By Harris-Okon Emmanuel, Uyo
The battle for the soul of Akwa Ibom State has taken a new dimension with the two major parties involved taking their battle to the billboards in the state.
The All Progressives Congress, APC with the backing of the Federal Government is also throwing the weight of the fabled Federal Might in the deployment of security forces while the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP which controls the state is using its advantages on ground to push its case.
The chairman of the state branch of the APC, Iniobong Okopido reportedly petitioned the presidency over the destruction of APC’s campaign billboards and banners in the state.
In a swift response, the state government issued stringent rules on indiscriminate hoisting of billboards. The regulations it was claimed were meant to sanitise the environment. The APC, however, kicked against them, alleging that the directives were directly targeted at the party.
However, the ember of the simmering ‘’billboard war”, rekindled last Tuesday after the Commissioner for Environment and Mineral Resources, Dr. Iniobong Essien was alleged to have seized a Muhammadu Buhari campaign banner at Akpan Andem market apparently because of the violations of the regulations.
Apparently based on the development he was arrested and questioned by a special squad from Force Headquarters in Abuja.
Besides, the Chairman of Uyo Council, Elder Imoh Okon was also quizzed by the Police in connection with the destruction of APC campaign billboards.
The ruling PDP in a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Ini Ememobong described the incidents as troubling developments and carpeted the IGP for using the ‘’Nigerian Police, a tax payers’ funded security agency ‘’to harass a government official undertaking his legal duty, over a minor issue of like the location for the erection of a billboard is deeply offensive”,
He threatened that ‘’when pushed to the wall there is only one direction to go and that the slow movement of the tiger should not be interpreted as cowardice”, noting that the law abiding and peaceful dispositions of the party and the people of the state should not be misinterpreted or mistaken for cowardice.
He went on: ‘’ If this is the beginning of the Federal might that the APC has been promising to use in capturing Akwa Ibom, we can assure the world that the people of Akwa Ibom State who are solidly behind Governor Udom Emmanuel will resist this type of Federal might with every fibre of our being.
‘’We will preserve through this oppression conscious that while others trust in their horses and chariots, we will continue to trust in the Lord, knowing that the this battle is the Lord’s.”
Ememobong however exonerated the Commissioner of any wrong doing, saying ‘’the Commissioner of Environment, Dr. Iniobong Essien in full execution of the regulatory powers vested in his ministry advised the company to relocate the pole to the approved location. Instead of adhering to the advice, the thugs employed by the APC engaged in unrestrained violence injuring bystanders and chasing away staff of the ministry.
‘’ They claimed that the billboard bearing the image of President Muhammadu Buhari was torn( a fabrication sweet only for their ears). There’s no billboard bearing the poster of the President in the entire stretch of the state, so how could people destroy what was never hoisted?