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By Segun Akinyemi

AKWA Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, may have failed in his bid to secure the presidential ticket of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the 2023 general election. But he won the hearts of many Nigerians for reasons that are totally unconnected with his performance at the party primary election of Saturday, May 28, 2022, in Abuja.

Udom went into the election as an underdog. His fourth position was, therefore, not something of a big surprise or disappointment to watchers of Nigeria’s geo-politics, especially after the leadership of PDP  ignored the general sentiment about power shift to the Southern part of the country after the eight-year tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari, to throw the contest open to all sections.

If performance that is based on empirical evidence were the main determinant of the competence and capacity of aspirants for the PDP presidential ticket, the outcome of the primary might have been different.

In terms of factors like educational qualification, record of performance, character, age and capacity for a higher office, the Akwa Ibom governor is eminently qualified for the highest office in the land. I am not alone in this assessment. The PDP national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, said this much.

In the days leading to the primary election, Ayu could be seen in Udom’s television commercial saying something to the effect that if it was within his power, he would simply hand the party’s presidential ticket to the Akwa Ibom governor without him having to go through the election.The party chairman may have expressed similar sentiments about other aspirants to underscore the fact that they are all good enough to fly the party’s flag. But the statement was a confirmation of what many know about Udom’s suitability for the office of president.

Ayu mentioned just one of the numerous achievements the governor has recorded in the last seven years of his two-term tenure, namely: Ibom Air. What the chairman did not mention is the fact that the governor has significantly transformed a civil service state into one that is fast emerging as an industrial hub in Nigeria by building an economy that would be private-sector driven.

That is not a surprise, considering that he has been a private sector player all his working life. Udom understands that what Nigeria needs today is a strong private sector that would be the driver of economic growth and sustainable development. He has demonstrated, with the employment generation initiatives of his administration which is evident in the number of industries he has set up, a deep understanding of the fact that job creation, social welfare and human capacity development constitute the panacea for insecurity.

It bears mentioning here that under him, Akwa Ibom has witnessed the level of peace that was lacking before the advent of his administration. The state is one of the most peaceful in the country today. The PDP has emerged from a party convention that was generally adjudged to be peaceful, well organised and highly successful (the party beat its own deadline by concluding the convention 24 hours earlier than it had planned).

As it commences the search for a suitable running mate for its presidential candidate – Alhaji Atiku Abubakar – the party may not need to look far beyond Akwa Ibom to identify the best man for the position. In Udom, it has a man with a lot to offer the party and, ultimately, the country. In terms of character and integrity, the Akwa Ibom governor is impeccable. He came into government from an industry where integrity is the watchword, having occupied a top executive management position in one of the nation’s leading financial institutions.

He has demonstrated during his tenure a very high predilection for openness, accountability and prudent management of resources.This explains why he has been able to deploy resources at his disposal to achieve the level of success his administration has recorded in the last seven years. These achievements are visible in different areas such as healthcare delivery, education, infrastructure, industrialisation, aviation and tourism.

Udom is quiet and unassuming. He is a loyal party man who believes in the supremacy of the party; not one to openly disagree with the party or criticise it if a decision does not go his way. This is evident in the fact that he was one of the first contestants at the primary election to applaud the choice of the delegates and offer his congratulations to Akitu, pledging to work for the success of the party in the general election. He is given to supporting the party in whatever way he can, without any form of blackmail or threats.

Many see the Akwa Ibom helmsman in the mould of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, who has demonstrated unalloyed and unquestionable loyalty to the president. Atiku can expect to have in Udom a deputy with whom he would be sure to have a harmonious relationship that would enable him to concentrate on the onerous task of rebuilding Nigeria from the near ruins into which the current administration has plunged it. The governor is a team player who believes in carrying everyone along in decision making.

He has the educational background, intellect, exposure and a world view that would enable him to play effectively the role of vice president of a country that needs to quickly worm its way back into the hearts of the international community, from its currently near pariah status caused by its many failings.

Akinyemi, a political analyst, wrote from Abuja

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