There Is Commotion Over Emmanuel's Replacement In Akwa Ibom, - OLAMORE
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There Is Commotion Over Emmanuel’s Replacement In Akwa Ibom,

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UYO – Since Sunday, January 30, 2022, when Governor Udom Emmanuel presented his Commissioner for Lands and Water Resources, Pastor Umo Eno, as his anointed successor to a crowd of stakeholders and chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the one God has chosen among the lot, the situation in Akwa Ibom has been reminiscent of the 1960 classic novel titled “No Longer At Ease, by Chinua Achebe, because just like the title of another best-seller by the same author two years earlier- “Things (have fallen) Apart,” and may never hold again for some time, except by divine intervention. For sure, other contenders for the plum job in the party disagree with the banker turned politician governor, as if insisting that they heard something different from God, hence their resolve to remain in the race, preferring to take the matter to the people as the final arbiter. How that will play out remains to be seen in the coming months unless there is some shifting of grounds before the primaries, where the alleged divine choice could be tested.

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Not even the fact that the said anointing ceremony (service) was anchored by a former governor, Obong Victor Attah, to stakeholders, who have since sworn that they had no prior knowledge of what played out at the meeting, was strong enough an excuse to douse the ensuing tension. That event may have made existing cracks in the political family even deeper and more obvious, as some aspirants, including members of the governor’s cabinet, like the Commissioner for Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport, Akan Okon, were absent at the meeting, in what may be that they got wind of the development or a premonition.

Confirming the event at the stakeholders forum to newsmen, the Chief Press Secretary to Emmanuel, Ekerete Udo, said “the governor announced that he (Eno) was the one God has revealed to him as the next governor of the state, (following which) he was unveiled to all the stakeholders from the three senatorial districts by the former governor, Obong Victor Attah, who then commended the choice. It was an array of political elders made up of Senators and House of Representatives members,” Udo stressed.

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Albeit, challenging the alleged divine choice, Barr Onofiok Luke, a member of the House of Representatives representing Etinan, Nsit Ibom, and Nsit Ubium Federal Constituency, one of those at the meeting, reportedly stormed out of the venue. To further confirm his disenchantment with the development, he took to his Facebook wall, insisting that rather than adapting the Biblical “thus says the Lord,” the elders could just have done proper consultations and carried people along.

Hear him: “I’m not against their endorsement, and I’m not against the elders of the state. But I’m saying the endorsement could have happened after proper consultation.”

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He said he approached Obong Attah after he presented the anointed candidate with a barrage of questions, like: “Why didn’t you talk to all of us who are in this race? Why didn’t you talk to Senator Bassey Albert? Why didn’t you talk to Akan Udofia? Why didn’t you talk to Akan Okon? Why didn’t you talk to James Iniama…?”

With no answers from an obviously shocked former governor, the aspirant in an obvious feeling of betrayal noted with an air of finality: “For me as Onofiok Akpan Luke, I am in the race for the governorship. I am going to stand election on the platform of my party the PDP. I am not part of that endorsement at all.”

He is not alone, as Akan Udofia, the billionaire aspirant and personal friend of the governor, claimed ignorance of any endorsement, reaffirming his full involvement in the race. To show his seriousness in the battle ahead, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan, representing Uyo district, subsequently reinforced his campaign organization, appointing Dr. Usoro Usoro as head, media, and publicity.

In what promises to be a battle royale for the anointed one, member representing Uyo Federal Constituency in the House of Reps, and governorship hopeful, Mike Enyong, is also proceeding with activities to show his undeterred disposition.

In what may seem a reprieve for the governor, however, Senator Effiong Bob who had earlier indicated an interest in the race, announced a collapse of his structures into that of the governor. Sources link the change of heart to an alleged deal that would see his son Otobong Bob, return to the state assembly where he is currently serving his first term.

Our correspondent also gathered on good authority that Akan Okon is still in the race, despite a private meeting between both men in a last ditch effort to make the commission withdraw his aspiration.

Endorsements

Apart from such pockets of disagreements, the governor is believed to enjoy support from other members of his cabinet who have endorsed the choice, followed by the State House of Assembly, which moved a motion adopting Eno as their sole candidate for the race.

However, in what many say is a sign that these endorsements could have come by coercion, a mild drama occurred on the floor of the state assembly, when the member representing Nsit Ibom State Constituency, Hon. Ifiok Udoh, stood up to move a motion for the adoption. Holding onto his seat, Udoh retorted: “Iniehe nagha ibinam” (there is nothing we can do about it).

I Said It Before

Amidst the outcry, Governor Emmanuel, reminds all that he had long alerted Akwa Ibom people of his complete reliance on the supernatural for the choice of a successor. Even beyond the spiritual, the governor urged the people to trust his judgment, and believe that he means well for the state. That is why, he continued, “I waited for God to show me the man who would continue with the pace of developmental strides we have started in the last six-plus years and then move the needle even further, as a God-fearing, humble and successful entrepreneur.

“Pastor Umo Eno is a highly respected person; he has enormous capacity, he is an epitome of humility, and is blessed with the common touch and has a compelling story of humble beginning. He is a successful entrepreneur who has employed our people, lifted thousands from poverty to prosperity.

“He will be coming to the office of the governor with an economic blueprint that will further guarantee employment, development, and economic prosperity for our people. He is a man of peace and will ensure that the peace and security of life we have enjoyed in the last six-plus years will be maintained.”

Continuing the governor said Eno’s “life story resonates with the story of most ordinary Akwa Ibom people. He came from the Police barracks, where, as he said during his thanksgiving service last year, life was dreary and hope seemed a distant ingredient.

“Through hard work, he summoned hope and overcame his early difficulties and ended up as one of the biggest employers of labour in our state. His story is a testament to our ‘Dakkada’ (stand up) philosophy; one that will inspire and motivate our youths,” he stressed further.

No Surrogate

The governor also said his choice is not borne out of the desire to install a surrogate, but a man of exceptional capacity, peace and humility, urging all peace-loving and progress-minded Akwa Ibomites to rally round him in support of “God’s choice.”

This choice may not have been without spot or wrinkle after all, judging by the February 14 exclusive report by Shahara Reporters titled “How Akwa Ibom Governor’s anointed candidate Umo Eno forged court documents, used secret police and DSS to arrest hotel workers.” If nothing else, the report appears to have punctured the governor’s presentation of Eno as labour unfriendly.

As Of Old

While many wonder why God would speak only to the governor on such weighty matter involving the lives of over six million people, he is however not the first to anoint a successor, even as the strategy this time may have been different. It is not news that Governor Victor Attah (1999-2007), and Godswill Akpabio (2007-2015), drew strength from, and used the party apparatus to market anointed candidates.

Recall that Attah had preferred Dr Udoma Ekarika, his son in-law, and then Commissioner for Works, as successor, following the frosty relationship with Akpabio, his Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, whom he had groomed for the job.

Akpabio had, subsequently, contested against over 50 others and emerged governor without the endorsement of the state executive council of which he was a part. He also picked and dropped a couple of preferred successors, including Obong Umana Okon Umana, and Bassey Albert Akpan, before finally settling for the incumbent who was not in the equation less than 18 months earlier.

This, analysts say, is an indication that while successive chief executives of the state have always sought to anoint successors such efforts are not proof that being anointed guarantees anyone tenancy of the Akwa Ibom Government House.

APC’s Fighting Chance?

On the flip side, the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) is also warming up for the Akwa Ibom top job, with its National Secretary and a constant feature in the race, Sen. James Akpanudoedehe, reportedly holding on firmly to the ticket, in another attempt to wrestle power from the ruling party that has been in power since 1999.

In what promises to be a bumpy ride for the APC scribe, recent online posts by media aides indicate that the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Niger Delta Affairs, Sen Ita Enang, is combat-ready do upstage Akpanudoedehe for the ticket.

It’s Our Turn

One factor that may not have been considered in the choice of who replaces Governor Emmanuel next year is zoning as in other states. For example, Sen Anietie Okon and Ntisong Ememobong Essien, believes it is the turn of the Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency to produce the occupant of government house in 2023, since both Etinan and Uyo Federal Constituencies have had their turns in Akpan Isemin and Governor Victor Attah respectively. Many others, including a militant group identified as Uyekisong Akwa Ibom, have issued a 30-day ultimatum for the governor to rescind his choice, or risk hostility in the state.

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Of course, as if seeking for perception change, the first port of call by Pastor Eno, a businessman with heavy presence in the hospitality industry, was the Akwa Ibom State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), where he sought an opportunity to consolidate on the gains so far achieved, “to connect the dots of development by Governor Udom Emmanuel.”

In what many journalists considered an early sign of reservation against the media in the state, Eno said Governor Emmanuel remains the most disparaged by the media, despite which “we have had the freest press ever. Some of the things the press writes, you couldn’t have done in previous administrations. Governor Udom Emmanuel is the most insulted Governor in Akwa Ibom State, because he always love himself to be criticized, he has not killed anybody, and so freedom of the press is guaranteed by a man that Governor Udom Emmanuel has preferred”.

There are those who consider such statement a threat to free press and a sign of what is to come, insisting to the contrary that the governor has enjoyed media support than any of his predecessors since the return of democracy in 1999.

“If we were to look at (the governor’s) reward system, nobody would have reported him positively. I had expected his anointed successor to rather apologies for the poor reward system for individual journalists and chapels that have sacrificed to project the administration in positive light without anything to show for it,” a journalist confided in Daily Independent.

Interaction

Meanwhile, there is the groundswell of opinion that the governor would have allowed all aspirants time to interact with Akwa Ibom people before anointing a successor, in the absence of which he “has shut the door against others,” lamented Andrew Uwanta, Chairman of the Bassey Akpan campaign organisation.

Away from politics, even as events continue unfolding and each day devoted to consultations by the anointed one, accompanied by virtually every member of the State Executive Council, Akwa Ibom people want the governor to utilize the dry season for construction work in the critical areas of the state.

Nonetheless, events of the coming months will confirm who, between the governor and aggrieved aspirants indeed, heard from God regarding the next occupant of the governor’s lodge in Uyo from May 29, 2023. For now, the other aspirants are resolved to “test all spirits,” only then will everyone know whether the voice Emmanuel was really divine, or imagined.

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