Okon Bassey writes on the recent reception organised by the Abak 5 for Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State
We saw it coming, but if anyone would claim he envisaged the carnival-like rally put up by the Abak 5 last Friday at the Abak Township Stadium to welcome their son- in-law and number one citizen of Akwa Ibom State, His Excellency Deacon Udom Emmanuel, then he may not be telling the whole truth.
Few weeks back, at a funeral service in Abak, in honour of the elder brother of Chief Moses Ekpo, deputy governor of the state – popularly called â€˜Uncle Moâ€™ by teeming admirers â€“ one of the speakers at the event had boasted while welcoming the governor; â€œThis is Abak; we will not say much until the day comes.â€
That day eventually came March 23; set aside by the Abak 5, comprising the five local government areas carved out of the old Abak Division namely Abak, Etim-Ekpo, Ika, Oruk-Anam and Ukanafun, to honour one of their own.
Speaking shortly after the arrival of the governor, Barrister Emmanuel Enoidem, National Legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who also served as the Chairman of the event, re-echoed the dayâ€™s agenda which had earlier been set by one Saviour Enyekere, Chairman Abak 5 Youth Board of Trustees. He said, the event was put together by the youths of the five local government areas to welcome one of their own, but more importantly, to endorse Governor Emmanuel as their sole candidate for the 2019 governorship election.
Emmanuel, as Enoidem and indeed, other speakers at the gathering confirmed, was born in Ukanafun, thus making him one of their own, but even more so, when the time came for Emmanuel to choose a wife, he again returned to Oruk-Anam â€“ one of the Abak 5; to pick Martha who the crowd gladly re-christened â€œMartha of the momentâ€. As such, the Abak 5 had every legitimate right to claim Governor Emmanuel as their own. Consequently, they had decided to put together the event as a befitting reception for the governor and particularly the wife, who they see as a very good ambassador of the zone.
But if the Abak 5 had one thousand reasons to hold a reception for Governor Emmanuel and wife, they would tell you, they had even more reasons to endorse him as their preferred candidate for the state governorship, come 2019. And indeed, all the speakers at the event were quick to reel out a long â€“ almost endless â€“ list of projects that the governor has embarked upon for the various communities within the Abak 5; ranging from new roads and rehabilitation of forgotten ones to renovation of schools, provision of healthcare facilities and several industrial projects, prominent among which is the fertiliser blending plant located right there in Abak; described as the only one of its kind in the whole of South-south Nigeria.
Before the Abak 5 endorsement rally last Friday, there had been several other similar rallies all endorsing the governor for a second term in office. They all appear to be singing the same chorus: Governor Emmanuel has done very well in office and deserves a second tenure. Perhaps, as they would put it; â€œOne good term deserves anotherâ€. His industrialisation programme towers above all else. This has seen moribund state-owned industries roar back to life such as the Peacock Paints in Etinan, and the establishment of new ones such as the Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Company and the Electric Metering Factory both located in Onna Local Government Area of the state, among others. Only last year the National Bureau of Statistics rated Akwa Ibom as second to Lagos in the attraction of Foreign Direct Investments among the 36 states of the federation.
Even in the area of agriculture and food sufficiency, Governor Emmanuel has equally done very well for himself. A recent tour of one of the star agric projects in the state, the â€˜Green Houseâ€™ was an eye opener. Located just before the entrance to the Ibom International Airport in Uyo, the state capital, the Green House technology has enabled the state produce otherwise seasonal vegetables like tomato and cucumber all round the year.
At a recent visit to the facility, literally everyone on the governorâ€™s convoy was shocked to know that the seemingly white transparent structures which before then stood like canopies, were indeed, technology for producing such vegetables under controlled temperature and which actually enable such seasonal food items to be produced all through the year. The Managing Director of the Mexican Firm and managers of the project, San Carlos, Mr. Jose Luis Teran stunned the visitors even further when he explained that his firm was, through the technology, targeting 50 per cent of the tomato market in the whole of the Eastern part of Nigeria, including the South-south in the short term; while actually setting eyes on the export market in the long run.
Whatâ€™s more? Even Governor Emmanuelâ€™s infrastructure consolidation programme was changing the face of the state with road projects going on almost everywhere you turn. But nothing else could beat the governorâ€™s massive investment in power infrastructure that, at a point, saw the electricity supply in parts of the state capital peaked at 18 hours per day; while Engr. Etido Inyang, Chairman of the board of Ibom Power Company (IPC), announced then that the areas in question were actually chosen to run as pilot for the eventual target of 24 hours of electricity per day across the entire state.
All these and perhaps many more were on the minds – and of course – agenda of all the speakers of the Abak 5 rally as indeed, they would have informed the organisers of the other endorsements rallies that had taken place in the state before the Abak 5.
Even the Minority Leader of the Senate and former governor of the state, Godswill Akpabio could not hold back emotion at the Abak 5 rally, as he burst into a song: Kini Obong Anamde Nkpo, Ntiense Odu – ooo; literally translated: â€˜When God is behind it, there are always proofsâ€™.
Translate from any perspective; it was a song pregnant with meanings. Those who see Governor Emmanuel as God-sent are legion. The President of the Abak 5 youth, Prince Akpan Ikim, is one. He had told the crowd during his address that God sent Emmanuel to Akwa Ibom State at the time He did, for a purpose. And further; that God had foreseen the coming of economic recession to Nigeria and thus had sent Governor Emmanuel, a seasoned banker and a leading finance expert, ahead of it. Otherwise as Ikim asked, how else could you explain the governorâ€™s giant strides in the face of a biting recession? Or, how do you explain that here is a governor who never fails to pay workers at the end of every month in the same country where several states are battling their governors for salary arrears?
For the Minority Leader, a man indisputably endowed with the proverbial â€˜gift of the garbâ€™, he was at his best and for the rest of it, prophetic. He even narrated an encounter with the Holy Spirit where God gave him a message to the people of the state: â€œWorship me (God) always, Live in Love and Unity and Share with the needyâ€. You could almost hear some people whisper in the crowd, Is Akpabio also among the prophets? The governor-turn Senator speaking further said, he had come to the event with the sole aim of joining the crowd to honour Governor Emmanuel, only for his people to enforce on him the mandate for a second term in the Senate; adding he would not for anything reject the offer of his people to return to the Senate in 2019.
For the event that displayed all the theatrics of a carnival, one would have expected the climax to come with the formal endorsement of Governor Emmanuel for a second term in office, ably directed by the indefatigable Enoidem and, assisted by the political leaders of the Abak 5. This would be for those who watched the event as a normal political rally. For the rest of the crowd who rather saw a carnival in action, given the colours, the dances, the costumes, the displays, the climax came with the mounting of the podium by one Soni Udom accompanied by hundreds of broom-bearing fans, mainly youths. From his introduction, Udom turned out to be the former Akwa Ibom State Campaign Director of the All Progressives Congress (APC). His mission was simple; to lead his crowd of supporters to defect to the PDP.
Addressing the mammoth crowd, the erstwhile APC chieftain said that he had come to the realisation that Akwa Ibom State was fully a PDP state and as such could not easily be outwitted by any other party. But more specifically Udom said, the APC was a party built around â€˜lies, deceit and propagandaâ€™. For instance, he said, he was lured into the APC because of the promise of change, only to discover that it was a change from the frying pan to fire; adding he would rather remain in the frying pan.
Udom, who repeatedly told the crowd that his experiences with the APC were full of disappointments, said the party cannot produce a governorship candidate in the state as it was running â€œÃ¡ divided houseâ€; even as he assured Governor Emmanuel that nothing could stop him from returning to the Hilltop Mansion come 2019.
His words; â€œI came from the APC. APC does not have a candidate. I was the Director General of their campaigns and I know that their house is not in order because they forgot people who worked and laboured to make the APC what it is.â€
Not done, he hit back at one of his former partyâ€™s governorship hopefuls in the state. His story sent the crowd reeling on the floor with laughter. His story: He was at a church recently when the frontline APC hopeful came to announce that he would open a small road for one small village in Oruk-Anam. He then knelt down to be prayed for by the congregation since he was nourishing the ambition of becoming the governor of the state in 2019. He said of the entire congregation, only himself and the deputy governor who also happened to be there, were the only persons who did not join in the prayers. According to him, â€œI did not join because I already knew who would be governor in 2019.â€
Continuing he said, when the congregation finished praying, â€œI called on Jehovah seven times and He answered me, and I said please Lord, Do not answer what these people just prayed. And I said please God have you heard what I said, and God said He has heard. He said accepted, I should consider it doneâ€¦â€
The decampee, afterwards, followed by his loyalists, threw away the brooms they were carrying saying the broom was a symbol of bad omen, while the umbrella represented shelter and protection for which they were seeking under the PDP.
The elated state Chairman of the PDP, Paul Ekpo, then formally welcomed the decampees into the umbrella fold; assuring them of love and care and urging them to join hands in fulfilling Godâ€™s agenda for Akwa Ibom State.
After the frills and fun, came the endorsement where the leaders of the Abak 5, led by Enoidem, simply told the governor in company of his pearl, Martha; â€œWe are here to enforce your endorsement as the returning governor of Akwa Ibom State in 2019.â€
Earlier the Abak 5 leaders had pledged to deliver the entire 300,000 votes from the zone to boost the governorâ€™s retention of the Hiltop Mansion (Uyo Government House) from 2019 to 2013.
Overwhelmed, Governor Emmanuel and wife thanked the organisers of the Abak 5 for their show of love and support even as he promised to make the zone an industrial hub. He equally promised improved healthcare facilities for the people of the area and quality education for their children. He singled out the youths for commendation particularly those from Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun for creating a peaceful atmosphere for the rally to hold. The governor, only two weeks ago, had held a Town Hall meeting with the people of the two local government areas that have become hotspots of late; urging them to shun cultism and embrace peace.
A peace committee was set up to unravel the root causes of problems in the area and to also come up with recommendations/solutions that would restore lasting peace to the area. Perhaps, to the governor, the conduct of the youths during the Abak 5 rally was indicative that the government was getting the listening ears of the targeted youths.
Going back home that evening, the organisers of the Abak 5 rally would have had over a thousand reasons to thank God. Otherwise, what would have become of the much advertised event, if the torrential downpour that morning had had its way? But the rains, attended by violent storms that had levelled whatever work that had been done at the venue before it started; calmed at just about the 11a.m. when the programme was billed to commence; allowing the vendors to set up the venue afresh.
Afterwards, the weather was friendly; no sun and no rain; just a friendly calm and cool weather, all through the day. To the Abak 5 therefore, these were obvious signs that even the heavens had accepted and honoured their reception. Is it any wonder that people still see the Abak 5 carnival-like rally as the â€˜Mother of All (endorsement) Ralliesâ€™ that had so far been held in the state?