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Leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State on Tuesday presented the party’s gubernatorial expression of interest and nomination forms, which they had bought, to the Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Nsima Ekere with a call on him to contest the 2019 election.
Ekere was presented with the forms at a rally by the people of Akwa Ibom (Eket) Senatorial District to honour him and endorse President Muhammadu Buhari held in Eket.
Led by Atuekong Don Etiebet, the APC State Caucus Chairman and former Petroleum Resources Minister, party leaders that bought and presented the forms to Ekere included Senator Godswill Akpabio, former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Nelson Efiong, representative of Akwa Ibom South senatorial district in the National Assembly, Senator Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (Senate) Matters, Mr. Umana Umana, Managing Director of Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, and Mr. Ben Ukpong, National Population Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State.
Ntufam Hilliard Ettah, the APC National Vice Chairman (South-South Zone), Mr Ini Okopido, the Akwa Ibom State APC Chairman, and Barr Bassey Dan-Abia, a governorship aspirant and former NDDC Managing Director, were among those who witnessed the presentation.
Atuekong Etiebet urged Mr Ekere to accept the form, fill and return it before the deadline set by the party’s National Headquarters.
He hinted that with all the major APC leaders in Akwa Ibom State supporting Mr Ekere, the party may choose its governorship candidate by consensus.
Senator Akpabio, who drove the crowd ecstatic with solidarity songs for Mr Ekere, said the NDDC boss had already been endorsed by his Akwa Ibom North-West (Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District.
“We are yet to fully take a decision on whether it should be direct primaries or consensus but I know in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, Nsima Ekere has already been endorsed…APC is going to rule Akwa Ibom in 2019,” he said.
Though he urged the party not to preclude other aspirants outside Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District from buying nomination forms, Senator Akpabio, a former Governor of the state, argued that that they were contesting in vain as Mr Ekere’s victory was certain.
“I want to make one point very clear. When I was contesting in 2007, it was the turn of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. But people from Eket and Uyo Senatorial Districts also bought forms. I want to plead with you to make sure that our party is richer. Even though Nsima Ekere is going to the Governor, please go and buy form for governorship. You are not going to be stopped from contesting. This is democracy. What Akwa Ibom people are saying today is that Eket Senatorial District should have two tenures and it should end in 2023. Therefore, no matter where you come from, if you are not from Eket Senatorial District, you are contesting in vain. I think that is the message,” he said.
Also speaking, Umana, who was the APC gubernatorial candidate in the 2015 election, described the reception for President Buhari and Ekere as well-deserved and urged the NDDC boss to heed the calls from all sections of the state including his Akwa Ibom North-East (Uyo) Senatorial District to contest the governorship election in 2019.
He criticised the poor performance of the PDP State Government in the last three and a half years, adding that the PDP was on “life support and it is only a matter of time they will give up.”
In his response, Ekere said he would only accept to contest on the condition of serving only one term to complete the two terms reserved by Akwa Ibom people for his Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District.
He said he was overwhelmed by the the show of love by the people of the senatorial district and the state.
“I was invited for a reception by Eket Senatorial District only for me to come here and be ambushed by all the elders, youths and women of Akwa Ibom State and they gave me these forms. What greater love can be more than this. I’m happy because I like to see signs. The other day when the other party had a rally to declare their intention to run, it was raining cats and dogs. It seems that even the heavens have rejected their bid. And then today we are here. We have a clement weather. To God be the glory. I want to thank all of you. You have shown love and you have shown that you appreciate hard work,” he said.
Ekere decried the poor record of the PDP State Government in infrastructural development, pointing to the failure, after more than three years, to complete the renovation of Eket Township Stadium and to start the Eket International Market after groundbreaking.
He also condemned the abandoned construction of Oron Road, and other failed projects like the Coconut plantation/ refinery in Mkpat Enin, the Mexican cow project in Uruan and the Greenhouse project at the airport.
“There is no road to pass in Eket except NDDC roads. You cannot find road to pass in Eket. All the roads in Eket have been destroyed. They say they want to construct roads in Eket. Now there is no road in Eket. Three and a half years, no road to pass in Eket. APC will complete the stadium and the roads in Eket,” he said.
President Buhari, who spoke through Senator Enang, commended Mr Ekere and the NDDC management for the intervention in infrastructure, security, social welfare and other sectors in the state which had enabled federal presence to be felt in the state.
He thanked the people of Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District for the endorsement and promised them more infrastructural development.