The veil has now been lifted as to what people should expect of the 2019 governorship contest in Akwa Ibom State. The front liners are clearly seen, with the formal arrival of Obong Nsima Ekere. The contest would certainly be a fight between two giant elephants, the then bulldozing Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the fortune changing All Progressives Congress, APC. Big ‘tigers’ have shown up in the scene and sure, predictions may no more be difficult. President Muhammdu Buhari has been most frequently endorsed by the people of the state for a second term. Obong Nsima Ekere has also been variously asked to step into the race.
Of course, the dynamics of Nigerian politics in recent times have become interesting. The field has become a wide scene where permutations are being calculated on a daily basis by political strategist. Every person has his perspective of how the political fortune of the country may turn out. In Akwa Ibom State, the case is no difference. And, party stalwarts are not losing sleep over it.
President Buhari, a great Nigerian leader whose sense of accurate thinking is not in doubt has held sway in leadership since 2015 at the national level, having been overwhelmingly voted by Nigerians who became tired of malnourishment, in terms of governance. He was trusted as a man of integrity. He is viewed as having an upright mind to do good at all times. While it is apparent that other Nigerian leaders have clearly been busy looting the country and seeking undue opportunities for themselves, President Buhari has, in three years, deconstructed the idea. He has diluted the idea of arrogant and flamboyant leadership as well as demonstrated selflessness and national cohesion in his administration.
His staunch fight against corruption and resolute focus in dealing with ‘thieves’ has rather raised unto him, more enemies from far and near who want to use blackmail to through him out of seat. What has revently been described as the Gang up of the Generals is not apart from it. Nigerians cannot forget in a hurry, how the Nobel Prize Poet and Dramatist, Prof Wole Soyinka recently summarized the whole game in one sentence. Soyinka said, “It is only in Nigeria that old thieves are regrouping to re-loot the nation and the youth are clapping their hands”. Obviously, Nigerians are becoming careful to watch out for them. Nigerians are interested in governance and are getting involved in choosing godly leaders.
Personally, Joseph Atainyang may not be interested in politics. He may, not in future, think of personally contesting any political position because politics is not supposed to gain the patronage of everybody. Except to render effective and result oriented service to the people, some persons may not have come to the field of politics. So, most people would, as a matter of concern, actually be interested in lending their voices to making a choice of who should be given the trust of the people to serve them. Of course, what is the purpose of being a responsible Nigerian, if people do not posses voter’s cards as well as fully participate in choosing their leaders?
In Akwa Ibom State, sane persons are trying hard to retrace their steps, openly renounce their involvement in being party to thievery and squandering of limited resources. But, sadists (kindly forgive my hardness) are greatly showing up their muscles in what they can, and wish to do to sustain their indecorous attitude of clueless gangsterism. Lest we forget, does one person has the monopoly of radicalism in politicking? This question itself, knows the actual answer.
With the official presentation of the 2019 governorship form to him, at the Tuesday rally in Eket, Obong Nsima Ekere, the Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC has become a big picture in the eyes of Akwa Ibom people. Of course, he had long been seen as the man who by virture of his training in the art of governance is efficiently prepared to stand out in 2019. His astuteness in the management of the board has broadened people’s perspective of him as a person. In road construction and other infrastructure, the NDDC under Nsima Ekere has performed creditably. The intervention so far undertaken in the nine states of the oil reach region is quite commendable. In Akwa Ibom State, NDDC under Ekere has carried out road constructions across the three senatorial districts. The PDP led Akwa Ibom government had greatly shown stiff resistance, antagonising the progress of the agency in the state. But such has not been able to truncate the huge achievements of the agency.
With liabilities at N1.7 trillion, poor public image, declining federal revenues, rising regional poverty and developmental needs across the communities of the Niger Delta region, Ekere and his colleagues knew a different style and mindset was imperative, vital and urgent. To move forward with result oriented milestones, 624 underperforming projects worth more than N200 billion, was cancelled. The NDDC boss inspired a new wave of commitment among contractors to perform with integrity and efficiency; paid billions of Naira of inherited debts to contractors and service providers; resolved an 18 year-old impasse between the Commission and NLNG on the payment of its statutory obligations to the Commission; and then implemented urgent and necessary emergency projects to rescue deteriorating roads across the nine states, in order to save lives and property.
Dr Nsima Ekere had served as Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State between May 2011 and October 2012. Prior to that, he was the Executive Chairman of the Akwa Ibom Investment and Industrial Promotion Council, AKIIPOC, the state investment agency (2007 – 2012). He also served as Chairman, Ibom Power (2008 – 2011). He holds some professional qualifications. These are: Fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers and Registered Member, Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria ESVRBN. He is as well a Fellow, Senior Certified Valuer, International Real Estate Institute IREI., Minnesota, USA, and an associate member of the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation, IRRV, London.
A peep into his profile reveals that Obong Nsima Ekere has an unstated philanthropic gestures which propels his strong investment in people’s development. This is consciously undertaken through regular award of scholarships and educational grants; provision of potable water to rural communities in his Edemaya Clan, Ikot Abasi and medical outreaches to rural communities. As former deputy governor and a very successful private sector personnel, Ekere’s gesture of passionate service to God and humanity, stands him out as a very committed person to the welfare and development of humanity.
Speaking Tuesday as Chairman on the occation of the reception ceremony held in honour of President Buhari and Obong Nsima Ekere, Senator Nelson Effiong, said President Buhari has delivered on the mandate of fighting corruption in the country. He enumerated various projects undertaken by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, saying he deserved to be trusted with more commitment.
He added, “I am ashamed that Udom has failed Akwa Ibom people. We are stepping up to step into the government house in 2019. I am saddened, having recalled the state of situation in 1999 with our visionary leader, Obong Victor Attah who brought GSM, built the Ibom International Airport, the Le’Meridian and the Science Park. All these were improved and built upon by the uncommon transformation agenda of Senator Godswill Akpabio who took the state to another level of development. But now, we have nothing to show, therefore, we want our illustrious son, Obong Nsima Ekere who has shown dedication in NDDC to step in and take over the Akwa Ibom State government house in 2019”.
For the zonal national vice chairman of the APC, Ntufam Hilliard Etta, the number of APC senators in the south south has grown from just one to eight. He added that “In two months time, we shall have the majority of the senators in the south south. Things are getting better and the national party asked me to tell you that “we have a president and a presidential candidate who is not a thief. The people on the other side are either thieves or armed robbers”. Etta who received decampees from the PDP, led by former deputy governor, Lady Valarie Ebe and Lady Eme Ufot Ekaette, however called on Akwa Ibom people to vote massively for Ekere as governor while delivering President Buhari with their votes in 2019.
In his speech, the State Caucus Chairman, Done Etiebet said all the actors which made PDP work in Akwa Ibom were now in the APC and that they were ready to return more than one million vote to APC. He revealed that Governor Udom Emmanuel had called him to ask of the modality of crossing over to APC but that he told him that there was no vacancy in APC.
“He wanted coming to APC. I told him there is no more vacancy. We are here to tell Ekere that he should step up and run for governorship seat in 2019. He has performed above expectations in NDDC. That’s why Akwa Ibom people have called on him to come and serve the people as governor. He shall give us branded schools, hospitals and industries”, he said while presenting the nomination form to Obong Nsima Ekere.
Addressing the people, the immediate past governor of the state and former minority leader of the senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio thanked the people for gathering for the reception of President Buhari and Obong Nsima Ekere. He told the people that the President has done a lot to the people of Nigeria and deserved to be returned for a second term. He maintained that come 2019, they should vote President Buhari back into office.
Akpabio clearly stated that for the Akwa Ibom State government house in 2019, it is going to be occupied by APC. He said, “The People of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District have already endorsed Nsima Ekere for governorship. Other people have also pledged to support him. And you know that right from time, we had defended the cause of equity and fair play by using rotation. Don’t forget that Uyo Senatorial District had been there for eight years. Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District has also been there for eight years through my humble self, so it would be fare for Eket Senatorial District to also complete their eight years”.
Meanwhile, the MD, Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, Obong Umana O. Umana, said PDP is presently on live support. He noted that Akwa Ibom people were happy for President Buhari who has done well for them in the country and are eagerly waiting to vote him in 2019. “I have taken not of the fact that, Akwa Ibom people are asking Obong Nsima Ekere to heed to the call for higher service by running for the governorship seat of Akwa Ibom State. What we have in Akwa Ibom is ground breaking. This ground breaking can become something else. We are waiting for 2019 to match to the hilltop mansion, he said.
In his welcome address, the event planning committee chairman, Chief Benedict Ukpong had thanked God for an opportunity given to him to plan the event. He stated that Eket Senatorial District, being the second largest senatorial district in the country are eagerly waiting to vote massively for Ekere and President Buhari in 2019. He welcomed everyone to the event.
Speaking on behalf of the decampees, the former deputy governor, Lady Valarie Ebe said the change that was being anticipated has been felt and changing into APC remains sacrosanct. “We have to do this because we don’t want to make a serious mistake. Udom deceived us, saying he would send our children to India for training. But they ended up being frustrated in Lagos. Things are better done in APC and there is doubt that the change has come”, she stated.
In his response, Obong Nsima Ekere said he was invited for a reception but that he has been ambushed by leaders and stakeholders of the party who have surprised him with the nomination form. He said he was only going to accept the call to contest elections on one condition, that he would be allowed to go for just one term. According to him, the past democratically elected governors of the state, in the persons of Obong Victor Attah and Senator Godswill Akpabio had had left behind landmark achievements. But unfortunately, the Eket Senatorial District turn for governorship has been demeaning owing to the abysmal performance of Governor Udom Emmanuel. He asked the people if they will accept that he runs for just a term of four years, and was greeted by a loud shout of YEEEEES, by the people.
With the emergence of Nsima Ekere into the full scene, the calculus has greatly changed. Permutations would greatly be different. Other quarters would greatly be shaken because, already, the whole game is conspicuous. All factors that gave the push to the emergence of Governor Udom Emmanuel in 2014 have shifted grounds. Different things have changed. Of course, the only permanent thing, as they say, is change. Akpabio is now rooted in the APC with a vow to delivering more than a million vote to President Buhari. Of course as a leading national figure in the state, no less is expected of him. Many people have jumped ship and PDP seems very wobbled.
Questions are: Why did Governor Udom Emmanuel ask to be allowed a space in the APC? Did it occur to him that APC was now the leading team? Was he just trying to identify with the party? Was he losing hope in the potency, vibrancy or the prospect of the PDP? Was that surreptitious move an implication that he no more had confidence in his party? Was he trying to indirectly negotiate with his predecessor and great political Aristotelian Teacher? Did he not have enough time to have come to the APC? The last time people heard about PDP in the state, was it not a ‘contentious’ religion? So why would a Bishop of a religious institution think of excommunicating himself? Why should he think of abandoning the very committed followers and faithful of that religion? Truth is, as Nsima Ekere finally steps into the Akwa Ibom governorship contest, it is crystal clear that some candidates from other parties may certainly step out of the race.
Joseph Atainyang is a journalist and public affairs commentator. Gsm: 07036964637