MARGINALIZATION BY GOV. UDOM EMMANUEL: OKOBO PEOPLE CONSIDER OPTIONS FOR 2019 -BY MAXWELL ANTIGHA

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Loyalists and supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Okobo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State have expressed their utter disappointment over what they jointly described as unacceptable injustice and gross intentional marginalization of Okobo by the administration of Gov. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel.

Rising with deep sighs and loud murmur from a specially arranged and well-attended meeting of some past and present political office holders, relevant youth and women leaders and key PDP officers, held recently in the residence of a prominent politician from Okobo, the group spoke with bitterness in their hearts and without reservations to how the Governor Udom-led administration has conspicuously neglected the local government, an administration they thought was going to right the accumulated wrongs they had suffered from previous governments in the State. The core PDP stalwarts therefore vowed to frustrate Governor Udom’s plans for 2019 if nothing was done immediately to prove they are still part and parcel of Akwa Ibom State.

It was possible to see the people’s feelings on their faces and in the tenor of their utterances during the meeting. It was also perhaps the first time in a long while that a meeting of such political intent and colouration would be held without any voice of dissention over issues raised.

Cataloguing their grievances and giving insight to the agenda of the meeting which many described as first of its kind considering the unprecedented prompt response and overwhelming number and caliber of those who were in attendance, the Secretary of the group who vehemently argued that mentioning his name to the press was not as important as the message he had to pass to the governor, said it was mainly to review and preview their place and chances in the Udom phenomenon. According to him, having compared notes, they bemoaned the disheartening failure of Gov. Udom Emmanuel to fulfill none of the tantalizing campaign promises he made to the people of Okobo in 2015.

“This meeting was arranged in stern defiance to persuasions and pleadings by some favoured and selfish beneficiaries of Gov. Udom Emmanuel’s government from Okobo that it should not be held. We called for this meeting to carefully analyze our pitiable situation and stake in Akwa Ibom State as another season of empty promises for 2019 presents itself. Having weighed the circumstances and drew up some permutations, we unanimously decided that it was high time Governor Udom Emmanuel stopped abusing our corporate intelligence by pooling wool over our eyes in his desperate ambitions for 2019. We are tired of all the sweetened lies, especially now that there are highly competitive options before us”, the convener disclosed.

Throwing more light on the reasons for their irresistible displeasure, it was gathered from the convener who is one of the major political stakeholders in the local government pointed to the lopsided manner that principal and secondary appointments into the State Executive Council has been made. He reasoned that even when other local governments within and beyond Oro Nation have enjoyed serial duplication of appointees or recycled replacements in the State Cabinet, Okobo has been treated as a leper that must be kept permanently at bay for the safety and development of others.

“It’s a matter of fact. How many indigenes of Okobo have been assigned any strategic office in the present administration? Mention one let me hear? Even when there were vacancies that our people were eminently qualified to have taken up if there was fairness, the Governor must have reasoned that it was better the office remained vacant forever than be occupied by an Okobo person; that was why he looked elsewhere when the time eventually arrived. What really is our crime? It is much clearer now that the naturally peaceful dispositions and diplomatic patience of Okobo people have been mistaken for timidity and gullibility by the preposterous interpretation of Gov. Udom Emmanuel, and he must correct it now or never”.

Making quick reference to the Atabong-Ube Road, Offi-Uruting Road and the Okobo Road dualization Phase 11, and the ever threatening erosion menace along Okopedi –Ekeya Road, the furious convener also frowned at the pitiable status of infrastructure in Okobo Local Government Area and maintained that none of Governor Emmanuel’s promises has come true. “Okobo people gave the governor the highest number of votes in Oro Nation in the 2015 elections. So why must he reward us with this unconscionable marginalization? We are sad. There is no room to pretend”, he fumed.

Moreover, another grieved member who is presently serving as member of a ridiculous Board that is meant for the abandoned, on behalf of elders of the party also squarely blamed the Chief Executive of the State for playing pranks and sitting defiantly on the quantum of letters and requests for an interface or audience with him, a situation he said must have added salt to injury because the governor has been attending to letters or granting audience to others from other local government areas.

Corroborating this position, another staunch member of PDP, who also pleaded that her name not be mentioned for the sake of safety and peace in times like this, observed that it was wrong for the governor to capitalize on the ostensible conclusion that because the Deputy Speaker is from Okobo, all that was to be done for Okobo subsists in her election as the Deputy Speaker. “Hasn’t it been obvious that the only person the governor appears to know and feels comfortable dealing with is the Deputy Speaker and Member Representing Okobo State Constituency, Princess Felicia Bassey, through whose eyes he builds hypotheses, presumptions and conclusions about the general affairs of Okobo people? This is a dangerous illusion that has completely beclouded the Governor’s sense of commitment in critical areas of concern for the larger Okobo polity, because he did not tell us that he will play selective and segregationist politics that favours only a cabal who indulges in pampering him because of mere peanuts”.

The PDP faithful by extension therefore blasted Hon. Felicia Bassey for merely playing the “errand girl role” and accused her of conspiracy in not telling the governor the truth but always covering him up at every forum. They contended that whereas the Deputy Speaker has demonstrated great loyalty and commitments to the Governor Udom Emmanuel and the cause of PDP in the State, the comparative dividends of democracy are yet to tickle down to Okobo people.

The general consensus therefore was that if the governor refuses to listen to the people as soon as the necessity on ground demanded, particularly in the areas of meaningful appointments and infrastructure, he should not bother coming for campaigns in Okobo as the people cannot be fooled a second time.

Baring whatever justifications by the government to all the issues raised, which of course are apparently verifiable, it is wished that the Governor would give this matter the prompt and pragmatic attention they deserved to prevent the impending implosion that can affect the soul and fortunes of PDP in Okobo Local Government Area in times like this.

Maxwell Antigha, an opinion leader and public commentator, writes from Okobo

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