A valentine present to Emmanuel
Last Saturday Awa Iman Village in Onna Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State was a happy recipient of a stupendous crowd that it has never received in its entire life. In terms of quantity and quality, the crowd was awesome.
Many people trekked for three or four kilometers to get to the grounds of the Qua Iboe Church where a funeral service was held for Elder Gabriel Emmanuel Nkanang, the father of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
Cars and buses moved at snail speed, bumper to bumper as they inched their way to the beautifully decorated arena, water fountain and all, where loads of people had gathered to pay their last respects to the departed legendary teacher and preacher.
As a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ, he travelled to far-flung places including the Middle Belt region and sowed the seeds of Christianity as the apostles in the Holy Book did.
As a teacher, he moulded the minds of many young people over the ages, as he taught for many years in many schools. He was an iconic teacher who earned the respect of his students who must have turned up in their numbers to pay their last respects to their mentor at the burial.
In those days when Elder Nkanang was a teacher, the rewards of a teacher were said to be warehoused in heaven for him. But from the huge turnout at his burial, it is obvious that he also received his rewards on earth. The earthly rewards may have been a direct compensation for his exertions or indirect compensation from the exertions of his six illustrious children. Either way, he earned abundantly the full flushes of success.
The people who amassed there in their numbers handed him in his absence the full reward of his life-changing service to humanity. Hordes of people came. Men, women and children in suits, agbada, aso-ebi, A-listers, movers and shakers in politics, economy and industry and lots of whistle-worthy women too. They added more colour to a ceremony that had been arranged to be colourful.
The Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo was there as the President’s representative and his own representative. So were two ex-presidents, Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, a collection of Governor’s past and present, the Senate President Dr. Ahmed Lawan and his predecessor Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Other heavy hitters such as Jim Ovia, henchman at Zenith Bank whom Mr. Udom Emmanuel described as his Economic father were also there. Ovia is the man who spread the welcome mat for him at the bank and nurtured him to a position of eminence as an Executive Director.
A whiff of excited pleasure must have hit Governor Emmanuel when Prof. Osinbajo and Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Chairman of the Governor’s Forum and Governor of Ekiti State spoke in glowing terms about the 90-year old patriarch of the Nkanang family. It confirmed what the church and others who knew the old man said about the illustriousness of his character, his sense of propriety and his humanitarian endearvours.
Udom Emmanuel and his siblings must have been blissfully happy that they are the offspring of a man so lavishly venerated by people of significance. Many people who attend such ceremonies have various benefits in mind beyond the opportunity to have a good meal and drinks, receive mementoes and the gift of making new friends and renewing old friendships.
In our political setting when many people are gathered politicking is never far below the surface of the main event. In fact, such gatherings as burials, weddings etc provide an alibi for clandestine politicking. Officeholders and aspiring officeholders tend to use such occasions for flesh-pumping and back-slapping, for testing the waters, for listening to the sound of the soil and for watching who feels cosy with whom.
In this particular case, there were lots of PDP big guns including the National Party Chairman, Mr. Uche Secondus, Mr. Peter Obi, former Vice Presidential candidate, Mr. Emmanuel Enoidem, National Legal Adviser and some other members of the PDP’s apparatchik. Did they have the opportunity to discuss 2023 before or after the funeral?
I have no confirmation but it would be strange if they didn’t. Anietie Ukpe, Director General of the Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation says that when Udom Emmanuel was appointed Secretary to the Government of Akwa Ibom State by Governor Godswill Akpabio, his father Elder Nkanang asked him whether he wanted to get into the “murky waters of politics”.
Mr. Emmanuel put his feet gingerly into the shark-infested pool of politics and has been swimming and fishing in this pond for the past five years that he has been Governor of the State. The sharks do snipe at his feet from time to time but have not been able to eat him up. Politics 2023 in Akwa Ibom has begun already now that the Supreme Court has confirmed Udom Emmanuel for the second and final stanza of his service as Governor.
The speculation has been in the air about the prospects of the various Akwa Ibomites who are said to be interested in receiving the baton from Emmanuel. So far the following names are bandied about as Governorship prospective candidates under the PDP platform: Mr. Udom Inoyo, Vice Chairman of ExxonMobil, Senator Bassey Albert, Mr. Onofiok Luke, former speaker of the State House of Assembly and member House of Representatives, Mr. Akan Okon, Commissioner for Economic Development and Deep Sea Port and Senator Effiong Bob.
From the APC camp, there is Senator Ita Enang who is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta as well as Senator Udoedehe, who is a regular seeker of that office. It is likely that this list is merely illustrative and not exhaustive.
Others may be waiting and working quietly and listening to the sound of the wind. It is axiomatic that Governor Udom Emmanuel’s voice will be resonant in this matter, No incumbent ever stays aloof from the process that can lead to the selection of his successor. Not in Nigeria. Some speculations are already floating as to who Emmanuel will choose but expectedly the Governor is keeping his card close to his chest. However, since the rotation train has worked smoothly so far it is expected that in 2023 it will be the turn of Uyo Senatorial District to vie for the governorship seat. No one expects candidates to emerge from Ikot Ekpene and Eket Senatorial Districts but no one can stop anyone who wants to run except the voting public. However, fairness demands that the rotation cycle should not be broken by anyone who is interested in the peace and stability of the State.
Even now some of the quiet campaigners have suggested that the Itu Federal Constituency should receive preferential treatment since it is the only one that has not yet produced a Governor within Uyo Senatorial District. They contend that the other two did produce Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (Military Governor), Obong Victor Attah and Obong Akpan Isemin. It is doubtful whether such miniaturization of the governorship slot will cut any ice with the decision-makers since it will tend to deprive the Senatorial District of the benefits of having a large pool to select from. It is also expected that the APC will fall in line in terms of the rotation since that will be the only fair way to deal with the matter seamlessly.
The party may be dispirited by its failure to nick the office since 1999 but it is expected that if it hopes to make a serious impact in the 2023 election the time to start rebuilding is now instead of continuing to cry over spilt milk. All parties that lose election are always in a quandary but if they think of the task ahead they can pick up the pieces of their lives and move on.
Now that Udom Emmanuel has buried his father in a grand style the expectation is that the Governor will now pay undivided attention to the affairs of the State in appreciation of the love that he admitted the people of Akwa Ibom have lavished on him during his father’s death. He told the gathering that he did not know that he was loved that much by his people. Now he knows.
That gathering was, in every sense, a love feast, that took place the day after Valentine’s Day. The Akwa Ibom people proved to be Emmanuel’s Valentine. They showed him, love, when he needed it most.