By Akanimo Sampson
THE game is already on and power seekers are not leaving anything to chance. Drum beats of political war is palpable all over the landscape of Nigeria. It appears to be a bit tougher in Akwa Ibom State where the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari’s party is locked in a fiendish battle to throw the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that has been dominating the affairs of the state since 1999 out of power.
Except the unusual happens, the odds do not tend to favour the APC. Governor Udom Emmanuel is still likely to continue in office if the APC is determined to conduct a free and fair election in 2019. Though the circumstances that foisted Udom on Akwa Ibom were not quite wholesome, the governor tends to represent a new kind of politics in the state different from what was under his boss then.
Before the 2015 polls, the obviously imperialistic former Governor Godswill Akpabio had said that he did not anoint anyone as his successor ahead of the governorship elections in the state. Before what later became a political twist in the state, Umana Okon Umana the then Secretary to the State Government was coasting home as Akpabio’s successor. Akpabio aborted the Umana gubernatorial ambition by turning his back on his widely speculated 2015 governorship dream. At the time, Akpabio had started underground campaign for the Senate in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. He bulldozed his way through to Abuja, and presently occupies the office of the Senate Minority Leader.
With Umana ingloriously ‘nailed’ by the Akpabio seeming mafia politics, the focus of attention shifted to Udom whpo was relatively unknown in the state. To market the executive banker turned politician, Akpabio had to adopt an entirely novel approach. Against his initial political direction, the mercurial Akpabio at a meeting with stakeholders of the eight oil producing areas of the state in Eket, said he had no intention of going against the wishes of the people on the 2015 elections, claiming that he had no successor in mind.
He quickly commenced a town hall meeting with the people through the ten federal constituencies of the state, to be acquainted with the wishes of the state. The former governor called on the PDP to fashion out a programme in that direction and also assured Eket people that his administration will immediately commence a comprehensive modernisation of the area as soon as the dry season sets in, adding that he had to start the beautification programme in Uyo because of its significance as the reference point of the state.
However, the attempt by Umana to grab the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Managing Director slot, zoned to Akwa Ibom hit the brick wall. NDDC has become more of a political play ground than a development agency it was conceived to be. The incumbent managing director, Nsima Ekere is busy scheming to uproot Udom from the Government House, Uyo than perfecting a credible marshal plan to make poverty history in the environmentally despoiled oil and gas region.
In spite of his conservative career, Governor Udom appears to clearly understand politics can be used as a veritable vehicle of development. His Five-point Agenda (a major focus of our next profile analysis) is an eloquent testimony of his political economy. The economic foundation he is busy laying for Akwa Ibom may not be immediately appreciated by the greater majority, but that foundation holds the key to lifting the vast majority of Akwa Ibom people out of abject poverty. Regardless of any sentiment, Udom is so far the only governor in the genre of the late U. J. Esuene and the late Dr. Clement Isong who understands the potency of industrialisation in wealth creation and eradication of poverty.
Akpabio did his best in infrastructural development and urban beautification. But his administration failed to link these programmes with the revival of the industries the Isong administration established. These industries include the Dry cell batteries, the Peacock paints, Quality ceramics, the Steel mill among others that are still relevant in today’s economy. Refloating these firms as well as the Asbesto and the Ikot Abasi Boatyard will go a long way in re-writing the economic history of Akwa Ibom.
Akwa Ibom is strategically located, bounded by Cross River State on the east, by the Bight of Biafra of the Atlantic Ocean on the south, by Rivers State on the west, by Abia State on the west and north, and by Ebonyi State on the north. There are extensive saltwater mangrove swamps along the coast and tropical rain forests and oil palms farther inland.
The state’s population of 5.48 million consists mainly of the Annang-Ibibio peoples who raise yams, rice, cowpeas, corn (maize), and cassava for subsistence and oil palms and cocoa as cash crops. Poultry, pigs, sheep, goats, and rabbits are raised. Shrimping along the coast and deep-sea fishing are also economically important.
The state’s mineral resources include lignite deposits and offshore oil fields. The inland city of Uyo, the state capital is the site of a university, University of Uyo (first founded by the Isong administration in1983 as University of Cross River State). Other major communities include Oron, Ibeno near the coast. Oron is the site of a museum of ethnography, founded in 1959. The Oron–Ikot-Ekpene highway and the Cross River are major arteries of transportation.
For now, the road to 2019 in Akwa Ibom is not just politics for politics sake. What e political sovereigns are yearning for is politics of development. For them, all employable youths in the state have no business being unemployed. With the abundant resources in the state if properly harnessed, no Akwa Ibomite should be poor. Udom at the moment appears to be keeping faith with these signposts. Till a more pro-people political servant emerges with a more potent magic bullets to lift the peoples of the state out of poverty and avail them with wealth creation tools, it might be in the state’s best economic and social interest to let Governor Udom press on beyond 2019. ENDS