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Akwa Ibom: Growing Opposition To Emmanuel’s Re-election Bid

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Will Governor Udom Emmanuel (PDP) still hold ace ahead 2019 gubernatorial election in Akwa Ibom State? Bernard Tolani Dada, examines the issues at stake

A climate of uncertainty and apprehension hovers over the political space of Akwa Ibom State as the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) are in a supremacy battle ahead of 2019.

While pointer shows that the PDP administration fielding the incumbent Governor Udom Emmanuel is determined to hold on to power, the APC is busy enlarging its membership, equipping its arsenal and expanding its scope of influence across the state by appointing defectors into juicy boards and federal government agencies.

The power equation in the state wasn’t like this from the outset, before the PDP was decimated and displaced in the 2015 general elections, one could predict with certainty that the PDP would win all elections in Akwa Ibom state without any qualms.

But the unfolding scenario has created a situation which makes it difficult for political diviners to foretell the direction the pendulum of power will swing to in the next dispensation.

This is against the background of recent developments in the political space of the state which have also helped to exacerbate the feelings of anxiety and despondency in the PDP camp.

While the fortunes of the APC appear to be disappearing by the day, taking into consideration the outcome of the last December Local government election where the ruling party PDP won in all the council areas and wards, the opposition APC says they are not losing any sleep.

Though, the PDP administration in the state appears unruffled, and boasted that PDP is a religion in the state and that it would still retain power in the next political dispensation not minding the fact that the party has suffered some serious setbacks and misfortunes in recent times.

It is certain that one of the challenges faced by the PDP at the moment has to do with the gale of defections that has hit the party like a thunderbolt, and this seems to giving the party sleepless nights.

Even though the APC has also lost some of its members to the PDP, the blow suffered by the PDP is nothing compared to that of the broom-welding party.

Staunch stakeholders of the PDP, who have jumped boat, include former and serving federal and state lawmakers, ex-commissioners, former local government chairmen and councilors and leaders of thought.

It has also been alleged that a sizeable number of PDP members, including Governor Udom’s cousins from Awa in Onna local government area of the state have also dumped the party.

However, what appears to have seriously dazed the PDP and Governor Emmanuel’s administration, was the defections of serving lawmakers at the National Assembly namely, Senator Nelson Effiong, of Akwa Ibom South (Eket) Senatorial District and Hon. Emmanuel Ukoette of Ukanafun/Oruk Anam federal constituency.

Other defectors include: Senator Aloysius Etok, the immediate past senator representing Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, Senator Etang Umoyo, a Third Republic senator, Hon. Bassey Dan Abia (jnr), and Iquo Minimah, former federal lawmakers for Eket and Ikono/Ini federal constituencies respectively.

Others are Hon. Ekerete Ekpenyong and Chief Alex Nyong, former local government chairmen of Uyo and Mbo respectively.

It is also on record that the entire chapter executives of the PDP in Ikot Abasi local government area as well as some executive members of the party in other local government areas have cross-carpeted to the APC. The list is endless.

But political pundits have predicted more switching of camps ahead of 2019, and have indeed foreseen that the casualty would be higher on the side of the PDP.

This is also worsened by the number of APC chieftains who have been given top and juicy political appointments at the federal level, which gives the impression that the APC-led federal government is determined to grab the oil-rich Akwa Ibom state by all means.

As at the last count, no fewer than 27 APC chieftains from the state have been given federal appointments, and it is even rumored that more largesse would be extended to the party’s faithful from the state in no distance time.

Federal appointees from the state include Mr. Udoma Udo Udoma, minister of budget and national planning; Mr. Nsima Ekere, Managing director; Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); Eseme Eyibo as the board Chairman of Cross River Development Commission and Obong Umana Okon Umana, managing director/chief executive officer, Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone Authority (OGFTZA).

Others are Senator Ita Solomon Enang, Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Engineer Ita Awak, Director Air Worthiness in the Nigeria Civil Aviation Agency (NCAA), Engineer Ben Ukpong, commissioner with the National Population Commission (NPC), Hon. Samuel Frank, commissioner representing Akwa Ibom state on the board of the NDDC etc.

It is expected that the line-up of these federal appointees from the state would work with the likes of Chief Don Etiebet, a former national chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Poeples Party (ANPP), Chief Edet Nkpubre, ex-South/South national chairman of the PDP, now chieftain of the APC.

Though, these appointees for now are not talking tough or overtly threatening to unseat Governor Udom, it is believed that there is an unwritten order from ‘above’ for them to work hard and capture Akwa Ibom for the APC in 2019.

However, it has been reliably gathered that there are intensive and extensive strategizing and behind-the-scene plots within the APC camp in the state to uproot the PDP in the state.

A source informed that the APC-led federal government is very much interested in capturing the state because of its high financial profile as the highest oil revenue earning state in the Niger Delta, and would use these appointees as foot soldiers to actualize the ambition of the party.

Again, many pundits have questioned the political wizardry and doggedness of Governor Udom and his commissioners. Many believe that he does not have the finesse and suaveness of the immediate past governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio but has the business-like mien of a sound administrator and the magic wand of bringing glory to the state through his careful financial management and prudency.

Even PDP members have criticized the political style of the governor, who is seen as more of a technocrat than a politician, and have also arrived at the verdict that he does not have political structures strong enough to earn him a second term in office without the help of Senator Akpabio and his men.

A careful assessment of the political pedigree of the governor’s aides indicates that most of them were ferried in from Lagos state, and as such do not have any political foundation or roots in the state.

Apart from a few of them, namely the commissioner for works, Mr. Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-eyen, commissioner for culture and tourism, Mr. Victor Antai, Commissioner for transport, Orman Esin, and Charles Udo commissioner for Information and strategy, it is believed that most of the governor’s aides are political greenhorns who would not be able galvanize enough grassroots support to help him win election in 2019.

But the People’s Democratic Party in Akwa Ibom State have structures in all the 31-local government area and 329 wards in the state. This is a political gain for the party as each of the officers in the party has the potential to influence his or her family members, friends, church members, club and organization members to vote for the party.

Again, it is rumored that there is a silent rift between Governor Udom and his predecessor in office, Senator Godswill Akpabio though this has been denied, but Just before the end of last year, the governor sacked most of the former governor’s supporters who were members of his cabinet.

Though the rumors that Akpabio and his followers may not work for the re-election of the Governor in the next election has also been dispelled by the Senator himself. The former governor now a serving Senator representing Ikot Ekpene senatorial district during his recent end of year get-together with stakeholders and youths of the senatorial district said he was still in support of Governor Emmanuel and still regarded him as having great potential to take the state to the promise land.

Despite all the rumors, many factors are still in favor of Governor Udom. One is that the governor has acquitted himself creditably in the art of governance vis-à-vis prudent management of scarce state resources even in the face of the mounting economic recession.

Secondly, the governor is working hard to uproot poverty and spread wealth through industrialization and empowerment of women and youths with skills and financial support.

It is to the credit of the governor that he has established some industries in the state among which are the metering factory in Onna and the resuscitation of the moribund Peacock Paints industry at Etinan and so many other agro- allied based projects. Some youths of the state have been sent abroad by the state government to acquire requisite skills to run the factories.

He has also done the ground breaking of some industries like the coconut refinery factory, automobile industry, rice processing factory just to mention a few.

The governor has put in place the Akwa Ibom Entrepreneurship Empowerment Scheme e(AKEES), and through this scheme thousands of youths, women and men have been trained and supported financially in many areas such as agriculture, ICT etc.

This is in addition to the prompt payment of salaries and entitlements of serving civil servants and pension and gratuities of retired workers. This feat has made Akwa Ibom one of the states that is workers-friendly.

Udom has also invested so much in education by way of continuing and even improving on the free and compulsory education programme of the immediate past administration. He has spent quite on a fortune on the payment of fees for students writing senor school certificate examinations.

In terms of physical development, Udom has consolidated on the achievements of the last administration by ensuring that every part of the state is connected by road, besides ensuring steady power supply from the Ibom Power Company.

Another factor that would likely work in favour of the PDP in the state is the internal crisis rocking the state chapter of the APC. The broom-welding party has in recent time has been severely factionalized.

There are three factions of the party in the state. They are that of a former FCT minister of state, Senator John James Akpanudoedeghe, the second is that of the managing director of NDDC, Mr. Nsima Ekere, while the MD/CEO of the Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone Authority (OGFTZA), Obong Umana Okon Umana heads the third.

It would be to the benefit of the PDP and Governor Udom if these heavy weights within the APC do not reconcile their differences and form a common front to confront the PDP in the next elections.

Head or tail, Akwa Ibom people are obviously torn between two opposing forces or options, and from all indications the battle for the soul of the state would be keenly contested.

fand spread wealth through industrialization and empowerment of women and youths with skills and financial support.

It is to the credit of the governor that he has established some industries in the state among which are the metering factory in Onna and the resuscitation of the moribund Peacock Paints industry at Etinan and so many other agro- allied based projects. Some youths of the state have been sent abroad by the state government to acquire requisite skills to run the factories.

He has also done the ground breaking of some industries like the coconut refinery factory, automobile industry, rice processing factory just to mention a few.

The governor has put in place the Akwa Ibom Entrepreneurship Empowerment Scheme e(AKEES), and through this scheme thousands of youths, women and men have been trained and supported financially in many areas such as agriculture, ICT etc.

This is in addition to the prompt payment of salaries and entitlements of serving civil servants and pension and gratuities of retired workers. This feat has made Akwa Ibom one of the states that is workers-friendly.

Udom has also invested so much in education by way of continuing and even improving on the free and compulsory education programme of the immediate past administration. He has spent quite on a fortune on the payment of fees for students writing senor school certificate examinations.

In terms of physical development, Udom has consolidated on the achievements of the last administration by ensuring that every part of the state is connected by road, besides ensuring steady power supply from the Ibom Power Company.

Another factor that would likely work in favour of the PDP in the state is the internal crisis rocking the state chapter of the APC. The broom-welding party has in recent time has been severely factionalized.

There are three factions of the party in the state. They are that of a former FCT minister of state, Senator John James Akpanudoedeghe, the second is that of the managing director of NDDC, Mr. Nsima Ekere, while the MD/CEO of the Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone Authority (OGFTZA), Obong Umana Okon Umana heads the third.

It would be to the benefit of the PDP and Governor Udom if these heavy weights within the APC do not reconcile their differences and form a common front to confront the PDP in the next elections.

Head or tail, Akwa Ibom people are obviously torn between two opposing forces or options, and from all indications the battle for the soul of the state would be keenly contested.

Considering the unfolding scenario, one is compelled to ask if the PDP and Governor Udom would still hold the forte in 2019.

 



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