Akwa Ibom: The Gubernatorial Subtle Race

05 May 2013

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Godswill Akpabio

By Anayo Okolie
Although we are still two clear years away from 2015 when Nigerians will go to the polls again, subtle but strong permutations are already on in oil rich Akwa Ibom State about who will move into the Hill Top Mansion at the exit of the incumbent Governor Godswill Akpabio.

Akpabio, himself is said to have started showing serious interest in the Senatorial ticket of his Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District and permutations have begun among ethnic nationalities, communities and interests groups about who would likely succeed the powerful Akapbio, who was recently made the  chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Governors Forum.

For starters, politicians in the state are divided over insinuations that Akpabio may have traded the seat with Obong Umana Okon Umana, the man who has served as Secretary to the State Government since Akpabio came into office in 2007. They claim that aside from the fact that Umana has carried on like the gubernatorial ticket was already in his kitty, there are stories all over the place that the man assisted Akpabio in no small measure to become the governor of Akwa Ibom state and so Umana is confident that payback time is here. “He actually does not see any way in which the governor would allow another person to contest against him, a politician who does not want to be named told us last week.

In spite of the ambition of Umana or anyone who might step out in the coming days however, there are ethnic arguments which may go a long way in determining where the pendulum swings in 2015.

There are three major ethnic configurations in the state, namely; the Ibibios, the Annangs and the Oron people. The Ibibios and the Annangs have occupied the centre stage of governance since the creation of Akwa Ibom State in September, 1987. Now the Oron think it is there turn to be Governor but they do not have the numbers. It therefore looks like a straight race between Ibibio people from different senatorial districts of the state.

As strong as the ethnic argument is, however, there is a group which canvasses for youthfulness and merit as primary considerations in the ascension to the highest political office in Akwa Ibom come 2015. This group advocates that after 25 years of existence the state should move away from the era of tribal and ethnic sentiments on to a platform where merit and youthful vigour would be the utmost factors that determine how its leaders are chosen.

A noticeable voice in this group is a public analyst,   Mr Ufot Ibekwe. In an article titled “Governorship Race between Super Cats vs Emerging  Tigers(Reloaded) in the Sensor Newspaper recently,  Ibekwe stated as follows: “...This new position I maintain now is centred on the perceived desire of the people on the need to elect a youthful dynamic governor who will comfortably wear Akpabio’s shoes.... A close look at the aspirants seeking to be Governor so far reveals an interesting admixture of ancient and modern, digital and analogue. Some of the aspirants are probably attracted to the throne by what Gilbert Holland called “the spoils of office”, while others are pushed by the fear of joblessness outside government. The youthful aspirants appear to be essentially motivated by their passion to build greater Akwa Ibom...

The ingredients required in the character component of the next governor are now on display - youthfulness, stamina, vitality, Godliness, professionalism, charisma and piercing vision. Ibekwe concluded his article by advising as follows: “...As we search for the successor of Akpabio, let us consider the content of the man’s character, the ingredients in his spirit, vitality, stamina and youthfulness and deemphasize geography, zones, senatorial districts, parochialism or primordial ties”

A young political activist in the state also pointed out in an interview that one of the greatest benefits of Akapabio’s governorship is that it ”brought an end to the era of grandfathers coming to rule over us in a state as blessed as Akwa Ibom State.” He noted that when Akpabio became governor at the age of 45, youths in the state had heaved a sigh of relief believing that Akwa Ibom had now joined the leagues of states such as Cross River, Kwara and Lagos where young people who took over as governors have brought tremendous progress and made great impact to the states. He noted that the vigour and exposure of youth is what any state desirous of development should aim for rather than any primordial interest, pointing out that the achievements of Bukola Saraki,  Donald Duke and Babatude Fashola in Kwara, Cross River and Lagos respectively, show that these young men know where the world is headed.
That is the sort of generational shift that we should aim for in Akwa Ibom State and not some people who will expect every indigene to hero-worship them on account of whatever they think they may have done for the state in the past.

His words: “Akpabio’s emergence as gubernatorial in 2006 out of about 50 candidates most of whom were much older was a significant change which we should not reverse. It is the generational shift in the governorship of this state. And these past five years have shown that we did not make a mistake in that choice, it would however be suicidal for us to go back to the Egypt of politics of blackmail and debt paying. We insist that we must move forward.”

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