Within ten days, two political disciples of former Governor Godswill Akpabio were sacked from the cabinet of his handpicked successor, Governor Udom Emmanuel and as such, bringing to reality the long envisaged political combat that many have either dreamt of or dreaded.
By Chioma Onuegbu & Harris-Okon Emmanuel
The sack on Monday of Sir Etekamba Umoren as the Secretary to the Akwa Ibom State Government may have finally opened the lid in what almost everyone in the state believes to be the most exciting political battle in the state in recent years.
Umoren is a close ally of the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Akpabio and served him as Chief of Staff. He is also an ethnic Annang like Akpabio.
Before Umoren sack two days ago, another Akpabio acolyte, Udo Ekpenyong also Annang had nine days earlier been relieved of his appointment as Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
There is indeed widespread speculation across the state that commissioners from Ikot Ekpene senatorial district who are loyalist to Akpabio have also been penciled down for sack soon.
The tremor in Akwa Ibom followed the assertion by Akpabio that his Ikot Ekpene senatorial district had been marginalised in the implementation of projects by his handpicked successor, Governor Udom Emmanuel.
That claim immediately set the state on edge as interest groups that had for long been waiting to take advantage of a fight between the two men immediately took position.
In the vanguard were political groups, prominent politicians as well as elders from Uyo Senatorial District (Akwa Ibom Northeast and Eket Senatorial district (Akwa Ibom South) where the incumbent governor hails from.
Akpabio’s assertion was made on New Year eve during a get-together at Independence Hall Abak, organized by the deputy governor Mr. Moses Ekpo for people of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial Districts
“2018 is less than one year to election, all is not well. Don’t allow anybody to deceive you that all is well. If the hotel in Ikot Ekpene rots after so much money has been expended on the project would that be a good thing?”, he questioned.
An aspect of Akpabio’s statement which seemed to have provoked the ire of elders and stakeholders of the People’s Democratic Party PDP in the two other senatorial districts was the claim that he would only support a second term for the governor if the issue of the alleged marginalisation of his senatorial district was addressed.
Ambassador Assam Assam and Senator Anietie Okon were among notable and prominent political leaders from Eket and Uyo senatorial districts who took strong exception to the former governor’s statement.
Reacting Senator Okon questioned, “Akpabio foolishly warned that the “era of carry-go politics” is no more. Did Akpabio not realise this during his tenure as governor?
“Akpabio who decried the state of the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Ikot Ekpene tasks Udom Emmanuel with the opening and running of the hotel. What did Akpabio himself have in mind when he built the hotel? If Akpabio is to speak on fair treatment and accountability, he should only do so by clearing his name from the beginning of these questions”
Also reacting, Uyo Senatorial District Leaders Forum, USDLF was quick to fault the claims by the former governor.
In a communiqué issued penultimate Sunday, they were forced to list the various projects, and political appointments that the Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District has benefitted and continues to occupy under the current government. The communiqué which was signed by the leaders including Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga, Senator Effiong Bob among others read in part: “Having objectively reviewed the social, economic and developmental realities in Akwa Ibom State before May 29, 2015 and the prevailing situation in the state occasioned by the performance of Governor Udom Emmanuel since his inauguration, we rise to declare that: “There is no truth in the allegations made by Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio; rightly, they are calculated statements of calumny, blackmail and arm-twisting.
The claim by Senator Akpabio that projects he initiated in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District have been abandoned by Governor Udom Emmanuel is not thoughtful.
“It is also pertinent to state that even the Four-Point Sheraton Hotel at Ikot Ekpene which was commissioned by the former governor cannot be called an abandoned project. “Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel has not abandoned any uncompleted project he inherited from Senator Akpabio’s regime; all such projects are being prudently funded and meticulously implemented as funds become available”
However, worried by the tension created by the development in the state the youth groups under the aegis of Akwa Ibom State Youth Caucus and Eket Senatorial District Leaders Forum were forced to intervene to call for peace in the state. The two groups in their separate meetings recently expressed concern that the only way to move the state and party forward in 2018 and ahead of the 2019 elections was for the three districts to unite.
The Akwa Ibom State Youth Caucus in a communiqué signed by the Publicity Secretary Linus Effiong had declared, “That we wish to appeal to politicians not to use this opportunity to settle previous political scores in the guise of supporting the Governor or Senate Minority Leader.
“That we call on our Leader, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, who has performed so well, as well as the Senate Minority Leader, Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio not to be distracted but be focused and continue in partnership for the overall interest of the Akwa Ibom project.”
On their own part, the Eket Senatorial District Leaders Forum at its meeting held last Sunday said, “We the leaders of Eket senatorial district have watched with awe, the unfolding developments in the polity which appear to be at variance with our communal disposition as a people of the same family.
“Having noted the concerns raised in different quarters, we have a firm belief that except caution is applied, and calm restored, we may end up collapsing all the gains we had united to build as a state in the last couple of years.
“Suffice it to say that in a democracy, everyone’s view is required to oil the engines of progress, we are of the belief that we should be circumspect in our utterances and decisions to avoid undesirable consequences.”
But some APC Chieftain’s in the state do not seem to buy into the generally held opinion in the state that the two leaders are having squabble. Instead, they view the recent political happenings as one of the antics of Akpabio and the PDP in the state.
Former state publicity Secretary of APC Chief Ita Awak in a recent article said, “ I am one of those who cannot be deceived by their craftiness; and I am writing this piece to generally warn Akwa Ibom people and, more specifically, the leadership, members and teeming supporters of the APC in the State that they should not allow themselves to be fooled again by this infantile ruse.
“There is no iota of doubt in me that the duo of Godswill and Udom are generating all the noisy spectre of some fathom feuds and getting their paid aides to publicly exchange ludicrous brickbats with the intent to conjure in our mind the existence of an imagery conflict”.