By John Ekperikpe, Ibom Concerned Patriot
Governor Udom Emmanuel has been waging a closet battle against his great teacher and predecessor, Senate Minority Leader Godswill Akpabio for a while now. But events shaping up around the upcoming local government elections suggest that for the governor the gloves are all off for the final demolition work on Akpabio.
Sources close to Udom’s inner circle told this reporter that the governor’s plan is to have an all exclusive local council leadership that is made in his image and likeness without any iota of doubt as to where their loyalty lies. The idea is to do away with a situation where some of the leaders at the grassroots would retain loyalty to Akpabio.
To help Udom achieve this grand design against Akpabio is the governor’s political structure called Transformation, which has the governor’s man Friday, Ephraim Inyang, commissioner for works, as the guy who calls the shots. As we write all roads lead to Udom’s country home in Awa for office seekers and influence peddlers at the grassroots—the way it used to be for Ukana Ikot Ntuen when Akpabio was governor.
The job of the Transformation structure is to vet and ensure that only Udom’s diehard loyalists get the nod to contest and be elected chairs of the 31 local councils in the state. They would then work as Udom’s field commanders for his reelection bid in 2019.
Things are not going the governor’s way without a fight, though. Leading the opposition to the governor’s total takeover strategy are Monday Eyo Okon, popularly called Murray; Idong Ituen Aniekan, Udo Kirian Mark, who are all members of the State House of Assembly, and Mike Enyong, a member of the House of Representatives, apparently representing the remnants of Akpabio’s troops in the battle field. They are the naysayers and are insisting on an open political space, arguing that such would ensure internal democracy as was widely preached at the reconciliation convention of the PDP in Abuja earlier in the month.. The naysayers have held meetings with Akpabio and Senator Albert Akpan (OBA), both of who appear to have encouraged the putative opposition group.
Things are only just about coming to a head, but Governor Udom Emmanuel’s gripe against his benefactor, Godswill Akpabio became publicly noticed the day the governor held his first thanksgiving service after he was sworn into office. On that day in an open church the governor brought out a bottle of water and sprinkled it as he declared himself the spiritual leader of Akwa Ibom State. Those familiar with spiritual issues say that Udom was performing an assignment with the water episode at the thanksgiving, and that the assignment was to neutralize whatever spiritual bondage he had ensnared himself in on his way to power. Ever since, to the discerning, Udom’s every action has been to minimize and humiliate Akpabio.
Governor Udom Emmanuel campaigned for power on the platform of continuity. Throughout the campaigns he constantly told Akwa Ibom people to elect him governor so that he would continue with the “good works Akpabio is doing.”
Most people, including yours truly, understood him to mean that if he were elected governor, he would continue with and complete the projects Akpabio could not complete because of time and/or money.
Such projects include the Tropicana Entertainment Centre, Ibom Airport MRO, international terminal building and the taxiway; the e-Library (which has actually become a white elephant), the Uyo-Ikot Ekpene-Aba Road, the 20th Anniversary Specialist Hospital, which was not ready though it was commissioned; the hotel in Ikot Ekpene; Etebi-Enwang Road, Enen Nsit Road, etc.
A fortune from the state treasury had been spent on these projects before the contractors stopped work on them. In keeping with his campaign rhetoric that his government would be a continuation of the Akpabio administration, the expectation was that Governor Udom Emmanuel would simply start from where former Governor Godswill Akpabio stopped with respect to the ongoing projects.
But more than 2½ years into the Udom Emmanuel administration, it has become obvious that there is not even a pretense at continuity by the current government with regard to uncompleted projects started by Akpabio in the state, which would now have to be treated as abandoned projects.
So why has Udom Emmanuel turned his back on the legacy of his great teacher? Many critics would be quick to rush to the easy conclusion that the governor is not up to the job; charitable commentators would blame paucity of funds.
Neither of these explanations would be correct. If the governor wants to get a job done, he would get it done. See the speed at which he built his personal palatial mansion in Awa, his village in Onna local council area, within a few months of assuming office as governor. The excuse of lack of funds is really a gratuitous insult to the intelligence of Akwa Ibom people.
The state has not suffered too much in terms of revenue receipt since Udom Emmanuel came into office.. The reason for this is not hard to grasp. Unlike other oil producing states whose derivation revenues have been cut from both ends of the value chain—production volume and sales revenue—Akwa Ibom has suffered basically only from a cut in sales revenue because our production volume has not been disrupted, mercifully, either by sabotage or natural causes.
We are still the top earner from federal allocation. Revenue from all sources that have hit the state treasury since Udom Emmanuel came into office amount to N500 billion. So money is not the problem, which explains why the governor wants to build a N9.1 billion official lodge in Lagos and is out and about in market places throwing cash around in a manner never seen in the history of political rascality in Nigeria.
This is really why Udom Emmanuel has turned his back on Akpabio. A decision was taken early on in the current administration to erase Akpabio’s influence in the state and shift the locus of power and influence from Ukana Ikot Ntuen in Essien Udom local government area to Awa in Onna local council area. Udom is from Awa in Onna while Akpabio is from Ukana Ikot Ntuen in Essien Udim. In the reasoning of Udom’s strategists, continuing with the uncompleted projects initiated by Akpabio would keep the man in the limelight and continue to give him credit for the development of the state. The best way to eclipse a political opponent is to cut off the oxygen of publicity from him and thus deny his political existence, Udom’s strategists seemed to have reasoned. But who loses in the end as these projects are abandoned? It is Akwa Ibom people. Udom’s efforts to humiliate his great teacher are at the expense of Akwa Ibom people.
This policy of “Let’s beat Akpabio to the ground” does not show up only in the abandonment of projects, but also in personnel deployment and exercise of power within the administration. A good illustration in this regard is what has happened to the office of the Secretary to the State Government. The current occupant of that office, once so powerful, Sir Etekamba Umoren, recently complained to a friend that the office now exists only in name, a mere formality, divested of all power. Sir Etekamba was reported to have said he does not even see key memos on policy issues.
The reason Sir Etekamba is not allowed to wield the power and influence traditionally associated with the office of the SSG is that he is an Akpabio man. A decision to neutralize him by taking all the power away from his office is seen by the Udom administration apparatchiks as less problematic compared with kicking him out of the government. Such frontal attack would rile the Lion of Ukana and possibly provoke a political backlash, hence the decision to keep the form and take away the substance.
Other efforts aimed at erasing Akpabio’s place in the state have been less strategic but no less humiliating. An example of the mundane type to take down the former governor was Udom’s instruction that Akpabio should not be allowed to use the state official aircraft. On the day the instruction was implemented, Akpabio had informed the pilot that he should get the plane ready for a trip by the former governor and his wife. On getting to the airport Akpabio discovered that there was no crew to operate the plane. He called the pilot, but the man asked Akpabio to call Udom for authorization. Akpabio tried several times to reach the governor but Udom’s lines were switched off for the day.
Akpabio got the message and travelled by road to Port Harcourt to board a commercial flight.
As Udom polishes his game plan against his great teacher, the final humiliation of the Senate Minority Leader in the hands of his hand-picked successor may be just days away.