In 2015, when Gov. Ben Ayade named Sen. Asuquo Ekpenyong Jr., as the Commissioner for Finance, not so many had heard about him in the politics of the Cross River State. No doubt, that was not his first public office as he had previously served as Director General under the Gov. Liyel Imoke’s administration, but what really launched him into state’s politics was commissionership appointment.
He was barely 30 at the time. Maybe, apart from former Gov. Donald Duke, Cross River, has never had a younger Commissioner for Finance.
In all honesty, as a commissioner, probably because of the sensitivity of his office, he was not the most popular or the loudest in Gov. Ayade’s administration. Born into the illustrious family of Asuquo Ekpenyong Sr, the founder and Chairman of the most successful Microfinance Bank in Cross River, Ekondo Bank, even as commissioner, so many people still looked at him through the lenses of his father.
The young Ekpenyong, popularly known as ‘Suki,’ was rumoured to be the star boy groomed by Gov. Ayade to succeed him. And indeed, prior to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship primary, Suki came out to run for the governorship and was one of the favourites not just because of the rumoured backing of the then Governor but his work ethics. Maybe, apart from Engr. Ben Akak, who started the race about three years before that time, no aspirant under the platform of APC and, indeed, across party line worked for the ticket as much as him.
But as stated in Proverb 19:21, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” Suki’s plan was to be Governor but God’s plans for him was to be Nigerian star boy in the Senate and the will of God eventually came to pass when despite all odds, he was elected as one of the youngest Senators from the state to represent the good people of Southern Senatorial district.
Before even his election as Senator, as it’s said that a gold fish has no hiding place, Suki’s star had caught the attention of many, including the talent-hunter-general of Nigeria, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Tinubu, who was then the presidential candidate of APC quickly ‘adopted’ him as a son and inducted him into the BAT brigade. He started moving around with him and exposing him to a lot about local and international politics.
Suki, an exceptionally intelligent and gifted financial analyst, soon became the poster boy in the Tinubu’s brigade. So many Nigerians had wondered who the young lad President Tinubu was always featuring and asking to explain some of his programmes during the campaign was. At Chatham House where the likes of former Governor Nasir El’Rufai were asked to respond to questions, Suki too, a relatively unknown politician at the time was also put in the hot seat by the Presidential candidate to respond to some questions.
The Senator had built on the momentum from the campaigns to take national politics by storm. In just about six months into his life as a federal lawmaker, Suki has endeared him so much to both the President and the President of the Senate that he had deservedly earned himself the title of ‘Man Friday’ of both leaders.
As a first time Senator, amongst others, Suki was appointed to lead the National Assembly reforms in the oil rich Niger Delta as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC; a responsibility he had preformed with so much administration since assuming office.
Through his closely knitted relationship with the powers that be, Suki had also influenced appointments for several young Cross Riverians.
Over the weekend, Calabar, the capital city of Cross River, witnessed the influx of almost all the creme de la creme of Nigerian politics for his thanksgiving. The venue was like a Carnival. Most of us ended halfway as we couldn’t have access to the place because of the crowd.
The economy of his thanksgiving can not be overemphasized. Almost all hotels in Calabar were fully booked. Taxi drivers were busy. Churches were full to the brim. Restaurants had improved patronage. Bars, lounges, and clubs sold out, etc.For an average businessman in Calabar, the prayer was that the weekend should never end.
As he is buzzing in national politics, Suki had not also forgotten his roots. He is also on ground at home as he is in Abuja. He is always one of the first lawmakers to visit or intervene in any situation that concerns his constituents back home. How he manages to always be available in Abuja and Cross River is something that should attract the attention of scholars to conduct research on.
Indeed, Suki is the “Standard” and an asset to the state and country that should be protected jealously.
As he continues to give the state a facelift with his excellent representation within and outside the country, the responsibilities on his shoulders would continue to expand. It is the prayer of every right thinking Cross Riverian that God should continue to give him the strength and enablement to keep the flag flying.
Inyali Peter, Ph.D