The outcome and fallout of the recently concluded House of Assembly primaries in Mbo Local Government Area were nothing short of the fears we earlier expressed and our forecast that it will be a matter of vindication of one man against the voice of the people. It is therefore with dismay and premonition to state that, by the consequence of that primaries, where one Okon Asuquo Frank supposedly won, was directly because the SSG Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, defiantly refused to listen to the voice and advice of Stakeholders of the party from the local government area and beyond.
Although it cannot be denied that it was the SSG’s antics and insistence that led to the altering of the age-long existing zoning arrangement in Mbo that produced the purported candidate for the House of Assembly, Okon Asuquo Frank, it is no gainsaying the fact that even the SSG and his camp were shocked and ruffled by the outcome of the primaries that clearly dimmed their dreams. It turned out that the opportunistic winner of the primaries was from the Ebughu bloc that already has been a serial beneficiary of political elections and appointments.
It is even more disheartening and laughable to observe that Okon Asuquo Frank is a serving councillor; the House of Representative Member, Nse Ekpenyong, who has also been re-nominated as a candidate to represent Oron Federal Constituency in the House of Representative is also from the area; again, the immediate past Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Hon. Victor Antai, who is also a strong potential for the House of Representatives in 2019 on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is incidentally also from the area. The natural, expected and inescapable question now is: Why must this be the case in a liberal democracy and where people preach fairness and equity?
Hence, the open agitation and underground murmuring amongst the aggrieved who have been grossly cheated and played out of the system point to the looming danger that may befall the PDP in Mbo in the event of Okon Asuquo Frank being allowed to stand election in 2019. The argument and ratiocination would be that some invincible arm-twisting PDP cabals in the local government, led by the “all-knowing” Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, have loaded one area with all the elective opportunities, leaving others on the flanks. The portentous calculation therefore is that this situation is counter-productive and is sure to boomerang. One great possibility is that it will lead to the people having no option than to turn their allegiance in protestation and anger to Hon. Victor Antai, whose grasp of the grassroots even in the present circumstances cannot be taken for granted.
That invariably shall mean a great boost to the APC, no doubt. But this can be avoided. It follows that now that political parties have not forwarded names of nominated candidates to INEC, PDP in Akwa Ibom State still has a window of alternatives to right the wrongs already committed to see if it can win back the hearts of the people in turmoil. The unaffected populist plea is that, since Hon. Samuel Ufuo has performed well in the House of Assembly, he should be allowed to go for a second term. It is instructive to hint here that even some high profile members of the leadership of the House of Assembly, prior to the primaries, had already met with the SSG on this matter for the sake of justice that Samuel Ufuo should be allowed to return to the House of Assembly because of his experience, track record and favourable zoning template for the local government; but he still stuck to his gun.
For the repeated clarity this matter requires, it is necessary we reproduce a critical passage in our earlier observation on this issue: “Prior to 1979, the gregarious geo-political entity referred to as Mbo today was governed via Development Areas. Part “A” of that arrangement comprised Egbuhu Development Area and Udesi Development Area; whereas its “B” counterparts consist of Effiat Ibaka Development Area and Uda Ewang Development Area. By this delineatory arrangement, the four Development Areas were automatically divided into two Constituencies – Egbuhu-Udesi State Constituency and Effiat-Mbo State Constituency to cover Effiat Ibaka and Uda Ewang Development Areas”.
We continued: “For fairness that was to remain a generational denominator, it happened that while late Etim Mkpa Johnson represented Egbuhu-Udesi State Constituency in the Cross River State House of Assembly, the present Ahta Oro, Offong Nsenim, on his part, represented Effiat-Mbo State Constituency in the same Cross River State House of Assembly. By this time, there were 16 wards in the four development areas combined. Accordingly, for the sake of sustainable equity, each State Constituency was allotted 8. It was following the creation of Akwa Ibom State 12 years later in 1987 that the two State Constituencies were merged to form the present Mbo State Constituency”.
It is safe to say without fear or favour that if current developments in the characteristically peaceful but highly politically sensitive Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State were not handled with the discretion and promptitude they demanded, a serious implosion that can spell doom for the PDP at the local government area, and may be also at the state level, looms menacingly in the air. The tender roots and succulent leaves of the seed of discord, if not nipped in the bud, may prove to be too poisonous to the political consciousness of Mbo people. But the good news appears to be that, because the principal source(s) for the lingering cataclysm are not faceless enemies from the outside but have already been identified from within, it becomes a matter of prompt intervention by those who have the authority to prevent the unforeseen.
It quite commendable that like in other aspects of its progressive existence, from its creation in 1987, Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State has been distinct and distinctive in the management of its political capital in terms of electorate participation, accommodation of peculiarity of interests, equitable distribution of material and human resources with regards to appointments and elective responsibilities, and cumulative successes at the polls in favour of and true loyalty to all administrations that have come to power since the advent of unmitigated civilian rule in the State and the country at large.
This has been made possible because of the inherited vision, entrenched high regards and respect for party structures, procedures and processes of election, and generally beneficial consequences that have made it possible for stakeholders and practitioners from the Local Government to speak with one voice in sharing fortunes and tackling any challenges accruable therein. History has proven that these are political legacies bequeathed by visionary forebears long before Mbo that once subsisted in Oron Local Government Area as a bloc became an autonomous local government area.
This collective approach to issues has translated into the readiness and commitments of political office seekers from Mbo to naturally play by the rule of the game without attempting to cut corners, especially in the critical area of always ensuring that there is equity and inclusiveness during elections that have given both the elected and followership a sense of belonging, even in the liberty and pluralistic dispositions of a typical democracy like ours. It is a custom, a tradition and way of life everyone has come to associate with. That further explains why although other local governments at one point or another may have been embroiled in embarrassing political crisis, Mbo has always remained a team player, a partner in progress, and loyal supporter to every government and Governor in power, like it is unarguably the case with His Excellency, Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel.
It is almost a case of jealousy to make reference to the commendable sharing formula existing between Okobo-Atak Oro and Oruko – Urueffong, an enduring and near sacrosanct standard that has engendered peace amongst contenders in those areas. But what is the pitiable situation in Mbo? For the purpose of clarity and comparative analysis, let it be stated that Mbo Local Government Area today ahs 10 wards. Ordinarily, as obtainable at other neighbouring local government areas, the 10 wards should have been evenly shared between the two State Constituencies, with each taking 5.
Whereas Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem may have his interests, we have to sound this warning to save the political capital and teeming supporters of His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel in Mbo against 2019.
Esu Abia writes from Ewang in Mbo