Iniobong Umoh: Akwa Ibom And The Wind Of Change

The battle for the political soul of Akwa ibom state has just begun with the release of gubernatorial campaign schedules of the major political parties. Sometime in September last year, I did an expose on the major gubernatorial aspirants of the Pdp and I made some predictions as to the likely winner and losers of the primaries. The predictions I made have all come to pass.

The former secretary to the state government Deacon Udom Emmanuel with the backing of the state governor has clinched the ticket of the ruling party for the 2015 gubernatorial polls. This has not gone down well with twenty two other aspirants who contested for the ticket during the December 8th 2014 primaries. It is on record that they staged a walk out of the election venue alleging irregularities and lack of a level playing field for all aspirants. The 22 aggrieved aspirants formed a forum known as the G22 and relocated to Abuja to take their case to the Pdp national leadership. The formation of the forum and the unity displayed by the members is unprecedented in the political history of the state.

Court injunctions and counter injunctions have all played out as both parties sought to either nullify or legalize the process that threw up the Onna born top banker as the Pdp flag bearer. The rest as they say is history.

Today, Deacon Udom G. Emmanuel is the standard bearer of the Pdp and is set to take his case for election to Akwa ibom people in the 31 local government areas. Meanwhile, the G22 are expected to announce their defection to the opposition Apc party following the expiration of the 11th January deadline that they gave to the National leadership of Pdp to resolve the impasse.

This brings us to the issue of lack of internal democracy in the Pdp. Political pundits are of the opinion that it is a sad thing that the concerns of the G22 has not been addressed and their request to meet with the Party national working committee and President Goodluck Jonathan has been rebuffed on several occasions. The mindset of the national leadership of the party seems to be that of full assurance that no matter the grievances resulting from the conduct of the governorship primaries, the Pdp will still maintain an unassailable lead over the opposition parties in Akwa Ibom state.

The general feeling on the streets is that the request by the G22 for an audience with the president was blocked by the influence of the powers that be. Which leaves this bugging question; Why is the governor seemingly desperate to install Udom Emmanuel as his successor? Why is the correct/right man being wrongly packaged and emerging in the wrong way?

Akwa Ibomites do not hate Udom Emmanuel, far from it. They like him as a person, they admire his professionalism and achievements in the corporate world. What they don’t like is the controversial process that brought about his emergence as the Pdp flagbearer.

Udom Emmanuel is a fine gentleman. He is intelligent and has risen through the rungs of corporate Nigeria to the post of an executive director on the board of Zenith bank, the first Akwa ibom man to sit on the board of African finance corporation.

The impression I got of the man after listening to his interview on “Akwa Ibom Decides”, a political program hosted on Planet 101.1 fm, a private radio station in the state is that of a visionary man who appears to have the qualification and experience needed to run a meritorious government. But the overhead question mark over his candidature is the allegation that he is a stooge of Governor Akpabio brought in to cover financial irregularities. I listened to him as he tried to dispel the insinuation by likening the stooge allegations to the misuse of the English word “stooge” by people. He then went further to say that if the alleged mess people say he is being brought in to cover is that of infrastructural development then he is happy to be part of the mess.

It is left for Akwa ibom people to decide via their ballot papers if this man is the right man for the job. It is also left for Udom Emmanuel himself to decide if his allegiance will be on the side of the people or on the side of his political benefactor or on both sides.

The days ahead will surely be interesting. If the G22 defect to swell the ranks of the opposition led by Obong Umana Okon Umana former finance commissioner, former secretary to the state government and gubernatorial candidate of the Apc, the chances of Pdp winning the poll will be in severe jeopardy.

The beauty of democracy is that it gives the electorates alternatives to choose from.

However in Akwa ibom state we have a problem with our democracy. Democracy seems to be an alien concept in this state. What we are practicing in our state is politics of stomach infrastructure. Everybody clings to the power at the center for survival. Sycophancy is at its highest peak ever. Nobody wants to stay hungry for eight years. The conservative nature of the people also plays a role here. People will rather go for the devil that they know than the angel that they don’t know.

There is a school of thought that says that if the governor had not fallen out with Umana Okon Umana and had supported the Nsit Ibom technocrat/politician to be his successor, all the innumerable groups and bodies supporting the current pdp flagbearer would have been singing the praises of Umana Okon Umana, the “Udom is right” slogan would have probably been “Umana is right”.

Whosoever emerges as the governor from the trio of Udom Emmanuel, Umana Umana and Bishop Sam Akpan has the urgent issue of unemployment and poverty to tackle. Thankfully, Governor God’swill Akpabio has laid the ground work for infrastructure development of the state.

Akwa ibom state is an oil rich state and receives the highest revenue allocation running into hundreds of billions of naira yearly yet its citizens are among some of the poorest in the country except for a select few. The middle class is hardly visible. The major employer of labour is the government. Global oil prices are dwindling and the revenue earnings of Nigeria is dropping which means that the revenue allocation to states will reduce.

The next governor should be able to empower the citizens for wealth creation and partner with the private sector to establish industries that will employ the teeming youths and take them off the streets. The governor should instill a merit based system of appointments and cut down the number of hangers-on holding sensitive government positions.

Our graduates deserve more than being personal assistants to politicians. Our people deserve some sort of social welfare scheme. Hundreds of intelligent men and women leave this state in droves on a daily basis to Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt for greener pastures. They always cite lack of viable opportunities in the state as reason for leaving. It is said that if you don’t have government patronage or political connections, you can’t make it in Akwa ibom state, a state whose slogan is the “land of promise”. This shouldn’t be the case. We need change.

If the Pdp fails to urgently dialogue with the G22 and redress the issue of imposition of candidates in all elective levels, the wind of change blowing across the nation in the form of Apc will find its way into and sweep over Akwa ibom state. Edo state, Rivers state, Kano state, Sokoto state etc were all core Pdp states until the tides changed due to similar issues.
Iniobong Umoh is a multi-contextual writer. He is passionate about politics of development. [email protected]


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