Virtually every politician of note in Akwa Ibom State has moved into the APC after Senator Akpabio moved to the party and it has been moulded into election winning machinery.
Before now in Akwa Ibom State, candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who had recently secured the tickets to contest elections into various positions in the state, would have started shopping for designer suits, asoebi, wrist watches and shoes to match in preparation for their swearing-in ceremonies. It was taken for granted that the elections were as good as being won once one had got the nomination of the party. Not anymore. The tides have changed and now all the candidates are waiting with bated breath for what will be the outcome of the elections to be conducted next year.
The reason for this is not far-fetched. Since the defection of the former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, into the All Progressives Congress (APC) on August 8, 2018, there is a growing belief that the opposition party in the state, stands a bright chance of winning the state in next year’s polls. The entry of Senator Akpabio into the APC has been like a tsunami in the State. Apart from serving Commissioners and other political appointees who have left in droves, some elected office holders have equally dumped the PDP in the State and all of a sudden, the once vibrant party has been gasping for breath.
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Neither is this surprising. Senator Akpabio on whose structure Mr Udom Emmanuel came into power was the oxygen of the party in the state. He was the political life support machine on which the PDP depended for its existence. During a famous radio interview, Senator Nelson Effiong who had earlier defected to the APC had declared that all political office holders in the state owed their election to one man: Senator Akpabio. His movement into the APC and the massive turn outs and earth-shaking defections as witnessed in several rallies across the state to drum up support for the party, have given fresh hope that the APC may just be the party in waiting to take over Akwa Ibom State.
The fresh hope for APC in Akwa Ibom State due to the defection of Senator Akpabio is complemented by the election of Obong Nsima Ekere as the party’s governorship flag bearer. There is a consensus that Obong Ekere who was deputy to the then Governor Akpabio is not a pushover politically. It is widely acknowledged that the current Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has the political and administrative wherewithal to be the Governor of Akwa Ibom State.
Obong Ekere parades very intimidating credentials. One of his greatest assets is that he is a home boy and not a Lagos returnee, who knows Akwa Ibom State like the palms of his hands. An entrepreneur of note and innovative thinker, he brings deep insights into developmental issues. His giant strides at the NDDC, where he has repositioned the interventionist agency and spread developmental projects across the Niger Delta bears him out as the right man for the job. The thinking is that Obong Ekere will replicate what he has done in NDDC on a bigger scale in Akwa Ibom State.
It is this combination of Senator Akpabio and Obong Nsima Ekere supported by other political heavy weights that for once, has made the PDP jittery over the imminence of loss of power. Virtually every politician of note in Akwa Ibom State has moved into the APC after Senator Akpabio moved to the party and it has been moulded into election winning machinery.
Seeing the caliber of personalities during a recent visit to the President, an upbeat Senator Akpabio observed, “I believe strongly in the saying, ‘res ipsa loquitur,’ the act speaks for itself. From the caliber of persons you saw here today, the strength and character of the delegation, the capacities of the personalities you saw, it is clear that President Buhari and the APC will win Akwa Ibom State in the 2019 general elections. He will not only win, he will win with a landslide. I can predict that the first state in Nigeria to fall to the APC in 2019 presidential election will be Akwa Ibom State,” Senator Akpabio enthused.
This is reinforced by the belief in the state that with Muhammadu Buhari on the saddle as the President, elections in Akwa Ibom State will not be “carry-go” or the sham witnessed last December as the Local Government elections. If anything, the balance of power has tilted in favour of the APC in what PDP chieftains refer to as federal might, which they had infamously deployed in the past. However, the APC in Akwa Ibom State has the people and for once the people through recent rallies, have expressed their intention to massively support the party to gain power in the state.
The performance of President Buhari has endeared him to Akwa Ibom people. It is instructive that despite the massive support for the PDP in the past, for about 16 years no PDP administration had constructed even one kilometer of road in the state. The state was even denied the refunds of the money the state government deployed to construct federal roads. Neither did the state fare well in terms of appointments. Apart from statutory appointments like Minister, Akwa Ibom sons and daughters were not found worthy of appointments during the PDP administrations with the only exception being the appointment of Obong Ufot Ekaette as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation by President Olusegun Obasanjo. And many would argue that as commendable as that gesture was, no immediate benefit accrued to Akwa Ibom people through it.
But President Buhari has changed the narrative. He had graciously approved the refunds of money spent by the administration of Chief Akpabio on federal roads. In terms of appointments, several sons and daughters of the state for the first time have found themselves manning sensitive positions in government. And to cap it all, the President recently announced contracts for the dualization of Ikot Ekpene – Odukpani road and also the Ikot Ekpene – Aba road, a feat that will change the socio, economic life of the people when completed, among many other projects. And for these, Akwa Ibom people have promised to reward the President and APC with their votes.
Most significantly though is the poor performance of Governor Udom Emmanuel. Since the advent of this republic in 1999, there is a general consensus that his has been an abysmal performance as a Governor. In fairness to the Governor, it must be acknowledged that he has attracted a few industries to the state. But even at that, these are at best by the admission of officials of the state government, private businesses. Governor Emmanuel has also failed to build on the achievements of his predecessors. A fully built and fully furnished Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Ikot Ekpene is being left to rot because of an ego war.
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The Ibom Specialist Hospital built by the administration of Chief Akpabio which the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole described as one of the best medical facilities in the country has been ran aground and the expatriates have since left. The same fate has befallen the Five-Star, Le Meridien Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort which is now run by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism since the former managers have pulled out. For an administration which campaigned on the mantra of continuity of the projects of the man he publicly acknowledged as his “Great Teacher” these have left the people unimpressed.
Ekong writes from Abuja