By Chioma Onuegbu
The December 2 local government election in Akwa Ibom State is the stage for the first political showdown between the energised opposition in Akwa Ibom State shaped in the form of the All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP which has till now, had the dominance in the political space in the state.
AHEAD of the Saturday, December 2 local government election in Akwa Ibom State, registered political parties have intensified their campaigns to the grassroots to sell their candidates to the electorate.
The two major contenders are the PDP which has governed the state since 1999 and the APC which has been energised by the appointment of high-level party members into strategic top Federal Government positions.
For the records, the PDP has won virtually all the seats in previous local government elections.
The political rivalry between the two major political parties has worsened since the commencement of the campaigns as both parties try to outsmart each other.
The outgoing chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi who was overwhelmed by the crowd he saw during the flag-off of the PDP campaign, urged the party in Akwa Ibom State to help capture other states for the party ahead of the 2019 elections.
He had asserted: “We are only here as a formality. PDP is like a religion in Akwa Ibom State. Today is further evidence that that is what it is. I do not doubt that the entire local government councils will be PDP under a free and fair election because the PDP believes in a free and fair election.”
Also Special Adviser to the governor on Political, Legislative Affairs and Water Resources, Mr. Ekong Sampson was full of hope that the PDP would carry the day come December 2 when he recently fielded questions from newsmen on his expectation.
“The PDP is very much prepared for the local government elections. And we are not under pressure because the PDP has a very strong presence in Akwa Ibom State. Our candidates are also prepared, and we will show our strong presence in the state at the polls.
“So the party is set, capable and hopeful of winning the election; we are turbo-charged to go for the contest and win all the local government seats because there is no other visible political party in Akwa Ibom State except the PDP,” he said.
Chieftains of the APC on the other hand, particularly federal appointees from the state popularly called ‘Abuja Boys” are also boasting that with their party being the government at the centre that they were sure that they would win the council polls.
The APC chieftains assert that it will not be business as usual for the PDP to sweep the polls as they have done since the inception of the Fourth Republic. Their boast is especially hinged on the conduct of a free and fair election.
Notable among those in the Abuja Front are Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, former Petroleum minister, Atuekong Don Etiebet, Obong Nsima Ekere, Managing Director of Niger-Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Senator Aloysius Etok, Mr. Eseme Eyiboh, among others.
The Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha who spoke during the APC campaign flag-off in Uyo, penultimate Saturday, was quick to say that the solution to complaints of the people lies in them joining the ruling party at the centre.
“Let us connect to the centre. When you connect and identify with the party at the centre, everything there will come to you,” the governor told the crowd.
Similarly, former Petroleum Minister, Atuekong Don Etiebet, had last weekend during the campaigns in his local government area, Oruk Anam Local Government Area, asserted that the large turnout of party supporters at its campaign rallies across the state was indicative of the party’s growing strength in the state.
“You must come out in your numbers for December 2 local government elections in the state. We can assure you that your votes will count; nobody will dare to tamper with your votes,” Etiebet had stressed.
But stakeholders in the PDP in the state appear not to see the APC as a threat despite the fact that it is currently the party at the centre.
They are, however, not resting on their oars.
Governor Udom Emmanuel at different political gatherings has countered assertions by the APC by attributing the poor state of federal roads, and other federal infrastructure to the insensitivity of the APC-led Federal Government towards the people of the state.
Emmanuel had on November 2 while welcoming stakeholders who returned to the party from the APC during the campaigns flag-off at Uyo Township Stadium, urged the people not to be lured by APC foot soldiers in the state.
“I want to let people know that in PDP, we play politics of progress and development and not politics at the centre which has not benefitted our people in any way. People say our party is not at the centre, tell them that it is the PDP government that is providing good roads, attracting industries to you and no other party.
“Let me assure you that it is only the PDP government that can ensure fairness, justice, and equity in this country,” he had added.
Also a few days ago at a rally organised by the womenfolk where they declared their unflinching support for him in view of 2019, the governor asserted: “Let nobody deceive you to join the party at the centre. All the projects you see on ground in this state today are all initiated, executed and commissioned by your state government led by the PDP.”
Besides the fact that Akwa Ibom has generally been known as predominantly PDP, many in the state are also of the opinion that it is not usually easy for an opposition party to have an upper hand in any election held with another party already in power. But the political capacities of the APC chieftains are tempting enough to believe that a miracle can happen.