“It’s a great relief to us, we’ve never seen this before” -Commuters
“I did it to ameliorate the sufferings of my people” -Uduak Udoh
By our Correspondent
Candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the March 18, 2023 governorship election in Akwa Ibom state, Mr. Uduak Udoh has hinted that aside from political campaigns, his decision to provide the free bus ride to the people of the state was to contribute to the reduction of the intensity of sufferings in the state in the face of the ongoing Naira scarcity.
Uduak Udoh who bared his mind in Uyo on Monday while fielding questions from newsmen said politics aside, he used to feel very sad seeing people go through avoidable pains and agony.
Our correspondents gathered that each of the five (5) coaster buses has a seating capacity of fifty-four (54) and runs from morning till night. The free buses which cover nearly the entire state, ply all the major routes linking Uyo, the state capital with adjourning local government areas. The major routes include Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road to Ikot Ekpene local government and environs.
Others are Uyo-Abak Road to Abak local government and environs; Uyo-Aka Road to Nnung Udoe; Uyo-Oron Road to Oron and environs; Uyo-Nwaniba Road to Uruan, etc. As at the time of this report, the free bus service which was kicked off penultimate week has continued for ten days.
Responding to questions on what informed his decision to provide the free bus ride, the Governorship hopeful said “In one of my campaign trips to Ikot Ekpene, I stopped over at a certain popular joint along the Ikot Ekpene-Uyo Road to interact with people, you know, in my usual character.
So, when I alighted from my car, I noticed that a certain woman was walking down with three children, heading towards Uyo direction. As I came down, a crowd of people around the joint and those inside the joint came out to greet and welcome me. My team and I, after exchanging pleasantries with the people, went in and sat for a while and had some entertainment. I also used the opportunity to interact with people and exchanged contacts.
“I could recall vividly that that woman with three children was one of the persons I hugged before we entered the Sit Out. But you know, due to the crowd and the pulse of the moment, she was out of my sight. We sat there for about thirty to forty-five minutes before we left en route Uyo.
“We drove for some minutes, covering a good distance like one or two villages along the road and behold, I saw the woman still trekking with her three children. So, I asked my driver to stop the car. Our convoy stopped and I came down and asked where they were going to. She told me and I asked them to enter my vehicle. Well, as human, she felt somehow but I assured her she’s safe.
“I took them to their destination and, you know, let me keep the other details of our encounter. But my conversation with her gave me a clue to what our people are going through as a result of this cash crunch. It was an emotional moment to me. So, I was so disturbed in my spirit, thinking of how I could intervene and be of help. If you know the number of people including children that trek long distances because of this hardship, you will be shocked.
“So, when I met with my team afterwards, the holy spirit brought out the idea and also made available the wherewithal and quickly, I approved the provision of the 54-seater coaster buses and the concomitant logistics. And I thank God for the succor the initiative has brought to our people. I feel excited when I read testimonies on the social media and newspapers on how the free bus ride has helped our people. But in all, I return all the glory to God”.
When asked whether he would continue the free bus service if he wins the Governorship race, he said “One thing I have observed is that it doesn’t take so much for government to implement these lofty initiatives. If as a private citizen I could sustain it for this long, then as a governor, I should be able to modify it in such a way to take some transportation burdens off the shoulders of at least, the less-privilege residents of Akwa Ibom state”.
Speaking to our Correspondent, some of the beneficiaries said the free bus initiative has brought serious relief to them.
Mrs. Emah a teacher, who works in Ikot Ekpene local government had this to say:
“I reside here in Uyo with my husband and children. I got recently transferred from Uyo to Ikot Ekpene late last year and I have yet to relocate to Ikot Ekpene with my family. So I travel daily from here (Uyo) to my station in Ikot Ekpene. Although the daily transportations really eaten seriously into my salary but I was enduring it until about a month ago when this CBN policy came up.
Most times, I trek long distances when I can’t find any money to buy. I went through hell. But I thank God for this free bus initiative. I can’t explain how this has helped me in the last few days. I don’t know the sponsor in person but I’m told his name is Uduak Udoh, the Governorship Candidate of the Labour Party.
Well, I’m not a politician. But because of him (Uduak), I’m going to vote for the first time since 2003 which was the last time I voted. People may see this as very little, but to some of us who trek distances simply because no driver will allow you to board his vehicle without a physical cash, it’s a great relief.
For showing up at this critical time when people are really suffering, God will bless Uduak Udoh and grant him all his heart desires. For his kindheartedness, the Almighty God shall cause him to win the election so that he would govern the state with human heart”.
Others who spoke to our paper also poured blessings and encomiums on Uduak Udoh, relishing that the free buses have helped them on the school transportation issues of their wards and other areas of daily movements.