Rerun a trap to make Akpabio lose appointme nt — Stakeholders
By Chioma Onuegbu
THE Appeal Court ruling in Calabar, penultimate Saturday, which ordered re-run poll in Essien Udim local government area within 90 days in respect of the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial seat has dominated discussions in Akwa Ibom polity.
Arising from the discussions are arguments, allegations, renewed bickering and varied interpretations of the judgement by leaders, stakeholders, and supporters of the two rival political parties involved in the legal battle – the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Senator Godswill Akpabio, current minister of Niger Delta Affairs, ran on the plank of the APC while Senator Chris Ekpenyong contested on the banner of the PDP. Ekpenyong was returned as winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, a decision Akpabio kicked against leading to the court of appeal ruling ordering repeat poll in Essien Udim, one of the 10 LGAs of the zone to determine the winner.
Currently, Ekpenyong has 114,973 votes from the remaining nine LGAs while Akpabio has 76,917 votes. There are 95,987 voters with permanent voters cards, PVCs, in Essien Udim LGA, where Akpabio hails from.
Depending on voters turnout, Akpabio has the chance of cancelling out Ekpenyong’s 38,056 voters lead and winning the overall election. This is one of the reasons the yet to be fixed supplementary poll is raising dust in Akwa Ibom.
However, part of the argument in the camp of the PDP is that even if Akpabio of the APC decides to go for the rerun it will be impracticable and impossible for him to win.
Their argument stems from their belief that during the general elections, the total number of eligible voters in Essien Udim that collected their PVCs was 95, 987, and out of the number only 19,455 were accredited for the actual election.
Some chieftains of the party argued further that the situation may worsen during the rerun, because in actual election situation, it is difficult to have up to 75 percent voters turnout, which explains the wide gap between 19,455 accredited voters and the 95,987 that collected their PVCs in Essien Udim.
Poll has been won and lost — Asikpo
A chieftain of the PDP from Akwa Ibom Northwest, Dr Anny Asikpo, said as far the people of Ikot Ekpene senatorial district are concerned the senatorial election had been won and lost.
“It was won comprehensively by the incumbent senator and lost badly by the current Minister of Niger Delta Affairs. Like I had said before, even if the election will be conducted one million times he will fail one million plus one times.
“So if I were him I will not present myself for the rerun. Even the people of Essien Udim don’t want him to return to the Senate; that is not the wish and expectation of the people of Essien Udim. They believe in rotation which he (Akpabio) is a beneficiary, and that the Senate seat is not rightly Essien Udim’s turn.”
Asikpo claimed that the people of Essien Udim purposely voted against Akpabio during the elections, that it was only reasoned ahead of the 2019 general elections that the Senate seat should go to Obot Akara where Chris Ekpenyong hails from because the deputy governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo, is from Abak. “But in the right sense of it Abak5, would have taken it. After Ekpenyong, the next senate seat will go to Abak5, that is the position,” he stressed.
The PDP also chided the APC for claiming that the electoral umpire cancelled over 61,000 votes cast for Akpabio whereas the total number of accredited voters for that February 23, 2019 election was 19, 455, insisting that those votes were cancelled because they were unlawful and indicated electoral fraud.
Akpabio has all it takes to win — APC supporters
However, supporters and members of the APC are boasting that Akpabio has all it takes to beat Ekpenyong given his popularity and the goodwill he enjoys among his kinsmen of Essien Udim.
A Chieftain of the party, Prince David Benjamin, boasted, “I can assure you that the people of Essien Udim will come out and massively vote for Godswill Obot Akpabio. And I can foresee more registered voters coming out for accreditation during the rerun and they will vote for Godswill Akpabio”
Will Akpabio run or not?
However, there is uncertainty whether or not Akpabio would resign to re-contest the Akwa Ibom Northwest Senate seat.
At the time of filing this report, Senator Akpabio has not made any formal statement on the issue.
Some observers suggest that Akpabio may be facing the problem of indecision, especially as he is expected to resign his appointment as Minister, to go for the exercise.
Some APC stakeholders in the state, want the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Mike Igini, removed as a condition to go for the rerun.
A statement by Akwa Ibom State Chairman of the APC, Mr. Ini Okopido, immediately after the judgement read in part: “What is instructive about this judgement is the acknowledgement and expressed declaration by a superior court that election in Akwa Ibom North-West senatorial district was a sham; an indictment of INEC.
“In other words, the Court is saying that INEC was wrong to have announced such a result.
“As we prepare for the re-run elections in Essien Udim LGA, we are cautious and mindful of a re-run election superintended by Mike Igini. We have no faith in Igini’s impartiality as an unbiased and independent umpire.
“We are distraught and doubtful of a change of posture by Igini and therefore cautious to go into a fresh election while Igini remains the State REC. We demand the immediate re-deployment of Igini in the interest of peace and justice.”
Re-reun a set up against Akpabio?
However, comments from some stakeholders of Ikot Ekpene federal constituency where both Akpabio and Ekpenyong hails from indicate that they view the rerun as a distraction and maybe a set up against Akpabio.
They fear that in the unlikely event that Akpabio resigns to run and in the end did not win, he will be left with nothing, and therefore that it is a risk for Akpabio to resign his ministerial appointment.
Ikot Ekpene federal Constituency is made up of Ikot Ekpene, Essien Udim, and Obot Akara local councils.
A source privy to political happenings in the area told Vanguard: “The people of Ikot Ekpene federal constituency believe that those advising him to continue to pursue his senate ambition are trying to make him lose both the ministerial appointment and senate seat and end up with nothing.
“This is because after he must resigned he cannot get the appointment back if he lost out. Even if he wins, it also means that we have lost the ministerial position. When Akpabio was appointed as minister our people were happy that the fight brought good thing after all, so he’ll not expect us to be happy if he resigns.”
Similarly, Chairman of a youth group under the aegis of “Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District Youths Frontiers”, Mr Victor Mbebe, advised Senator Akpabio not to go for the re- run.
He said in a statement: “It is surprising that one would rather choose an office that only has a N220million Zonal Intervention projects allocated to it, to a Ministry with a budget of N23billion as presented by Mr. President for the year 2020.
“It would interest the Minister to note that we the people of Ikot Ekpene senatorial district will not fold our arms and watch this giant position slip away. He should know that resigning from his ministerial position to contest the rerun is highly catastrophic.
“We want to advise Chief Godswill Akpabio to disappoint his cosmetic supporters by not resigning his position as Minister for the rerun.”
Meanwhile the general argument in the state is that Akpabio would make great impact as a Minister of Niger Delta Affairs than as a senator given the way he is already going, trying to sanitize the federal government agency.