Okon Bassey, in Uyo, writes on the race to succeed Governor Godswill Akpabio battle for state government houses - emerging trends As part of our series "Towards 2015", we begin this week the analysis of the emerging trends in the states with respect to the battle to occupy the various government houses
Less than 30 months to the 2015 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State, political activities have moved to a stage where aspirants have started declaring their intentions to vie for the governorship position before major stakeholders, political associates and interest groups.
There are three major ethnic groups that dominate politics in the state, namely, the Ibibio, the largest ethnic group; the Annang; and the Oro nation. Ibibios, apart from inhabiting the Uyo senatorial district, are equally in Ikot Ekpene and Eket senatorial districts of the state. The Annang occupy the Ikot Ekpene senatorial district while the Oro nation jointly constitutes the Eket senatorial district with Ibibios.
Before now, there was nothing like zoning of the governorship seat among the tribes or senatorial districts in the state. It was in 2006, towards the end of former Governor Victor Attah's administration, that the idea of zoning started gaining popularity in the state's political equation. Attah, who was from the Uyo senatorial district, served a two-term period: 1999 to 2006.
Then, following the adoption of zoning in the state, the governorship seat was moved to the Ikot Ekpene senatorial district, with the people from the Ibibio axis barred from contesting, as the race was made exclusively for the people of Annang ethnic group. The zoning formula produced the incumbent governor of the state, Chief Godswill Akpabio. Akpabio is serving his second term.
Uyo, Eket Bicker
The problem on ground in the state is deciding on the district that would produce the next governor. Many are arguing that Attah was not sincere in his idea to zone the governorship seat as his actions had shown that he was targeting to produce his in-law, Dr. Bob Ekarika, as his successor. This was said to be behind the stiff resistant Attah presented to Akapbio when the latter emerged as the PDP governorship candidate.
Besides, it was equally said that even in the PDP primary, people from other senatorial and ethnic groups of Uyo and Eket still contested the against the Annang people. In the 2006, about 59 aspirants contested it while in the second term of Akpabio, the principal opposition aspirants within the PDP were from Uyo and Eket senatorial districts, that is Imo Udo and Frank Okon, respectively. So people are now questioning if there was ever a zoning and rotation arrangement for the governorship position in the state.
Akpabio Calls the Shots
All eyes are on Akpabio to pronounce on the state of the power rotation arrangement and declare if power will rotate to Eket senatorial district in 2015.
Even in Eket senatorial district, there is still tussle over which ethnic group will produce the next governor - if the position is zoned to them. While the Ibibio in the district have positioned themselves for the race, the Oro nation is insisting that it was their turn.
However, comments from Akpabio tend to show that he is not really an apostle of power rotation. During the May Day celebration this year, he tasked the citizens to look for a wise man with a vision to continue the uncommon transformation of the state and a vision to further develop the state, as his successor. He was equally plain that Ikot Ekpene senatorial district should be excluded from the race while Uyo and Eket senatorial districts be allowed to contest for the number one seat in the state. But he strongly warned that tribal sentiments should not be allowed to divide the state in 2015.
According to the governor, for the state to have a worthy successor, an open field should be allowed for people to vie for the governorship race in 2015. With this position, he said every citizen of the state that posses what it takes to continue the vision of developing the state could join the governorship race in 2015 freely without being afraid of ethnic clamour in favour of any area.
"Let's go out and look for a wise man that will have the vision of developing the state. Let us not look for my successor from the tribal perspective. We must ask ourselves what we want in 2015. That will help us to pick out the best person for the office," he said.
Odds Against Eket
In a recent interview, the senator for Eket senatorial district, Senator Helen Esuene, said, "There are two propositions or schools of thought on this very issue. One school of thought is that Uyo senatorial district had their slot in Akpan Isemin and Obong Victor Attah; Ikot Ekpene senatorial district is currently enjoying its second term and that it is only fair that Eket senatorial district should take the next turn.
"The other line of thought is also saying that when Dr. Godswill Akpabio contested, other people from other senatorial districts also aspired and the aspiration was not exclusive to Ikot Ekpene senatorial district and that nobody should be excluded from aspiring. The two lines of thought are correct and it is now left for the electorate to decide what they want. This is because what both groups are saying is correct. In this kind of game, you don't have one umpire, everybody is an umpire and so it is the electorate that will decide where it should go to, whether Eket or Uyo senatorial district.
"But I think as a people, we really need to sit down to structure and agree on what we want for our state so that we don't heat up the system each time there is something or an election to be held. We need to sit down and articulate where we want the elective position to go to and it will help a lot."
Aspirants from Eket
In the Eket senatorial district, THISDAY gathered that those that have shown strong interest in the governorship race include the immediate past deputy governor of the state, Mr. Nsima Ekere; a medical doctor and former governorship aspirant, Dr. Sam Udonsak; a former deputy chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, Bishop Sam Akpan; and a lawyer, Mr Asuquo Asuquo Okpo.
Others also believed to be nursing governorship ambitions include the Minister of Science and Technology, Professor Ita Okon Bassey Ewa; the Commissioner for Transport, Dan Abia Jnr; the Nigeria Ambassador to Russia, Barrister Asam Asam (SAN); Senator Udo Udoma; former House of Representatives member, Hon. Bernard Udoh; and the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr Effiong Abia.
Aspirants from Uyo
In the Uyo senatorial district, the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, is believed to be the number one on the list of those trying to succeed Akpabio. Others with governorship ambitions are Executive Director, Human Resource, Mobil Producing Nigeria, Mr. Udom Inoyo, and the Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Bassey Albert Akpan.
Many of the aspirants are said to have declared their intention before their political associates. Some are still being expected to make their intentions public.
The Secretary to the State Government is said to be one of those who had gone far in such consultations. He has, apart from declaring his interest, even formed groups and coordinators at the local government level. Judging by what is going on in the state at the moment, Umana might have been endorsed by Akpabio as his successor. Majority of the state House of Assembly members also seem to favour the SSG to emerge as the next governor.
He and Akpabio were commissioners in the Attah government. Umana was then the Commissioner for Finance. Akpabio is believed to be preparing the SSG to take over the governance of the state in 2015 in appreciation of his role in helping Akpabio to succeed.
Ekere, from Eket senatorial district, is believed to be another outstanding personality for the job. Political analysts are, however, of the view that his recent disagreement with the incumbent governor, which culminated in his resignation from office, may limit his chances.
Ekere threw in the towel as deputy governor at a time many people did not expect him to go. All the intrigues surrounding his "voluntary" resignation are said to border on his governorship ambition in 2015. Reports had it that he resigned to escape impeachment by members of the House of Assembly, who had been mobilised to do so, because of his irreconcilable differences with his boss and other stakeholders in the state. He was immediately replaced with a female politician in the state, Lady Valarie Ebe.
Indications are that the governorship contest in Akwa Ibom State would almost certainly come down to what Akpabio wants.