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Iniobong Umoh: A Review Of Akwa Ibom 2015 Governorship Aspirants

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The office of the executive governor of Akwa ibom state is an office that places great responsibilities on the holder. It is currently one of the most coveted political positions in Nigeria. This is largely due to the fact that Akwa ibom state is an oil rich state that earns millions of dollars in monthly oil revenue.

According to statistics from Federal accounts allocation commission (FACC), Akwa ibom state has the highest revenue allocation in Nigeria, higher than that of Lagos and Rivers state. In 2013, the state received 260 billion naira in gross revenue.

From January – June 2014, the state has received a total of 135.84 billion naira to cater for its 5 million citizens. These are amounts that are on the par or slightly above the yearly budgets of small African countries. So you can see that the stakes are very high. Anyone who is the governor of the state controls enormous resources.

Already there are many gubernatorial hopefuls who are politicking, making consultations and building alliances to ensure their successful entry into the hilltop mansion in 2015.

Social media has become an important front for the political campaigns. Facebook accounts, groups and pages have been created by the handlers of these politicians to further the cause of their principals. If you are an active Akwa ibomite on facebook, hardly a day goes by without you receiving an invite to like a page or join one mushroom group or the other.

In this write up I’ll be making a brief and unbiased assessment of the prominent gubernatorial candidates who have thrown their hats into the ring.

1) UDOM EMMANUEL
Until he assumed the office of the secretary to the state government in July 2013, Mr Udom Gabriel Emmanuel was an executive director in Zenith bank plc and had held various managerial positions in the bank and in other corporate organizations.

This suave and amiable gentleman holds a first degree from the University of Lagos and an Msc degree from London metropolitan university. He is a chartered accountant. A close look at his professional profile reveals that Udom Emmanuel looks like someone who would make a good administrator and manager of resources.

Udom Emmanuel is mentioned first on this list not because of his political clout but because he is said to be the political godson of the present governor, God’swill Akpabio and has the full backing to succeed the him. He is the heir apparent to the throne.
If you are a follower of Nigerian politics, cast your mind back to the gubernatorial elections some months ago in Anambra state where the former governor Peter Obi successfully brought in Fidelity bank boss Willie Obiano and installed him as governor. It seems a similar scenario is unfolding right before our eyes in Akwa ibom state.

The social media handlers of Udom Emmanuel anchor his campaign on the “Udom is right” slogan which is a literary interpretation of “Udom” in the native dialect. They have created quite a buzz with their online public relations and have gotten a lot of sign ups from young men and women, civil servants, professionals, businessmen, praise singers, “oga anything for the boys?” youth groups, political hangers on and the unashamedly professional sycophants.

The Udom campaign strategy has an intellectual side that is fascinating to the onlooker. The media handlers have come up with a lot of catch phrases and words like “Udomified, udomesticated, Udom correct” etc. On major roads in Uyo the state capital, there are billboards and lots of rather interesting posters and banners of Udom Emmanuel hanging out from street light poles.

The vocal point of the “Udom is right” campaign train is the zoning of the governorship position to Eket senatorial district where he hails from. This has the full backing of the state governor. The Onna lga born banker is being propped up as the poster boy who will continue the “uncommon transformation” agenda of the present administration and lead the state to industrial bliss.

The candidature of Udom Emmanuel is however viewed with great suspicion and distrust by major segments of Akwa ibom state citizens. He is seen as a stooge imposed on the state to carry out the dictates of his political godfather long after he vacates hilltop mansion. With the rising anti-Akpabio sentiments in the state, the “Udom is right” campaign groups and bodies will have to work extra hard if they are to make any headway.
With the support and backing of the governor Udom may likely run away with the gubernatorial ticket of the PDP in his grasp during the governorship primaries later this year but he will have to meet the mother of all opposition coalitions that will be assembled to stop what is being viewed as an attempt by a ruling family to perpetuate themselves in power.
When that time comes, Udom Emmanuel will have to prove that he is his own man and not a puppet. As the days roll by we will see whether Akwa ibom will be “Udom correct” or “Udom wrong”.

2) UMANA OKON UMANA
If the sole criteria for being the governor of Akwa ibom state is the number of years the individual has spent in government then Obong Umana Okon Umana only has to book an appointment with his tailor to sew the traditional outfit that he will wear for his swearing in ceremony in 2015.
Unfortunately that is not the criteria, so the finance and economy guru will have to slug it out with other contestants for the Pdp ticket.
The Nsit ibom born technocrat has been in government for as long as one can remember. He has been a civil servant in the public service and has been a one-time commissioner for finance and two terms secretary to the state government during the Attah and Akpabio years.
Obong Umana Umana has a wide range of educational qualifications from various institutions of higher learning including University of Calabar, university of Port Harcourt, Columbia state university and London business school. It is rumoured that he had a pact with the present governor to take over the baton from him in 2015. However they fell out and parted ways last year under controversial circumstances.

Umana Umana teeming supporters are on social media and they have been drumming up support for him.
During one of his radio interviews which I was opportuned to listen to, he promised to pursue full industrialization of the state when he takes over in 2015.
UOU large following cannot be said to extend to the grassroots because he is viewed as being elitist and anti- labour. Some workers perceive him to be the one who pulled the plug on the mouth sweetening 13th month Christmas bonus salary popularly referred to as Akpabiomber. With his core supporters among the pdp delegates, Umana Umana stands a fair chance of grabbing the ticket.
3) BASSEY ALBERT AKPAN
He is a young man in his early forties and is popularly known and addressed by his supporters and friends as OBA. If you are passing by a Bassey Albert “political consultation” meeting you may assume that a Yoruba chief is in town when the chants of “Oba Oba Oba!” rent the air.
Obong Bassey Albert is one of the longest serving commissioners in Akwa ibom state. He recently resigned from his post as finance commissioner. His campaign train is one of the most visible campaign trains on social media. His campaign is built on the “Akwa Ubok Abasi” theme.
We have been inundated with pictures and news links from his social media handlers as the former First city monument bank vice chairman transverses the length and breadth of the state consulting with the high and the low. The University of Nigeria Nsukka MBA holder is said to be charismatic with the gift of the gab. His supporters say he is a philanthropist and has helped hundreds of people over the years. His relentless supporters seem to have a 100 percent degree of certainty that he would be the one mounting the podium to deliver the inaugural address on 29th May 2015. They have the “whether you like it or not Oba will be governor” confrontational attitude that tends to draw substance away from his campaign points.
Bassey Albert will be seeking the nomination of delegates from his Pdp party. He needs to address the growing insinuations that he is not really interested in the governorship but grandstanding so as to be given a lucrative appointment in the next government. My Ididep and Ibiono ibom brother should be asking himself whether his teeming supporters are with him because they genuinely believe in his cause or because they want to get their share of his huge financial war-chest.

4) BISHOP SAM AKPAN
When the righteous are in power the people rejoice. That verse of the scriptures must have been what spurred on Bishop Sam Akpan to join the 2015 gubernatorial race.
The bishop is not a stranger to politics having been a leader of different political groups and campaigns organizations. He has vast experience in the political field under his belt and has served in various political postions in Akwa ibom state government. The bishop is an accomplished business man and religious leader.
Bishop Akpan is a graduate of University of Uyo and holds a doctorate of philosophy (Phd) degree in International business from United Nations University. Although his campaign train is just kick starting on social media, the bishop has been an avid user of facebook and twitter. He has used both platforms to interact with and exchange ideas with young Akwa ibom indigenes.
Given the fact the zoning arrangement being noised about by major stakeholders favours his local government of origin and given his status as the former adviser on Political and legislative matters to Governor Godswill Akpabio, the Olumba Olumba Obu cleric shouldn’t find it difficult getting the Pdp ticket.

5) NSIMA EKERE
Astute politician, business mogul and former deputy governor who resigned in 2012 over irreconcilable differences with governor Akpabio, Nsima Ekere had since declared his intentions to occupy hilltop mansion in 2015. His dream for Akwa ibom resides on three point agenda of unity, the power of creativity and true democracy.
Obong Nsima Ekere has a large following on facebook and interacts with his followers once in a while. As the D-Day gets closer we expect that the University of Nigeria Estate management alumnus will become more visible on the ground and shed off the toga of elitism.

6) SENATOR JOHN UDOEDEHE
John Udoedehe is no stranger to political campaigns. He was the former chairman of Uyo local government area, former senator representing Uyo senatorial district in the Senate, the Director general of Godswill Akpabio campaign in 2006/2007 and former minister of state of FCT.
The University of Uyo Sociology and anthropology graduate contested against Godswill Akpabio in 2011 in an highly contested election that was characterized by flaming ethnic tensions which finally resulted in a black day that we all pray would never happen again.

Udo as he is fondly called by his admirers enjoys a large and loyal following among the grassroots in Uyo. The news filtering out is that Udo aya amana ika mkpo ke 2015 (Udo will embark on another journey in 2015) so it would be interesting to see how the 2015 campaign will play out.
Udo has been accused of playing ethnic politics and politics of bitterness by his opponents on the other side of the divide. All things being equal, John Udoedehe is sure of grabbing the gubernatorial ticket of his party the All Progressive Congress (APC).

7) SAM EWANG
The former military governor/administrator of Ogun and Rivers state is a man who wants to taste power as a civilian having tasted same as a military man. Group captain Sam Ewang (rtd) is reputed to have left behind a legacy of achievements in Ogun state during his military hey days. He seems to be poised on replicating same in his state.

The ex-air force chief ran for governor of Akwa Ibom state in 2007 under the platform of ANPP and came a distant third.
He has since pitched his tent with the APC. He is viewed as being elitist and if given the ticket of his party he would have a lot of work to do in convincing the ordinary man on the street that he is a man of the people.

8) LARRY ESIN
Engineer Lawrence Esin took everyone by surprise when he burst out from nowhere to claim the third spot in the 2006 Pdp governorship primaries. The then virtually unknown “young man” with a handsome face suited for movie roles became known to everyone as Larry Esin.
He went on to be appointed the director of bureau of tourism in cross river state.

The Wentworth Institute of Technology trained civil engineer crossed carpeted and became the national chairman of the newly formed Progressive People’s Alliance party.

He has since returned to Pdp. Larry Esin in a recent interview says he is interested in contesting the 2015 gubernatorial elections. He is from Oron, a local government that has been crying of marginalization and demanding for the governorship seat in 2015. 2015 could be his chance to smile.

9) PROF RICHARD KING
Professor Richard King’s name may sound American but he is a full blooded Akwa ibomite.
All professors have intimidating academic credentials so if I begin to list Prof’s credentials and academic publications, we may run out of patience but suffice it to say that Prof King holds a BSc (SecondClass Honours, Upper Division) Degree in Zoology (1981), MSc Degree in Hydrobiology and Fisheries Biology [1985] and Ph.D Degree in Zoology (with major in Fisheries Biology) (1994) from the University of Port Harcourt (Wikipedia).
He has held various positions in University of Uyo including Pioneer Head of department of fisheries and aquaculture, Head of department of Zoology, acting dean Faculty of Agriculture, Director Center for wetlands and waste management studies etc.
If academic credentials were the only requirements for being governor, I believe governor Akpabio would drive to Proffessor king’s house on 28th May 2015 to surrender the keys of hilltop mansion to him. Since that is not the case, Prof king will be relying on President Goodluck Jonathan who is said to be his professional and family friend to get the nod and backing for his governorship ambition.
The Prof’s case gets strengthened given the fact that he is from Eket local government area, the epic center of the Eket senatorial zone. It is the hope of his supporters that as he casts his nest into the political sea, he will catch the big fish which is Hiltop mansion 2015.

10) BARRISTER EKPENYONG NTEKIM
Barr Ntekim is the present attorney general and commissioner for Justice Akwa ibom state. He holds an LLB (hons) degree from the university of Lagos and B.L from Nigerian law school, Lagos. The Okobo Lga born barrister has held various political positions in the state ranging from state chairman of Pdp, state chairman of Anpp, director of Ibom Power Company, director of Ibom airport, director of Ibom industrial city, former commissioner of transport etc.

He is being viewed in certain quarters as governor Akpabio’s alternative candidate to Udom Emmanuel. A plan B kept on standby in case Plan A (Udom) fails. His campaign posters are all over the state. And we believe the honourable commissioner will make his intentions public soon.
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Some people say that all these aspirants are merely raising dust while the man who would be governor is sitting somewhere quietly minding his business waiting for the right time to burst onto the scene.

Akwa ibom urgently needs a governor who will industrialize the state creating the right environment for investments and job creations. The state needs a governor who will have compassion on the people and use the state’s funds to alleviate poverty of citizens some of whom can’t afford two square meals a day. A governor who will focus on human capital development that will make graduates to stop operating commercial tricycles popularly referred to as Keke napep. I hope that governor will emerge in 2015.
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I wouldn’t want to end this piece by saying that I am a “commentator on current/public affairs” because that phrase has been abused in recent times. I would rather say I am an honest citizen who is passionate about the development of his state.
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Iniobong Umoh.
infoleric@gmail.com

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