Despite ‘frosty’ relations, 2019 unites Emmanuel, Akpabio
From all indications, it is clear that the relationship between Governor Udom Emmanuel and his mentor and Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, is not as lustrous as it should be.
Political analysts in the state say both men are just maintaining the peace given the fact that they need each other to make 2019. So, what is happening now is a case of “you scratch my back I scratch yours.” Both men owe so much to each other that they cannot afford to wash their dirty linens in public.
But one thing is obvious, they cannot leave the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), now, and this is because Akpabio is a major factor for Emmanuel come 2019, given the push from the All Progressives Congress (APC), the main opposition party in the state.
The APC wants to unseat Emmanuel through the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Obong Nsima Ekere, who is itching to occupy the Hilltop Mansion at Wellington Bassey Way, while on the other hand Akpabio needs Emmanuel to survive the onslaught from Abak Federal Constituency that is anxious to produce a senator for the first time since the council was created. Abak Federal Constituency is featuring Chief Iniebehe Okori.
According to top aides of Akpabio, “Oga is not moving to the APC because the gang up against him at Abak Federal Constituency, comprising Abak, Etim Ekpo and Ika local government areas is too high.” Besides, it is believed that the constituency may get the sympathy of their brothers in Ukanafun and Oruk Anam Federal Constituency, which makes up the famous Abak five (Abak, Etim Ekpo, Ika, Ukanafun and Oruk-Anam) to unseat Akpabio.
Ukanafun/Oruk-Anam Federal Constituency produced the late Akaniyene Ukpana from Ukanafun, and in 2003, Senator Itak Bob Ekarika from Oruk-Anam, who was in the Senate till 2007, while Ikot Ekpene Federal Constituency comprising Ikot Ekpene, Obot Akara and Essien Udim produced Senator Ibok Essien from Ikot Ekpene, and the incumbent, Akpabio, from Essien Udim.
However, Obot Akara that was to produce the next senator in 2007 through Mr. Saviour Udo was “forced” to sacrifice its turn for the Ibibio speaking area of Ikono/Ini Federal Constituency for the sake of Akpabio’s governorship ambition. They insisted that Annang should give them the senatorial seat before they would support Akpabio. This was granted and Aloysius Etok from Ikono emerged.
With all the federal constituencies taking their turn in the Ikot Ekpene senatorial seat, the odds may be high against Akpabio if he attempts to dump the PDP or fight dirty with his godson because the APC and a few others are throwing their weight behind Okori, who is from Obong-Ntak Village in Etim Ekpo Local Council of Abak Federal Constituency.
Behind the scene and in the open, Udom is fighting to get the position and like a politician, he is tactical and does not want to step on toes. But some analysts say that, “Udom Emmanuel has done so well even though his political godfather on one or two occasions almost spilled the beans.”
Reliable sources in the state told The Guardian that the seeming frosty relationship between Emmanuel and Akpabio is as a result of alleged shady deals over some projects, including the Ikot Ekpene-Uyo Dual Carriageway, Le Meriden Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort, Ibom Specialist Hospital, Four Points by Sheraton, Ikot Ekpene, and a few others that needed to be corrected before any progress can be made. It is said that while some politicians want the projects to be handled as usual, the governor wants due diligence.
In order not to hold back the state, the governor has injected funds into the road projects, commenced work on Ibom Specialist Hospital and has also promised to make Four Points by Sheraton to commence business in a short while, yet, some people interpret his efforts as indirectly rubbishing Akpabio. This insinuation was taken too far when Akpabio last year openly accused Emmanuel of not doing much for Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.
Recently at the endorsement of Emmanuel and Akpabio by the people of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District for 2019, a former deputy governor of the state Obong Chris Ekpenyong, who is from Obot-Akara, lamented the absence of industries in the area as compared to other local councils.
But some observers in the state say Emmanuel has the right to consolidate on other areas Akpabio’s government did not touch or do much. They said: “After all, the Ikot Ekpene Road would have been abandoned if not for the funds Emmanuel injected into it and looks forward to commissioning it early next year. He did same to the hospital project and others, including Four Points by Sheraton, so that it can commence operation shortly.”
The state’s Commissioner for Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, told The Guardian that it was not true that the Emmanuel is neglecting Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, rather he has paid greater attention to road projects and others as a way of attracting investors. He revealed part of the government’s strategy was remodeling of major cities with network of roads.
All these notwithstanding, some in the state are alleging that the governor is biting the finger that fed him, adding that past projects like the Le Meriden and the Ibom Specialist Hospital were poorly managed.
“Akpabio did so much to lift Akwa Ibom State and if the structures he built are not well managed, they could go down the drain. Emmanuel is the technocrat consolidating on Akpabio’s great works, but some business people want things done their way. In the process they resort to blackmail, telling Akpabio this man is not loyal to you just because he wants the right thing done in the interest of the state.
“The problem with Emmanuel is that he does not throw money around and he is too strict a politician. For instance, if he awards a road contract, he does not give money. You go get a loan and start to a point, before he releases money. This is to ensure that there are no abandoned projects.
But at the same time, as a politician, money must be put in some areas to oil the system,” they said.
All said and done, Emmanuel is an in-law in Annang land, Akpabio’s ethnic group, and the Annang do not hurt their in-laws. More so, Eket and Uyo senatorial districts stood by them in the days of Akpabio and cannot afford to compromise that relationship. This the Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District people have openly agreed to, adding that self-seeking politicians were behind the cold war with the aim of destroying the relationship between Emmanuel and Akpabio and paving way for the APC in 2019.
In Akwa Ibom, the PDP is seen as a religion and many are wondering how it would be possible for any other party to easily “convert” the state. The fear expressed by the people is that should this wildly spread rumour be true, the fate of PDP would be hanging in the balance, especially as Akpabio is seen as the soul of the party in the state.
Speaking on this issue, a PDP stalwart in the state and the Director General of the campaign organisation that produced the incumbent governor, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga, said such thoughts only exist in the realms of rumour.
Citing the endorsement rallies in the three senatorial districts, he said Senator Akpabio has repeatedly endorsed Udom for 2019, so “where comes this rumour,” he queried.
Corroborating, a former member the House of Representatives from Eket Senatorial District, where the incumbent comes from, Chief Nduese Essien, acknowledged that the issue of rift between Akpabio and Emmanuel, if it ever existed, was laid to rest since December 2017.
“We even went as Eket Senatorial District to meet Akpabio and he has been speaking in support of Emmanuel on every occasion, telling everybody that Emmanuel is doing well,” he said.
He continued: “Even if such has been on Akpabio’s mind, with the latest developments in the country’s political landscape, it cannot be so again.”
Some stakeholders also insist that whatever differences the duo had has long been buried, noting that political jobbers were only resurrecting it for selfish reasons.
They said: “Akpabio at any given opportunity and forum does not hesitate to call for support for his successor’s second term bid. He said so at Asan Ibibio, where the Ibibio nation endorsed Governor Emmanuel for a second term that the people of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District have no room to oppose the governor for a second term. He also repeated this at a function organised by the Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio.”
Even members of APC that spoke with The Guardian, said they cannot be deceived by such insinuations that the duo were not on speaking terms, advising their members not to be carried away by such talks.
In October last year when the State House of Assembly celebrated its 25th anniversary, Akpabio declared that nothing would ever separate him from his successor. “What happens in Abuja that makes people to fight in their states will not happen between Udom and I. We will remain together and united,” he said.
In same vein, Udom said: “What makes governors and their leaders fight, Akpabio and I will not agree to it. We have a destination in Akwa Ibom and we will go together. That is why no matter what you write about us in the papers we will not be divided.”
Similarly, the State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Uwemedimo Nwoko said: “Akwa Ibom has no alternative platform. We will play one party. That decision has been taken and there is no wavering about it. No second thought about which party we are going to play. We are playing PDP, and as far as we are playing PDP, PDP will not even have a second aspirant besides Governor Udom Emmanuel.”