Op­po­si­tion to Ak­pabio’s 2015 am­bi­tions mounts Gover­nor God­swill Ak­pabio un­til re­cently ap­peared to be on top of the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in his state. Our cor­re­spon­dents ex­am­ine why he seems to be los­ing grip on the home front.

Daily Trust - - INSIDE POLITICS - By Andrew Agbese, Abuja & Patrick Odey, Uyo

Whether it was de­lib­er­ate or other­wise, the fact that most of the po­lit­i­cal en­gage­ments of the Akwa Ibom State gover­nor, God­swill Ak­pabio, have re­volved around na­tional is­sues, has served to prop up an im­age of a politi­cian to­tally in con­trol of his base.

An­a­lysts be­lieve it was due to this im­age that when it be­came ex­pe­di­ent to cre­ate a PDP Gov­er­nors Fo­rum, that the lot fell on Ak­pabio to be ap­pointed chair­man and when the Nigeria Gov­er­nors Fo­rum could not agree on a chair­man, it was he who ral­lied the op­po­si­tion to cre­ate a fac­tion.

It is also be­lieved that he was so in­flu­en­tial that it was when he with­drew sup­port to the for­mer PDP na­tional chair­man, Al­haji Ba­manga Tukur, that the ground around Tukur be­gan to cave in.

But if re­cent hap­pen­ings in Akwa Ibom are any­thing to go by, then Ak­pabio’s case could be likened to a man who went to fight his neigh­bour’s bat­tle when his house was on fire.

Within the spate of one year, so many things have cropped up that have punc­tured the widely held pic­ture of a man ahead of the po­lit­i­cal dy­nam­ics of his state.

The first had to do with the al­ter­ca­tion with the deputy gover­nor, Nsima Ekere, on ac­count of nurs­ing a gov­er­nor­ship am­bi­tion which led to the res­ig­na­tion of the lat­ter. Even though Ak­pabio had the up­per hand, he has not been able to stop the ex-deputy’s am­bi­tion. Then not quite long af­ter that, when Ak­pabio made pub­lic his in­ten­tion to go to the Se­nate af­ter the ex­pi­ra­tion of his ten­ure in 2015, the in­cum­bent, Aloy­siuis Etok protested, say­ing he is not re­lin­quish­ing the seat and chal­lenged Ak­pabio to face him in the party’s pri­mary. So far Ak­pabio has not been able to any­thing about that.

With the is­sue cur­rently rag­ing, Ak­pabio might have suc­ceeded in step­ping on the toes of oth­ers in the bid to ap­point a suc­ces­sor.

The be­lief in Uyo is that Ak­pabio, had all the while given sup­port to his then Sec­re­tary to the State Govern­ment (SSG), Umanah Okon Umanah to suc­ceed him, only for him to change his mind when the lat­ter had gone far in reach­ing out to ac­tu­al­ize the dream.

This has led to a crack in the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) in the state as many prom­i­nent elders in the party, have come out to op­pose him in­sist­ing that they must have a say in who be­comes the next gover­nor of the state.

A group, the Akwa Ibom Elders and Stake­hold­ers Fo­rum, made up of prom­i­nent in­di­genes of the state are cham­pi­oning this cause and do­ing all to drive home the point that they are not with the gover­nor in that bid.

But the gover­nor had ex­plained that he is only try­ing to be fair to the people of the state by zon­ing to Eket zone which has not pro­duced a gover­nor since both Ikot Ekpene where he hails from and Uyo zones have had it.

But the PDP elders at a re­cent gath­er­ing chaired by for­mer min­is­ter, Dr. Ime Okopido, said the claim to fair­ness is an af­ter­thought as they say Ak­pabio has never sup­ported zon­ing and did not do so when it con­cerned his se­na­to­rial zone.

They said based on that they would not con­done zon­ing for the gov­er­nor­ship seat but would rather sup­port the pol­icy of the PDP na­tional chair­man, Al­haji Ah­madu Adamu Mua’zu which is for the nom­i­na­tion of can­di­dates through a fair and free con­test.

Those ready to con­front Ak­pabio on this in­clude; Se­na­tor Aloy­sius Etuk , a three time mem­ber of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Bernard Udoh, for­mer PDP sec­re­tary in the state, Ani­etie Ekong, Nel­son Ef­fiong, for­mer Speaker of the state House of As­sem­bly, Uwem Udoma and Okon Uwah, for­mer deputy Speaker of the House of As­sem­bly.

The group also has the chair­man of Uyo Se­na­to­rial district elders coun­cil, Otuekong Sonny Jack­son, Dr Mor­ris Ebong, Sen­a­tors Ef­fiong Bob, and Se­na­tor Ita Enang.

The group in a re­cent state­ment says it also has over 40 for­mer lo­cal govern­ment chair­men, 45 for­mer House of As­sem­bly mem­bers, over 20 for­mer mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and sev­eral past party state of­fi­cers be­hind it.

Var­i­ous per­sons who spoke at the stake­hold­ers meet­ing ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment with how things are go­ing within the PDP in the state.

Both Se­na­tor Etok and Okopido said it is only the people that can through elec­tions choose who will rule Akwa Ibom and vowed that never again will elec­tions be de­cided out­side des­ig­nated venues.

Im­me­di­ate past Sec­re­tary to the Akwa Ibom State Govern­ment, Umanah Okon Umanah whom the group seems to be sup­port­ing to be the gov­er­nor­ship can­di­date also op­posed the idea of zon­ing.

He said he has watched the events in the state and found that the lieu­tenants of Gover­nor Ak­pabio are mak­ing it look as if the gover­nor is go­ing to be a can­di­date in the 2015 gov­er­nor­ship race.

He said.’’ the gover­nor will not be a can­di­date in 2015, I am in­ter­ested in be­com­ing the gover­nor in 2015 and any­body who is in­ter­ested should not hide be­hind the shad­ows of the gover­nor but should come out and cam­paign and present them­selves to the people.”

To drive home the point, the elders threat­ened to pro­ceed to court to as­sert the right of “ev­ery qual­i­fied party mem­ber to con­test the party’s pri­mary in the state pur­suant to the 2015 gov­er­nor­ship elec­tion.”

A no­table mem­ber of the group and for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral and Com­mis­sioner for Jus­tice in the state, said that the op­tion of a le­gal ac­tion was on the card if the gover­nor and his ap­pointees de­cides to go against the party’s dec­la­ra­tion to have an open con­test.

Ak­pabio in a move seen as a counter to those op­posed to his am­bi­tion, also con­vened a meet­ing of party of­fi­cials and the meet­ing he con­vened it was agreed that the party would re­spect zon­ing.

The elders how­ever, de­rided the meet­ing say­ing the gover­nor must have con­vened the meet­ing to rail­road the party into for­mal­iz­ing his plan to en­sure zon­ing in the state.

“It is sus­pected that the gover­nor him­self may have de­cided to per­son­ally up­hold his wish on the party through any means pos­si­ble, in­clud­ing the stick and the car­rot ap­proach. The gover­nor has not hid­den his de­sire to pro­duce a suc­ces­sor that would do his bid­ding while out of of­fice,” they stated.

To worsen mat­ters for Ak­pabio, when the ad­viser to the Pres­i­dent on po­lit­i­cal mat­ters, Ahmed Gu­lak vis­ited the state, he was said to have paid a visit to Umanah.

Umanah’s sup­port­ers have made cap­i­tal out of that say­ing it is a clear in­di­ca­tion that the Pres­i­dency may be in sup­port of Umanah’s as­pi­ra­tions.

But the Akwa Ibom State PDP in re­ac­tion called a State Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil meet­ing and at the end of the meet­ing, warned Gu­lak not to in­ter­fere in the pol­i­tics of the state.

The meet­ing which had Gover­nor Ak­pabio in at­ten­dance PDP chair­man, Paul Ekpo as well as the sen­a­tors and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives mem­bers from the state called on Pres­i­dent Jonathan to cau­tion his aides whom it claimed are bent on caus­ing ‘dis­af­fec­tion in the var­i­ous states of the fed­er­a­tion’.

The state chair­man of the party, Mr Paul Ekpo in a com­mu­niqué read to party sup­port­ers also ad­vised Gu­lak to con­cen­trate on sort­ing out PDP prob­lem in ‘his Adamawa State rather than both­er­ing about Akwa Ibom and other states in South/South which had no prob­lem with Pres­i­dent Jonathan cam­paign.”

“The meet­ing con­demned the ig­no­ble and con­temp­tu­ous role of Al­haji Ahmed Gu­lak, the Spe­cial Ad­viser to the pres­i­dent on po­lit­i­cal Af­fairs, who vis­ited the state re­cently, threw all known pro­to­cols over­board in pur­port­ing to in­au­gu­rate a sec­tional and un­known Sup­port Group in favour of our dear pres­i­dent,’’ he said.

The party re­it­er­ated its de­ci­sion to zone the gov­er­nor­ship po­si­tion to Eket Se­na­to­rial district.

Ekpo said pur­suant to sec­tion 7 (3) of the party’s con­sti­tu­tion 2012 (as amended) stip­u­lat­ing ad­her­ence to the ‘’pol­icy of ro­ta­tion and zon­ing of the party and pub­lic elec­tive of­fices in pur­suance of the prin­ci­ple of eq­uity, jus­tice and fair­ness, the meet­ing zones the Gov­er­nor­ship po­si­tion to Eket Se­na­to­rial district.’’

This has not gone down well with the elders who in­sisted they will not yield to any form of im­po­si­tion.

“We re­ject, as it is to­tally alien to the pro­vi­sions of the Con­sti­tu­tion and tra­di­tion of our great party, the use of stage-man­aged “Town Hall Meet­ings” as the plat­form for the adop­tion of the party’s flag-bear­ers for the 2015 Gen­eral elec­tions. The so-called Town Hall meet­ings are seen by party mem­bers and the gen­er­al­ity of Akwa Ibom people as a thinly-veiled ruse to ex­clude cer­tain people and seg­ments from par­tic­i­pa­tion in the po­lit­i­cal process and will cost the party dearly at the polls,” they stressed in their com­mu­niqué.

How the two sides would re­solve the mat­ter is left to be seen as both seem stuck to their po­si­tions.

Gov God­swill Ak­pabio Umanah Okon Umanah

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