Opinion

The Man Dr Joseph Wayas

Dr. Joseph Wayas (79) is the first Senate president to act as president of the federal republic of Nigeria. That was in 1983 following the absence of President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari and his vice, Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, who both travelled outside the country. He acted for sixteen days.

Dr. Wayas is the second Senate president to come from the South-South. The first was Chief Dennis Chukude Osadebay (1911-1994) from Asaba.

Dr. Joseph Wayas was also the first Senate president to have been re-elected to the position. That was in 1983. The second is Brigadier General David Alechenu Mark from Benue State.

In 1979 he defeated Chief Matthew Tawo Mbu (1929-2012) of the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) in the Ogoja senatorial election in Cross River State on July 9, 1979. Chief Mbu was a permanent fixture in Nigeria political affairs for more than 50 years. He was a minister in 1953 at the age of 24.

After the senatorial election, he defeated a renowned accountant, Senator David Omuenya Dafinone from Bendel south in a shadow election held at Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos on September 22, after the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) had zoned the post of Senate president to the South-South region.

On October 9, 1979, by 53 to 42 votes, Dr. Wayas defeated the former chief judge of Bendel State, Senator Franklin Oritsemuyiwa Atake of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) to emerge as the Senate president.

Dr. Wayas, now ailing, was the leader of the Lagos Front that dethroned the governor of Cross River State, Dr. Clement Nyong Isong (1920-2000; CFR) in the 1983 NPN gubernatorial primaries, when Akwa Ibom was part of Cross River State. Other members of the Front at that time were Senator Victor Akan (Eket/Oron), Senator George A. Daniel (Uyo), Senator Donald Dick Etiebet (1934-2015; Ikot-Ekpene) and Senator Joseph Oqua Ansa (Calabar). The Front replaced Dr. Isong with Senator Etiebet from Anang in the present Akwa Ibom State, who later won the 1983 gubernatorial election in Cross River State.

Dr. Wayas, who is from Basang,in Obanliku local government area of Cross River State, with its headquarters at Sankwala, is a man who speaks fluent Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and French. Due to old age and failing health, the once elegance of Dr. Wayas is falling. Although he still retains his fighting spirit, yet this once powerful politician is a shadow of his old self.

He fell ill and has been on medication since last year at a medical facility at the United Kingdom and the government of Cross River State did not do anything about his failing health.

Earlier today, a press release from the office of Chief Press Secretary to Gov Ben Ayade was surfacesy on the social media saying that the State government has taken over the management of his failing health immediately.

Consequently, the state governor has ordered the Commissioner for Health, Dr Betta Edu to visit the ailing statesman at London and oversee his treatment.

The question gasping for answers is about the press release by the government. Was it necessary for the government of Governor Ben Ayade to convert an internal memo about such a Distinguished figure to be made public?

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Solomon Ogar

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