By Ebriku John Friday
As the cloud thickens and the howling gale of uncertainty rends the air in Akwa Ibom State, the question on everyone’s lip has been, who will it be, as the nomination for ministerial slot in the state is likely to hit a rock except some positive steps are taken to arrest the cold war going on underground amongst the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
Unlike some states, Akwa Ibom presents a unique case in the contest of who gets what at state and federal levels. The state parades a galaxy of fine politicians who are known to be worth their mettle. The last gubernatorial contest in the state showed this much.
While the PDP fielded the incumbent Governor, Udom Emmanuel, the APC had a tough task picking who would fly the party’s flag, owing to the number of aspirants who had lined-up for the contest. From Nsima Ekere, Senator Akpan Udo-Edeghe, to Barrister Dan Abia, who were the top contenders, the trio were more than qualified to fly the flag of the party, but the ticket of the APC went to Nsima Ekere, albeit controversially, and he eventually lost the elections to the incumbent governor.
Some analysts have written extensively about the party’s loss in the state, laying the fault of the failure squarely at the doorstep of the INEC and its officials, but, none have critically examined the issues. A cursory look at the aspirants and their antecedents shows that Nsima’s candidacy was bound to fail.
As was in Sokoto State, where the APC foisted an unpopular candidate on the people, so was the case in Akwa Ibom State.
Mr Nsima Ekere, who was the immediate past Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), had directly or indirectly stepped on both big and small toes. In fact, a survey conducted a few months to the election foretold the eventual outcome of the exercise. This resentment was far-reaching, such that it affected the presidential and senatorial elections in the state. The APC’s loss in the state was so telling that even the “almighty Akpabio”, lost his senatorial election. This was a clear resistance from the people of the state, who are obviously tired of the elite’s penchant for promoting candidates who do not have a direct touch with the people.
The results from the election would have been different if a different candidate was on the ballot representing the APC for the governorship. Investigation revealed that since the unexpected defeat of APC in the governorship election and the controversial loss of Senator Godswill Akpabio, the party has not been able to get its act together.
It would be recalled that APC ran one of the best campaigns in Akwa Ibom State and pre-election projection was that Akwa Ibom would fall to the federal force and in particular Senator Akpabio who was already touted as the next Senate president was a sure bet to come back to the Senate. With the turn of events, it appears the party didn’t prepare for the misfortune that befell it during the general elections.
Furthermore, the leadership of the party under Chief Dan Etiebet as well as the state chairman of the party, Chief Ini Okopido, have completely gone incommunicado.
With the above development, the party has not been able to organise itself and present its first eleven nominees for appointment, especially ministerial appointment. Rather the big wigs in the party have resorted to putting up themselves for appointment.
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Unconfirmed source has hinted that most of the names being touted in Abuja are men of timber and calibres presently occupying positions of influence. Names frequently mentioned are Senator Godwill Akpabio, Senator Ita Enang and Senator Udo-Edeghe. The present Director-General of Oil and Gas Authority, Mr Umana Umana did not want it to be an all senators affairs, thus he has joined the race as well as the governorship candidate of the party at the just concluded election and former managing director of the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr Nsima Ekere. There is still uncertainty whether the past incumbent minister Senator Udo Udoma is not among those retaining their positions.
Sources further confirmed that a meeting was recently arranged at the residence of Mr Ekere to pick consensus candidates but this it was gathered was frustrated by some elders.
While all the scheming were going on in Abuja, the majority of APC stakeholders in Akwa Ibom State are totally left in the dark and have vowed to oppose any nominee that will not offer any meaningful support to the party at the grassroots level.
Recently, a former member of the House of Representatives from the state, Hon Patty Ineme Etete made a very strong case for consideration of those who took part in the last elections from primaries to the general elections for an appointment.
A source who does not want to be named revealed that there is a strong resentment by the founding members of the party in the state who are now touting one of their own for consideration in the person of Dr Amadu Atai, the pioneer state chairman of the party, who was also the deputy governorship candidate in the last election as well as Group Captain Ewang, the chairman of the defunct campaign council.
Findings further revealed that another group mostly from the oil-producing communities of the state who without mincing words said they have thrown their weight behind the former managing director/CEO of NDDC, Barrister Dan Abia, who was the runners-up to Ekere during the primaries as their choice candidate for ministerial appointment. They have made their position known to the authority in Abuja.
What has further complicated the scenario in Akwa Ibom is the distraction caused by the ministerial nomination to the ongoing petitions filed by APC at the election tribunal. With the numerous evidence adduced at the tribunal, it’s very clear that APC has a good case but so much energy is being put in the pursuit of ministerial appointment which is likely to negatively impact on the cases.
Except the leadership of the party in Akwa Ibom State under the leadership of Chief Dan Etiebet and Senator Godswill Akpabio summon an emergency meeting of the party stakeholders and take a firm decision on the ministerial nominee and other key appointments due to the state, the state may end up losing out due to internal negative scheming going on in Abuja.
As the politics for 2023 comes into full swing, with the appointment of ministers and other representatives from the state, the decision of the APC at the state and federal level, will make or mar APC’s chances in 2023.
Like the African proverb, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the next best time to do so, is now.” Now is the best time for the APC in Akwa Ibom State to put her house in order and appoint those with grassroots pedigree, to boost their chances in 2023.
National Coordinator, Grassroots Empowerment and Justice, GEJ Initiative, Ebriku John Friday, wrote from Abuja.