Ekere and Akwa Ibom governorship race By Effiong Usoro

When he joined the governorship race in Akwa Ibom state on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2006, Nsima Ekere brought freshness, excitement, instant connection with the youths and ideas on how to build a people-centred government that were lacking in the politics of the state.He was the youngest aspirant and his background as a successful business man with strong social investments was direct challenge to the politics-as-usual of his home state.
Indeed, in a state where government is the only business, Ekere’s pledge to raise world-class entrepreneurs resonated positively everywhere but it also ruffled the feathers of vested interests and political rent-takers.
When he lost that primary and was later picked as running mate to the eventual winner, Obong Godswill Akpabio, the system revolted, forcing him to withdraw his candidacy.
He returned in 2011, running as deputy to Akpabio.
But his tenure as the state deputy governor was shortlived as he resigned on October 31, 2012.
His decision to contest the governorship in 2015 received a major boost being an indigene of the Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District whose turn it was to produce the governor.
Ekere’s plan, however, did not find accommodation in Akpabio’s calculations.
Whereas, Akpabio’s intendment was to pick his successor from Akwa Ibom South Senatorial zone, Udom Emmanuel, who was hurriedly drafted into politics as Secretary to the State Government (SSG), was his preferred choice.
Both men hail from neighbouring local government areas; while Ekere is from Ikot Abasi Local Government Area, Emmanuel, who is now he governor, is from Onna Local Government.
Ekere, along with other aspirants were shut out of the PDP primaries and eventually out of the party.
He was to pitch his tent with another influential politician in the state, Umanah Okon Umanah, in the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Both of them had worked assiduously together to transform the APC in Akwa Ibom.
He had actually supported Umanah in the 2015 governorship election in order to upstage PDP’s Udom Emmanuel.
Interestingly, about six years after his governorship odyssey, Ekere is once again engrossed with the same enterprise, this time around on the APC platform.
The state-wide calculations and permutations remain the same: Akwa Ibom South Senatorial zone is to produce the governor of the state for eight years since the other two zones, North-east and North-west, had already produced governors for two terms of eight years each from 1999 to 2015 with Architect Victor Attah and Godswill Akpabio,respectively.
Ordinarily, Emmanuel Udom should have been allowed to effortlessly retain his mandate for a second term that will terminate in 2023 to pave way for the governorship position to rotate to the North-east.
However, his below-par performance, growing unemployment in the state ranked second highest in the country and rapidly decaying public infrastructure, have prompted widespread calls for change in a state where two terms had almost become standard for all governors.
It is Ekere’s audacity at disruptive politics that has understandably excited the Akwa Ibom polity ahead of the 2019 governorship election.
The concern has been the fate of the state-wide zoning arrangement if Ekere wins.
Will he serve for only one term and allow power to rotate to the North-east zone? At a recent meeting with leaders of the North-east zone, Ekere had assured he would not deny them their rights come 2023.
In fact, he has said repeatedly that what one cannot achieve in four years as governor, he cannot achieve in eight, which has been interpreted to mean that he can deliver on his vision in a one-term of four years.
Interestingly, Akpabio, who stood between him and the PDP governorship ticket ahead of the 2015 governorship election, is now in the APC after the structures of the party had been clinched by Ekere, Umanah, Senator John Akpan Udoedeghe, and others whom he met on ground.
In the circumstance, former governor Akpabio, now a senator, is likely to have been saddled with a fait accompli in Ekere, who has been able to build pervasive political structures in the nooks and crannies of the state.
As current managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Ekere has done very well for Akwa Ibom state and the entire region in just 20-month of taking charge.
Political analysts say that presiding over the commission with an annual budget of over N400 billion gives him greater personal advantage than the murky waters of politics.
But a close associate said Ekere’s politics has never been about himself but the burden of responsibility for transformational leadership that benefits the greater number of people and communities across his state, which is what he has demonstrated so far at NDDC.
Indeed, the APC is aware that it has an uphill task to dislodge the PDP and Governor Emmanuel in the state.
That awareness is panning out well in favour of Ekere, who enjoys the overwhelming support of APC stakeholders in the state.
It is possible that he may emerge as a consensus candidate in the interest of a united APC that is expected to go into the general election as a common front in the overall bid to bolster the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Usoro writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom state




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