It is safe to say without fear or favour that if the 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 also be at the state level, looms menacingly in the air. The tender roots and succulent leaves of the seed of discord, if not nibbed 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 has already been identified from within, it becomes a matter of prompt intervention by those who have the authority to prevent the unforeseen.
It is 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 the 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 electorate 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.
However, from all indications , it is apparent that this strong political testimonial that has made for peace and political integration for as long as the local government has been in existence is seriously being endangered by the consummate desire of the Secretary to the Akwa Ibom State Government, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem. His ostensible antics and obvious attempt at manipulating existing rules and processes to gratify himself and his favoured few is a time bomb waiting to explode. Our foreboding in such misgiving is that it will not be fair to boomerang at a time peace is indispensable to safeguard 2019 for Gov, Udom Emmanuel.
For a fact, it is this avoidable but insidious mischief of Dr, Ekuwem, a bonafide and proud son of the soil whom we sincerely love and hold in high esteem, that necessitated this retrospective and concurrent narrative on how Mbo Local Government has been working or handling its political concerns over the years for the sake of peace, fairness and justice. History and Necessity are one of the boldest witnesses to this evaluative endeavour.
Prior to 1979, the gregarious geo-political entity referred to as Mbo today was governed through Development Areas. Part “A” of that arrangement comprised Ebughu Development Area and Udesi Development Area; whereas its “B” counterpart consists of Effiat / Ibaka Development Area and Uda/ Enwang Development Area. By this delineatory arrangement, the four Development Areas were automatically divided into two Constituencies – Ebughu-Udesi State Constituency and Effiat-Mbo State Constituency to cover Effiat/ Ibaka and Uda/ Enwang Development Areas. For fairness that was to remain a generational denominator, it happened that while late Chief Etim Mkpa Johnson represented Ebughu-Udesi State Constituency in the erstwhile Cross River State House of Assembly, the present Ahta Oro, His Royal Majesty , Hon. Edet Isemin 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 almost a case of jealousy to make reference to the commendable sharing formula existing between the two political blocs in Okobo Local Government Area: Okobo Mbawa/Atak Oro and Urueoffong/ Oruko in Urueoffong/ Oruko Local Government Area , 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 has 10 political wards. Ordinarily, as obtainable in other neighbouring local government areas, the 10 wards should have been evenly shared between the two old State Constituencies, with each taking 5.
But perhaps because lords and heavyweights have selfishly allocated and arrogated powers to themselves in Mbo, Effiat/Mbo took and is still administering 7 wards out of the 10, while the remaining 3 were given as a sort of consolation to Ebughu/Udesi. It is sad to recall that the resultant crisis that ensued over the cheat led to the death of one Udesi son. This writer is personally worried that the gullible and belligerent with weak faculty of ratiocination may wish to use the 2019 situation to stage a reprisal should matters not be corrected and seen to have been corrected in a way that satisfies the greater majority.
It is noteworthy to hint that, during the subsequent delineation of wards, there was a resolution that this lopsidedness be corrected to reflect in the two elective positions of House of Assembly and Chairman of the Local Government, but that still tend to be a political gimmick of enthroned personal advantage. Hence, as yours truly and others favourably disposed to justice and fairness respectfully plead with eggheads and stakeholders from Mbo should devise holistic measures aimed at prevailing on this situation that seems to be over – pampered by those who raise their voices, we should equally look forward to the possibility of maintaining the status quo, whether or not someone’s ambition has been circumvented.
One question that must be asked now is: Are they those who have benefitted from the extant workable and people -friendly formula? It would be recalled that when late Chief Etim Johnson from Ebughu/Udesi was the Council Chairman, Hon. Mfon Asuquo from Effiat/Mbo was Member representing the area in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. By this time too, late Chief Joe Atting was the State Chairman of PDP. That was why when one of his brothers. late Ita Ekpenyong attempted to dislodge the then existing zoning arrangement by insisting to contest for the House of Assembly, those at home and in the Diaspora talked him down.
Following the operating principle, the next Chairmanship position was zoned to Effiat Mbo. That saw Mr. Alex Nyong emerged from that bloc; whereas Nse Ekpenyong from Ebughu/Udesi secured a seat in the House of Assembly, and nobody no matter how influential or popular whom zoning did not favour contested against him. It made for peace. After Nse Ekpenyong, the pendulum once again swung to Effiat Mbo and popular choice saw Mrs Alice Ekpenyong succeed Mr. Nse Ekpenyong in the House of Assembly; whereas chairmanship returned to the other bloc that saw Mr. Victor Antai assumed that office without anybody bickering over it.
It turned out that when it was the zoning right for Ebughu-Udesi to have produced a candidate for the House of Assembly, Alice Ekpenyong was head bent on a second term which she eventually retained and Victor Antai, on the other hand, also automatically maintained his Chairmanship position to balance the equation. They both set the precedent for two terms representation in Mbo Local Government Area. Hon. Samuel Ufuo, from Ebughu-Udesi, succeeded Hon. Alice Ekpenyong in the AKHA, while the Chairmanship position of Mbo went to Hon. Asuquo Eyo from Effiat Mbo. That perfectly balanced the equation without any rancour.
In essence, it is a categorical statement of fact that the prevailing zoning arrangement in Mbo has been both a unifier and pacifier that has put the name of the local government permanently off the chronicle of political crisis-prone areas. It would therefore be unpatriotic, unwise and inhuman for anybody no matter how well placed to attempt to alter this formula under whatever sadistic or egocentric pretensions or justifications. This is where Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem becomes the man to watch.
It is necessary to emphasise that this political culture by today is as old as it has been practicable and acceptable by all true democrats from the local government. And because it has worked and is working and has served us well over the years, no sadistic tendency or sophistry targeting at blasting the very foundations of our coexistence, especially when and where there was no populist involvement, mutual deliberations and general consensus to such novelty. This would progressively induce to totalitarianism, a ludicrous, risible and unacceptable orchestration of the literal scenario of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
As 2019 approaches, it is strongly hoped that justice and fairplay will be allowed to dictate processes and procedures in Mbo political space, to avert any possible distraction and bad blood that directly or indirectly may ultimately prove detrimental to Mbo people and the Divine Mandate of His Excellency in 2019.
Esu Abia , a public Affairs Analyst writes from Enwang in MBO