He would have been an active participant in evolving the leadership of the incoming Ninth National Assembly. In fact, a major actor and factor in charting its course.
Just like any other ranking senator, Victor Udoma-Egba’s rich experience would have come handy in this critical period. It would have ultimately deepen the space and expand the discourse leading to the emergence of the senate leadership.
But that is not to be. Destiny has a way of having its way and taking its toll. It played a fast one on Udoma-Egba in the February 16, 2019 poll. He lost his senatorial comeback bid to the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) Sandy Onor. He flew the All Progressives Congress (APC) flag.
Udoma-Egba had a 12-year uninterrupted sojourn in the Senate. Those years were remarkable and full of life. That period was a rare display of uncommon dexterity. He made courageous and bold moves that left everlasting effects.
He kick-started his journey into the senate in 2003. It was on the platform of the PDP to represent Cross River Central. He secured a resounding victory at the poll. He instantly became the first chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Publicity. That spurred him on.
He did not allow that golden opportunity slip away unexplored and unexploited. The victor in him made the maximum use of the position. He did not only build bridge across the Niger, he did his interface all over the country.
The Senate reaped bountifully from his efforts and it’s reaping even till now. Evidently, that eased his way back to the Senate in 2007. This time around, he was saddled with more responsibilities.
He was a member of the Senate committees on: Upstream Petroleum Resources; Human rights and Legal Matters; Information and Media and deputy chairman, Judiciary. His contributions in these committees remain outstanding and astonished.
Udoma-Egba came back for the third time in 2011 with relative ease. His colleagues saw the potential in him, and he got his responsibility equally expanded. It was quite expected. You cannot lit a lamp and hide it under the table.
That was how and why he emerged the Senate Leader of the seventh Red Chamber, 2011 to 2015. He brought to bear his rich legislative experience since 2003 when he first showed up in the Red Chamber. He performed all these feats on the platform of his former party, the PDP.
With his “intimidating senatorial credential,” he attempted a fourth bid. But this was prematurely aborted at the PDP primaries even before the proper election in 2015. His frosty relationship with his state governor, Liyel Imoke, made that abortion possible. John Owan Enah reaped bountifully from that bitterly cold relationship.
Udoma-Egba did not just abandon PDP. It was never intended. He was literally pushed out by those who felt visibly threatened. And they exhibited it in their sordid body language, actions and inactions. He had to leave the party for the hawks in human flesh.
That gave him a needed but brief break from the troubled waters of Nigeria’s politics. He was wise enough; he returned quietly to his law practice. He is senior partner, Udoma-Egba & Co., Abuja.
He, however, could not resist the urge to play politics for long. He joined the APC in August 2015. Shortly after, he was appointed chairman, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). And that opened another chapter in his political adventure. His voyage at the commission was spectacular.
As the helmsman, he was a passionate advocate of regional integration. And that was his focus throughout his tenure. In one of his numerous interactions with stakeholders in the region, he told them point blank:
“We must encourage sustainable partnerships with all stakeholders and partners for the overall development, security and peace of the region. We will work to earn the confidence of stakeholders and partners. We do not demand or request their confidence; we will earn it through our honest work and single minded focus. To demonstrate our commitment, to achieve this, this board at its inaugural meeting created its committee on Partnerships for Sustainable Development. This is to underscore our determination to optimize these partnerships.”
Udoma-Egba, 63, adequately paid his dues in the course of time. He has his LL B degree from the University of Lagos, and LLM from the University of Calabar. He was called to the Bar in 1978 and became SAN in 2004.
He was chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Calabar and President, Calabar Chambers of Commerce. He was also once Director, Cross River Basin and Rural Development Authority and Commissioner for Works and Transport.
Udoma-Egba did not lose sight of the inherent dangers in the high turnover in the National Assembly. And he did alert the nation on this as far back as 2015: “Nigeria should be mindful of the massive disservice inherent in high turnover of members of the legislature. In the United States, if about four or seven senators lose their positions during an election year it is considered an upheaval. In Nigeria, 30 senators hardly return to their positions in an election year.”
He is dead on point. Thirty-eight senators lost their seats at the party primaries before the last election. Sixty-seven of them managed to secure their various parties’ tickets and sought to retain their seats.
When the dust settled, 24 of them lost the bid, and 43 made it back. In the final analysis, 62 senators lost their seats in one swoop.
The implications of Udoma-Egba’s argument became very graphical in this regard. The very reason he sought to return to the senate in 2019: “The Nigerian Constitution provides for tenure and age limit for the Executive to qualify for certain offices. In the Judiciary, you must practice for a certain number of years before you can be eligible for appointment. And there is a retirement age there.
“In the legislature, the provision is for an entry age, it has no tenure limit. It has no retirement age too.”
Again, this his fifth bid at the Senate was stunted. His former ally, Onor stopped him. He polled 80,134 against Udoma-Egba’s 60,298 votes.
Udom-Egba would not give in frivolities. He would not let go on a platter of gold. He immediately challenged Onor’s victory at the Election Petition Tribunal, Calabar. He has high hopes. As a senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), he believes in absolute rule of law. He is confident Onor’s victory is a transient one. He has his gaze and focus on the Senate. He has a mission to fulfil.
His flashback speaks volumes: “I was in the Senate for three terms… I was in leadership position first as Deputy Senate Leader and then as Senate Leader.” He beats his chest: “There wasn’t scandal, no rancour that became public. At some points in the history of this country and the Senate, the Senate had to provide the needed stability in the country.”