By Prince Inwek Ubong
Events of the past few days have proven how right and prophetic the Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio was when he declared last December in that famous speech with stakeholders of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District that, “all is not well.” Of major concern to the stakeholders was the unwillingness of Governor Udom Emmanuel to open the Four-Point by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene which had been fully built and furnished by his predecessor, Akpabio. And also is the uncompleted portion of the Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road.
According to media reports, the National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic (PDP) purportedly led by the National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus were locked in a marathon meeting with the Senator in his Asokoro home in Abuja on Saturday, July 21, 2018 for several hours. The meeting was believed to be a last-minute effort by the opposition party to stop an imminent defection of the Senator to ruling All Progressives Party, APC.
Few days earlier, Senator Akpabio had hinted at a mega rally organised by the people of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District to endorse him and Governor Udom Emmanuel for second term that a political party is just a vehicle for winning election and that whichever party he decided to pitch his tent in the 2019 elections, he would emerge a winner to continue to deliver dividends of democracy to his people. This has been widely perceived as an imminent plan by Senator Akpabio to defect to another party.
But the biggest talking point of the endorsement was the political courage exhibited by the Chairman of the occasion and Chief Chris Ekpenyong, former Deputy Governor of the state. In a rare display of political valour devoid of the usual sycophancy of politicians, Ekpenyong looked Governor Emmanuel in the face and corroborated the view earlier expressed by Senator Akpabio that all is not well in the district. Ekpenyong said what is good for the goose is also good for the gander and implored the governor to replicate the good roads and industries he has built in his Onna community to other parts of the state.
Not surprisingly, these issues also took centre stage when the APC gathered at the same Ikot Ekpene Township Stadium for their own mega rally and endorsements. Being a smart politician, Nsima Ekere, the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), latched on these issues.
Ekere berated Governor Emmanuel for abandoning the people of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District by refusing to open the hotel and complete the road. To the delight and cheer of the crowd, he said having been part of the administration that conceptualised the projects, he would complete them if given an opportunity as the state governor.
These tantrums show the extent to which Udom Emmanuel has mismanaged the enormous goodwill he came into office with. Before he was made the Secretary to the Akwa Ibom State Government by the then Governor Akpabio, he was an unknown quantity in the politics of the state. He got registered as a member of the PDP after his appointment. But three years as Governor has seen him wage the most vicious war against his benefactor and despite public posturing, it is obvious all is not well between the duo.
It is perhaps in an attempt to diminish his predecessor that Mr. Emmanuel had allowed the Four-Point by Sheraton Hotel and the Uyo–Ikot Ekpene Road to linger on and have become campaign issues. Political analysts have asked what it would have cost the administration to open a hotel that had virtually been completed instead of leaving it to rot. It is a widely known fact that Akpabio’s predecessor, Obong Victor Attah never supported him to be Governor as he pitched his tent with his son-in-law, Dr. Udoma Ekarika. But in a demonstration of political sagacity, Akpabio as Governor built a dualised Aka-Nung Udoe Road complete with the most modern street lights to his predecessor’s home.
Not so for Mr Udom Emanuel as his unstated credo on being sworn into office seems to be to work hard to dismantle everything structure (physical and political) that the man he publicly proclaims as his mentor built. The first thing that crept into political lexicon of Akwa Ibom after May 29, 2015 was to distinguish those he termed “Akpabio Boys” and marked them for elimination. He blatantly refused to pay the end-of-tenure entitlements of his predecessor’s political appointees because they are “Akpabio Boys.” But someone has pointed out that if anyone fits that sobriquet, Mr Udom Emmanuel is the number one Akpabio Boy, being the greatest beneficiary of the succession of his former boss.
But Udom Emmnauel has proven to be a misfit. His superior performance mantra is nothing but an empty slogan as there is nothing in the mediocre performance that Akwa Ibom has been saddled with in the last three years to claim a superiority. Not only has he failed to build any legacy project, the ones he inherited from his predecessors like the Le Meridien Ibom Hotels and Golf Resort, Uyo and the magnificent Ibom Specialist Hospital, Uyo have been run aground and made to close shop.
As it stands, Akwa Ibom people have seen the true colour of Udom Emmanuel and his mediocrity and vindictiveness even to his benefactors. His second term re-election would have been the easiest in the country but at present it hangs in the balance. By 2019 when he would have served his term out, Emmanuel should seek a second term on the strength of his performance. He would not ride on the back of his Great Teacher, whom he has disowned.
In 2015, Akwa Ibom people voted for Mr Emmanuel because of Akpabio but three years on, there is nothing to show for billions of naira that have so far accrued to the state under him. Instead, Akwa Ibom people have been treated to a roller-coaster ride of mediocrity and scam projects of monumental proportions. Now the chickens are coming home to roost and it is obvious that if his god-father leaves him, Udom Emmanuel will become a one-term governor to confirm the jinx theory that Onna man rarely makes a second term in office.
And this is the message that was passed on to him during the rally that was meant to endorse him, that all is not well, not only in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District but Akwa Ibom as a whole. When the Senator with the benefit of foresight told him all was not well, what was the reaction of Mr Emmanuel: he hired political jobbers and gave them fifty thousand naira each to heckle the Senator and sign phantom communiqués against him. Now the people of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District are chuckling and saying let those elders who insulted our Senator, who do not even step out of their cozy homes or hotel rooms on election day, who cannot even win the units in front of their houses, prepare to deliver him during the forthcoming elections. Judgment is fast approaching and the people will have the last say.
Akpabio and Emmanuel are two ‘elephants’ fighting for the soul of their political fortress and undefined interests. The ding-dong battle may not be in the interest of the state or the people. It is battle royale for the duo to flex their political muscles in who wields more political power to snatch power from another. The man who wins or mops more support from the electorates of power-that-be to grab the governorship position in next year’s election will detect the tone of governance while the loser goes home with bruised face and bloodied nose. The eventual loser remains the populace in that their needs and demands cannot be bargained or negotiated by any of the two ‘elephants.’
Ubong writes from Oruk Anam