By Chioma Onuegbu
The Akwa Ibom State Sixth Assembly under the leadership of Mr Onofiok Luke, the member representing Nsit Ubium state constituency will end in June.
Luke, a two-term member and the 11th speaker of the House of Assembly is proceeding to the House of Representatives after winning the election for the Etinan Federal constituency in the just concluded election.
Currently, the state Legislature is having 25 out of 26 members that were successful in the just concluded elections.
Of the number, 11 are newly-elected while 14 are returning members and all were elected on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
The newly elected members include Otobong Effiong Bob of Nsit Ubium, Godwin Ekpo (Ibiono Ibom), Ifiok Udoh (Nsit Ibom), Anietie Eka (Uyo) and Kufre-Abasi Edidem of Itu.
Others are Udeme J. Otong (Abak constituency), Mfon Frank Idung (Etim Ekpo/Ika constituency) Asuquo Nana Udo (Ikono constituency), Okon Asuquo Frank (Mbo), Victor Patrick Ekwere (Mkpat Enin), and Charity Friday Ido (Ukanafun).
The 14 returning Lawmakers include Hon David Lawrence Udofa ( Eket), Usoro Akpanusoh (Esit Eket/Ibeno), Uduak Odudoh (Ikot Abasi/Eastern Obolo), Idongesit Ntekpere (Ikot Ekpene/Obot Akara), Emmanuel Bassey (Ini), Princess Felicia Bassey (Okobo), Nse Essien (Onna) Effiong Bassey (Oron/Udung Uko).
The rest are Aniekan Uko (Ibesikpo Asutan), Mark Esset (Nsit Atai), Aniefiok Denis Akpan (Etinan) Aniekan Bassey (Uruan), Udo Kerian Akpan (Oruk Anam), and Asuquo Archibong (Urue Offong /Oruko).
Since they received their Certificates of Return there have been debates among Akwa Ibom citizens regarding who among the lawmakers should succeed Onofiok Luke.
Going by the zoning arrangement of the state chapter of the PDP, all lawmakers from Uyo Senatorial district (Akwa Ibom North East) are qualified for the 7th speakership position.
With the zoning of the governorship position to Eket senatorial district (Akwa Ibom South) and the deputy governorship to Ikot Ekpene senatorial district (Akwa Ibom North West) the Speakership automatically goes to Uyo Senatorial district.
In 1999, when Obong Victor Attah from Uyo was the governor, the deputy governor went to Ikot Ekpene, and the speaker seat was zoned to Eket zone.
During the period, Bassey Essien from Esit Eket constituency was elected speaker and according to records when he was removed, Nelson Effiong from Oron state constituency was elected to succeed him.
Similarly, during the administration of Godswill Akpabio (Ikot Ekpene) as governor, the number three position was still with Uyo senatorial district given that throughout Akpabio’s eight years in office the deputy governorship seat was zoned to Eket.
The deputy governors under Akpabio were Engr. Patrick Ekpotu from Ikot Abasi local government area, Obong Nsima Ekere, also from Ikot Abasi and Lady Valerie Ebe from Mkpat Enin local government area, all in Eket district.
However, analysts have been assessing the capacity, competence and political relevance of the lawmakers from the nine local government areas of Uyo, Uruan, Ibesikpo Asutan, Itu, Ibiono Ibom, Nsit Ibom, Nsit Ubium, Nsit Atai, and Etinan in an effort to identify who the cap will fit for the number three seat.
Although there are five greenhorns and four returning lawmakers, the expectation of many Akwa Ibomites is that the contest is going to be between the returning lawmakers.
On this score, the searchlight is on Aniekan Uko of Ibesikpo Asutan constituency, Aniefiok Denis Akpan of Etinan state constituency, Aniekan Bassey of Uruan, Aniekan Bassey of Uruan, and Mark Esset of Nsit Atai, who are returning legislators.
In the unlikely event of a fresh lawmaker getting the nod, those on the radar are Anietie Eka of Uyo, Kufre-Abasi Edidem of Itu, Otobong Effiong Bob of Nsit Ubium, Godwin Ekpo of Ibiono Ibom, and Ifiok Udoh of Nsit Ibom.
Udom Emmanuel’s influence
However, Governor Udom Emmanuel is expected to play a crucial role over who will emerge as a speaker.
Already, the governor is said to have a preferred candidate, a notion as some PDP stakeholders have dismissed as hogwash.
The notion is however not unconnected with the events of the 2015 and the Sixth Assembly where the former governor, Godswill Akpabio and other political forces initially stopped Onofiok Luke from being elected speaker initially, even when many of the state lawmakers and stakeholders had pencilled him down as the preferred candidate.
Onofiok Luke only emerged Speaker in December 2015, about six months later after the inauguration of the Sixth Assembly following the nullification of the election of Aniekan Uko as member representing Ibesikpo Asutan state constituency by the Appeal Court sitting in Abuja.
A chieftain of the PDP, who did not want his name mentioned is optimistic that the governor would not want to interfere in the business of the legislature especially as regards the election of the next speaker.
“For now nobody knows or can say who the governor is interested in, but I doubt that he has anybody in mind for the speakership position. The lawmakers are supposed to elect whoever they want to be their speaker without influence from the outside. All I know is that the position is zoned to Uyo senatorial district and there are many eligible members from the Senatorial district for the position,” the chieftain said.
Meanwhile, the result of the election into the Essien Udim state constituency seat is still pending following alleged electoral malpractice and irregularities.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State Mr. Mike Igini had after presenting Certificates of Return to the 25 successful lawmakers, told newsmen that the Essien Udim case would be determined by Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Abuja.