Ruled by confetti of strings, the APC and PDP in Akwa Ibom State take the bull by the horns to ride the crest of the 2019 elections race. CHIDI OBINECHE writes.
READ ALSO: Akwa Ibom PDP and 2019 election
Beyond the song and the decibel
Unless a domesticated armistice is drawn and guards lowered, the 2019 governorship race in Akwa Ibom state will drip with sweat and toil. The symptoms have grown from a putative state to a swirl of hostilities. And no one in the combat range is blinking.
After the hotbed of party primaries, an assassination attempt on the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC Obong Nsima Ekere has deepened and stoked the fire of flaks and incendiary skirmishes, raising anxiety to unprecedented voltage levels. Hitherto, reputed as a one-party state exclusively controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the emergence and soaring popularity of the APC in the State has altered the calculations and steeped inter – party rivalry to an all- time high. Added to this is the stock, lock and barrel amassing by the APC of virtually all the leading political lights in the State in their space. Correspondingly, the cavern of politics and contest yielded to the ensuing maelstrom.
These heavyweights which includes the first and second democratically elected governors of the State, Obong Victor Attah and Obong Godswill Akpabio also parades an array of tested political titans like Don Etiebet, Ime Umana, Group Capt Sam Ewang, Retd, and John Akpan Udoegheghe. Defections into the party from the rival PDP is assiduously on the ascension. Reinforcing this strain, Ekere, who is also the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, said: “With what is happening, I can boldly say that Akwa Ibom State is totally APC.”
He continues: “ With the grace of God and with Godswill Akpabio and others coming to us, we will return President Muhammadu Buhari in Akwa Ibom State and win the governorship election.” The apparent boast is not just borne out of lip-smacking or chest beating, evolving dynamics in the state of aquatic splendor tends to put paid to it.
The governor, Emmanuel Udom, flying the flag of the PDP has come under very acerbic criticisms on his performance rating and related dynamics. With a whooping N6.85 billion annual Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, and a staggering base-level federal allocation of N143. 6 billion from the Federation Account, the state may have grossed over N450b outside extra-statutory intervention funds like Ecological funds, Paris Club Loan refunds, etc.
The amount when juxtaposed with his infrastructural strides pales into insignificance, his traducers charge. He is credited to have established the Electrical Digital Metering Solution factory and the Syringe Manufacturing Company which is said to be the largest of its kind in Africa. He has resuscitated the Peacock Paint Industry, the Pencil and Toothpick factories, Fertilizer blending factory, the plastic Manufacturing (advanced stage of completion). There are also ongoing works at the Ibom deep seaport and industrial park, as well as the flour mill and coconut refinery factory.
The government also boasts to have trained 20,000 youths in skills acquisition and N2b interest –free loans given to small scale entrepreneurs and traders in the state.
In addition, the government says it has done over 1700km of roads and 35 bridges linking the 31 local government areas, a claim, Utibe Ukim, Special Adviser on Media to Ekere vehemently disputes.”
The claim is spurious. Where are the roads they said they built? The good roads you see here were done by Attah and Akpabio. If they claim they did a 1700km road, which is equivalent to a travelling distance of here to Lagos, let the people see and feel it.
That is a bogus claim difficult to substantiate. They don’t need to lie to the people. The people are not fools” Beyond the incipient silverware lay a bolster very close to the heartstrings of the government. They echo it from the rooftops that security and ease of living have taken a centre stage in the State.
“Since the assumption of office of Emmanuel Udom, there is peace in the state. Nobody has been killed or kidnapped. Backlog of pensions had been paid dating back to 10 years”, Charles Udoh, the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy enthused. He predicts victory for Udom in the governorship elections hinging it on his performance.
“He will win. My reason is simple. When the president’s midterm report came out, 60% of that report is dedicated to Akwa Ibom. So, where is the much touted political clout of the opposition? The State chairman of the APC, Ini Okopido, however, disagrees. For him, Udom has made victory easy for them.” He makes it all too easy for us. He has not in any way lived to expectations and the records are there for anyone to see.”
The heat in the kitchen
A popular maxim advises those who can’t stand the heat in the kitchen to get out. This, according to Ewang, a former Military governor of Ogun state and APC chieftain in Akwa Ibom State applies sufficiently to Udom. “If you can’t perform and you don’t want to lose woefully, the best thing is to quit. There are no two ways about it. Ipso facto, Daily Sun gathered that the real heat is the zoning mantra in the state. Across the three senatorial districts of Uyo, Ikot Ekpene and Eket, there is a groundswell of permutations on how the governorship elections would be won and lost by the two main rivals – Emmanuel Udom and Nsima Ekere.
Nsima is from Ikot Abasi, while Udom is from Onna. Both are neighboring local government areas in Eket district (Akwa Ibom South). Attah, who is regarded as the founding father of the state and who ruled for 8 years is also from Uyo ( Akwa Ibom North East)) district. Akpabio who succeeded him is from Ikot Ekpene zone (Akwa Ibom North west). An argument therefore arises on the propriety of Udom being allowed to complete 8 years in office before it swings back to Uyo.
This mantra is for the PDP, it was learnt. For the APC, there is no clear-cut principle on zoning by the Party. Ini Okopido gives more vent on this: “As far as the constitution of our party is concerned, there is no express provision for zoning.” Akpan Udoegheghe takes it from there digging into his rich bag of logic and sophistry.”
They are talking about zoning in our state. Zoning is a PDP thing. In the old Cross River, (comprising Akwa Ibom and Cross River States) Etiebet did not complete his tenure; Isong did not complete his tenure; and Akpan Isemin as well. In Uyo, Obong Victor Attah came and completed the tenure of Akpan Isemin; In Ikot Ekpene senatorial district, Akpabio came and completed the tenure of Etiebet who was only three months in Office; then the present governor is completing the tenure of Clement Isong who served only four years.
“But we as APC, we do not have zoning. My point is that when you are going to take power from a political party, you do not play to their sentiments because they will take advantage of that.” The standard calculation in this run-up is that head or tail, Eket clinches it. Whether it will be 4 years or 8 years will only be defined by the constitutional bar on term limits. In a meeting with stakeholders in the state recently, Ekere made no qualms about his tenure.
The body language from him has always been that what one cannot achieve in 4 years, he cannot achieve in 8 years, which translates in simple terms of his vision to deliver on promises; whether it is 4 or 8 years. A survey conducted by Daily Sun in the State is also a pointer to the citizens’ apathy to zoning. The respondents played shy of it , posting more on the credentials of their preferred candidate.
The blast to come
The state pulsates on two political platforms – PDP and APC. Other parties exist only in name in the state and have no structural or functional offices except the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA and the Democratic Alternative, DA which is fielding Johnson Attah as governorship candidate.
APGA has no candidate for elective positions at all levels. The field is now left open for the two dominant parties – PDP and APC. Interestingly,
party politics is a fad in the state with a great preponderance of the youths and women strenuously engage with the two political parties, making the contest look like war. Of the 1,837, 767 registered voters in Akwa Ibom, the 31 local governments have a fair sprinkling. However, Oruk Anam Local Government Area, located in the South western part i.e.( Ikot Ekpene) is the biggest and most populous, thus making it one of the swing areas. There are 10 Local Government Areas in Ikot Ekpene ( Akwa Ibom North West), Akwa Ibom South ( Eket) has 12 local Government Areas, while North East (Uyo) has 9.
Though Uyo has 9 local government areas, its population profile is thick because of the presence of high non-indigenous population. This strengthens its position as a swing area after Eket. Since the two gladiators – Udom and Ekere are from Eket and are likely to split the votes there, Uyo and Ikot Ekpene transcends easily into cannon –fodders that would prove decisive in the outcome. Ekere , with his seeming popularity in Uyo where he lives and the backing of Ime Umana stands a good chance of running it over.
The battle ground in Ikot Ekpene also looks good for him, as the combined influence and efforts of Akpabio, and Etiebet may prove very decisive and useful in capitulating the opposition. Barring any deus – ex machina, a result in favour of Ekere may not be far-fetched in setting the stage for the first transfer of power to another party in nearly two decades.