Akwa Ibom 2023: Aspirants Jostling to Succeed Gov Udom Emmanuel

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Having tested the murky waters of Akwa Ibom politics in 2019, Governor Udom Emmanuel is paying close attention to the process of choosing a worthy successor by examining the qualities of aspirants currently jostling to succeed him in 2023.

Earlier the governor had warned all those aspiring to govern the state not to depend only on their attempt to secure the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket for the next governorship election in the state. This was evident when he spoke during the 60th birthday celebration of Senator Akon Eyakenyi, representing Eket Senatorial District, at the Destiny International Mission, Uyo, in March 2020.

He had said, “No single person can determine the destiny of this land any longer because it is a collective decision and such decision must be allowed to be led by the Almighty God Himself.

“So in Akwa Ibom State today, I don’t have any power to anoint any man. But my prayer is ‘God, whoever you want to succeed me, reveal the person to me so that I don’t waste my time on the wrong person. Let God show me who to queue behind.”

In his fifth anniversary broadcast on May 29, 2020, Governor Emmanuel dropped a hint on the qualities of the person he expects to take over from him, stressing that he would not want to govern the state from behind the scene after his tenure.

“When the time comes, our God, to whom all power belongs, will guide and direct our footsteps. For peace to reign and for Christ to have control, I am not interested in a third term through a surrogate. The only thing we all can do is to ensure that no cultist is allowed to emerge governor of the state. Some local government areas are highly volatile. So we will not permit cultists to govern such places,” he said.

Taking a cue from the governor’s utterances, some senior clergymen on the platform of Fathers of Faith, led by the Prelate Emeritus of the Methodist Church Nigeria and former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr Sunday Mbang, dropped a bombshell concerning those harbouring even outsiders’ aspiration to take over the state in 2023.

“As far as I’m concerned, about 13 of them have come to me and my attitude is that they must go and address a national press conference and deny that they don’t belong in a cult. If they don’t, we will not have anything to do with them. Anybody who wants to be governor, because of what cultism has done to our children, if he doesn’t go to the press and tell the press that he is not a member, Christians will not vote for him,’’ Mbang said.

To show how important the transition is to him, Emmanuel devoted his speech mostly to the succession issue, saying, “Let me now ask you my dear people of Akwa Ibom. Do you want a successor who will cancel out all the great strides we have made in industrialisation, the peace we currently enjoy and return us to the years when violence and kidnapping reigned and sowed fear in the hearts and minds of the people?

“Do you want a successor who will come with anger towards all we have achieved, as opposed to continuing with the great works we have started? Do you want a leader whose approach to testing his popularity will be to drive in a long convoy to Ibom Plaza and throw money at the hapless people, watching them scramble for the money.

“Is that the kind of a successor you want? Is that the kind of empowerment our people deserve? Someone who will bring out the worst in our youths rather than challenge them to seize the future and unleash their potentials? Do you want a successor who will relegate God to the background and assume an all-knowing power? Or do you desire a successor with a known e-mail address that the International business community recognises?

“If you desire a leader who will not efficiently utilise the resources of this state on projects that have redeeming value, then I am sorry to disappoint you. God will not give us such a successor.”

The people of Akwa Ibom are left with the choice of deciding who among a myriad of governorship aspirants is qualified to take over from Governor Emmanuel. Among them are James Iniama, who hails from Itu Local Government Area; Senator Bassey Akpan, representing Uyo Senatorial District at the National Assembly; Ini Emembong, Commissioner for Information and Strategy. Others are Commissioner for Economy Development and Ibom Sea Port, Akpan Okon; All Progressives Congress National Secretary, Senator John Akpanudoedehe and Senator Ita Enang eyening the plump job.

Iniama was the pioneer president of the International Christian Chamber of Commerce, Uyo Sub-Chamber and later, the president of the Executive Chapter of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International, Uyo; as well as Minister in the Dominion Model Parish, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Uyo.

He maintained his membership of the Redeemed Christian Church of God after relocating to Abuja and serves in the Throne Room Parish, Transcorp Hilton as the Head of the Men’s Group.

In 2010, he was elected the Chapter President of the Eminent Chapter, Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International [Nigeria], Abuja, having previously served the Chapter for two years as secretary.

Iniama’s strength lies in his positive attitude to challenges of founding new organisations and business enterprises. He never accepts defeat. He is a good negotiator and is adept at conflict resolution, having represented governments, communities, corporate organisations and individuals in the negotiation and resolution of claims. He is completely reliant on God for direction in his dealings with the world. He is a humble team worker and trust worthy fellow.

As an estate surveyor and valuer, Iniama was a consultant to Akwa Ibom State Government, who helped to set up the Property Tax Administration System until 2007. Described by his contemporaries as a Christian businessman, he is a businessman with integrity.

In addition to his professional life as an estate surveyor and valuer, he founded and incorporated Drills and Wells Services Limited, an Oil/Gas industry service provider. Drills and Wells Services Limited retains commercial relationships with manufacturers of tools and equipment for the oil and gas industry and supplies tools, equipment and services to the sector end users.

Obong Bassey Akpan, an economist and former commissioner for finance in the state. He is a native of Ibiono Ibom, a local government area assumed to be politically pitied for not producing a governor for the state since independence.

Another aspirant from Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area is the current commissioner of information and strategy, Ini Emembong, whose desire to mouth the soapbox may be harmstrung by the spoils or protocol of office. The general consensus is that the young lawyer is very competent and has a very bright chance.

The Commissioner of Economic Development and Ibom Deep Sea Port, Akan Okon, is one of the members of the current State Executive Council intending to succeed Governor Emmanuel. Political pundits have said that if Emmanuel decides to personally get involved in the process of choosing a successor, he may queue behind Okon who is a fellow economist.

However, Okon’s local government of origin may not be the only criterion for emerging as Emmanuel’s successor, because the governorship in 2023 is said to have been zoned to Uyo Senatorial District, which includes Etinan Federal Constituency, another area that has been waiting in the wings and also claiming propriety of 2023 governorship.

From there comes, the current Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary, Hon Onofiok Luke, who is also a former Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. Luke’s aspiration to any elective office usually has trans-class penetration. So also is a former director at ExxonMobil, Udom Inoyo, who needs to step up his game; and Akan Udofia, strong contender who nobody can tell holds all the four aces or not. There are more seemingly qualified governorship aspirants in the PDP.

Presenting the position of the youths of Itu/Ibiono Federal Constituency in a statement, a youth leader from Itu, Otuekong Offiong Atakpa, expressed anger over an attempt by some people to truncate the existing zoning arrangement for the governorship position in the state in 2023.

Atakpa condemned in strong terms a situation where some people from Etinan and Uyo Federal Constituencies of Uyo Senatorial District moved against the aged long arrangement, which he claimed has been in existence for decades, even as other federal constituencies have benefited from it.

Going into history, Atakpa noted that two indigenes of Etinan Local Government Area had occupied the position of governor of the state in the person of Obong Akpan Isemin (between 1992 and 1993) and Military Administrator, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (1990 – 1992), respectively.

He argued that while Uyo Federal Constituency, which is the largest in terms of population, had equally produced a governor of the state between 1999 and 2007 in the person of Obong Victor Attah, Itu and Ibiono Ibom LGAs had never tasted the position since the inception of the present democracy.

He is of the opinion that for the sake of equity and fairness, the governorship position should go to the people of Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal constituency.

He said, “Nobody should make the mistake of imposing anyone on us from any other federal constituency. Whoever contests against us is heartless. We are not fools. We teamed up to support other people in the past. Now is the time for them to support us.

“We have able and prominent people in the federal constituency who can pilot the affairs of Akwa Ibom State successfully. All we ask is support for us to produce the best among our sons and daughters who are eyeing the position.”

The youths are calling on the People Democratic Party (PDP) and other stakeholders in Uyo Senatorial District to shop for a credible person from the constituency to take over from the Emmanuel administration. They warned that failure to take necessary action may lead to unnecessary crisis in the party during the forthcoming governorship election in the state.

Concerned about peace in the state, especially for the purpose of sustaining his industrialisation policy beyond 2023, Governor Emmanuel recently inaugurated the Maintain Peace Movement (MPM), as a vehicle towards the realisation of his succession plans.

The National Legal Adviser of the PDP, who is an indigene of the state, Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem, was appointed the Director-General of the MPM.

The movement has been inaugurated in the 31 Local Government Areas of the state, with political leaders of each LGA leading the steering committees in their respective areas.

During the recent inauguration in Itu, the DG of the movement hinted that there was a clear indication that the governorship position of the state in 2023 would go to Uyo Senatorial District, but the particular federal constituency was not known to anyone yet.

“What I am sure of is that the governor of the state, come 2023, will come from Uyo Senatorial District, but we don’t know the federal constituency. If you want Itu to produce the next governor, all you need do is to go and pray,” he said.

Corroborating, Iniama stated in a recent chat with TheWill correspondent, “What does the Bible say about peace? We should seek peace and pursue it. Seeking peace is a deliberate and determined effort. It is painstaking so you do it with commitment.

“We don’t only talk about peace, but also make it our lifestyle so as to make Akwa Ibom that safe haven everybody wants to come to; whether for tourism, industrial development, business or what have you. If we are thinking development, we must all rise and support the Maintain Peace Movement initiative of Governor Udom Emmanuel.

“I am not just a supporter; I am an apostle of the MPM because it is a necessary agenda. It should be preached, it should be thought, so that people would live together in peace,” Iniama said.

As detached from the issue of succession as Governor Emmanuel may claim to be, he has already prescribed the type of person(s) that can wear his shoes. He will not accept a cultist and anyone who is against his industrialisation agenda as his successor. Also, from the look of things, the political turf in Akwa Ibom has become tougher and more sophisticated than it was in 2019.

APC candidates cannot be totally ignored in Udom’s succession plan, with veteran politicians, such as Senator Akpanudoedehe and Senator Ita Enang being mentioned in the race, especially as they appear to have Abuja’s backing.

So those seeking to govern the state must have deep pockets and must have a clear cut agenda of how to make Akwa Ibom better and safer.

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