Obudu By-election Restores Confidence in Ayade

Bassey Inyang

The by- election for Obudu State Constituency has come and gone with the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Mrs. Abbey Ukpukpen, declared winner of the keenly contest election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The by-election was conducted following the vacant position created in the state House of Assembly following the death of Mr. Stephen Ukpukpen.

He died in May this year while on an early morning walk-out.

The deceased was the husband of the winner of the by-election.

Announcing the results of the polls at the headquarters of Obudu Local Government Area, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), in the state Dr. Frankland Briyai, said the PDP Candidate got 12,712 votes to defeat other contestants, including the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Ishamali Bendel, who had 4,345 votes to place second.

Briyai said the candidate of Mega Party of Nigeria (MPN), Awafang Angiating, got 132 votes, and Agwupuye Umeka of African Democratic Party (ADP), got 114 votes.

Beyond what was seemed ordinarily as a contest between the candidates, and the contending political parties, the by-election was more of a popularity test for the state governor, Professor Ben Ayade, in his homestead and constituency, against the myriad of political forces against his second term ambition, within his party the PDP, and the leading opposition party in the state, the APC.

Those who have followed the build-up to the Obudu by-election would easily conclude that the Ayade performance in the last three years was being put on trial before the political court of his people.

While reacting to the victory of his party in the by-election Ayade said: “The election was more of a referendum on my acceptability and stewardship to my people. There couldn’t be any more resounding affirmation from my people than this. Basically, it is more or less like a referendum….

“It is a validation of my own service. I am a member of the PDP, and definitely I am happy the party won.”

It was an election the PDP had to win to keep Ayade politically afloat, and also keep his hope of remaining in office for a second term alive in the face of mounting opposition mainly from Obudu-born governorship aspirants seeking to wrest power from him in 2019.

The victory recorded by the PDP in the by- election, generally acclaimed have been peaceful, free and fair, to a large extent, supported the arguments of Ayade’s supporters that he remains the best option the PDP can put forward as their governorship candidate in 2019, if the party was desirous of retaining power in the state.

They are of the view that despite what appeared to be the odds that were stacked against the PDP candidate, who is originally from Abi Local Government Area, in the central senatorial district, majority of the electorate who cast their votes used the by-election to demonstrate their preparedness to sink or swim with Ayade, a son of Obudu, and first person from the north to emerge governor of the state since it was created in 1967.

A victory for the APC would have emboldened opponents of Ayade within the PDP who have taken it as a point of duty to tell Nigerians that the governor was unpopular, even at his base Obudu, and was, therefore, unelectable for a second term.

From Obudu alone, there are three known governorship aspirants on the platform of the APC, a former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Paul Adah; former National Publicity of the PDP, now a member of the APC, Mr. Venatius Ikem; and a professional Banker, Mr. Upan Odey. Results from the polls as collated, and announced by the INEC indicate that the APC won only in the polling unit where Ikem voted.

Following the dismal showing, loud whispers, and echoes from the some leading members of the APC indicate that they were not disposed to fielding a governorship candidate from the northern senatorial district against Ayade because the Obudu by-election result has shown that it would be an uphill task for an opposition candidate from the district to defeat Ayade.

“The main lesson from that by-election is very clear, and it is that the northern senatorial district APC aspirants do not have what it takes to win the governorship elections next year for our Party. As a member of the APC, I still stand tall to say, that the governorship aspirants of the north have no political muscle to win elections in 2019 going by what transpired during the by-election. We have three governorship aspirants from Obudu and they did nothing in the by-election to show that they have the capacity of wining the governorship election in 2019.

“Even for the sake of equity, we shout it is the turn of the north, but for the APC to win elections in the state, they must not rely on such a zoning formula if we must win elections in 2019. Again it is not constitutional to limit participation to any unit, constituency or zone….

“The by-election was a total failure to the APC. My conclusion is that all of the aspirants do not have the capacity to be able to do or win elections come 2019,” Mr. Goddie Akpama, a chieftain of the APC said in reaction to the trouncing of the party at the by-election.

Though, Ishamali, candidate of APC has rejected the final result of the election, and has promised to proceeded to the Election Petition tribunal where he hopes to torpedo the victory of the PDP candidate, there are those, including members of the APC who feel the party actually lost the elections through the ballot box.

In a press statement he issued after the polls, Ishamali said: “I wish to state categorically that, the August 11 State House of Assembly election in Obudu was a charade and a complete failure of all electoral practices even by Nigerian standards. The election was characterized by “snatching of ballot boxes by PDP thugs through the instrumentality of men of F-SARS; in Urban Ward 1, Ipong Ward, Alege Ubang ward, Ukpe ward and parts of Begiading ward, which they used to thumbprint freely; Massive arrest of APC members, and some are still in detention till now by men of F-SARS, with trumped up charges; Beating and shooting of some our supporters. One Miss Eunice Igbaji who was shot at the residence of Barr. Venatius Ikem has just been discharged from Obudu, Clinic; Harassment, intimidation and disruption of voting in APC strongholds by PDP thugs through the instrumentality of men of F-SARS, especially at Urban I, The APC candidate’s ward; All complains to the REC (Resident Electoral Commissioner) and the police on this open misconduct by the men of F-SARS, INEC and PDP thugs fell on deaf ears. Instead the returning officers proceeded to cancel elections in 10 units across the 10 wards where APC won, thereby allotting the elections to PDP.”

However, the REC described the election as peaceful, free and fair.

Briyai commended the electorate for conducting themselves peaceful during, and after voting.

He appealed to them to replicate the same peaceful conduct during the 2019 general elections.

A chieftain of the APC, Mr. Inyalin Peter, holds similar view as the REC’s about the election.

“In the election, I was among those who worked so hard to ensure that Abbey Ukpukpen never emerged. I worked against her for two reasons. One, as an APC member, I owe my party the loyalty to work for it success in an election. And the second one is that Abbey has never and may never represent Obudu interest….

“I’m from Ukwutia-Utugwang in Obudu local government. My ward is Utugwang north. I concentrated in three polling units; 003, 004 and 008. In 003, APC had 35 while PDP had 55 votes. In polling unit 004, APC pulled 49 votes against PDP 69 votes and in 008 which is in my Uncle’s compound; APC had 54 while PDP had 55. That’s, PDP defeated my party, APC with 20 votes each in the first two polling units and one vote in the third polling unit.

“PDP won me in all the three polling units not because they had a better candidate, but because they had more money to spend. That APC lost with only one vote in one of the polling units (The one in my Uncle’s compound) tell a lot about how my people are committed to sweeping the mess of the PDP out.

“Let me add that, although I’ve heard crisis in some areas, with all honestly, the elections in the three polling units I concentrated was generally peaceful, free and fair. Everything went smoothly. There was no case of Police intimidation, INEC compromise. But there was vote buying.” Peter said.

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