyi has kept faith with her campaign promise of offering a Better Deal to Akwa Ibom South concerning representation. She has been demonstrating that. Remarkably, she visits her constituency almost every week since her inauguration on June 11, 2019. She attends virtually all events of her supporters and constituents personally and ensures they access her without discrimination. Eyakenyi has been defying protocols around her to reach her constituents.

In partnership with Benjamin Olowojebutu Foundation (BOF), Ikopto Effiong Afiakurue, and Rt. Hon. Princess Felicia Bassey, she is sponsoring a free medical outreach in Oron at Iquita General Hospital. The outreach handled 150 surgeries for hernia, lumps in the breast, fibroid, lipoma, and the rest. It handled dental and eye care with services such as tooth extraction, scaling and polishing, eye tests, and giving of free eyeglasses.  

Awards and Recognitions

She has been hauling home awards and recognition for her selfless service, diligence, and contributions towards uplifting humanity in public service such as the Paul Harris Fellowship of Rotary International, and Award of Honour for Exemplary Life of Women Living out their Dreams by Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria 2009.

In her hall of fame are Excellence Award in Christian Service by Vision College and Seminary 2010, Award of Excellence by Beulah International Schools 2010, Rotary International Gold Service Award for Community Development and Women Empowerment by the Rotary Club of Calabar, and Couple of Honour Award on the occasion of the 2nd anniversary of Women Aflame magazine.

COVID-19 pandemic

Senator Eyakenyi has assisted over 500 of her constituents to get enlisted into the Federal Government Social Investment Schemes like N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfer, and the likes. She several other programmes designed to empower her constituents beyond the COVID-19 era. She is the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic and Secondary Education. .

Marital Status

Akon fell in love and married Etim Eyakenyi, an engineer of Iquita village in Oron Local Government Area. Together they have five children.

Other Contributions

She secured the Federal Government’s approval for the development of 10,000 housing units to meet the housing need of Nigerians and in support of housing provision under the Nigerian Mortgage Re-Finance Scheme (NMRC), in addition to the Completion and Commissioning of over 3,500 abandoned Housing projects scattered across the federation as minister in 2014. 

She was the Rapporteur of the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD); the National Focal Point/Champion of the Continental Initiative on Strengthening Partnerships for a New African Urban Agenda; and the Chairperson of the National Administrative and Technical Coordination Team, which was charged with the responsibility of managing the evolving New Urban Agenda. 

Senator Eyakenyi was appointed into the Technical Committee on the Realisation of the Ibaka Deep Seaport in 2015, and in October 2016, she was appointed as Chairman, Governing Council of the state Polytechnic, Ikot Osurua.

Conclusion

Senator Eyakenyi’s early life gave little indication of her subsequent activity. No one ever imagined that she will be known to posterity as a great reformer. The life of one who dedicates him/herself in the service of others cannot be put down in words.