Iniobong Akpabio, a prominent investor in the hospitality and leisure sector tells Vanessa Obioha why Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State has a clear edge over other contestants in the March 2 governorship race
You have become partisan by virtue of your recent appointment as Chairman of the Akwa Ibom State Hotel and Tourism Board, how do you see the chances of Governor Udom Emmanuel and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the face of the rising popularity of the All Progressives Congress (APC)?
As the date for the governorship election in the country draws closer, the different political parties particularly the two major political parties the PDP and the APC have intensified their campaigns to the nook and cranny of Akwa Ibom State to woo the electorate. The Independent National Electoral Commission had few months ago announced that there were 40 recognised and dully registered political parties in the state, only six of the parties are currently fielding governorship candidates.
Apart from popular candidates Udom Emmanuel of the PDP and Obong Nsima Ekere of the APC, candidates of other four political parties running the race are Ezekiel Nya-Etok of Young Democratic Party (YDP), Iboro Otu of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), Nature Udoh of Young Peoples Party (YPP) and Ekong Eyo of Peoples Progressive Party (PPP)
However as the parties scramble for the votes, certain factors have shown that if the election is conducted free and credible, the incumbent governor Mr. Udom Emmanuel stands a better chance of winning.
Even observers of political happenings in the state ahead of the governorship elections have reasoned that among all the candidates vying for the Number One seat, Governor Emmanuel remains the candidate to beat following his track record.
The sterling performance of Governor Emmanuel in the area of industrialisation, which has been acknowledged even by his adversaries has brought a major positive turn-around on the economy of the state. Coming from the private sector myself, I know that the kind of intervention the governor has brought to the state has multiplier effect that cannot be quantified. For instance, owners of residential buildings in locations where these industries are sited that never dreamt of the kind of value their houses are attracting from tenants are smiling all the way to the bank. They have never had it so good, with tenants paying premium rent for their property. Mr. Emmanuel’s administration has attracted industries such as the Syringe, Metering, Flour Mill, Toothpick, Plastic Industry at Industrial Park in Itu local government area, the Fertilizer blending factory at Abak, and the Rice Mill in Ini among others. Governor Emmanuel’s capability to attract industries into the state through the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Public Private Partnership (PPP) have been widely applauded. Since the inception of the current democratic regime in 1999, the people had hoped for a governor that would establish industries.
At this time (so close to commencement of the election) in 2015, many cases of violent crime like mysterious murder and kidnap were recorded and the foreboding atmosphere in the state left everyone in a state of fear and uncertainty. Today, there is a clear departure from those days of terror, largely due to the peaceful disposition of Governor Emmanuel. More importantly, the improved security situation and peaceful atmosphere being currently enjoyed in the state is one area of achievement of the current administration that has endeared the citizens as well as investors to the governor. The various traditional rulers in the state and prominent religious leaders and groups have also expressed their support for his re-election so that the peaceful atmosphere in the state can continue. Some of Governor Emmanuel’s aides and associates have attributed the peaceful campaigns to his peaceful conduct and disposition. This is one of the factors that will stand him out in the election of March 2.
Majority of Akwa Ibom people are happy over Governor Emmanuel’s achievements in infrastructural development and welfare of the people evidenced in the construction and rehabilitation of health facilities, massive construction of roads and industries. It is on record that the present administration has brought back to life no fewer than seven general hospitals across the three senatorial districts of the state that were almost abandoned. They include the General Hospitals in Etinan, Ituk Mbang, Ikono and Uruan.
Governor Udom Emmanuel is also enjoying very massive support from the women folk and youth groups in the state including market women which according to political analysts constitute the voting population.
The large support of womenfolk for Governor Emmanuel is coming largely from market women, (traders) across the 31 local government areas following his empowerment through the interest free loan facility which the current administration started since 2016.
The ability of Governor Udom Emmanuel to touch so many communities that were neglected during previous administrations such as Uruan, Oruk Anam, Oron, Ika, Eket, Esit Eket won a teeming number of supporters to the PDP and Governor Emmmanuel.
Governor Emmanuel also appears to be the only candidate enjoying massive support from the Uyo senatorial district which is regarded as the vote basket of Akwa Ibom State ahead of the forthcoming elections.
In fact, the development prompted some political analysts to conclude that Governor Emmanuel has a better chance of winning the election because of the voting strength of Uyo senatorial district.
Uyo senatorial district comprises Uyo, Uruan, Etinan, Nsit Ubium, Nsit Atai, Nsit Ibom, Itu, Ibiono Ibom, and Ibesikpo Asutan local government areas.
This assumption is based on the political calculation that it will be the turn of Uyo senatorial district to take a shot at the office of governor of Akwa Ibom state, after Eket senatorial district has served its term. The decision of the APC to zone the position to Eket senatorial district (Akwa Ibom South) where the incumbent governor hails from is because it is the turn of the senatorial district to produce a governor.
Going by that hypothesis, it will serve Uyo senatorial district better to vote for Governor Emmanuel. As things stand, he is the only guarantee that Uyo will get the position in 2023. A fresh candidate (out of Eket, like APC’s Nsima Ekere) may be tempted to do serve years. Governor Emmanuel’s prudence with the public purse is also another factor that has been going well for him.