Iniobong Ekponta in Uyo reports on the intrigue and horse-trading going on among politicians in the state in their bid for appointive positions or to influence the list on behalf of their protege
Barely two weeks after he was sworn in as the fourth civilian Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, has since settled down for the business of running the State, but without full cabinet members. Aside his media Aides and the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), the former Zenith Bank’s Executive Director, who seized the power baton from Senator Godswill Akpabio at the expiration of his eight years tenure on May 29, 2015, has been running the State with his Deputy, Obong Moses Ekpo and Permanent Secretaries. It is expected that in the next couple of weeks, the list of would-be Commissioners and Special Advisers would be sent to the House of Assembly for screening and approval.
The 6th Assembly, which was inaugurated on Monday, June 8, 2015, after the election of Speaker, Elder Aniekan Uko (Ibesikpo Asutan) and his Deputy, Hon. Effiong Bassey Okon (Oron\Udung Uko), had been adjourned to reconvene on Thursday, June 18, 2015, to fill the positions of other principal officers. When the House resumes, according to government sources, “the Governor is expected to send the list to the lawmakers to screen, deliberate and approve those to occupy cabinet positions in the new government”.
But before then, The UNION learnt intense lobbying and horse-trading have been intensified by politicians and friends of government, especially from the camp of some old faces that were part of the out gone Akpabio’s cabinet. Others said to have constituted the lobby groups included “those who actively participated in the emergence of the Governor by ensuring the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wins in their Local Government Area”. According a former Local Government Chairman who would not want his name in print, “some Commissioners and Local Government Chairmen are likely going to return”.
Specifically, he pointed at the direction of the immediate past Commissioner for Special Duties, Mr. Emmanuel Enoidem, a strong ally of Akpabio, who vociferously fought for the victory of the PDP in the last elections. But back home in his native Etim Ekpo Local Government Area, a section of the youths, especially those not touched by the former Commissioner’s largesse, would want a different representative for Etim Ekpo in the new cabinet. Speaking on behalf of his group, a youth leader from the area, who chose to remain anonymous while speaking to The UNION, explained that “the Hon. Commissioner had served the Local Government for eight years as Commissioner during Akpabio’s era”, adding that “we need a change this time”.
“If Mr. Enoidem is appointed again for Etim Ekpo, it would amount to the same sets of people still benefitting from him; that is he would only settle his boys. Let a new man come to empower some new people so that development will spread to every area in the Local Government”, he explained. As lobbyists continue to flock the Government House in their last ditch efforts to make the list, it was gathered some serving Local Government Chairmen might be picked for the cabinet owing to their resistance against the opposition in the last elections.
“Many of them fought and delivered PDP in their Local Government and it is expected that reward would come their way through cabinet post in the current dispensation”, notes Comrade Umakiso Edem, a youth activists in Oron. It was gathered, a staunched PDP chieftain and current Chairman of Mbo Local Government Area, Hon. Victor Etim Antai, may make the list as the Sports Commissioner in Udom’s cabinet.
According to Mr. Enyieting Effiong, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) youth wing in Udung Uko, “Hon. Antai is always playing selfish politics for his interests and not for the Oron interest and government has been rewarding him for this bad politics of his”. He recalled that Antai, who hails from Ebughu in Mbo, one of the five Local Government Areas that make up Oron nation, “had played bad politics that prevented the governorship slot from coming to the Oron axis after Akpabio”, noting that such politics of betrayal had fetched him the position a Local Government Chairman on two occasions.
“Akwa Ibom is standing on three ethnic tripod of Ibibio, Annang and Oron”, he explained, adding that “since the former Governor Victor Attah took the Ibibio slot from 1999 to 2007 and left it to Annang under Akpabio, the next logical thing to do should have to allow the power baton to evolve to Oron”, he said and lamented that the likes of Antai and other hawks in Oron, scuttled the process “because of their selfish ambitions”.
In the run up to the elections, he recalled that angry youths of Oron were moved by this unpatriotic politics of Antai and others to issue what he called “fatwah” (death warrants) to Antai and others, adding that the youths could have torched his home if not for the timely intervention of security agencies. Also lobbying to make the list, according a source from Government House, is the current Chairman of Etinan Local Government, Obong Isantim Kenneth Okon.
It was gathered that they (the Local Government Chairmen) had in the run up to the polls brokered a deal with former Governor Akpabio, promising to deliver their Councils to the PDP in return for tenure extension for some and cabinet position for others. The tenure of the Councils was to expire this month but no inkling as to whether Council election will hold or transition government in place, and The UNION gathered the government has surreptitiously caved in to the Chairmen’s demand, while waiting for the House of Assembly to reconvene to ratify the extension.
The Governor, it was gathered, has been fighting dirty with Prince Ukpong Akpabio, cousin to the former Governor, over the position of Chief of Staff. The UNION learnt Prince Akpabio, who served in the last cabinet as Governor Akpabio’s personal Aide, is said to be angling for the position of Chief of Staff to Udom, but according to a source close to the Governor, the position was reserved for one Akparawa Ephraim Inyang, Udom’s kinsman and personal friend from his hometown, Onna.
Inyang, who was the PDP Campaign Chairman for Onna during the polls, had committed enough resources into the emergence of Udom, using his political platform-Transformation Initiative for the Empowerment of Ibom People (TIEIP), to coordinate thousands of support groups for the Governor’s project. But several interests rooting for the Chief of Staff’s position including the Akpabio’s, it was gathered, forced Udom to shelve the appointment, at least for now.
“The matter has degenerated into a dirty level whereby several campaigns of calumny have been sponsored against Akparawa Inyang by various interest groups canvassing for the position and the Governor is not happy with these developments”, a source from TIEP told our Correspondent. Though some desperate politicians are said to have taken their craze to make the list before their Prophets in secret and conventional Christian Churches, some, according to unconfirmed reports, wouldrather go diabolical leading to ‘juju’ scare at the Government House.
The oil-rich State of Akwa Ibom, a largely civil service economy driven by oil wealth but with high unemployment rate, is always agog especially during any political event. Currently, rumours have been making the rounds that one politician or the other have been penciled down for cabinet posts, forcing followers of such persons to dust their shoes and starched their party clothes in readiness for the celebration.
But while others will be celebrating, shocks will be the lot of others as Udom, not known for dancing to the gallery may disappoint others when the cabinet list is unveiled. Until the final list is dispatch to the House of Assembly for screening and confirmation, political bookmakers will continue to dwell in their world of conjectures and permutations. And until the chips are finally down, all fingers remain crossed.