The Man to Beat in the 2019 Akwa Ibom Governorship Race

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Nsima Ekere

Nathan Edohoeket

The political climate in Akwa Ibom State has assumed a new dimension since Obong Nsima Ekere began to make overt moves towards his predictable ambition to govern the state. This has sent jitters across board, especially in the major opposition camp. Since he launched into the political landscape, Ekere’s profile has continued on upswing, boosted by his unprecedented landmark achievements on all fronts. Having earlier served as Deputy Governor, his present ambition to become the next Governor of Akwa Ibom through the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) come 2019 is not a surprise. His profile has become so intimidating and very impressive that it will take the uninitiated in the polity to know exactly where he is coming from.

Little wonder, the entire political circuit in his state has been rooting for this man of cool mien and silent achievements, much to the amazements and endorsement of all stakeholders in the state and even beyond. Even on the opposition, apprehension has become their lot, given his antecedents in the public and private spaces. The fear of Ekere as the next governor of the state is beginning of wisdom for every other contestant, including the incumbent, who despite all the shenanigans and grandstanding has been pulling here and there to ruffle Ekere. But, does Ekere entertain any fear about all these? No. All permutations point in one positive direction for the undisputable widely-acclaimed man of the moment in the entire South-south geographical region of the country. Many of the big wigs of the party have come to a consensus about his candidacy and eventual election as the next occupant of the Government House in Uyo.

Maverick and illustrious Ekere was born on May 29, 1965 in Ikot Oboroenyin, Edemaya Clan in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. He started his secondary education at Regina Coeli College, Essene, Ikot Abasi, and completed same at Mary Knoll College Ogoja, Cross River State. He had a brief but very exciting stint at The Polytechnic, Calabar, between 1981 and 1982 before proceeding to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he graduated with B.Sc. Honours Degree in Estate Management in 1986. He is a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, FNIVS. He is also a registered member of Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria, ESVRBN, a Senior Certified Valuer of the International Real Estate Institute, IREI, Minnesota, USA, and to boot, an associate member of the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation, IRRV, London.

In 1989, enterprising and very forward-looking Ekere set up Gassons Nigeria Limited, an indigenous anti-corrosion, environmental, fabrication/maintenance engineering company. Before joining politics, Ekere was the Principal Partner at Ekere and Associates, a firm of estate valuers and real estate development consultants with offices in Port Harcourt, Lagos, Abuja and Uyo, which he started in 1993. He had sat on the board of the Voice of Nigeria (VON) and also served in various entities like Universal Energy Resources Limited, Anchor Insurance before emerging deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State. His active and very impressive political career began in December 1997, when he contested and won election into the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly during the Abacha Transition, on the platform of the then fledgling Grassroots’ Democratic Movement (GDM). He wasn’t however inaugurated before Abacha died in June 1998 and that transition was truncated. He then joined the PDP at the start of the General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s transition regime in 1998, and played a very active part in the politics of the state till he emerged deputy governor on May 29, 2011. In March 2008, Ekere was appointed Executive Chairman of Akwa Ibom Investment & Industrial Promotion council (AKIIPOC), the investments and industrial promotions’ arm of the Akwa Ibom State Government. He also served simultaneously and very meritoriously too as the Chairman of Ibom Power Company, the independent power generating company owned by Akwa Ibom State.

He was the leader of the ‘G22’, a group of 22 PDP governorship aspirants that protested the conduct of the December 2014 PDP primaries. He subsequently defected to the APC after some internal wrangling that bared its face in his gubernatorial ambition, a decision he took with an unusual calm and philosophical stead, even in the face of outright condemnation by his assumed cronies in the PDP. He is married to Ese and has four children.

Ekere is the current Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and former Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State. Without any ambiguity, Ekere is believed to be the APC’s preferred Akwa Ibom State Governorship candidate for the 2019 governorship elections. The momentum has grown since his much-talked-about defection to the APC of the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State and former Minority Leader of the 8th Senate, Obong Godswill Akpabio. For the record, Ekere’s big come back when he was appointed as the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission was seen as being more than just a ‘job for the boys. He has since performed creditably well to further boost his governorship bid, which is fast becoming a sure bet, despite a stiff opposition from the incumbent governor.

Unapologetic and a loyal party man Ekere, is a political warrior, who was once at loggerheads with his principal, Akpabio over who would succeed him. He has now closed ranks with Akpabio, when the Senator openly admitted his mistake in settling for the incumbent governor, and the two have since been on a roller-coaster campaign to restore the lost glory of the state. These and many more virtues are why Ekere’s name is now on the lips of many genuine and thoughtful Akwa Ibomites who earnestly seek a better and more pro-active replacement for the incumbent governor, whose development and performance sheets are only on the pages of newspapers, radio and TV stations and of course the social media. With the full backing of Senator Akpabio and other principal stakeholders in the politics of Akwa Ibom state, Nsima Ekere appears bound for the government house of the state, come 2019. But it should also be added without any fear of contradiction or unnecessary praise singing that the man of the moment, Nsima, is an entrepreneur and innovative thinker with a short but impactful public career. Since stepping onto the public service turf, he has brought freshness, dynamism and deep insights to bear on the running of government business. Ekere is a teacher’s son, and no doubt must have indeed grown up with the best assets teachers give to their children and pupils viz: optimism, inventiveness, inquiry and passion for excellence. He is also an advocate for offering children the 21st century education they need to compete and succeed in today’s fast-growing technology-driven world. His unstated philanthropic gestures include strong investment in people development through regular award of scholarships and educational grants; provision of potable water to rural communities in his Edemaya Clan, Ikot Abasi and medical outreaches to rural communities. In 2012, Ekere, along with his siblings donated a state of the art Accident and Emergency Ward/Trauma Centre to the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital. In April 2018, he was conferred with the honorary doctorate degree in Management Technology by the Federal University Of Technology, Owerri in recognition of his innovative management style at the NDDC.

Nsima Ekere, a Knight of John Wesley, KJW, of the Methodist Church Nigeria, is the winner of the New Telegraph’s Corporate Leadership Award and The Sun Newspaper’s Public Service Award, both in 2017, in recognition of his outstanding commitment towards transforming the Niger Delta Development Commission into an organization that works more efficiently and professionally to achieve its mandate. He is also the recipient of numerous honours and merit awards, including traditional titles in recognition of endearing contributions and longstanding service to his diverse communities.

Edohoeket writes from Okon in Eket Council of Akwa Ibom State