Belema Okpokiri, the Rivers House of Assembly member, representing Okrika Local Government Area, last month emerged as candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) to seek re-election, many asked what he had achieved to merit such second chance. They asked because many had little or no valid information on the issue.
That was because, by his nature, as servant of God, Pastor Okpokiri believes that if a public servant performs his duty, he should not be celebrated as if it’s a personal gesture. To him, such officer ought to make a difference in the lives of his constituents and that impact alone should tell the story, not by the usual lavish publicity familiar to today’s political elite.
But a man is judged by what the people know about him. Even courts deliver judgements based on facts before them. So his constituents would not have given him favourable rating for achievements they know not.
So, when last week Friday, the law-maker chose to commission an ultra modern market he built at Ogoloma, many of his constituents were shocked. Shocked not only by the magnitude of the project but by other revelations that the event brought to light. Infact, some even suggested that he actually started the projects after winning the primaries for re-election , barely weeks ago, as many did not have an idea of such on-going projects.
Prior to the Ring Road New Ultra Modern Market commissioning by the Amanyanabo of Ogoloma, His Royal Highness, E. T. I. Obudibo (Ikwo V) on Friday, six other hi-tech electric transformers had been commissioned, but little known to his many constituents.
They include one at Messiah Road, Okochiri, commissioned by the Chairman of the Okrika Local Government Care-taker Committee, Chief (Hon.) Amangi Sunday; another at Egelebie (Abam Road), commissioned by the State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs Ibim Semenitari and one other at Oba-ama, commissioned by the Leader of APC in Okrika LGA, Mr David Alabere.
The rest are, one at George-ama unveiled by the LGA , APC chairman, Hon. Christian Asifamaka, another at Fiberesima, on the Okrika Island, unveiled by the party’s Vice Chairman of the Senatorial District, Mr. Gilbert Atubokiki and the last at the Ring Road, Ogoloma, commissioned by the State Health Commissioner, Dr. Sampson Parker.
One time care-taker chairman of Okrika Local Government Area, Hon. Solomon Dima Solomon, who moderated the official commissioning of the ultra modern market told guests that the cost of each of the heavy duty, hi-tech transformers, could build three community halls. But because the assembly man placed high premium on power as a main driving force for trade and commerce, he chose to invest on the transformers.
An elated Amanyanabo of Ogoloma, HRH Obudibo commended Pastor Okpokiri not so much for the achievements but for his discretion that was well exercised. He challenged him to see his achievements as a stepping stone towards greater heights and advised him to identify other areas of public need that he must capture if re-elected.
On his part, chairman of Okrika Care-taker Committee, Chief Sunday said he was amazed at the quality of work at the ultra modern market and stated that the Ogoloma community should be proud of their choice of representative and urged all Okrikans to rally round the candidate in his re-election bid.
Chief Sunday however, urged Pastor Okpokiri to replicate his achievements in his immediate community, Ogoloma to other parts of his larger constituency as he did in the spread of the electric transformers.
Some of the achievements, the CTC chairman was referring to included, the empowerment of students, traders, small and medium-scale entrepreneurs and indeed artisans and other professionals, among them, a female commercial video operatress whose enterprise was capitalised by the honourable member.
Fighting hard to hold back tears of joy, the young woman publicly urged the guests at the event, to thank the law-maker on her behalf for helping to put food on her table.
Today, the young woman is one of the most popular video-camera operators with weekly proceeds that can guarantee easy expansion. She said within a short time, she would open outreaches in other parts of the local government area.
But perhaps the most astonishing was the news of the empowerment of more than 24 traders, small and medium scale entrepreneurs whose businesses were bailed out through grants by the law-maker. A grateful crop of the recipients turned out enmasse to savour the moment of the market commissioning and later shared their experiences with guests and media men.
What was really strange was that, when invited to comment on his achievements, Pastor Okpokiri stuck to his perception of public service and gave God all the glory for enabling him to do a duty, he was elected to do. He told his listeners that what was more paramount was what the future held for him and his constituents and not resort to lavish publicity about the past. According to him, the commissioning became necessary to enlighten the public of the existence of such a market without which the edifice will simply remain a structure and not a place for trade and commerce.
To succeed however, the market, he suggested, should be patronised by all, rather than convert every little space in the community to illegal market. He pleaded with the royal father and his council of chiefs to help transfer all traders to the ultra modern market for the facility to serve its purpose.
Former CTC chairman of the LGA and Special Adviser to the Governor on NDDC matters, Dr. Godknows Tam George described Okpokiri’s modest strides as the beginning of greater things to come and appealed to the Okrika electorate to rally round the law-maker in his re-election bid.
George described Okpokiri as a silent achiever and prayed God to grant him more wisdom and positive energy to deliver on his promises to the people after his re-election.
The APC in the LGA used the forum to persuade the Okrika electorate to continue to support the party in all stages of the forth-coming elections. Chairman of the party in the LGA, Mr. Asifamaka described the party as a change agent and one Okrika people could trust to address their fluctuating socio-economic and political fortunes.
He described Pastor Okpokiri as a good brand that did not require too much marketing, saying, “the achievements of the law-maker in the first tenure are enough credentials to see him through re-election, so as to continue his service to the people.”
Earlier, before delivering the opening prayer, three time member of the State Assembly Chief James Fuayefika-Bilogbolo had said, in the affairs of men, the only constant ingredient is change. He said it was such positive change that the APC has been promising Okrika people and urged all to join the victory train, so that none is left behind.
Chief Bilogbolo described Pastor Okpokiri’s achievements as a clear sign of better things to come and prayed God to endow him with wisdom, love, compassion and greater dedication to service in his second tenure.
On his part, the lawmaker promised to expand his empowerment programme to include many more professionals, artisans, the youth, traders, small and medium-scale entrepreneurs, if re-elected. According to him, “there is too much to do that leave little time for talks.” He urged his constituents to judge him properly after his second term.
The market unveiling was attended by many dignitaries, among them, the state Information and Communications Commissioner, Mrs Ibim Semenitari the CTC Chairman, Chief Sunday and Leader of the APC in the LGA, D.D. Alabere