By Chioma Onuegbu
WITH less than one year to the next general elections in the country, Akwa Ibom people have been forming opinions on key elective positions in the country particularly the governorship position.
As usual, the governorship race will be between the two major and visible political parties in the state, the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC.
One thing many people consider working for incumbent Governor, Udom Emmanuel, is various endorsements that have been coming his way from different political groups and blocs which indicates he is likely to be the only candidate for his party in 2019. At least for now, no other aspirant has indicated interest to join the race under the PDP platform.
Besides respecting the PDP zoning arrangement, members of the party in the state appear to have come to support the two terms arrangement for the position of the governor which has remained the trend since the inception of democracy in 1999.
Accordingly, all party members have unanimously endorsed Governor Emmanuel to do complete two terms in office hence the endorsements and massive support from the party.
It equally explained the decision by Akwa Ibom Northeast (Uyo) and Akwa Ibom Northwest (Ikot Ekpene) to queue behind him to complete the eight years tenure for Akwa Ibom South (Eket).
The decision of the state chapter of the party was reiterated in a communiqué issued at the end of its caucus meeting held on January 20, 2018, in Uyo.
The communiqué had read in part, “After exhaustive deliberations on various important issues especially as touching and concerning the assessment of the present state of the party and plans ahead, the caucus assured the governor of full support for a second term in office to complete and accomplish full implementation of his ongoing projects and programmes.
“The caucus reaffirmed the party’s belief and need to strictly enforce the zoning/rotation principle of the party on all elective positions and direct all organs and leadership of the party to implement it fully in all constituencies”
This, therefore, means that the only opposition Governor Emmanuel will be facing in his ambition to return to Hilltop Mansion in 2019 will be coming from the APC.
For now, Senator John James Akpan Udoedehe has indicated interest to run again for the plum position in his party, APC. Two weeks ago, he concluded his consultations across the 31 local government areas when he made known his intention to run for the position.
Also, widespread speculations have it that the Managing Director of Niger- Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Obong Nsima Ekere is going to join the race as well under the APC platform.
Even though Ekere is yet to make his intention formal, observers say his body language indicates that he is interested in running for the governorship position. From available information, there are indications that the APC in Akwa-Ibom state is likely to have more than two people who would aspire for the position on its platform.
Many Akwa Ibom people have even concluded that the lingering friction between the NDDC and the state government in recent times was not unconnected with Ekere’s governorship ambition.
However, it is not yet clear who among the duo (Obong Ekere and Senator Akpan Udoedehe may likely pick the party ticket.
It was reliably gathered that Chief Don Etiebet who is currently the leader of the party in the state is backing Nsima Ekere, while national leader of the party, Chief Bola Tinubu is solidly behind Senator Akpan Udoedehe.
But the speculation in some quarters is that the party leadership is currently facing serious moral burden over the governorship candidacy in Akwa Ibom State ahead of the 2019 elections.
A source privy to happenings in the party told Vanguard in confidence that the stakeholders and leaders of the party were being compelled to consider popularity and mobilisation capability of aspirants while choosing its flag bearer from the state.
It appears that the party leaders are not comfortable and happy with the dismal/poor outing of the party both during the 2015 elections and the December 2, 2017, local government election that saw the PDP sweep all the seats.
Analysts are also quick to attest to the fact that the popularity of the party as a formidable opposition in the political space of Akwa Ibom, has no doubt slipped in recent years.
One of them who simply identified himself as Mr. Umoh, said it is unfortunate that the APC was more vibrant and powerful when the PDP was at helm of affairs at the center. “I think it should be the other way round. With the APC government now at the centre, I expected to see them challenging this government. But from the look of things, the party is dead in Akwa Ibom State.”
But strong supporters of Senator Akpan Udoedehe who pride themselves as ‘Real APC in Akwa Ibom’ have bragged that all hope was not lost. Some, however, claimed that the party would only bounce back in this forthcoming election if their principal (Akpan Udoedehe) was given the party ticket.
Interestingly, some PDP supporters as well as strong APC members who left for the PDP last year on the grounds of marginalisation and supremacy crisis between Umana Okon Umana and Akpan Udoedehe’s loyalists also corroborated this claim.
In fact, the opinion generally held in the state is that without Senator Akpan Udoedehe, the APC was insignificant in Akwa Ibom State.
The good chase Akpan Udoedehe gave former Governor Godswill Akpabio in the 2011 general elections when he contested the position under the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, seemed to have made an indelible impression on the generality of Akwa Ibom people. Some other people have also predicted that the party will come off worse in the 2019 general elections due to alleged perception of the APC by the masses in the state as the cause of current hardship and untold suffering they are passing through.
Accordingly, the PDP stakeholders don’t see any reason to lose sleep over the governorship candidacy of the APC, as well as other elective positions in the build-up to the 2019 elections.
Reacting to the chances of the governor in 2019, the state Commissioner for Housing and Special Duties, Mr. Akan Okon was optimistic that Akwa Ibomites who had voted the APC in 2015 must have been disappointed following the current situation of things and will not do so in 2019.
“Let’s be very honest about this. The opposition in Akwa Ibom State is only on the pages of newspapers. Nigerians are wiser now because they have come to know that the government that we now have at the federal level came into power through propaganda and that has been responsible for the result that we are all getting today.
“I am very certain that if you were among those who had voted for them then, you will not vote for them again with the present situation they have found themselves in today.”
However, the PDP appears not to be resting on its oars, the party has been traversing the nooks and crannies of the state, mobilising the grassroots and ensuring that it does not lose grip of its supporters ahead of the governorship elections in the state.