BY JOSEPH ATAINYANG
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7.
“Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty./Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children/Hidden excitedly containing laughter.” Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot.
Before I write an open letter which of course awaits another life, my heart detests, in fury, some (un)reasonable instinctual assumptions of some “pushers” whose recent open letters to the recent Speaker seem out of point. “Betray your party and go progressive with your people”, some people think; “brave up, be gallant, fight and withhold the ‘Divine Mandate’, be a true party man”, others propose.
Whether or not either is, or both are necessary, to me, gains no necessity. The only thing, I think, very necessary is to maintain and perhaps keep alive, the stainless face of Luke, an open-book which recent political history beams a smile.
I dread my courage to satisfy all readers here. Though this piece, a prose should be for all and sundry’s consumption, I plead for pardon; it is impossible to resist the sweet muses whose divine fury arrests my sense of mimesis. Yet, I sound a notice of assurance that it chronicles the narrow road of a statesman who navigates through the murky waters of political jealousy and outright intimidation to rule the jungle as a king.
It was a long journey towards multiple successes that Luke embarked when in 2011 he picked a ticket to run for the position of the House member, Nsit Ubium State Constituency in the Akwa State House of Assembly. Overwhelmingly winning the elections and performing exceedingly well, Luke became one of the few lawmakers to win pass marks from the general Akwa Ibom people.
Luke chaired the house committee on Finance and Appropriation and saved the state a reasonable sum that developed wings and was ready to fly away. He brought about the participatory budgeting system which itself speaks volumes of how transparent government’s policies should be. Possessed by divine intelligence and guided by the wisdom of the jealous God, Luke retained an unbeatable position of wide acceptance and outspoken prowess which saw him blossoming and shining like a star.
Perhaps his uncommon popularity and approval by all Akwa Ibom people sent him to the mud, Luke moved, in line with the house leadership, from the Finance and Appropriation committee to the Agriculture and Mineral Resources’ where conspicuity in his typical personality showed itself. Onofiok went to the farm, performed exceedingly better and retained his first class position as the Man of the People, equally A Man for all Season.
The first tenure was over and the second journey was set to begin. “Time and the bell buried the day, the black cloud carried the sun away.” Luke made a move, as usual with his street companions, to clinch the seat again. Behold, he was “distracted from distraction by distraction, filled with fancies and empty of meaning.” He became that single “word in the desert most attacked by voices of temptation.” “Old men ought to be explorers, here or there does not matter.” But lo, they all became the celestial powers that grumbled, provoking the divine lion to groan.
Backed by the cloud, Luke had his way. But this, itself formed a process. Intrigues, strife and enmity became allied forces. Jealousy and hostility became meioses. Swords were flying in the air; the battle transited into a physical combat. Luke stood the risk of having to be slaughtered even at the 5th Assembly’s altar. Bully! Bully!! Bully!!!
But wisdom lodges in his superhuman mind; for not yet forty, not like me, a poet who is a fool. Not a liar, not like me, a poet who lies. In Gosson’s attempt, four times to convince, the world the poet lies just like Ofeimun admitted, the poet lies. Thanks to Philip Sidney, the poet is not a liar. Luke’s wisdom, like Solomon’s sent them all to hell. “People change and smile: but the agony abides. Time the destroyer is now time the preserver.”
Of course, before the cloud passed for the pool to become empty, the battle ground was full of warriors. Troops of soldiers were there to foil the soil. Bombs. Bombs. Bombs. But the soil was more familiar with its root. Diplomacy settled for an Ambiguous Adventure. “Time past and time future allows but a little consciousness. To be conscious is not to be in time. Only through time, time is conquered.” The central man bended low, apologized to his people, the chief of all wisdom that saw the sparing of the troop.
No matter what a king does to compel his warriors for a fight, sparing a prince, is yet a constant consciousness. Jonathan could not gather a mob against David, neither was David pleased at Absalom’s death. And so it came to pass that the street were full of “children” hidden excitedly containing laughter. The laughter was a mockery, a mockery against frivolity, dressed in clannish and deceitful garment. But the hailers kept hailing and their rights became an expression when voting Luke the second time into power.
The victory song became redemption song. The singers danced and had their backs inspected. Just like when Luke was the Student Union president of University of Uyo, and when he bagged the pioneer speakership of the Nigerian youth parliament as well as the president of the African youth parliament, one would not help but sing, dance and smile. This happens because, Luke, an open book is always a square peck in such a hole.
As a lawyer and human rights activist, embolden by an extreme sense of morality, Luke is most concerned with natural justice. He is most of the times moved by issues that bother the existence of a common man. Even while serving as the Personal Assistant to Governor Akpabio, he continually exhibited social accommodation and gave the people a constant hand of fellowship.
Alas! It seems his slaughter at the altar was not for a moment. The practice became habitual and one baffles why he was the victim. Not the most experienced, but not less the most of the two, who by all corners should mount the speaker’s seat, Luke had a second touch. This was the touch of fear. The fear was in the hearts of the old men who were drained of wisdom but feared being haunted.
Truly, the sea has many voices, many gods and many voices. The two were written off; Luke, himself was spewed, remolded and placed back on the altar. A time was ripe for a second slaughter and he did not falter. He surrendered his all and the ritual became a rite. Unlike Isaac, who saw the “fire and the wood” and inquired of Abraham, “…but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”, Luke knew full well he was that lamb to allow peace reign at the altar.
He called his foot soldiers and declared his support for the “seater”. Yet, those foes of excellence kept the fright alive. This is, no less a reason some of us withdrew from the web of ineptitude that dominated the entry point of the sixth assembly.
But after this long slaughter, what happened on Monday, December 21, 2015? It was indeed a thing of divine favour. A vision which awaited time. A new tune flourished in the hearts of all. He fell on his knees shedding tears of joy. Luke became the 11th Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.
Onofiok is a figure of political transparency. He represents the youth, the common man, the women and indeed all sections of humanity. If one should reflect on his drive and passion in the all inclusive politics, then one would not be wrong to say that he is a strong advocate of “political humanitas.”
Intelligent and down to earth in his sagacity, Luke is that vigorous voice that rings a sound and blending bell in the state assembly. Beloved of his people, respected for his soft and humane disposition, Luke is that political young-star of this generation whose sense of humility woos him to all. Indiscriminate in all considerations, all absorbing and all encompassing, Luke is that single man of the moment who stands a chance of piloting the affairs of this state for about three months.
Sure, if I were a realistic analyst, I would not cease to say that Onofiok Luke is about leading the state into a new era of political rift. But holding brief for a brief moment may also be expected. The truth is, while there appear, as people say, to be ambivalence between having to salvage his party and having intercourse with his political mentor(s), his sense of morality and rationality would guide him through.
Of course, Luke would not want to be reminded of those sad days when he was slaughtered for the interest of his superiors. He would not wish to be told that he had been bruised and massacred. He would not allow unnecessary things to distract him from his focus. But then, the Rt. Hon. Speaker, Barr. Onofiok Luke is not a type to wonder what he needs to do as the pressure gets heavier. Luke is level-headed enough to handle every political challenge.
But most importantly, sin when forgiven may not be forgotten, the reason the speaker needs to be more realistic than fantastic. He needs a bit of his history, the history of his torture. He needs to weigh his past with his present to determine his future. For this is why Eliot held, “A people without history is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern of timeless moments.”
Onofiok Luke is now fluttering just after being enduringly slaughtered at the assembly’s altar. No matter what befell him, to forgive is divine. But experience without caution is most disastrous. And in the coming and going of all these, to restore peace and tranquility in Akwa Abasi Ibom state is of most importance. “All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” Well with the well deserved speaker, well with Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, well with Nsit Ubium State Constituency, well with all citizens of Akwa Ibom State and well with our country Nigeria.
Joseph Atainyang is a freelance journalist and public affairs commentator. GSM: 07036964637