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A’Ibom 2023: Waiting for courts to intervene in disputed primaries

By Inemesit Akppan-Nsoh, Uyo
24 June 2022   |   3:22 am
Many people across party lines in Akwa Ibom were surprised and confused when Governor Emmanuel Udom selected Pastor Umo Eno as his preferred successor.

PDP Chairmanship of Sen. Dr. Iyorchia Ayu

Many people across party lines in Akwa Ibom were surprised and confused when Governor Emmanuel Udom selected Pastor Umo Eno as his preferred successor. Those that indicated interest before then were, a retired Executive Vice Chairman of ExxonMobil, Mr. Udom Inoyo; Senator Bassey Albert, Mr. Onofiok Luke, a member of the House of Representatives; Akan Okon, then commissioner for Economic Development and Ibom deep-sea port; Akan Udofia, a business mogul; James Iniama, immediate past Vice Chancellor of University of Uyo; Prof. Enefiok Essien, Ide Owodiong, Michael Onyong, House of representatives member; among others.

Despite the initial shock over the announcement of the governor’s preferred aspirants, that did not stop others from declaring their intention.

Another aspect of the selection process was the election of ad-hoc delegates. As the non-signing of the Electoral Act by the President also left the party confused since Statutory delegates were not eligible to vote in primaries. Based on this, the party set out to elect ad-hoc delegates.  This process was faulted by some within the party, who went to court in Abuja to challenge the process, arguing that most of them were disenfranchised, alleging that the party was working to fulfill the interest of the governor.

Some of the aspirants went to court to seek an injunction, asking the PDP and concerned aspirants to maintain status quo, pending the determination of their suit challenging the use of adhoc delegates for the primaries, since statutory delegates were not eligible.

All aspirants withdrew at all levels from participating in the primaries, leaving the exercise bereft of usual curiosity and anxiety. It was, therefore, a boycott galore by all the governorship aspirants, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan, Mr. Michael Onyong, Mr. Ide Owodiong, Prophet Anietie Etim, except Mr. Akan Okon, had from House of Assembly to House of Representatives, Senate and the governorship.

At the time of filing this report, the situation is still dicey as the court will have to determine the legality of the manner the party organised its ad-hoc primaries.

Another case that is still hanging on the neck of the PDP in the state is that filed by a group known as Concerned Statutory Delegates, claiming that the party denied them opportunity to exercise their franchise, as it attributed the non signing of the Electoral 2022 by Mr. President as the reason they had to go for ad-hoc delegates. However, this did not deter the ad-hoc delegates electing the governor’s preferred candidate Pastor Umo Eno.

Yet another case for the party to deal with is that of Mr. Michael Enyong, who conducted a parallel congress. The Guardian gathered he conducted a parallel congress at his private residence in Ewet Housing Estate Uyo, where he was declared the governorship candidate of the PDP.

It was learnt that the two-term lawmaker defeated other gubernatorial opponents to emerge winner with a total number of 2,448 votes, leaving many wondering where Onyong got his own delegates. It was gathered that, one Mr. I. D. Sunday was the returning officer, who announced. Michael Enyong was the winner with 2,448 votes.

The Guardian gathered from stakeholders that the development was strange in the party, arguing that such was a clear sign of disenchantment of party members.

“When we talk of reward for loyalty, this is lacking in the state because if the governor had consulted widely before fronting for his ‘anointed’, candidate, this confusion and intrigues wouldn’t have taken place. This is the first time we are experiencing this”.

“Our prayers now are that what happened in Rivers state and Zamfara in 2019 should not happen in Akwa Ibom State”.
WHAT happened in the PDP is not different from the situation in other political parties, especially the major opposition, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Due to what the immediate past Secretary of the APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe described as ‘hijacking’ of the party by strange elements. This led to his leaving the party for New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), as a governorship candidate.

According to Otuekong Agustine Effiong, a political commentator, the senator jumping ship has not come as a surprise, because most of those that left PDP to join APC were strange bedfellows, and they allegedly masterminded his exit.

“If you have been in this state, you will agree with me that Senator Udoedehe nurtured APC to the stage it is today. The new joiners of the party should have given him the opportunity of first time refusal. At least, as national officer of the party with such a major assignment he just completed, the party would have given him the honour to contest the governorship position in a free and fair manner.

Other key contestants in the APC primary where Mr. Akan Udofia emerged, like Prof. Chris Ekong, Senator Ita Enang, among others, initially protested against the conduct of the exercise.

However, Prof. Ekong, a former state commissioner for Youths and Sports and a former PDP stalwart, latter addressed the press to say that, he has accepted the result of the primary as declared by the party and called on others to do same.

According to him, the acceptance of the winner would foster reconciliation and healing, which would galvanize the party’s support for Udofia to win the governorship election in 2023.

At the time of this report, it is not clear how many of the aspirants have accepted Mr. Akan Udofia as APC governorship candidate for Akwa Ibom State or whether they are going to court to challenge same.

Speaking on the situation, a political analyst advised aggrieved members especially the PDP, to enter into dialogue with the leadership of the party and come up with acceptable solution so as to move the party forward.

Meanwhile, Apostle Nnyeneime Andy is the governorship candidate for (YPP), Akan Udofia for APC, Pastor Umo Eno for (PDP), Arch Nya Etok for African Democratic Congress (ADC), Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), while others maybe warming up to align before the INEC deadline.

The PDP-led government has set up a reconciliation committee appealing to all aggrieved members to sheath their sword.