Shape of Things to Come in Akwa Ibom PDP

Emmanuel Udom

Enobong Isemin writes that Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State may have started early to prepare grounds for his successor

Like many other second-term governors, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State is thinking hard about his succession game plan. The People Democratic Party’s (PDP) congress, coming up in March and April, will afford him the opportunity to fill up the party with his trusted acolytes. These are the people who will help him execute his strategies. The governor has tipped Udo Ekpenyong, the Commissioner for Local Government & Chieftaincy Affairs as the next party chairman and Iniobong Ememobong as the Secretary. Can you guess what these two gentlemen have in common which delights the governor a lot?

Soon after congress, the governor will recompose his cabinet, again filling it up with his own trusted men. Among them is Udom Inoyo, the governor’s preferred choice as his successor, who may be appointed Secretary to the State Government (SSG). On this position, the Mobil top executive will return to government, having started his career as a civil servant over 35 years ago. He had risen to the position of director, heading the Lagos Liaison Office of Akwa Ibom State by the time he joined the oil company in I989. Udom Emmanuel himself was brought in as SSG late July 20I3 – one year to being presented as the PDP governorship candidate.

Many pundits have noted that the governor will have a big fight on his hands trying to push out other aspirants like Hon. Onofiok Luke, the immediate past Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and Senator Bassey Albert Akpan (OBA). They recall the monumental opposition mounted by John Udoedehe in 20II and Umana Okon Umana in 20I5. In fact, some persons are already saying ‘Udom is not Akpabio,’ an allusion to the latter’s uncompromising determination to instal the former as governor. So far, the incumbent seems to have learned fast. His huge cash reserves and propensity to buy his way through all obstacles have paved the way for his political successes. Many have underrated him to their peril.

Emmanuel is moving assuredly and methodically, having learned well at the foot of his master, Godswill Akapbio. He’s however trying to avoid a few mistakes which created problems for his predecessor. For example; Udom Emmanuel has started work early on his succession politics by identifying his choice promptly; and unlike Akpabio, the governor does not intend to prevaricate about his intentions. Akpabio’s changing preferences discredited his agenda and allowed for a coalition of critics and opposition against him.

Again, Emmanuel has quickly commenced mobilization of support for Inoyo from some critical sections of the state, notably the influential Christian community. A strong evangelical himself, the governor has vowed that he will not hand over to those he calls ‘cultists’. His reasons are etched in his memory. Early in his administration, a cult war erupted in the three local government areas of Ika, Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun. It festered for over two years, taking lives, damaging homes and property. Schools, businesses and markets were shut. The government made a new law banning these groups and spent huge sums of money to fight and induce them into embracing peace. Clearly, the governor has seen the devastating effects of cultism in the state. He believes that electing one of them a governor will be calamitous. By tagging some potential candidates as cultist, a tar that rankles an average voter, the governor is essentially continuing his fight against these demons; and so far, leading members of the evangelical community, notably Archbishop Cletus Bassey, who actually supports any governor in office, have openly announced their support for the governor.

Why does the governor prefer Inoyo? First, Inoyo played a central role in the emergence of Emmanuel as governor. So, one good turn deserves another. Beyond that, it is part of Inoyo’s responsibilities in Mobil to sustain a mutually beneficial relationship between his employer and the government and people of the state. So it should be expected that he will have more than a passing interest in the politics of Akwa Ibom State. Is it therefore a surprise that he joined the PDP as far back as 2000?

Second, the two Udoms have known each other for a very long time, but more important, Inoyo comes highly recommended. Inoyo shares the governor’s mindset on how government should work (money should not be shared to politicians in the name of “empowerment, patronage or giving,” but be used to develop the state). Both men have had solid senior leadership background in the private sector, the one in banking and the other in the oil industry. In addition, many Akwa Ibom people believe that Inoyo knows how best to attract talents to work in, and add value to government business. Inoyo’s long exposure to international best practice will be of a great advantage to Akwa Ibom State which is earnestly yearning for good governance.

But how will the hardcore PDP politicians like OBA, Idongesit Nkanga, Onofiok Luke, Paul Ekpo, Efiong Bob, Senator Anietie Okon, etc respond to the governor’s moves?

* Isemin writes from Uyo