By Israel Umoh
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is still basking in the euphoria of sweeping the electoral polls in Akwa Ibom State. Away from the celebrations, elections are over. Lobbying for various political offices is being intensified. Intrigues and power undercurrents assume a higher stake in an effort to consolidate onto power.
Governor Udom Emmanuel is busy with corporate governance as well as plotting a grab-and-reserve antics of political power. At the same time, his minions and other political gladiators are fine tuning intrigues and political brinkmanship to leverage grip on power in the present and in the next dispensation. A return to the drawing board to re-engineer and navigate the political boat takes the centre stage.
Emmanuel who was seen as a political rookie early in the first term of office because of godfatherism factor has commenced untangling the inherited political machinery to arrogate power to himself. Apart from mastering the political minefield he has learnt fast the gamesmanship to cage hijack of the pilot’s cockpit by co-pilots.
To show the level of graduation into political puberty, Emmanuel is not leaving anything to chance to show that he is the captain of the moving ship. Prior to his second term inauguration, he fired Dr. Uduak Udo Inyang, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Sufficiency. Same day, he suspended Dr. Valentine Attah, the Chairman of Akwa Ibom Local Government Service Commission.
Not done, he ‘nicodemusly’ sacked members of the State Executive Council. He publicly relieved all his aides of their appointments. Later, he turned his fang on Mrs Ekerebong Akpan, the Head of Civil Service and announced that she would leave before May 29 midnight.
A day after his second term inauguration, he re-appointed and swore in Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem as Secretary to the State Government. Also appointed was Ekerete Udoh, Senior Special Assistant and Chief Press Secretary to the Governor. Not long, the governor appointed and swore in Elder Effiong Essien from Ibesikpo Asutan local government area, as Head of Civil Service in the state.
However, analysts are fishy that the removal and appointments of some political office holders may have some political undertones. Some query “Though office of the Head of Civil Service is an important one, why was the appointment hurriedly done? After the exit of Mrs Akpan from the service, will government not be moving assuming another person was not appointed into that office? Since members of the state Exco were sent packing, is the ark of governance not moving? Since governor’s aides were fired, is government not working?”
Others speculate “The turn of events add up to conspiracy theory. The governor is in charge. He does not want anybody to dictate to him. He does not want anybody to pose obstacle to his decisions. So, he has to do everything to paddle the governance ship to its shore.”
In what appeared as a smokescreen build-up for the soul of the state in 2023, the governor and some political stakeholders were said to be battling to firm up their stronghold in the political firmament of the state. The battle began with clandestine moves to control the state House of Assembly. For instance, four members in the House who aspired for the plum seat wore hand bands of different sponsors. Aniekan Uko from Ibesikpo Asutan local government area commonly known as Iboroakam was alleged to have the backing of Uwem Ita Etuk, a one-time commissioner in the state as well as the support of Onofiok Luke, the immediate past speaker of the House.
Yet, an anonymous person observed that his aspiration was exercise in futility as soon as a head of service was appointed from the area. Again, he mentioned another drawback that stared the aspirant on the face. According to him, “It would not have unspeakable for the House to re-elect Uko as a speaker. One, Uko usurped the zoning in Ibesikpo Asutan local government area. He is from Ibesikpo clan and had done one term and it would have been the turn of Asutan clan to go. Yet, he tricked Asutan and Ibesikpo people that he wanted to return to the house of Assembly to reclaim the speakership position he lost after the Election Petitions Tribunal threw him out out of office.”
“As speaker then, he showed brazen bravado in chasing and assaulting motor cyclists at Nung Udoe junction anytime he visited there. His wife in full glare of the Speaker’s convoy then sauntered into a supermarket in Uyo municipality and harassed customers. It was a height of impunity and rascality,” the source recounted.
On the speakership aspiration of Rt. Hon. Mark Esset a second-term member representing Nsit Atai state constituency, one source stated “Esset belongs to the political bloc of Rt. Hon. Nse Essien representing Onna state constituency, though he did not receive a strong support for the coveted seat.” For the first-time Anietie Eka representing Uyo state constituency, another speakership aspirant, the source said “He is a political lackey of Senator Bassey Albert Akpan also known as OBA. Finally, Aniekan Bassey representing Uruan state constituency was like under dog in the race for speakership. A strong and faithful member in the camp of the second-term Essien otherwise known as Indomi, he played a yeoman’s job to clinch the seat.
The election of key positions particularly the speaker in the seventh Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly clearly showed the political brinkmanship Governor Emmanuel employed to avoid hijack of the legislative house, the second arm of government, by perceived political rivals. Udom is said to have muscled the various political camps and manacled their interests so that they may not lord over his administration in the scheme of things.
Emmanuel may be a good student of The Post Modern Fillipino Prince: The Moral Hazard of of Political Indecision written by Danny Castillous Sillades. A portion of the book states “There’s no middle ground for moral choice and political decision because by being on a safe side any decisive act poses a freedom and integrity of a democratic society.”
As a way to contain the seeming political subterfuge and betrayal, the governor did not sit on the fence concerning political decisions. He is said to have hurriedly appointed Head of Civil Service from Ibesikpo Asutan to put pressure from some political allies in the area at bay. By so doing, he foreclosed the emergence of another person from the area in occupying any strategic position in the legislative arm of government.
A close source to both camps said “OBA camp was allegedly engaged in a dog-fight with Uwem Ita Etuk’s camp to forestall the election of Uko as a speaker. This was because Uwem Etuk bluntly told OBA that he would not support his governorship ambition in 2023. This irked OBA’s camp.”
Yet, the Governor devised a ploy by ‘anointing’ a speaker who will be loyal to him. As Bassey jumped into the fray, Indomi, a kinsman and political arrow head of Governor Emmanuel spearheaded his aspiration and midwifed the emergence of Bassey as a speaker. Prior to the inauguration of the House, other members of the house got wind that Uruan Inyang Atakpo son was the ‘anointed’ person for the seat, thus crumbling other camps. So, the gathering on Monday, June 10, was mere formality as the spade work had been done.
Few Hours after the election of the Speaker and other principal officers of the House, the governor jetted to Abuja for official assignment. Emmanuel does not care whose ox is gored, but he is poised at doing his bidding to prove that he is not a weakling. He may have stepped on toes, but he is happy that his well-laid plans and agenda are on course.