BY: DAN AMOR
In well over two decades of my writing career, I have indubitably profiled or paid tributes to quite a handful of exceptionally talented, gifted, or those I may call, people with heroic pathos. In fact, I am sometimes driven by the concern that we have too few heroes in life today, especially in this part of the world. Yet, in the first place, the reader might ask: what does it mean to be a hero? Who should our heroes be? Again, what do people consider heroic? It is true that crisis can bring out the best in people. In times of trouble and uncertainty, when lesser mortals may feel hobbled by anxiety, a few extraordinary people always rise to the occasion. Whether they are public personalities or private citizens, these heroic individuals light up the way for the rest of us.
Yet all over the world, people choose their heroes for different reasons. Some designate legendary creatures from every historical epoch and every field, such as Christopher Columbus, Florence Nightingale, Joan of Arc, Louis Pasteur, Alfred Nobel or even Napoleon Bonaparte. Again, there are also those who believe that some heroes are unknown to the general public, their heroic deeds unrecognized but far from being insignificant. These heroes include school aides, foster parents, journalists, security and medical personnel – all kinds of people who struggle, often against daunting odds, to make life better for others. As Victor Hugo says: “Life, misfortunes, isolation, abandonment, poverty, are battlefields which have their heroes; obscure heroes, sometimes greater than illustrious heroes.”
In choosing to celebrate Barrister Chuks Agube, the Director General of Dr. Alex Egbona Campaign Organization in the keenly contested Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency election in 2019, which snowballed into January 2020 with a lot of legal and histrionic gestures, this writer believes that, like every other hero, he is a human being, with everything that it implies. I also believe that recognizing a hero – warts and all – makes it possible for one to become a hero and to encourage others to do the same. Even in your private imagination, there are individuals you may have been familiar with, but who might not at first blush, fit into that rarefied circle we hail as heroic.
Given Chuks Agube’s background and pedigree as the fifth Chairman of Abi Local Government of Cross River State who worked so hard and fought tenaciously to extricate his people from the vice grip of poverty and won an array of prizes, it is all too obvious how he led the team that delivered the only All Progressives Congress (APC) victory in the State in 2019. In the eyes of the world, Agube may not qualify for the company of geniuses. He may just at best be in the league of men of moderate means, especially materially. But what makes me an inveterate fan of this Imabana-born politician is the way he seems to coast along on the wings of his simple faith. Agube’s life embodies and reveals the essential characteristics of heroism: selflessness, courage, vision and the willingness to take action.
An accountant by training before he went back to school to study law, Agube is a man of his word who combines leadership charisma with philanthropy. First, be believes that something ought to be done. Next, he believes that he can do it. Then, he sets about doing it. Too often, he would draw the scorning guffaws of skeptical onlookers. Until victory borne out of simple faith triumphs and becomes the darling and son of many fathers, mothers, uncles, aunties and sundry relations, he does not rest on his oars. When he ran for the chairmanship of Abi local government, he went about without guile. He was hardly schooled in the duplicitous saloons of politics. Despite his widely acclaimed enormous achievements at Itigidi, by the time he sought to give a shot at second term like his colleagues in other local government areas, few gave him the chance, especially the kingmakers and the powers that be.
The plan, as he was told, was for the position to go round. He was seen as the quintessential unknown. But he took every storm with magisterial equanimity. Yet his humanity came to the fore as he was celebrated as a folk hero due to his insurmountable achievements as chairman. Chuks, more than many former local government chairmen, has enjoyed a warmer reputation out of office than within. This is because, as chairman of Abi local government, Agube broke the jinx of underdevelopment, stepped on hitherto unexplored territories and delivered democracy dividends to his people. He assiduously and tenaciously worked his way round his mission to hack off the excrescences of the polluted political culture already entrenched in the country. This man of intrepid candour and composure was declared in 2010 by the Sixth Senate as one of the best local government chairmen in Nigeria.
Agube’s leadership potential was soon to be fully made manifest during the campaign and build up to the 2019 general elections when he was appointed Director General of Hon. Dr. Alex Egbona’s Campaign Organization. Dr. Egbona was Chief of Staff to the immediate past governor of the State, Sen. Liyel Imoke but defected to the Labour Party in the build up to the 2015 general elections. He thereafter moved to the All Progressives Congress (APC). Dr. Egbona’s ambition to vie for the Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency seat in the House of Representatives had been a cause for serious political horse-trading in the State given the seeming contradictory position of his boss, Sen. Imoke who was said to have told him to run and at the same withdrawing approval in the open.
He lost the battle on the platform of the Labour Party to the then incumbent member, Hon. Bassey Ewah in 2015 but in 2019, having joined the APC and repositioned his arsenals with Agube as leader of his campaign organization, the issue was now to be finally decided in the field. The battle line was therefore drawn between the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Rt. Hon. John Gaul Lebo, the immediate past Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly and Dr. Alex Egbona. Whereas the former Speaker had the sitting Governor of the State Prof. Ben Ayade and his predecessor Sen. Imoke behind him, Dr. Egbona had no juggernaut or heavyweight behind him. He had only God and his indefatigable campaign DG, Hon. Chuks Agube. It was like the battle between the Biblical David and Goliath.
To all intents and purposes, the Abi/Yakurr federal constituency contest was really tasking. Yet, one thing that Chuks Agube had going for him in marketing his boss was that he had a good product. As Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. Donald Duke and as CoS to Gov. Imoke, Chief Alex Egbona used his position to invest wisely in Cross Riverians irrespective of tribal or political inclinations. In almost all parts of the State, Egbona’s name appears to ring a bell. In Yakurr local government area, Alex Egbona is a household name. Even in Itigidi, Imoke’s hometown and Adadama, the hometown of Barrister John Gaul Lebo, Egbona, who hails from Ekureku the most populous community in Abi local government area, has ardent and implacable supporters and defenders. Though humble, self-effacing, sagacious and effulgent, Alex Egbona is not vociferous but rugged.
Yet, for a state hitherto known for politics of civility but now hemmed in the banality of political jingoism and braggadocio, the 2019 general election in Cross River State vis-a-vis the Abi/Yakurr federal constituency tango can be better imagined than experienced. This is the battle Hon. Chuks Agube fought and won with guts, sagacity and gusto and with a high sense of integrity. A testimonial to his widely acclaimed principled political doggedness, is that Agube was said to have resisted being induced with a juicy appointment by his opponents during the 2019 Abi/Yakurr federal constituency election. This is highly commendable for a man who was not in anybody’s payroll for nine full years after leaving office as Chairman of Abi Council in 2010. His simple faith in the triumph of perseverance, determination and resolve paid off as his principal Dr. Alex Egbona won at the polls, won the Ekureku Wards 1 & 2 rerun and won all the court cases that followed the numerous litigations. Hon. Chuks Agube, this gentleman political strategist for whom the tempting trappings of office holds no attraction deserves to be celebrated as an icon of democracy. He is eminent and essential in all ramifications.