By Michael Jegede
The Governor of Cross River State, Senator (Prince) Bassey Edet Otu, nicknamed Sweet Prince, on account of his benevolence, kind-heartedness, open-handedness and philanthropic gestures towards the commoners, clocked 64 years of age on Wednesday, October 18, 2023.
A politician of high repute believed to have contributed in no small measure to the advancement of democracy, growth of humanity and societal development, Otu, a member of All Progressives Congress (APC), took oath of office as Cross River governor on May 29, 2023 after his overwhelming victory at the polls on March 18.
Born to the family of Late Elder and Mrs Edet Okon Otu of Adiabo in Odukpani Local Government Area (LGA) of Cross River State, 64 years ago, the governor, represented Calabar Municipal/Odukpani Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives between 2003 and 2011 and Cross River South Senatorial District, from 2011 to 2015 at the Senate, where he left indelible records of performance.
He was Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), Vice Chairman, House Committee on National Population and member of committees on Niger Delta, Power, Environment, Inter-Parliamentary Relations, Inter-Intra Party Relations, Defence and Water Resources. In the Red Chamber, he was Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance and later Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking and other financial Institutions.
Appointed into the board of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) by the immediate past President Muhamadu Buhari in 2018, Otu was equally a member of the Senate Committees on Power, Navy, Water Resources and Petroleum. In the Senate and Green Chamber, he sponsored several bills that had direct bearing on Nigerian people and significantly impacted the country’s economy, particularly in the banking and petroleum sector.
The University of Calabar graduate, a core gentleman who had a career in the banking and petroleum industry before joining politics, has always demonstrated pragmatic and compassionate leadership in all the positions he had occupied. Deeply connected to the grassroots, Sweet Prince had long endeared himself into the hearts of Cross Riverians with his humility, simplicity and humane leadership style.
In the words of Amit Ray, an Indian author and philosopher, “Leadership is not just some empty formulas but establishing deep connection at soul levels through service, integrity, passion, perseverance and equanimity.”
Gamaliel Bailey, the late American physician, journalist and anti-slavery activist, once said: “Never respect men merely for their riches, but rather for their philanthropy; we do not value the sun for its height, but for its use.”
According to Robin Sharma, a Canadian author, lawyer and leadership pundit, “Leadership is not about title or designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration.”
At 64, Otu is seen to have lived a life of fulfilment and accomplishment with the way he positively affected the lives of many through the opportunities he was offered at different times. He was regarded as the ‘father of empowerment’ in his years at the Parliament due to his tremendously remarkable human capacity development efforts.
On his 64th birthday, it was celebration galore with a torrent of goodwill messages and glowing tributes from Cross Riverians to Otu, the man they believe his emergence as governor signalled a season of sweetness in the state. He is seen to have started well with the various commendable steps he has so far taken to reposition and lift Cross River to greater heights for the benefit of the citizens.
In his congratulatory message to Sweet Prince, erstwhile Senate Leader and ex-Chairman Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Victor Ndoma-Egba, described the governor as a great achiever and grassroots politician who has lived a life of contentment and service to humanity.
Ndoma-Egba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former senator representing Cross River Central, said: “I felicitate the Governor of Cross River State, His Excellency, Senator Prince Bassey Otu on the occasion of his 64th birthday. As he clocks 64, I wish him a long and glorious life.
“Prince Otu has lived a life of service, a life of fulfilment and a life of contentment. I pray God to grant him the courage and boldness to do all the beautiful things he planned to do while in office so that he will leave behind enduring legacies for which he would invariably be remembered. So I wish him courage and boldness as he continues to pilot the affairs of Cross River State.
“Otu’s life has been that of grace essentially. And you can see God’s grace clearly upon his life. He has achieved a lot in life. He has done quite well. He is a likeable person. He is a grassroots politician liked by the people. He is unassuming and he has endeared himself in the hearts of the people. He is known to be a man of high integrity and unquestionable character.
“It is my wish for him that the office he holds today should elevate him. Because there is life after office. How are you seen after office? Does the office elevate you or diminish you? Some have held high offices and got diminished as a result of their failure to meet the expectations of the people. That would not be the case for Prince Otu. He will definitely take Cross River State to the Promised Land. All we need is to be patient and continue to support him. Given the circumstance he finds himself, I would say he is taking the right steps in the right direction to transform the state. The situation is not an easy one. It is not easy at all. I pray God will continue to protect, guide and direct him.
“Happy birthday, Your Excellency!”
The former Speaker of Cross River State House of Assembly and incumbent Senator representing Cross River Central Senatorial District, Rt. Hon. Eteng Jonah Williams, wrote: “Happy Birthday to our People’s First Governor.
“Your Excellency, on this special day, we wish to thank God for keeping you and for being the willing tool He has used to bless our state.
“You are indeed an inspiration to us and future generations. You are a quintessential leader and your direction and leadership is exactly what Cross River State needs now.
“On behalf of myself and the entire good people of Cross River Central Senatorial District, we felicitate and congratulate His Excellency, Senator Prince Bassey Edet Otu on the occasion of his birthday anniversary today. May God continue to bless you, consolidate all your efforts and crown them all with success.”
Senator Asuquo Ekpenyong presently representing Cross River South in the Senate, said: “Many happy returns to a governor who is not just a leader, but a true source of inspiration and guiding light in our society, your contributions to Cross River State and humanity at large is sincerely appreciated. As we all celebrate this important day with you, I pray for God’s divine and good health even as you lead our great State through years of sweetness.”
Rejoicing with the governor on his 64th birthday, the Cross River APC in a statement signed by its acting publicity secretary, Hon. Emmanuel Edem Inyang declared that “The State Chairman, Alphonsus Ogar Eba Esq. JP and the State Executive Committee members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Cross River State extend our warmest and heartfelt salutation to you, our Distinguished Governor, Sen Prince Bassey Otu on the occasion of your birthday anniversary today!
“On this momentous occasion, we stand united as members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Cross River State, to celebrate the remarkable virtues and visionary leadership you have demonstrated as our beloved Executive Governor.
“Your selflessness, compassion, and dedication to our great state have left us in awe of your devotion to the growth and progress of every citizen of our state.
“Your ‘People’s First’ mandate embodies the true spirit of public service, prioritizing the needs and aspirations of our people above all else.
“As a party, we are proud to align ourselves with your transformative leadership and we believe in your ability to move our state to greater heights of prosperity.
“Happy Birthday, Your Excellency! May God grant you a long blessed life and may your reign continue to foster unity, understanding, and progress among Cross Riverians and indeed all Nigerians.”
While felicitating Otu on his 64 years on earth, the Cross River Commissioner for Education, Senator Stephen Odey, commended the governor for his steadfastness and commitment towards turning around the fortunes of the state.
The Education Commissioner said: “On behalf of my family, the good people of Yache Nation, Management and staff of the State Ministry of Education and my humble self, I join all well-meaning Nigerians to celebrate the uncommon leader of our time, His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Cross River State, Senator Prince Bassey Otu.
“I’m writing for two reasons: one, to thank you for being a thoughtful and wise leader that I respect and admire. And two, to wish you a happy birthday!
“Your Excellency, we appreciate your goodwill and strong political will to move our dear state forward. May the LORD bless you with all round season of sweetness on your birthday, and may your days be filled with joy and your years full of many blessings.”
The Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the governor, Mr. Emmanuel Ogbeche, a seasoned journalist, in his piece captioned: “Otu: The Prince delivering sweetness at 64”, averred: “Indeed, the finest hour for Cross River state is nigh as Prince Otu, without any illusion of an easy ride, has set about laying a firm foundation on which to build a state that works for all with his People’s First Agenda.”
According to the former Chairman Abuja Chapter of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), “As governor, Otu has placed agriculture and tourism as lynchpins of the state’s economic revival and is investing resources and manpower in this regard. His assemblage of a blend of technocrats, politicians, and private sector driven individuals in his various appointments speak to his broad vision not to allow any sector suffer, insisting that each should complement the other.
“Since his assumption as governor of Cross River state, Prince Otu has embarked on bridge building, cross-cutting tours across the state to take stock of projects and infrastructure and meeting with diverse groups and peoples to have first-hand experience of their needs and concerns.”
In his appreciation message to Cross Riverians for the undiluted love shown to him on his birthday, the governor wrote: “I am incredibly grateful to the wonderful people of Cross River State and beyond for celebrating my birthday with such warmth and love.
“Your support and kind wishes mean the world to me. It is an honor to serve as your Governor, and I am committed to working tirelessly for the betterment of our state.
“Thank you for your continuous support and for making this birthday truly special.
“Together, let us continue to build a brighter future for Cross River State.”
Jegede, a journalist, writes from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja