Udom Emmanuel moves again
The threat by Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State to pull down the building housing the campaign office of President Muhammadu Buhari is the latest in his series of acts of animosity and intolerance against the Federal Government. If the governor carries out this plan, it would be the most ardent humiliation of the president by the PDP or any of its members since Buhari was sworn in three years ago. On Monday, April 23, thousands of Akwa Ibom people, mostly APC members and supporters, massed at an imposing building at the beginning of Wellington Bassey Way, Uyo to witness the inauguration of the state’s offices of National Committee of Buhari’s Support Groups (NCBSG).
At the other end of the road, about three kilometres away, sit the governor’s office and residence. In between are banks, insurance companies, a school and churches, commercial and residential buildings. It’s a major commercial alley in the city. Leading the excited crowd at the event were Federal Government officials like Senator Ita Enang, the SSA to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Umana Okon Umana, MD of Oil &Gas Free Zones Authority and many other APC chieftains from Akwa Ibom, neighbouring states and Abuja. I imagine that the governor, himself a man of little political carriage facing a daunting re election fight, might have been ill at ease by the huge crowd and personages at the event. The event went on well. The speakers extolled the good deeds of President Buhari and pledged to support his second term bid.
No sooner than the crowd dispersed had the government issued a quit notice to the NCBSG to vacate the building in seven days, failing which the property would be taken down. The government’s statement, signed by Mr. Enobong Uwah, Chairman of Uyo Capital City Development Authority (UCCDA), said that the use of the building for the president’s campaign office posses a security risk to the governor. The nature of the risk was not stated. For a moment, the imperious Quit Notice presented a huge comic relief to the people long used to the impetuosity of their governor. This same government agency was recently excoriated by a Judicial Commission of Inquiry for negligence and complicity in the collapse of a church building in Uyo in December 2016.
Over 200 people perished, and the governor, some of his commissioners and staffers, who were also in the church service that fateful Saturday, came within a whisker of being crushed. How such an incompetent and ineffectual agency could be talking of the security risk of a building that had been in existence for over 35 years is now the butt of jokes at beer parlours and even among Keke riders in the city! We should note that other buildings on this road had, at one time or the other, served as the campaign offices of many PDP governorship candidates and President Obasanjo. Never before had anyone of them been dubbed a security risk. Our people are perplexed that the governor has found President Buhari too unsuitable to locate his campaign office on this road. It is just as well that the irrepressible Senator Ita Enang has responded to the statement, vowing to resist the administration’s tyranny and belligerence with federal backing. It is equally comforting that other leaders like Mr. Nsima Ekere, the MD of NDDC, Atuekong Don Etiebet, former Petroleum Minister and Mr. Umana of OGFZA are reaching out to the governor to talk him out of a reckless collision with the Federal Government.
Although in public, Governor Udom Emmanuel cosies up to the presidency, he has a predilection for antagonizing the Buhari government and its agencies. He is the only governor to take a writ against the EFCC for daring to investigate his predecessor. His Commissioner for Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyangeyen chases NDDC contractors out of sites, claiming that the state government has enough resources to construct roads in the state. The governor has refused to receive the Board of the interventionist agency on a courtesy call and has publicly rebuked its managing director for not taking orders from him.
One of Udom Emmanuel’s media aides recently caused a national uproar by writing in the social media that President Buhari’s cows are better fed than Nigerians! Shortly after the Appeal Court in Abuja nullified the 2015 governorship election results for not being conducted according to INEC’s guidelines, Udom Emmanuel flew off the handle and called President Buhari ‘that old Fulani man who is after Akwa Ibom oil’. Despite all these, the Buhari administration has treated the governor with respect and fondness. The governor visits the Villa often, smiles and laughs with senior federal officials, including the Vice President, whom he claims is the only decent man in Abuja, and returns to Uyo to dish out insults and opprobrium to the president. The threat to drive the president’s campaign office out of its location is not only a cut to the quick, but an affront to the head of the Nigerian state. I am eager to see how the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who enjoys some friendship with the governor, and had once described him as ‘a clever fellow’ would respond to this act of provocation.
It is plausible, as many people have said that the governor is taking advantage of the president’s unparalleled accommodation of the opposition and tolerance of alternative views. President Buhari is the only Nigerian leader since 1999 under whom there hasn’t been a politically motivated murder of opposition politicians and closure of media houses. Under Obasanjo, Chief Bola Ige, the serving minister of Justice and Attorney General was cut down in his bedroom in Ibadan. Two PDP National Vice chairmen from the south-south region, Dr. Marshall Harry and Chief Aminasoari Dikibo, were brutally murdered in that era. Under the late President Umaru Yara’Adua and his successor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, many opposition politicians, most of them from Akwa Ibom State, were haunted and killed. President Yara’Adua ordered the closure of Channels TV for some days while Dr. Goodluck Jonathan sanctioned the confiscation of newspaper copies on Abuja streets. But President Buhari, a Fulani Muslim, has shown an uncanny friendliness and affection with PDP members across the country.
Two strong members of the PDP in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Emem Akpabio (brother to Senator Godswill Akpabio) and D.r (Mrs) Ekaette Ebong Okon, have recently been appointed into the boards of prominent federal parastatals. Our Minister of Budget and National Planning was a staunch PDP chieftain by the time he was appointed minister late 2015. The Federal Government has extended invitations to Governor Udom Emmanuel to join the president on a few foreign trips. Why then is the governor so brutal in dealing with the President? Would Udom Emmanuel have threatened to pull down that campaign office if Olusegun Obasanjo were the president? Or is the governor taking this president for granted because he is a gentle meek soul who does not hurt a fly?
• Etim lives in Uyo.
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