Akwa Ibom Governorship Candidates Face Tough Tests

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Amos Etuk write that contenders in the race for the Hilltop Mansion, residence and office of the governor of Akwa Ibom State have an uphill task

Governor Udom (Peoples Democratic Party)

Governor Udom Emmanuel is the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Akwa Ibom State. He hails from Onna council and is seeking a second term in office. His ascension in 2015 with a wealth of experience from the private sector has charted a sustained performance in his leadership that has opened new vistas of economic prosperity for the state.

For the record, his party, PDP has governed the state since the return of the current democratic dispensation in 1999 and has a strong base of followership across the state. The much advertised current level of development in the state has been under the PDP-led government.

Unfortunately, he came into office as the country plunged into recession. However, this seeming setback provided the drive that brought out Emmanuel’s private sector experience, challenging him to chart a successful course for the economic stability of the state through the season with policies that laid new foundations for the growth.

One of the greatest legacies of his administration is the peace that abounds in Akwa Ibom State till date as he has pursued successfully the course of a peaceful ambience in the state once noted for a lot of vices and unfortunate killings. The peace that has come back to the state under his leadership has been widely applauded by the people which has clearly endeared him to the people and won many accolades and multiple awards for him as a Man of Peace.

The sectoral development of Governor Emmanuel in three and half years has seen the successful establishment of 15 industries in just his first term with multiplier effects that has today made Akwa Ibom State a preferred business destination cannot be quantified. The influx of investors into the state under his administration has been tremendous and with the commitment to drive a viable private sector economy has successfully won him many admirers.

The inclusiveness of the political class in the mainstream governance across the state has been a unique selling point of the governor, as the party stakeholders including elders, youths and women are satisfied with his performance and have issued a clarion call for his second term.

One of the strong power points of the Emmanuel administration is the massive support base from all the three Senatorial districts to ensure that, like his predecessors since 1999, he also benefits from a two-term tenure.

Obong Victor Attah from Uyo Senatorial District governed the state from 1999-2007, Obong Godswill Akpabio from Ikot Ekepene Senatorial District ruled from 2007-2015 and the sentiments and expectations are high among the people that Emmanuel must be allowed to complete his tenure for Eket Senatorial district.

The sentiments of support across the three Senatorial districts for him has been tremendous. The people of Uyo Senatorial District led by Senator Bassey Albert Akpan one of the pillars ofEmmanuel’s re-election have consistently said that the shortest route to Uyo Senatorial District occupying the seat of power in 2023 is the unanimous support for Emmanuel.

The Uyo Senatorial District is also the home base of the Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke who is also one of the pillars driving the vision of the success story of Emmanuel’s re-election and Obong Paul Ekpo, the State Chairman of the Party. Uyo Senatorial District has well over 700, 000 votes in the forth coming general elections. He has been campaigning across the state with the Divine Mandate slogan.

One of the major challenges of the PDP will be the fact that this will be the first time the party will be going into the general elections as an opposition party from the centre and the threats of the All Progressive Congress (APC) using federal might to hijack elections has become worrisome which has led to the visitation of the United States Ambassador to the state several times to address the alleged plot by the APC to perpetuate violence in the state.

The famous ‘’Warsaw’’ threat by the former Senate Minority Leader Godswill Akpabio on the people of the state to hijack power has become a major concern to the people and they have vowed to reject.
Emmanuel looks set to do well in the election, given his massive support base which is swelling daily.

Obong Nsima Ekere (All Progressives Congress):

Mr. Nsima Ekere is the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State. He hails from Ikot Abasi council. A businessman with vast interests in property, Ekere has come into the contest to inherit the political structure of a party he joined less than four years ago.

He is riding on the back of the former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio hoping against all odds that his luck will shine this time around. Until, recently, he held forte as the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). He earlier served as Deputy Governor to Godswill Akpabio between 2007 and 2009 and resigned after moves to impeach him was leaked to him.

He is making another spirited attempt at the Hilltop Mansion having failed in the primaries in 2007. He hopes that his party structure will facilitate his emergence at the polls.

His tenure at the NDDC was challenging. There was no love lost between his leadership and the Akwa Ibom State Government as controversies and brickbats swung regularly between the two sides on the commitment of the agency towards the development of Akwa Ibom State.

Observers think Ekere may be banking on the proverbial federal might to sway the elections to his party. It will be recalled that in November 2018, the APC had allegedly used federal might to plot unease in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly which was rebuffed by the leadership of the legislature and the people of the State. He has been campaigning and the believe that the flag off of the party’s presidential campaign in Akwa Ibom State will sway votes for the party in a state dominantly controlled by the PDP may be misplaced.

The greatest challenge to Nsima Ekere and the APC in Akwa Ibom State is the perception that it plans to use federal might to hijack the electoral procedure in the general election in Akwa Ibom State, a move that the people are determined to frustrate. Though it remains unproven, the APC in the state has also been linked to frequent change of police commissioners in the state. In fact, a vote of no confidence has been passed on the new Commissioner of Police in the State, Musa Kimo in the wake of the foiled attempt to take over the state legislature by minority law makers belonging to the APC.

Another challenge to Ekere’s ambition is the doubt that his promise to serve one term has raised. No many believe that he will keep to this promise. The thinking is that he will surely renege on his declaration and stay eight years, thereby denying Uyo Senatorial District an opportunity at the Hilltop Mansion in 2023 as the speculations are rife that he may hand over to Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.

Political pundits have also raced through history to conclude that Nsima Ekere has never won any election into any elective office in Akwa Ibom State. He tried to be governor in 2007 and lost at the primary. He also failed in his bid under the then All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) for the House of Representatives seat. There is also this unpalatable bit of history that no NDDC chief executive from the state has succeeded in becoming governor.

Akwa Ibomites are also angry that his resignation from the NDDC led to the dissolution of the board. The prevailing thinking is that he should not have thrown away Akwa Ibom’s chance of serving out its mandatory tenure. Many are at a loss to understand Ekere’s insistence on walking away from a job that gave him access to the budget of nine states, plus statutory contribution from the iocs. They say if his intention was to serve the state, the NDDC job offered more latitude.

Iboro Otu

Iboro Otu (Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party)

Apart from being a successful investor in media, agriculture and construction, one thing that stands Iboro Otu out of the crowd is his avowed love for his people of Akwa Ibom State. He has demonstrated this by putting his money where his mouth is through a pan-Akwa Ibom youth enlightenment and empowerment group known as ALERT Nigeria.

Otu who is running for the office of the governor of Akwa Ibom State on the platform of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) said, “he has witnessed the continuous yearnings of the Akwa Ibom people for a government that is effective, inclusive, equitable, transparent, accountable, futuristic and respects the rule of law. Past governments have always under delivered because they lacked these qualities. The people of this great state deserve the best and that is what I am offering them.

I am pleased to tell you that I have been working tirelessly with a great and dedicated team with whom I have diligently formulated strategies, policies and plans that will lead Akwa Ibom to a glorious destination.

We will operate a policy where decisions are made transparently in the best public interest, where the right people are provided with the right tools and motivation for the right jobs; where services are provided without favour, where our children’s futures are guaranteed, where our lives are protected, and where responsibility and professionalism are our watch word.”

The ICT guru has understandably posited that he will use technology to make a difference given the opportunity to govern Akwa Ibom State. He argued, “the world is moving into a new era dependent on technology; from solar energy dependence, digital agronomy to the Internet. We must be part of it. Solutions for food, shelter, security and socio-economic transportation are issues many developed countries are tackling comprehensively. These are solutions we can build upon and dominate in our state. The world is in huge demand for skilled and knowledgeable workforce, so it makes sense that we invest in our key priority areas of education, health, ICT and agriculture.

The rewards are evident, considering the abundance of investment capital worldwide. I am willing to lead the great people of Akwa Ibom state to make this our reality. Given the abundance of talents that in this state, my ultimate goal is to make Akwa Ibom the ICT hub of the nation; a state where everything will be technology driven. It is with this urgency that I therefore seek the people’s mandate so that we can effectively implement strategies to guide and strengthen our people economically and socially.”
Otu drew attention as a candidate to take seriously when 17 other political parties and their governorship candidates in the state renounced their ambition and queued behind him.

Architect Ezekiel Nya-Etok (Young Democratic Party)

In his core area of competence, which is housing, Ezekiel Nya-Etok, an architect is a household name. He has kept an admirable enduring campaign for revolutionary reforms. In Akwa Ibom State, the popular Shalter Afrique Housing Estate in Uyo, was conceptualised and executed by Nya-Etok. He is also known to have carried out a similar project for former Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.

Nya-Etok’s concern for the less-privileged has been expressed through a concept called ‘social housing’. A showpiece of this idea is soon to be commissioned at Ikot Ntuen Nsit in Nsit Ibom local government area. He said, “I have devoted 30 years of my entire life to social housing, which is housing for no income earners, low income earners and lower-medium income earners. Today, I’m moving from social housing to social governance. I want to put in place a government that will benefit the poor.”

The National Chairman of Young Democratic Party (YDP) and the party’s governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State, Nya-Etok proudly wears a crown of grey hair which suggests that he is advancing in age, an interesting irony for a man who leads a political party that claims to have youths as their critical stakeholder. However, he explained that one of the things militating against Nigeria’s development was lack of mentorship and proper guidance of the youths. With YDP, Nya-Etok believes he can successfully inculcate the ethos of good governance into the youths, as a good and successful and good father. Though he has the means to live in comfort and not be bothered about the plight of other struggling Nigerians, he continues to seek an opportunity to serve the people in the capacity of an executive governor.

In 2007, he was one of the 54 aspirants that jostled for the PDP ticket, which was won by Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio. In 2015, he supported the quest of Governor Udom Emmanuel, reasoning that his rich private sector background was what the state needed to move forward.

Apparently, Emmanuel has not performed as creditably in the estimation of Nya-Etok, that is why he wants his job. This time, he has fine-tuned the housing model into a system called, ‘social governance’. He says it is governance that has its root at the advancement of the lives of every segment of the social class. He says he does not believe that workers and those who do not earn from any formal sector are getting their due in the present system of governance. According to him, “It is possible to have free medical service for everybody. It is possible to have a state where there is no minimum wage but living wage. It is possible to have a functional educational system. We can make private schools unattractive by bringing back public schools and making them work. I want to make education my centre piece.”