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2019: As Emmanuel, Akpabio Battle For The Soul Of Akwa Ibom



Following the poor turn-out of PDP governors at the second term declaration of Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, held recently in Uyo, the state capital, BENARD TOLANI DADA writes that the governor may face an uphill task in his quest to return to government house after 2019 elections

Ordinarily, one would have dismissed the growing but steady incursion of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) into the political stage of Akwa Ibom with a wave of hand, thereby paving way without much stress for the incumbent Governor Udom Emmanuel’s second term bid in the 2019 general elections.

But as things stand now, the road to the Hilltop mansion Government House in Uyo seems bumpy. This of course is not unconnected with the recent defection of the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Godwill Akpabio to the APC.

On the surface, Governor Emmanuel is sitting pretty ahead of other contenders in the 2019 elections. He still enjoys a good measure of popularity largely because of his hand in a number of massive infrastructural projects. His Dakkada agent of change programme has seen to the construction of roads, establishment of some industries, and has made noticeable improvement in electricity supply to the state, as well as his agricultural revolution.

Similarly, his five-point agenda when he took over from his predecessor in 2015 also boasts advances in the health care such as free care for pregnant mothers, children and the aged, renovation of  hospital in Eket, Oruk- Anam Etinan and in the provision of micro-credit loan in Agriculture.

Despite all these gains, Emmanuel can expect a tough fight from the opposition APC that is currently making an unprecedented inroad into the state in the run up to the February 2019 elections, particularly with the defection his mentor, Akpabio to the party. Akpabio still enjoy considerable support in many parts of the state.

But the Governor who is also the leader of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the state has been up-beat in grassroots  campaign which has taken him across the three Senatorial districts to ensure that he is not out-smarted by the broom welding opposition APC that control the central government in Abuja.

After months of foot-dragging, Governor Emmanuel finally made his public declaration for a second term as governor before a tumultuous crowd of witnesses in Uyo.

The doubt about which party the Governor will pitch his tent with for his second term was finally laid to rest after months of palpable expectation and anxiety by the people who have waited in suspense not knowing what would happen next following the sudden defection of Akpabio, his godfather to APC.

The former governor who formally defected from the opposition PDP to APC at a mega rally held at the fully packed Ikot Ekpene township stadium told the huge crowd in attendance that he decided to join APC because he discovered that President Muhammadu Buhari “is a man of integrity and a nationalist.”

Akpabio said that he decided to join a party that would sweep away poverty and impunity not only from Akwa Ibom but throughout the Niger Delta. He said that he joined APC to help salvage the country. “The country is at war and all hands must be on deck to salvage the situation and not to aggravate it. As keepers of national emergency, we should put heads together. I decided to join to emancipate the people and provide succor for the people.’’ He said that the PDP of today has no vision and the leadership is replete with arrogance.

Sen. Akpabio who defected with some State Assembly members, two Commissioners, two National Assembly members and other PDP adherents, said he was leaving his former party to pitch tent with the central government to ensure that the State gets the fair share of national cake.

He also pledged to take the people of Akwa Ibom state and the South South to the centre for meaningful visibility.

The defection of Akpabio shook the entire state to its foundation putting the people in confusion and not knowing who to support.

But despite that, prominent politicians in the three Senatorial Districts of the state were unanimous in throwing their weight behind Governor Emmanuel who is from Eket Senatorial district and expected to finish his second term just as Obong Atta from Uyo and Senator Akpabio from Ikot Ekpene has done during their tenures.

Worried by the defection of Akpabio and the likely consequencies, Governor Emmanuel had to urgently call an emergency meeting of all political stakeholders in the state at the Governor’s Lodge where they agreed to support his re-election. The Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN), under the aegis of Fathers of Faith also gave their blessing to the re-election of Governor Emmanuel.

Prelate Emeritus of the Methodist Church, Sunday Mbang; the immediate past Chairman of CAN in the State, Arch Bishop Cletus Bassey and the current CAN chair, Rev. Nduese Ekwere, were the arrowheads.

Governor Udom’s Kith and Kin from Eket Senatorial district led by Chief Udueso Essien, a former Minister and other political leaders in the area were part of the rescue mission.

But with Akpabio teaming up with other former PDP members including Umana Okon Umana, the NDDC managing director, Nsima Ekere, Senator James John Udoedehe, Senator Ita Enang, Chief Don Etibiet and a host of others who had earlier moved to the ruling APC backed by the federal might, they could threaten the second chance of the state Governor.

Many socio political groups including market women, youth organizations, drivers associations and Keke riders were soon to organize rallies in support of Governor Emmanuel to whittle dawn the now formidable APC incursion into the state.

During what was termed, ‘mother of all rallies’ weeks ago in Uyo, over 90,000 indigenes of the state defied the early downpour and gathered at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium for the formal declaration of Governor Emmanuel for a second term.

The Governor, accompanied by his wife, Martha, Governors of Abia and Rivers States, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu and Mr Nyesom Wike, as well as former governors of the state, the deputy governor, Moses Ekpo, state and national lawmakers as well as other major stakeholders, watched with admiration as the state stood still in support of the governor’s bid to return to office in 2019.

But contrary to top officials that they were expecting at the rally all PDP Governors, the governors of Cross River, Bayelsa, Delta, Enugu, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Taraba and Gombe states stayed away from the ceremony without any explanation or representation.

Only Governors Nyesom Wike, of Rivers State and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State were present, both arriving towards the end of the ceremony.

Also conspicuously absent was the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.

Barr Emmanuel Enoidem, the PDP National Legal Adviser, and a close associate of both Akpabio and Governor Emmanuel, was the only member of the party’s National Working Committee present and he announced that he was representing the National Chairman.

But many Akpabio’s men who were either serving in Udom’s administration or reaping from his benevolence were at the stadium and even made public renunciation of senator Akpabio’s defection to the All Progressives Congress.

Even many of them from Ikot Ekpene senatorial district the home base of senator Akpabio such as Senator Ibok Essien, Ex-Deputy Governor Chris Ekpeyong and Ini Local Government Area political leaders, publicly disowned their kinsmen putting to question senator Akpabio’s acclaimed political weight.

Virtually all the state’s political elders in the PDP were on hand to endorse Governor Emmanuel. The huge turnout at the stadium was also another feat that showed a public affection for the governor.

Barr Onofiok Luke, the Speaker of the Assembly who chaired the ceremony’s central planning committee, was able to muster the attendance of only 12 of the 24 PDP members of the Assembly.

Though the promise he made was to present his score card at his declaration ceremony; Governor Emmanuel also delved into Senator Akpabio’s criticisms of his administration.

“No man is God…One man in Akwa Ibom cannot determine who governs, who does not govern, who stays, who does not stay,” he said.

The governor said any country that does not build its economy cannot build its politics. Politics, he said, must be anchored on the economy.

“Never in history has Akwa Ibom been this unified. Never in history has Akwa Ibom been this peaceful,” he said.

“I am overwhelmed. The number of people here (in the stadium) is enough for me not to say anything here today. You’ve written the story, you’ve shown it to the whole world that Akwa Ibom is PDP.”

The governor urged the people to support his aspiration for second term for the sustenance of the tempo of good governance he had introduced in the state.

He said that his predecessor left behind some uncompleted projects, including the Sheraton by Four Points Hotel at Ikot Ekpene and the Uyo – Ikot Ekpene road project. He said that his administration had been working hard to ensure the completion of the projects and others begun by the former administration.

“Who said they had completed the Sheraton by Four Points Hotel? It is only today that we are negotiating with Starwood Group for the retaining of the name, which some people surreptitiously put up on a building.”

His achievements, according to him, include the conglomeration of industrial clusters, which houses toothpick, pencil, syringe, electric metering company and coconut factories as well as Peacock Paint, fertilizer firms and many kilometres of roads.

The governor took the legacies of his predecessor, Senator Akpabio to the cleaners saying the truth is there for anyone to see.

“Let nobody deceive you, it is this administration that has taken that road (Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road) up to 23 kilometres.

“They talked about four-Point by Sheraton. Today, I don’t want to answer them. But let me state, the facts must come out fast and the facts must point to the truth because the truth is constant.

“It is just now that we have incorporated a company to negotiate with Starwood for that name Four-Point by Sheraton. If anybody has ever done that, let him show me the agreement he signed.

“It is now that we are doing external works in that premises in order to turn it into a hotel.

“I don’t want to join issues today; I just want to humbly submit myself. But the truth must be told that it is just now that I have paid $7.2 million to Starwood so that we can retain the name that was surreptitiously put on the building called Four-Point by Sheraton Hotel.

Governor Emmanuel criticized a remark said to have been made by Senator Akpabio at the APC rally in Ikot Ekpena that he would take over Akwa Ibom the way the German dictator, Adolf Hitler, invaded Poland in 1939.

“I heard human being boast that the Akwa Ibom politics in 2019 will be like the invasion of Poland by Hitler. Whoever is buying guns, trying to kill our children, meanwhile they have gone to hide their own children abroad, will not succeed.”

The governor said that his administration has done over 1,700 kilometres of roads in the state in less than three years, renovated over 349 schools, brought down the cost of garri, (a staple food in the state), at least by 50 percent, and revived the healthcare system.

Governor Emmanuel explained that as he spoke, a school from the state was representing Nigeria in a competition in Sweden. The equipment of some General Hospitals in the state, including those in Ikono and Etinan which have been digitalized were also marks of the success of the administration.

The governor also spoke about successes in other areas including sports observing that he had in three years brought two trophies through Akwa United to the state a giant leap compared to the nothing brought in the eight years before then.

“I therefore submit myself for your consideration to continue with the good work you’ve supported me to do in the state,” he said.

In his remarks, at the ceremony Governor Wike said, “Akwa Ibom people, today you must thank God that you have been liberated. Some people are trying to play God.”

His Abia State counterpart, Dr Ikpeazu said: “No one person can make a king.”

Others who spoke include Sen. Anietie Okon, third Republic senator, and Ex-military Governor Idongesit Nkanga, close ally of Governor Emmanuel, also attacked Sen. Akpabio for criticizing the Governor and announced that “the people of Uyo senatorial district have declared their unweaving support for the re-election of Governor Emmanuel for second term.

They explained that given the resources available, he has performed more than any other first-term governor in Nigeria.