Ibom Plaza is one of the oldest, most sophisticated and most patronised recreational centres in the heart of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital.
Constructed by ex-governor Victor Attah administration, the plaza boasts of a sitting arena modeled in line with the Gothic Greco-Roman arena with a giant elevated screen beamed through satellite for football and sports enthusiasts.
Even though some of its facilities are less functioning, the hitherto recreational pivot has recently turned a hub for many other unrelated activities. To some people, it has a market place for products and services; and to others, it is a hideout for perpetration of crimes. The leisure centre has also been famous for heated political arguments.
People from all walks of life daily converge to air their views on government’s policies and programmes. These people who are supporters of different political parties and politicians, debate on which party or politician is more corrupt or better.
When the much-anticipated results of December 2 Local Government elections in the state entered the front burner of discussion, the plaza turned to arena of town hall meeting. In the just-concluded election, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), swept the 31 Local Government Areas and the 326 wards of the state, according to results officially released by Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC). Some contestants won and others lost.
Apart from television, radio or the pages of newspaper, the plaza readily becomes another avenue for some non-fee-paying analysts and free readers of newspapers and magazines to air their views in no-holds-barred manner. In the ensuing discussions, some Uyo residents who visit the place get undiluted analyses of the election.
StraightNews reporter Monday visited the unofficial ‘people’s parliament’ to sample opinions of bystanders on the election. Many said that the outcome of the election was expected since the PDP is the predominant party in the state, while others accused the AKISIEC of conniving with the state government to rig the election in favour of the ruling party.
An anonymous commentator averred, “The main election is in 2019, not now. Take or leave it, I did not expect APC to get even a ward. Even if I were the governor, I would not give them half ward. That is how it is done everywhere in this country. If you go to Imo State, that is how Okorocha did. Even in Abia, Enugu, you name it; that is how it was done.”
Mr. Charles Inyang, who happened to be the loudest voice in the gathering, said that he fully participated in the voting process and adjudged the election to have been 80 per cent free and fair.
“I feel that in our society, there are people who should know better than others. This I how it has always been and it will not change today. The election has been won and lost; somebody must win and somebody must lose. Akwa Ibom State cannot be an exception.
“You see, there is no perfect election in the world. If at all there were irregularities, it is allowed because no one can play God. You cannot win election when you did not campaign. Mind you, Akwa Ibom has been a PDP state for a long time. In fact, most of the people here talking against the PDP are PDP supporters in their minds; they probably only had problems in the party and left,” he said.
Reacting to reports that there were no electoral materials at many polling units across the state, Inyang argued that the materials may have arrived late, adding that it was absurd for those who left the voting centres rather too early to have concluded that there were no elections.
A staunch APC supporter, who did not want his name on print, said that the most corrupt in the history of politics is the state. He said that even though he had voted, he was aware of several polling units in Uyo, where there were no election materials.
He, however, asked the PDP to be ready for retaliation in 2019 governorship elections in the state as that would be conducted by the Independent Electoral Commission which is controlled by the APC Federal Government.
“How can you tell me that the APC did not win in a ward like Nsima Ekere’s or even Ita Enang’s. This election was not free and fair at all as they claim. Tell them to get ready because we will show them what we are made of in 2019. If they want to toe this path, we are equal to the task,” he said.
Mr Etimbuk Udoh, who also spoke, said that the APC built its campaign structure on propaganda, which, according to him, was the reason they lost in the just concluded elections.
He noted, “PDP has a root and it is the only party that is known to everybody in Akwa Ibom State. APC has no root here; they should go to state where they are popular and leave Akwa Ibom State alone. When the local government election was conducted in Lagos state, APC took all the local government councils leaving none to PDP. It is wrong for them to expect that we will give them a chance over here.”
“The election was free and fair because I voted in my own unit. There is nothing you will do now that people will not criticize. The criticism of the election is just as expected. They are entitled to their opinions; that does not change anything. PDP with remain. The only party in this state whether they like it or not,” he submitted.
Some of the passersby opined that Nigerian politics has always been marred by irregularities and that it was a dream of utopia for any political party which does not have power on its side to expect to win any election.