By: Alkali Dan-Tsoho
Despite the ravaging COVID-19, the political space is still agog by alignments, re-alignments and other strategies by political principalities and powers. In Akwa Ibom, there seems to be a war of attrition in the arena. While 2023 seems far away to the politically uninitiated, key gladiators are moving pawns to gain whatever advantage is possible.
The evolution of the expanded post-COVID-19 economic team into a five-man steering committee to midwife the process of implementation speaks volumes of the socio-economic political direction of the government. This five-man committee is headed by Professor Akpan Ekpo, a seasoned economist while Udom Inoyo, the recently retired ExxonMobil Vice Chairman in Nigeria and Prof. Emmanuel Onwioduokit, are members of the team.
Inoyo, a gentleman started his career in Government administration as a staffer of the then Cross River State Liaison Office, Lagos before Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited hunted for him. His rumoured interest in seeking a higher political office makes his new position curious and interesting. While he comes with tremendous access to knowledge and experience in the Oil and Gas sector, the seemingly frosty relationship between the State Government and his last employers calls to question his ability to create a harmonious relationship that would be mutually beneficial to both parties and Akwa Ibom people at large.
In fact, the appointment of Chief of Staff to the Governor has further changed the dynamics of politics in the state. Ex-Governor Victor Attah ran his eight-year administration without the appointment of any. But his successor, Chief Godswill Akpabio test ran the idea to re-engineer his administration. At first, he appointed Obong Cornel Udoh, a one-time Sole Administrator and retired Director-General of Akwa Ibom Civil Service. For unexplainable reasons, he was relieved of the appointment. Owing to intensive pressure and agitations from his kinsmen in Essien Udim Local Government Area, Akpabio opted for Godwin Afangide, the son of Adaha Akwa Ibom, Obong Michael Afangide, as the Chief of Staff. Godwin who before now had served as the state Chairman of Local Government Service Commission was expected to bring his wealth of experience to bear on the smooth running of the administration. Not long, he was appointed as Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Enter Governor Udom Emmanuel administration. Until Thursday, June 18, the Governor had operated without a Chief of Staff. When the Governor made financial provision for the office in the 2020 Budget and sent to Akwa Ibom House of Assembly for approval, many critics and cynics threw spanner to work that the provision should have been made for an existent office, not otherwise. So, the appointment of the state Commissioner of Works, Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-eyen as an occupant of the office has nailed cynicism. A former employee of the Nigeria Custom Service, he like the Governor hails from Onna.
While the appointment looks like an elevation, cynics are quick to point out the purported war of attrition going on in Onna LGA. The people of Awa, where Governor hails have inundated him with several petitions against his friend, Akparawa Inyangeyen.
Some have posited that Inyang-eyen has the ambition to thwart the Governor’s ambition to be a member of the Federal Red Chamber (Senate) in 2023 as he also has eyes on the Red Chamber should he fail to be considered for Deputy Governor that will guarantee him immunity.
Just like it happened in Rivers State when the then Governor Rotimi Amaechi recommended his Chief of Staff, Nyesom Wike for appointment as Honourable Minister on the grounds that Wike was arranging political meetings with the intention to run for Senate.
However, the appointment of Inyang-eyen as Chief of Staff to Governor Emmanuel may be an attempt to curb the larger-than-life image of the immediate past Commissioner has cut for himself. True talk, the office of the Chief of Staff is as powerful as the Principal designs it. Now, he will be under the direct watch of his Principal. As we wait for what becomes of other members of the State EXCO in the coming weeks, it is rife to say that the times are ominous.