…Akpabio, Ita Enang in contention as Udoma wants to quit public service
Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
With barely a month to the end of the current administration, Presidency Muhammadu Buhari appears to be in a dilemma on who to fill the ministerial slot meant for Akwa Ibom State.
Buhari, Vanguard learnt, is favourably disposed to retaining the current Minister of Budget and National Planning and son of Nigerian eminent jurist, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, but the prominent lawyer and bureaucrat is said to have pleaded to be allowed to quit public service after many years of outing.
It was gathered that Buhari had taken more than a passing interest in Udoma since he successfully deployed his business and financial acumen in bailing Nigeria out of recession last year and enabled the country to experience some level of growth and economic stability, as confirmed by international rating agencies.
Buhari is also said to have been impressed by the minister’s level-headedness and for serving as a bridge-builder between the federal and Akwa Ibom State government since coming on board and helping to create stability and harmony among the two tiers of government.
A presidential source said however that despite Buhari’s admiration of Udoma’s towering leadership and administrative credentials, the minister has made it clear that he would serve only one term and retire from public service, having put in many years serving Nigeria and its people in different spheres.
The decision by Udoma not to serve again in the new cabinet leaves Buhari with the option of choosing his cabinet member from Akwa Ibom State from the duo of former Governor Godswill Akpabio and Senator Ita Enang, who currently serves as Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate).
Although Akpabio would eminently fit the bill because of his position as a former governor and the strong support he mobilised for the All Progressives Congress, which enabled the party to score over 40 per cent in the just concluded presidential election in the state.
However, the state government, which is supposed to recommend a ministerial candidate to the Presidency, is said to be frontally opposed to the candidature of the former governor and would not do so under any condition.
Top backers of Governor Emmanuel Udom and the Peoples Democratic Party in Uyo have made it clear that Akpabio should not be given such top position so soon having embarrassed them by defecting from their fold and joining forces with the opposition to work against them.
A power broker in the state told Vanguard that they would rather stay without a minister than recommending Akpabio to become one, a post that would automatically elevate him to the APC political leader in the state.
The choice of Ita Enang, which appears to be more appealing to the PDP and APC folds in the state, however hangs in the balance since some of the political leaders feel that he has been in government since 1999, first, as member of the House of Representatives for 12 years and later as Senator for four years before being appointed presidential aide in 2015 by Buhari.
Many of the PDP leaders who work with Governor Udom are said to prefer Mr Enang, a lawyer and long-standing PDP member before 2015, to Akpabio apparently because of his calm political and conciliatory disposition.
Many of those who are opposed to Akpabio, argued that although Enang also defected to the APC in 2015, he did not do anything to cause disaffection between the state and the federal government on one hand and between his former party and the new one.
As at last night, there was no indication that the uncertainty over the ministerial slot for the state had been settled and there were indications that fresh names might be considered by the Presidency.