One of the legacies Senator, Dr. Joseph Wayas bequeathed to his people is the Federal College of Education, Obudu.

His generation was selfless and not obsessed with the mindless acquisition of wealth and other trappings of power. He was a master of political maneuverings and scheming and one victim of this was Dr.
Clement Isong, then Governor of Cross River State between 1979 to 1983 whom he ensured never had a second term because he politically crossed his path.

He represented the old Ogoja province in the Constituent Assembly which was convened in 1978 by the Federal Military Government headed by General Olusegun Obasanjo to discuss the draft Constitution prepared by the Constitutional Drafting Committee (otherwise known as the 49 Wise Men). The constituent assembly drafted the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1979 which was the document that guided the legal foundation of the second Republic.

It was in the constituent assembly that Wayas made the connection and built a network across the country that eventually saw to his emergence as the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1979.
He had been elected a senator in 1979 under the platform of NPN to represent the then Ogoja senatorial district (now Cross River North and Cross River senatorial districts) defeating Dr. Matthew Tawo Abu of the defunct Nigerian People’s Party, NPP in a keenly contested election.

He was a founding member of the National Council for National Understanding that laid the foundation for the founding of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, the governing party from 1979 to 1983. He presided over the Senate with aplomb, integrity, and competence which bellied his little frame. The disagreement between Ways and Dr. Clement Isong fractionalized NPN in the old Cross River State into bitter and implacable, antagonistic camps – Calabar and Lagos fronts.

The generalissimo of Lagos front was Dr. Wayas while that of Calabar was Dr. Isong. The State was equally divided into two formidable geopolitical blocs namely Calabar/Ogoja bloc and Mainland bloc (present Akwa Ibom State, excluding Oron) which aligned with Calabar/Ogoja. To divide the solidarity of the mainland bloc, Ways ensured that an Annang man Chief Donald Etiebet challenged Dr. Clement Isong in the primaries to nominate the governorship candidate of the NPN in the 1983 general election who decidedly won.

The alignment of Annang, Oron, and Calabar/Ogoja blocs led Chief Etiebet to roundly defeat Brigadier General Jacob Udouaka Esuene of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria dividing the formidable Ibibio votes. Joe Ways was one of those who laid the foundation of the present Akwa Ibom and the Cross River States. The agitation of the minority people of the old eastern region of Nigeria that started in the 1940s as a movement for the creation of Calabar Ogoja Rivers State culminated in the creation of the defunct South Eastern State on 27th May 1967, by the government of General Yakubu Gowon.

The drums of the tragic civil war were already starting to beat. Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the military governor of the eastern group of Provinces had fundamentally disagreed with the leadership of the federal military government headed by General Gowon over the resolutions reached in Aburi, Ghana, on political dialogue and talks over the crisis in Nigeria convened and brokered by the Ghanaian Military Head of State, General Joseph Arthur Ankrah (1966-1969).

The disagreement over the implementation of the Aburi resolution between Colonel Ojukwu and the Federal Military Government led to Colonel Ojukwu declaring the secession of the old eastern region from the Federation of Nigeria. General Gowon deliberately set out to destroy regional solidarity and political ties and influences, dividing the four Regions in the country (Northern, Western, Mid-Western, and Eastern) (which Decree No. 1 of 1966 enacted to give constitutional backing to the federal military that emerged after the 1966 coup which toppled the democratically elected government of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa on 15 January 1966) had renamed Group of Provinces). The creation of States in the country was largely seen as a sort of political appeasement for minority groups in the country, especially in the defunct Northern and Eastern regions.

It was also considered by political pundits as a political masterstroke by General Gowon calculated to undermine the cohesion of the newly created Republic of Biafra by Colonel Ojukwu. The civil war in Nigeria reverberated in western capitals around the world including London where young Dr. Wayas became one of the leaders of several groups drumming support for the continued unity of Nigeria.
On his return to Nigeria, he was appointed Commissioner in the defunct South Eastern State maybe as compensation for supporting the unity of Nigeria. In 1995 during the regime of General Sani Abacha, he was appointed the Deputy Chairman of the National Constitutional Commission established to prepare the ground for convening the National Constitutional Conference convened by the government to discuss the future of Nigeria.

The curtain was drawn for Dr. Wayas in London on 2 December 2021. Adieu Senator Joseph Wayas.
Okoi Obono-Obla


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