By Dapo Akinrefon
THE political landscape of the state known as the Land of Promise is heating up. Akwa Ibom State has been in the news in recent times for mostly the wrong reasons.
There have been high profile kidnappings and even political assassinations which have characterized the politics of the state.
With the kidnap and release of five journalists traveling out of the state after an official assignment and also wife of a governorship candidate on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, Mrs. Comfort Ewang, who was kidnapped and consequently released, there have been allegations that there are perceived political undertones in the kidnap cases and also assassinations in the state.
Accusations and counter accusations have been traded by politicians over the rising spate of violence in the state and who is to be blamed for this.
Nevertheless, analysts are of the opinion that this trend is as a result of the forthcoming 2011 general elections which many have dubbed to be a do-or-die affair.
With the 2011 elections gathering storm, the battle line seems to be drawn, especially between the incumbent governor, Mr Godswill Akpabio and a former staunch member of the PDP, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, who is now with the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
A surfeit of allegations
Only recently, Senator Akpanudoedehe, called on President Goodluck Jonathan to save him from the hands of Governor Akpabio. He alleged that he was being hounded over his intention to replace the incumbent governor in 2011.
Akpanudoedehe noted that his travail in the state began as soon as he defected from the PDP to the ACN to pursue his governorship ambition.
The former lawmaker alleged that he was framed up in the murder of a former zonal secretary of the PDP in the South South, Mr Paul Inyang, perhaps, as a way of forcing him out of the political race. He said his adversaries got more desperate when he went ahead to declare his intention before his supporters in Uyo, the state capital.
His words: “Governor Godsdwill Akpabio and his cohorts have been using the name and office of President Goodluck Jonathan to intimidate and harass the opposition in the state. I know that the President is most likely unaware of this.
“I know he will not subscribe to the role the police are playing in hounding the opposition; I know he is sincere about opening up the political space and ensuring free and fair elections next year, hence he will not like his name to be used in shutting the political space.
“I call on President Jonathan to save my life and protect me from Governor Akpabio; my life is definitely in real danger purely because of my political leaning; if anything happens to me, he (Akpabio) must be held responsible.”
Akpabio replies Akpanudoedehe
But in a swift reaction, Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Usoro Usoro described the allegations as untrue just as he called on Akpanudoedehe to face issues rather than embark on campaign on calumny.
Usoro in his reaction said “what Akpanudoedehe is saying is completely untrue, he is just trying to direct unnecessary attention to himself because he knows that he cannot match us on ground. He should campaign on issues rather than for him to bring about unnecessary tension.”
While dismissing the claims made by the former lawmaker, the governor’s spokesman said “he claims that the governor is after his life, but he has been coming to Akwa Ibom State, if the governor was after his life, he was able to leave Akwa Ibom for Lagos to hold a press conference. So, he should face issues instead of trying to whip up unnecessary sentiments to himself. He knows that he cannot match Akpabio on what he has done in the state.”
It’s Akpabio versus Akapnudoedehe
But it has been argued that the politics of the state has been drawn along ethnic lines. This is not far fetched owing to the fact that the Ibibios are the largest group, while the Annangs form the second largest group in the state.
Akapnudoedehe, a former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, left the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, on October 16, 2010. This development, has perhaps, changed the political equation of the state.
For him (Akpanudoedehe), he is, possibly, banking on the support of former governor of the state, Architect Victor Attah, who is no longer disposed to the ways of his successor.
Besides, he is counting on the Ibibio to support his bid, while the governor is counting on his performance with projects spread through out the three senatorial districts.
Observers of political events in the state are apprehensive on the turn of events in the state. They are perturbed by the rising tension in the state and as a result of this, many politicians are afraid of being the next target of political kidnap or assassination.
Political pundits are wont to see the entry of the former minister as an attempt by the Ibibio majority ethnic group to recapture power which they relinquished under the power zoning arrangement after Attah occupied the seat for eight years.
There have been issues between these two ethnic groups over the exercise of political power in the last four years, with the former feeling that they made a mistake to allow the Anangs to take the plumb job. Tried as he had, some of them have refused to acknowledge that Gov. Akpabio has accomplished anything. To compound matters there has been an up surge in the spate of kidnapping and politically motivated killings which have been the subject of wild accusations and counter accusations.
A spokes man for Akwa Ibom Good Governance group, Mr Ndem Ndem told Vanguard that “the issue of security, which is the primary role of government, has completely broken down in the State. We are abysmally disappointed, if not totally despondent, about this situation because the Chief Security Officer of the State has the constitutional duty to maintain Law and Order”.
A close associate of Governor Akpabio argued that though Akpanudoudehe is providing a rally point for Ibibio resurgence, he “remains a paper weight in politics of the state, he may be popular in Uyo senatorial District the truth remains that Governor Akpabio is on ground in the politics of who gets what and by how much? We are talking about effective control of power and the prerequisite of power. This is a fact which must not be ignored in the politics of Akwa Ibom and that is the youth factor.”
The source enthused further that “majority of the young people in our state are behind him (Akpabio) and totally abhor the politics of ethnic cleavages which seems to be what Senator Akpanudoedehe is offering them. You must also realise that majority of prominent sons and daughters of the state, have benefitted immensely from the governor including the former governor who is the arrow head of the anti-Akpabio camp.
There is therefore the problem of lack of consensus among the elites and the reliance on ethnic solidarity as the basis for the Udoudehe campaign might not do the magic. It cannot be disputed that the governor has a lot of financial resources and patronage to dispense.”
As the allegations and counter allegations continue, it is hoped that the state will not be turned into a war zone. It is believed that the struggle for the soul of the state, will be resolved at the polling booths come 2011.