New Telegraph

Re: What does Gov. Udom Emmanuel want? A rabble rouser’s view of A’Ibom governorship succession

In Akwa Ibom State every politically exposed person is an expert when it comes to choosing a befitting successor for the governor. He or she could go to great length to explain why this and that should happen, using every rethoric at his or her disposal to drive home a point. Some who can’t openly state their opinion pay rabble rousers to do this task.

One such hatchet job is an article I read recently on an online national daily titled ‘What does Gov. Udom Emmanuel want?’, written by a fledgling reporter in the state. The beautifully crafted piece went on and on about succession citing few examples and hastily generalizing these as universal templates. He failed however to concede that succession is not rigidly confined to certain principles but subject to the whims of the leader. In Akwa Ibom state, for instance, we have seen that leadership is a function of style not dogma. Each leader determines what his priorities are.

I was particularly amused by the argument that Obong Attah failed to produce a successor, but his succession plan embedded in his cabinet threw up Barrister Godswill Akpabio. The writer went on to suggest that Udom has not groomed a successor from his own cabinet. This is simply preposterous and an amateurish attempt to goad the governor into divulging his mind. It would be implausible that after working with the same team for six years, a leader of Udom’s stature could be scratching his head to identify who his likely successor will be. He has his style of leadership and has made it succinctly clear that he will not impose any successor on Akwa Ibom people rather he will allow God reveal this person to the people as well as himself.

Governor Emmanuel has not left his succession plan to chance as suggested by the write-up, On the contrary, he has at several fora acknowledged the importance of finding the right successor, and repeatedly expresses his faith that God Almighty who rules in the affairs of men will take the lead in this matter. This is simple enough to understand and renders unnecessary the misconception that the incumbent is not doing enoigh in that direction. The claim that Obong Attah failed to install a successor because his son-in law, Dr. Udoma Bob Ekarika was no match for Godswill Akpabio’s “enormous political assets – appeal, charisma and goodwill” is at most laughable. There is no comparison between Attah who had less than two weeks to ‘install’ Ekarika as a successor before the 2007 Peoples Demicratic Party (PDP) governorship primary and Udom who has no post-governorship political ambition to distract him.

For the record, Akpabio stood no chance against the incumbent in the 2007 electioneering. The odds were stacked against him on all sides. He was an appointee at the mercy of his principal; he was from the minority; he was without money. His only saving grace was that Obong Victor Attah was too engrossed in his presidential ambition to invest in pushing through his wish for his son-in-law. Akpabio’s so-called ‘charisma’ and ‘goodwil’ were certainly not worth being referred to as ‘political assets’.

Let me digress a bit to expatiate on these so called political assets. Former governor Godswill Akpabio’s phantom charisma could not have served him if his cause as not championed by the majority ethnic group – Ibibios whom he sought to annihilate politically by making them ‘an ineffective majority’. Ibibios made it happen and sustained his government. If he was so charismatic how come in 2011, when he sought a second term, there was so much intimidation, clamp down on perceived political opponents including media, bloodshed and politically motivated killings? Why did governorship aspirants from PDP lose their lives in suspicious circumstances? Some like Mr. Ini Udonwa lost his mother and so on. Why was Mr. Frank Okon wrongfully disqualified from the PDP governorship primary and why was his only strong opponent in that contest, Sen. John James Udoedeghe, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, governorship candidate wrongfully incarcerated on trumped up charges of treason and terriorism?

Undoubtedly, Akpabio failed in the only election he contested without the support of Ibibios in 2019, when he attempted to go for second term as a sitting senator, contesting on the platform of a ruling national party. In an election among his brothers, he failed against a onetime deputy governor who had retired from active politics. So much for Akpabio’s political assets – charisma and appeal!

Going back to the article, the author obviously has peripheral understanding of what actually transpired during the Akpabio’s succession saga. His ignorance could not be more glaring than when he attempted to canonize Senator Godswill Akpabio for investing his ‘political capital’ to produce Governor Udom Emmanuel in 2015. Understandably, he is unaware of the dilemma Akpabio found himself after realizing that he was without a succession plan or a successor few months to handing over.

It is well known that Akpabio’s succession plan was bedeviled by insincerity, lack of purpose and mischief. The former governor apparently used the promise of handing over to one of his lieutenants as a strategy to secure loyalty. He ended up having so many would-be-successors such that infighting among them nearly tore the State to pieces. Some of his governors-in-waiting included Bishop Samuel Akpan, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, Mr. Nsima Ekere, Senator Helen Essuene, Barrister Ekpeyong Ntekim, Dr. Peter Esuh, Ambassador Asam Asam, Barrister Effiong Abia, Mr. Michael Sebastine and others.

Thankfully, Udom Emmanuel agreed to become the peace offering. His governorship is a product of delicate balancing and horse trading that took place between the three major ethnic groups making up the state especially between the majority Ibibios, who were unhappy for staying out of power for too long and the Oros, whom Akpabio sort to pacify after long years of marginalization. As a matter of fact, Governor Udom Emmanuel became the panacea that calmed a raging ethno-political storm which threatened the peaceful coexistence and unity of Akwa Ibom State in the build up to the 2015 electioneering. It is either the writer is ignorant of this fact or was too smug to cross-check facts.

Akpabio never saw Udom as his successor. In 2013, soon after disgracing his man friend – Mr. Umana Okon Umana – out of office he faced a major political revolt by the Ibibios who kept him in power. As a result, he jettisoned his plan to hand over power to Oro people even after he had settled on Barrister Effiong Abia and picked Udom Emmanuel to bail himself out of the quagmire he found himself. Yet, from open confessions of his core loyalists, Akpabio did not support Udom 100%. There are claims that he even gave oaths to people to ‘support anyone that he (Akpabio) supported for governorship’ whereas if he wanted Udom, he would have asked them to pledge ‘to support Udom for governorship’! Meanwhile, it is a open secret that Akpabio ambushed Udom a day to the 2015 PDP primary, demanding that he foot the bill for the exercise.

I can continue indefinitely on the intrigues involved in succession politics in Akwa Ibom State which were obviously lost on the rabble rouser’s writeup . In fact, governorship is always a subject for heated debate that does not abate even after a governor has emerged. As a Bible believing Christian, I am convinced that God predestinated Victor Attah, Godswill Akpabio and Udom Emmanuel to lead the State at the appointed time, not withstanding how they emerged. Like all right thinking citizens, I am certain that in 2023, Governor Udom Emmanuel will hand over to his successor divinely choosen and overwhelmingly elected by Akwa Ibom people against a lame claim that the governor is leaving issues of leadership succession to chance. It is only a fool that says in his heart that there is no God. And, if I may answer the question ‘what Gov. Udom Emmanuel wants?’, I believe he wants peace, security, God’s protection and direction as well as ensuring that the collective will of Akwa Ibom people is done.

By Ernest Idiong Esq.

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