2019 and threats against Akwa Ibom political arrangement
Social gatherings in Akwa Ibom State in the past few weeks, especially by personalities from the two major political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party and All Progressive Congress, have left political observers to draw conclusions that such gatherings have more political undertones than what the uninitiated can fathom.
One of such gatherings was the grand reception for Governor Udom Emmanuel and his wife by members of Ibibio ethnic nationality and another was a similar event organised by Mboho Edemaya for their son, Sir Nsima Ekere, the Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), followed by a thanksgiving service.
According to observers of political events in the state, such gatherings provided opportunities for power mongers to prepare grounds for 2019 elections. This may not be far from the truth, especially when the personalities involved are considered.
Emmanuel as the incumbent governor is working hard to continue till 2023 and Ekere, a onetime governorship aspirant, deputy governor and presently in the NDDC, is seen by members of opposition APC as the only one that can wrest power from the ruling PDP in 2019.
While Emmanuel, during the reception at Asan Ibibio said he will continue in office beyond 2019,
Ekere at the thanksgiving service, said time was not yet ripe to talk about 2019 as, according to him, his hands are full on how to ensure the completion of abandoned projects in his intervention commission. To him, “it is too early to focus on the elections.”
Addressing the people of Edemaya, in Ikot Abasi local council, Ekere said his total commitment for now, was to complete all the abandoned projects that the management and board of the NDDC met on ground.
According to him, “It is unfair to abandon government projects when money has been spent already. The current board and management of NDDC are committed to completing abandoned projects as much as possible. We don’t care who awarded them. But as long as they will touch the lives of the people, we will go ahead and complete them.”
He called on his people to know that, his mandate at the board is for him to be fair to all from the Niger Delta region. He also appealed to them and others from the region, to co-operate with contractors handling projects in their communities.
He continued, “Many speakers talked about 2019 today. My message to Akwa Ibom people is that the time for elections has not yet come. Allow me and other government officials to do the job we are doing for you. When the time for elections comes, if you make that demand again, I will respond. But for now, allow me to work in the NDDC.”
At Emmanuel’s reception, all the speakers drummed support for the governor’s continuation in office beyond 2019, thereby sending signals to the political field that the Government House would not be vacated soon.
Some political watchers, who spoke with The Guardian on the preparatory politics of 2019, noted that while Ekere was being careful, the governor is watching from every angle not to allow somebody to overtake him, especially from a rival political party like the APC.
One of the politicians that confided in The Guardian, noted that his worries were hinged on the number of personalities leaving the PDP for the APC in recent times, saying however that, with the resolution of the leadership problem of the ruling party in the state, the battle may be fierce in 2019.
A source within the PDP however said such fears have no basis and will not affect the fortunes of the party in the next election, since according to him, PDP is a religion in the state and no amount of defections will affect the outcome of the election against the party when the chips are down.
Political analysts are however having different views about Akwa Ibom politics of 2019. To many, it may not be party as usual since the leadership at the national level has changed. Again, with some juicy appointments to some indigenes by the APC government, there are expectations that an army of followers could be raised for the appointees from even the PDP hold.
But to the PDP, such political calculations will not work because, since the return of democracy in 1999, the state has been in the grip of the party. Besides, the political arrangements between the three senatorial districts of Uyo, Ikot Ekpene and Eket, had never been truncated as Uyo and Ikot Ekpene senatorial districts have produced their governors in the persons of Obong Victor Attah-1999-2007 and Senator Godswill Akpabio, 2007-2015 respectively. Emmanuel is from Eket senatorial district.
Other observers however posited that change has become necessary since the state cannot afford to continue as opposition. Citing the issue of
Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)-funded Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, and the N-Power Empowerment Programme of the Federal Government, they alleged that the PDP government was playing politics with it thereby denying Akwa Ibom people, the benefits accruing from such programmes.
To them, Eket senatorial district have people that can make them happy from another platform like the APC concluding that, come 2019, the senatorial district would come out with another person not minding that the incumbent governor is from the same district.
This thinking, which is fast gaining ground, must have been responsible for the theme of discourse at the Ekere thanksgiving service where every speaker called on the NDDC boss who is also from Eket, to run for the office of the governor in 2019.
Although Ekere told his people that the time is not yet ripe for him to make any pronouncement on such matter, political observers are of the opinion that he is a man to watch from the senatorial district between now and when political activities would get to full throttle.
Proponents of this position are unmindful of the amount of influence he is wielding in the NDDC and the fact that he belongs to a party that is in control of the Federal Government, a situation he can put at great advantage.