Akwa Ibom 2015: PDP Battles Self Over Zoning
With virtually all electoral slots from the wards, the state and the national levels in the kitty of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Akwa Ibom State can arguably be described as a core and complete PDP state.
And with the massive achievements of Governor Godswill Akpabio in the state, which he has dubbed ‘uncommon transformation,’ the PDP, ordinarily, is not expected to have problems retaining its electoral laurels. At least, not from the opposition parties, which have a very high hurdle to scale, if they were to make any appreciable inroad into the state christened ‘Land of Promise.’
However, the PDP may not have it easy, if the brewing intra-party squabble is not amicably resolved ahead of the election. Currently, what is panning out as PDP versus PDP electoral battle may present the opposition with an unexpected electoral gift.
Currently, some elders, stakeholders and founders of the PDP in Akwa Ibom are at daggers drawn with Governor Akpabio over the control of the PDP structure and zoning of electoral offices ahead of the election.
Free and fair primaries
While the governor and his supporters are in favour of zoning to ensure fairness, the stakeholders are against zoning and want free and fair primaries open to all aspirants at all levels.
They are now threatening court action, if any qualified member of the party is excluded from the primaries.
The cracks and fissures on the walls of the Akwa Ibom PDP manifested penultimate week after the governor rounded off his town hall meetings in the 10 federal constituencies of the state in furtherance of his participatory governance approach, the need to brief the people on his administration’s achievements so far and get feedback.
The town hall meetings started at Eket Federal Constituency on March 5, 2014 and ended at Ikot Ekpene Federal Constituency on April 4, 2014. The other town hall meetings were as follows: Etinan (March 10), Ikono/Ini (March 12), Itu/Ibiono (March 13), Ikot Abasi (March 18), Abak (March 20), Oron (March 31), Ukanafun/Oruk Anam (April 2) and Uyo (April 3). The town hall meetings were preceded by on going commissioning of about 5000 ‘lives-touching’ projects executed in 2013/2014 in the 31 local councils of the state.
The commissioning of the projects in the local councils was kick-started at Ibesikpo Asutan on February 24 followed by Ibeno (February 26), Abak (February 28), Nsit Atai (March 3), Etim Ekpo (March 5), Ikot Abasi (March 7), Oruk Anam (March 10), Etinan (March 12) and Essien Udim (March 14).
The rest are Onna (March 17), Ibiono Ibom (March 19), Ikono (March 21), Mbo March 24), Obot Akara March 26), Nsit Ubium (March 28), Ini (March 31), Nsit Atai (April 3), Udung Uko (April 4), Nsit Ubom (April 7), Ikot Ekpene (April 9), Eket April 11), Ika (April 14), Esit Eket (April 16), Uyo (April 18), Okobo (April 21) and Ukanafun (April 23). The remaining councils will have their turns as follows: Eastern Obolo (April 25), Urue Offong/Oruko (April 28), Mkpat Enin (April 30), Oron (May 2) and Itu (May 5). At the well-attended town hall meetings, Akwa Ibom leaders commended the governor for the projects he had executed so far and asked for more.
Power shift theory
Some monarchs and leaders, while commending the governor, threw their weight behind his “power shift theory” and promised to back his Ikot Ekpene senatorial ambition.
Alleged to have anointed the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Obong Emmanuel Udom, from Eket, as his successor, Akpabio’s critics in the PDP are also not happy that he is angling to occupy the Ikot Ekpene senatorial seat in 2015, which they argued should be occupied by the Abak Federal Constituency.
PDP stakeholders move against candidate imposition
A week after the governor’s town hall meetings, some elders and stakeholders of the PDP, drawn from the 10 federal constituencies of the state, which included founders of the party in Akwa Ibom and the three serving senators, pooh poohed the town hall meetings and opposed Governor Akpabio’s alleged plan to impose his anointed candidate on the party in the name of zoning or power shift.
The event, that they dubbed “the real town hall meeting’, was chaired by former Environment Minister, Dr Ime Okopido, leaders, who spoke included Senator Effiong Bob, who was represented by Dr. Chris Ekong; Sen. Ita Enang, who was represented by Engr Uwem Umoh; Otueknong Sunny Jackson; former Member House of Representatives, Bernard Udoh; Former Member House of Reps, Emmanuel Obot; Wife of former Governor, Chief (Mrs.) Imo Isemin and former Secretary to the State Government and governorship aspirant, Umana O Umana.
Others are former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Victor Iyanam; former Deputy Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Uwem Udoma; Chief Ukata Akpan; Obong Okon Uwah; Enefiok Ekefre; former Speaker Akwa Ibom House of Assembly, Nelson Effiong; and Chief Sunny Udom.
The allegations of the elders against Governor Akpabio are as follows: his long-term scheme to anoint a successor made him unilaterally pick current ward, local government and state executive committees in 2012; he withdrew his friend, Mr. Paul Ekpo from the state cabinet and made him the PDP chairman; he also made his younger brother, Barr Ibanga Akpabio the state PDP secretary; his special assistant on Youth Mobilisation, Mr. Emmanuel Ekpenyong became the youth leader; crucial party matters are now handled by the Akpabio brothers-Emem, Ibanga, Nsetip and Prince; he relocated state party secretariat to Ibanga’s private residence; and excluded critical stakeholders from his town hall meetings, which was meant to endorse his anointed candidate.
Consequently, the elders said contrary to the claims of the governor, the PDP runs the risk of disastrous outing during the 2015 general elections, if the internal crises in the party were not resolved. Urging the PDP national leadership to “rescue our party from imminent collapse”, they warned that “it will be at the party’s peril if our leaders take for granted the fact that Akwa Ibom has been a PDP state by failing to forestall Governor Akpabio’s attempt to destroy the party at the end of his tenure.
Akwa Ibom people, especially the Ibibios who constitute 70 per cent of the state’s population, will not remain in PDP to see Governor Akpabio continue to make mince of the efforts and vision of our forebears.”
Therefore, they urged the national arm of the party and President Goodluck Jonathan, whose re-election they unanimously endorsed, to “take necessary steps to rescue the party in Akwa Ibom from the stranglehold of Akpabio, his brothers and cronies and hand same back to our elders and founding fathers whose input should be paramount in the running and administration of the party.”
Rising from the meeting, the elders and stakeholders, in a communiqué signed by 100 persons, also condemned alleged resurgence of insecurity and threats to life in the state and called on the Inspector General (IG) of Police and the Director General of the State Security Service (SSS), to investigate cases of threat to life, kidnapping and politically-motivated murders in Akwa Ibom State.
They called on all aspirants to different political offices to carry on their activities with dignity and respect for others, while disavowing violence in any form or utterances that can cause disunity in the party and Akwa Ibom in general.
They vowed to collectively uphold and defend the dignity and the sanctity of PDP Constitution (along with its manifesto and programmes), the country’s electoral laws, and the extant constitutional provisions.
Speaking at the meeting, Umana O Umana charged other aspirants who are presently in government to stop hiding under the governor’s shadow and come out openly to tell the people that they are interested in the 2015 governorship polls and their plans for the state, if elected.
Umana said: “I am contesting for the office of the governor in 2015 and I have come out to tell the people of Akwa Ibom State that I am interested. Other people should also come out, whether they are in government or not, to tell Akwa Ibom people that they are contesting.
”They should not hide under the back of the governor because the governor is not a candidate. Why is it that it is the governor that is campaigning for zoning? If the people of Akwa Ibom State want zoning they will demonstrate that in their voting pattern. Why are they afraid of open contest?
He recalled that as Commissioner under ex-governor Victor Attah, members of the state executives never met to decide for the people of Akwa Ibom state. “I want to say that we should go back to our glorious past. I was a commissioner in the administration of Obong Victor Attah and we never met as a college of commissioners to decide for the people of Akwa Ibom state who should be the governor. Even if the governor then had a preference for a particular candidate he did not come out to harass or intimidate the people of Akwa Ibom state.
In Akwa Ibom of today, we don’t deserve what we are witnessing. Today if you don’t agree with the governor on certain issues nobody serving under the present government is ready to take your call or have anything to do with you.”
Where my successor comes from is immaterial, let God’s will be done —Akpabio
As if mindful of the grievances of the elders, Governor Akpabio had answered some of their questions and allegations at the town hall meetings especially at Uyo and Ikot Ekpene.
Stating that where his successor comes from was not his headache, Akpabio, who said he had actualised operation zero pothole on roads in Uyo, which he started in 2007, said the challenges before him and Akwa Ibom citizenry were to “protect what we have done and ensure we do not lose our legacy. In 2015, I want my legacy to be protected by my successor. 2015 is very crucial. We must do everything to ensure social cohesion.
Look at what is happening in other states, where they are having crises; ethnic harmony is the key. There is no price we should not pay for peace. I don’t have interest where my successor comes from. Uyo can produce the governor; Ikot Ekpene can produce the governor; Eket can produce the governor but we must discuss and reassess the agreement we had in 2007. In 2007, we said let God’s will be done in Akwa Ibom. In 2011, we said let God’s will be done again. In 2015, God’s will, will be done again.”
Admitting that due to dwindling resources, some of the promises he made cannot be fulfilled by May 29, 2015 when he will be leaving, he said, “there is going to be a social contract with my successor. The promises I made that I could not fulfill, which will not be up to 10 per cent, my successor should start with them and we will hold him to account.”
We need binoculars to look for my successor
He wondered why many governorship aspirants are not on the prowl, recalling that in 2007 when he ran for his first term they were 58 aspirants. “This time, the number of aspirants should be higher because I don’t want to be the best governor of Akwa Ibom; let the best come from you. Let’s look for binoculars and look for my successor,” he added.
On allegations that he has not built industries to create jobs for Akwa Ibom youths, Akpabio said: “I am doing infrastructure because we need to open up and develop the state. If I had seen infrastructure, I would have done industries. Nevertheless, 14 industries are being built in Akwa Ibom to create employment opportunities for our youths.”
All said and done, will the feuding camps allow peace to prevail in PDP and God’s will to be done in the Land of Promise? Only time will tell.
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