Lack of internal democracy, wrangling undermining APC, PDP in Akwa Ibom
Since the nation returned to democracy in 1999, Akwa Ibom State has always kept allegiance with the People’s Democratic Party, with the party almost always winning elections for offices at all levels.
In fact, the 26 members of the state assembly, 10 House of Representatives members and three senators from the state are always produced by the PDP.
Again, it is noteworthy that, in choosing successors for every election between 1999 and 2019, there were usually no serious disagreements on choice, especially as the zoning arrangement within the three senatorial districts was always respected.
Obong Victor Attah took his turn in 1999-2003 from Uyo senatorial district; Senator Godswill Akpabio 2007-2015 from Ikot Ekpene senatorial district and the incumbent governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel 2015-2023 from Eket senatorial district, which would end in May 2023.
However, the situation has not been the same since the governor, on January 30th this year, announced his preferred successor, Pastor Umoh Eno, who was the state Commissioner for Lands and Water Resources at the time. The reason for this seeming uneasiness and political tension in the state, political observers noted is not farfetched.
According to them, even though the government respected the zoning arrangement and has the right to choose who succeeds him, the party and its stakeholders, they argued, should have looked inward to ensure that all the federal constituencies with the nine local councils making up Uyo senatorial districts were fairly treated.
“Uyo Senatorial district has nine local councils, with three federal constituencies of Uyo, Etinan and Itu\Ibiono. Of these federal constituencies, two have produced state governors. It is only Itu\Ibiono that have never had. The PDP stakeholders and leaders should have looked inward for balancing, and considered the federal constituency that has never produced a governor in the senatorial district.
To them, the inability of the PDP to reason along their line of argument must have led to the state not experiencing the calm atmosphere usually experienced during the transition to usher in a successor. The party is currently experiencing a series of court cases and defections by members.
The situation is not different in the major opposition party in the state, the All Progressive Congress (APC). Some members, who spoke with The Guardian on the subject, frowned at what they described as ‘usurpers’ and ‘imposition’ by those they described as ‘strangers’ to the party. The APC had always been seen as the only party that poses a serious threat to the PDP during election years, but the story may not be so in 2023 as one of the known pillars of the party in the state, the immediate past Caretaker Secretary of the party, Senator James Akpan Udoedehe has dumped the party for the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
Udoedehe is said to have left APC for NNPP to actualise his political ambition of ruling Akwa Ibom State as a governor, among other reasons.
According to political analysts in the state, “Parties should be serious with internal democracy and reward system. Loyalty to a cause should also be rewarded so as to encourage others to work hard with the mindset that their efforts would not be in vain.”
For the PDP, most political observers expressed the opinion that, if the party had done its homework well and allowed internal democracy in its decision-making for the party’s flag-bearer for Itu\Ibiono federal constituency, the wrangling and tension in the party would have been prevented, especially when the party had good contenders for the governorship in Akan Okon and Senator Bassey Albert Akpan, from Itu\Ibiono.
If PDP was well guided, it should have allowed a free and fair contest in Itu\Ibiono because they had sellable candidates. The tension, court cases and decamping would not have been witnessed in PDP. As it is now, Senator Akpan has resigned from the party and joined the Young Peoples Party (YPP) to actualise his governorship ambition, while Akan Okon has taken the party to court alleging that the governorship candidate of the party, Pastor Eno’s credentials appear questionable.
In the APC, the situation is worse as the last release from the national headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of the names of candidates from the political parties shows. APC has no governorship and other candidates because of what political commentators in the state and some party members are referred to as factions within the party. At the time of writing this report, the party’s governorship candidate, Mr Akan Udofia, had a case in court instituted against him by Senator Ita Enang, questioning the process that threw him up as the party’s flag-bearer during the party’s primaries.
Speaking on the development in the APC, a party stalwart, Ita Awak, noted that the party was in a state of frustration and hopelessness.
Awak said: “There is despair, frustration and hopelessness within the Akwa Ibom State chapter of the APC, as INEC published the names and particulars of 18 candidates for 2023 Governorship and State Assembly Elections in the state without the party having any candidate for the 2023 governorship election. With this development, the APC will not be on the ballot for the 2023 Governorship election.
“This is the outcome of the infighting and battle for the soul of the party which has seen the APC enmeshed in a protracted crisis and superiority battle between a faction loyal to former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and former Caretaker Secretary of the party, Senator Udoedehe. According to INEC, the non-publication of the name and particulars of any APC governorship candidate is the sequel to the inability of the party to conduct a valid Governorship Primary monitored by the Commission in line with the Electoral Act 2022.
“Though Mr Akan Udofia from the Akpabio camp was alleged to have emerged as the factional Governorship candidate of the party, INEC insisted the midnight primary which purportedly produced him was not monitored by the Commission as required by law, a flaw that invalidates his candidacy. The protracted crisis led to Senator Udoedehe, who was one of the party’s leading governorship candidates, defecting to the NNPP where he emerged as the party’s flagbearer.
“The development has not only dampened the morale of APC members in the state but has jeopardised the chances of the party in fielding candidates for the Senatorial, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly seats as almost all were in contention by the two factions up to when the deadline for submission of names elapsed.”
With the imbroglio within the two major political parties in Akwa Ibom ahead of the 2023 general elections, observers have noted that the absence of internal democracy was largely responsible.
In the PDP, for instance, the party faithful is resigning at the ward levels and pitching tent with YPP because they believe with Senator Bassey Albert Akpan as governor, their loyalty to the party would be acknowledged and rewarded. A similar scenario is apparent in APC. According to the faithful, with the exit of the man they termed as a leader, they must follow Udoedehe wherever he goes.
Followers of the two major parties are apprehensive that with subsisting court cases, PDP and APC may not have candidates to present as governors in the final analysis. This perhaps informs their decampment in droves to other parties such as YPP, Accord, Labour, and ADC, among others.
This must also have informed the belief among residents and indigenes that, should the status-quo remain before the final position of INEC, one of the ‘minor’ parties receiving aggrieved members, may unseat the PDP come 2023.
But the PDP image maker in the state, Mr Borono Bassey, do not see that happening. For him, the party has done a lot for the state to deserve a return to the office. He also noted that after the primary, the party set up a reconciliation committee so that aggrieved members could table their grievances, adding that the committee was still sitting to iron out issues ahead of the general elections.
“Frequently, you see the party putting machinery in motion to apply the principle of dialogue in resolving disputes. Recently, the state chairman of the party, Mr Aniekan Akpan, through the leader of the party, Governor Udom Emmanuel, put in place a reconciliation committee, to listen to all aggrieved members with a view to resolving the issues as a family.
Also, dispelling the belief that the APC was going into extinction in the state, the state Publicity Secretary, Mr Otoabasi E. Udo, said, “We are waiting in the wings to take over the Hilltop Mansion, come 2023.”