Tension is mounting in the state over the relocation of the election tribunal to Abuja, reports Iniobong Ekponta in Uyo
Tension has enveloped the largely Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) state of Akwa Ibom, following alleged plots by the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) to take-over the South-South State, using the Federal might. Former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Umana Okon Umana, has been at daggers-drawn with the ruling PDP under Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, insisting that the process that produced him as the fourth civilian Governor of the 27-year-old State, was massively flawed.
According to Umana, former chieftain of the PDP since the return of democracy in 1999, who however crossed over to opposition APC, perhaps to realize his long held ambition of ruling the State, the March 28, 2015 election that produced Udom, as Senator Godswill Akpabio’s successor, failed the due process test. He, therefore, took the matter before the governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Uyo, the State capital, but people were soon to be jolted, when the tribunal acceded to the request of the APC’s prayer, alleging that absence of security in the State could put a big question mark on the credibility of the outcome of the case at the tribunal in Uyo.
The tribunal was subsequently relocated to Abuja in a hasty decision queried by supporters of the PDP, who viewed the decision as warped and heavily guided towards its predetermined outcome for the APC. But in an interview at the weekend, the Chairman of the Akwa Ibom Ethnic Youth Leaders Council (AEYLC), Bishop Etim Effiong Ante, warned “any attempt to unlawfully seize the mandate freely given to Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, will be heavily resisted”.
Ante, a PDP chieftain since 1999, and the immediate past Special Assistant (SA) to former Governor Akpabio on Youths Matters, said the APC was only trying the patience of Akwa Ibom youths, who freely voted for Governor Emmanuel, warning that the state would go up in flames if the APC overstretches the patience beyond limit.
The former Chairman of Mbo Local Government Area, noted that the State currently stands on the three ethnic tripod of Ibibio, Annang and Oron, pointing out that his Oron axis had never tasted power and disclosed that Oron only took a decision to back Udom to succeed Akpabio following the ceding of the baton to Eket Senatorial District, in which Oron is a part.
Ante recalled that in 1999, Obong Victor Attah had taken the slot of the largely Ibibio ethnic group in the State, while Akpabio took it for the next majority tribe, Annang, noting that Oron, the third major ethnic should logical followed suit, but for contending interests. Instead of pitching tent with Umana of Ibibio ethnic group, Ante explained that Oron took the last decision to throw its weight behind Udom because of the proximity of the Governor’s area to Oron.
He vowed that any attempt by the APC to seize the power baton from the PDP using crooked means, would be stoutly resisted, warning that the targets of the attacks would be directed at Federal Government’s oil and gas installations within the waterways of Eket Senatorial District. According to him, “Governor Udom and the PDP won the election convincingly”, adding that one of the major planks of voting him includes industrialization, job creation and empowerment, and urged those against his emergence to avoid distractions so his pre-election plans could be realized.
Assuring that more dividends of democracy would thrive in Udom’s tenure, Ante solicited the cooperation of the people for the smooth take off of the administration, disclosing that the government has since hit the ground running with clear vision of Akwa Ibom State in the future. In Oron, Ante disclosed that the prayers of the area that has remained for years without essential infrastructures would soon be answered by the current regime, noting that work on the proposed Ibaka Deep Seaport would soon begin as the Governor has inaugurated a competent technical Committee to ensure its implementation.
Besides, the youth leader, who doubles as the chief clergy in Christendom, disclosed of government plans to establish a private refinery within the Udung Uko area of Oron, noting that the coming on stream of these companies in the area would be more beneficial than being favoured with several political appointments as more jobs would be generated for the unemployed youths. To critics of Udom as former Governor Akpabio’s stooge, Ante dismissed such insinuations, saying the Governor was a divine choice for the State, adding “God only used Akpabio to fish him out for leadership.
He recalled that former President Olusegun Obasanjo had a hand in the choice of his successor, the late Umaru Yar’Adua, and the choice of the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan to be Yar’Adua’s Deputy in 2007, submitting that such was a routine practice in micro and macro politics all over the world. “Akpabio cannot advise Udom wrongly”, he stressed, noting that Udom remains his own man, even with the return of several cabinet members of the immediate past era. He noted that the return of the old hands was a good omen for the administration for stability, experience and focused government aimed at consolidating on the legacies of Akpabio and his uncommon transformation years.
Corroborating him, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) and Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Mr. Ekerete Udoh, dismissed the allegation of Udom as reigning in proxy for the old administration, pointing out that succession plans in every political climes including the United States, have always been influenced by the incumbency factor. He wondered why so much fuss had been generated by those he described as idle and armed chair critics over Udom’s emergence with Akpabio’s support, but warned those in the habit of overheating the polity to sheathe their swords.
According to him, the Governor has since settled down for the business of governance and asked the APC to focus its attention on the delivery of pre-election promises to Nigerians instead of fighting the war that had already been won and lost. Concerned stakeholders of PDP and elders of Akwa Ibom State including Senator Anietie Okon, Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, Senator Effiong Dickson Bob, Prince Uwem Ita Etuk and others have warned the APC of the anticipated post-election mayhem that would engulf the State, should the central government under President Muhammadu Buhari, influenced the usurping of the mandate freely given the PDP at the governorship polls.
The stakeholders, all founding members of the PDP since 1999, said they were only using their good offices to calm the frayed nerves of youths, warning that the State could be thrown into turmoil if the tribunal could not be relocated to Akwa Ibom, the area vested with the original jurisdiction to try the matter. The state government had taken the matter before the High Court in the State for interpretation and determination. Only time will tell which party has the last laugh when the chips are finally down. The people are watching.