Vested interests in the Presidency appear to be very serious with a simmering plot to terminate the dominance of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Akwa Ibom State, one of the big oil and gas bearing states in the Niger Delta.
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari’s party, made a failed attempt in 2019 to wrestle power from PDP, Godswill Akpabio, who dominated the affairs of the state as governor from 2007 through 2015, as the arrow head of the power war.
Akpabio even gleefully boasted that he will conclude the elections in matters of minutes in favour of APC. He could not even regain his senatorial seat in the 2019 polls.
Now, APC is scaling-up its 2023 electoral war plan with an intense backstage horse-trading. A businessman with a deep pocket has been recruited from the PDP to lead the APC power war in Akwa Ibom. He is Akan Udofia.
APC sources in Uyo, the state capital, who tend to know better say Udofia’s defection to President Buhari’s party was influenced from Abuja.
This development has the trapping of what played out in the Second Republic in the old Cross River State. Then, the late Dr. Clement Isong was the governor of the state while the late Joseph Wayas was Senate President. They were all players of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
Isong’s re-election bid in 1983 did not go down well with some of the NPN political potentates just as Governor Udom Emmanuel’s preferred successor, Pastor Umo Eno, is unsettling some political forces and their followers in Akwa Ibom.
Just as Udofia’s defection is rallying the Abuja front, NPN in Calabar cracked along the lines of Home Front and Lagos Front. While Wayas led the Lagos Front, Isong was atop the Home Front. The build-up to the 1983 elections was war. NPN was fighting against itself. The Lagos Front had the Federal might, and as such, they defeated Isong and foisted the late Donald Etiebet as the governorship candidate of NPN whose administration was short-circuited by the December 31, 1983 Buhari military coup.
Incidentally, Governor Udom hails from ONNA – Oniong, Nung Ndem, and Awa – that Isong came from. Like the NPN Lagos Front did to Isong, a coalition of PDP and APC POWER GLADIATORS MASKING AS Abuja group, are seeking to truncate the Udom succession plan. Disturbingly, the Presidency appears to be giving a tacit approval to the ‘coup’ plot in Akwa Ibom.
APC insiders say the Presidency is the galvanizing force behind Udofia’s final decision to be a broom carrier. Akpabio who is busy fighting for the APC 2023 presidential ticket, is said to be solidly behind Udofia, who the national leadership of APC is expecting to give Udom Emmanuel’s PDP a good fight in the 2023 polls.
Udofia is the CEO and Managing Director of DESICON Engineering Ltd. He holds an MBA degree from the prestigious Harvard University. He is seen by most Akwa Ibom electorate as a visionary leader who values inclusiveness. With him, the speculation is that APC might take over Akwa Ibom State by winning next year’s gubernatorial election.
Governor Udom’s choice of his immediate past Lands and Water Resources Commissioner, Pastor Umo Eno, as his preferred successor has undoubtedly continued to ignite controversies within the state. Though the governor has repeatedly pointed out that his choice has not foreclosed the chances of other aspirants wishing to succeed him, he has been deploying the state resources, including human capital, to ensure the overwhelming success of Umo Eno.
Before now, the issue of micro-zoning has been on the front burner of the state. Itu Federal Constituency that comprises of Itu and Ibiono Ibom Local Government Areas, have been crying out that it is their turn to produce the next governor of the state. Their logic is that every other federal constituency in the state had taken a turn in the Government House, Uyo, except the Eastern Ibibio axis makes up Itu and Ibiono Ibom in Uyo Senatorial District and Ikono/Ini Local Government Areas of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.
When Udom Emmanuel, who hails from Eket Senatorial District, exits office in 2023, it would be the turn of Uyo Senatorial District to produce the next governor if the party keeps its zoning arrangement. The expectation was that the Itu Federal Constituency would be given the opportunity, having supported other Federal Constituencies in previous dispensations.
Senator Bassey Albert, James Iniama, Akan Okon and a US-based member of the 700 Club, Sampson Sydney, among others are all strong contenders from Uyo Senatorial District for the PDP ticket. Udofia is also from Uyo Senatorial District.
Unarguably, the two contending political parties – APC and PDP – are going to have a battle royale. While APC like the NPN Lagos Front is boasting of federal might, Udom’s PDP like the late Clement Isong group, is dominant in the state. Just like Isong was betrayed, the emerging fear is that given the direction the primaries in the PDP is going, Udofia is likely to receive the support of the aggrieved PDP power brokers.