May 29, 2023, will officially culminate the long walk of Governor Udom Emmanuel as the 4th civilian Governor of Akwa Ibom State. A journey so far characterized with dashed hope cancelled dreams and some good developmental strides.
Akwa Ibom State, made up of three major tribes; Ibibio, Annang and Oro nations, has over the years been governed on tripartite arrangement. The Ibibios, under Uyo Senatorial District, took their turns for eight years with Obong Victor Attah, the Annang who are mainly in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial, also had eight years on the saddle through Senator Godswill Akpabio. Governor Udom Emmanuel, from Eket Senatorial District, is doing his second term. Since the cycle of power-sharing will be completed at the end of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s tenure, Uyo Senatorial District will begin another round of power-sharing in 2023.
While many Akwa Ibomites have begun to assess how far the Governor has gone in his industrialization mantra which he rode to power in 2015, others have kept their eyes opened to read the Governor’s body language on who he is supporting as successor in 2023. Governor Udom Emmanuel has consistently announced that God will choose his successor, but many Akwa Ibomites tend to see the Governor’s body language tilting towards three personalities in Etinan Federal Constituency. These men; Pastor Umo Eno, Udom Inoyo and Akan Udofia, have over the years enjoyed the good friendship and working relationship with the Governor. They also sit well in their different fields of endeavour.
Beyond these three individuals, there are two other personalities within the Federal Constituency that are also warming up for the seat. Among the two is the current member representing Etinan Federal Constituency in the National Assembly Rt. Hon. (Barr.) Onofiok Luke. He is known to be a man with good political clauses within the state has been the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and youth activist right from his school days. The second man is an elder statesman, Senator Effiong Bob. Just like Onofiok Luke, he is a career politician without what the Governor usually describe as a second address. Feelers have it that the Governor is not always comfortable with people who take politics as their final bus stop and the duo seem to fit into the mould.
Governor Udom Emmanuel seems comfortable in the crop of Governorship aspirants from Etinan Federal Constituency. The two terms state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Obong Paul Ekpo who is from Etinan Federal Constituency, had immediately left office, began consultation for the seat of Uyo Senatorial District. According to his close aide, Obong Paul Ekpo was asked to drop his Senatorial ambition by the Governor on grounds that the next Governor will come from there. As of now, Obong Paul Ekpo has begun consultation for the Etinan Federal Constituency seat.
In view of the three persons in the Governor’s political spectrum, there are speculations that though the trio has begun consultation, the Governor will surely favour one of them with broad knowledge on industrialization. This, the Governor believes, his successor should be able to carry on in his industrialization plan.
For instance, Mr Udom Inoyo who recently retired as Executive Director / Vice Chairman of ExxonMobil Nigeria seems not marketable in the political space considering his pedigree in ExxonMobil. Many who worked under him while in the company, describe him as a strict personality with no interest in the affairs of others.
The sacking of 2000 workers by ExxonMobil is baggage on Inoyo, as many believe he orchestrated this action or did little to salvage it.
Aside from this, Governor Udom Emmanuel’s unnecessary mistakes in governance metrics of the state have cast a harsh shadow on his name. Within various state strata and political space, nobody would like to go with another “Governor Udom”.
One of the political elders in Nsit Ubium local government said Chief Enefiok Okokon said “we do not want another Udom as our Governor. The reason we voted Governor Udom Emmanuel when the former Governor Godswill presented him to us was that we all thought he would be like Senator Godswill Akpabio. But now that he has failed us, we cannot gamble our future with his successor who may be worse than him.”
Despite some negative patches in Mr Udom Inoyo’s name, he has over the years assisted and rewarded teachers of public secondary schools in the state through Udom Inoyo’s Foundation.
Mr Umo Eno, current Commissioner for Lands and Housing came into the political limelight during the early days of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s first term in office. Through a religious-political organization known as Fathers of Faith, Umo Eno was able to worm himself into Governor Udom Emmanuel’s heart, the reason he was chosen by the group as their representative in Udom Emmanuel’s government. Before his appointment, he has been in the hospitality industry for many years, building hotels, eateries. He is said to be projected by Apostle Lawrence Achudume, founder of Victory Life Bible Church International in Ogun state who is a known friend of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
Many Akwa Ibomites are uncomfortable with Umo Eno because he is largely known as a very tight-fisted investor, who has no record of social welfare programmes, even for Akwa Ibomites working for him despite his billions from businesses in the state. He is said to be very stingy. With this, people are scared of another Bible carrying Governor that does not understand the needs of the state and with no street credibility status.
Akan Udofia is another personality in the political card of Governor Udom Emmanuel. He is seen by the public as an elitist investor. Akan Udofia is considered a homeboy. He schooled at the University of Uyo where he graduated with a first-class in Accounting. Aside from many other contributions to the Akwa Ibom people, he is currently building a well seated administrative structure at the permanent site of Akwa Ibom State University.
The man Akan Udofia, after his graduation, has been quietly and secretly making exploit within and outside the country. However, he is not a well-known figure at the grassroots.
His quiet but ostentatious lifestyle has put a query on his source of wealth and information about him is very scanty. Many people believe he is a man behind the much announced Ibom Air which the Governor has marketed as his key achievement.
Recently, Akan Udofia has been leading traffic of international figures, diplomats, investors to visit the Governor. He is believed to be widely connected and has all it takes to swing the political pendulum to his side. Akwa Ibom people tend to be in tune with Akan Udofia because he reportedly has a lot of welfare programmes in different areas across the state. He has assisted many Akwa Ibomites in the past and he is said to still do so.
Governor Udom Emmanuel is in dilemma on who to choose as his successor because the trio is his friends that he holds in high esteem.
As the race for the 2023 Governorship officially unfolds by May 29, 2021, Akwa Ibomites hope to see more of Udom Emmanuel’s body language in this direction.
Kazeem Gausa writes from Udi Street, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.