Akwa Ibom Politics 2022: The Winners & Losers
By Etim Etim
As the year gradually winds down, I will like to look back at the political dramas of 2022 and the personalities that played major roles in them. Some of them who achieved their short-term goals, one way or the other, are referred to as winners, while others are losers.
1. Governor Udom Emmanuel: The governor set out to impose a candidate on his party, and he’s achieved just that, so far. But this could turn out to be a short-lived Pyrrhic victory. The choice of Umo Eno has received unprecedented opposition even within the PDP, and there are real fears that the party may be heading for a big disappointment during the elections. Many unforeseen events like OBA’s incarceration and the financial scandal that recently rocked the government, coupled with the INEC’s electoral reforms will significantly affect Eno’s chances in the 2023 race. Umo Eno will naturally suffer the unwelcome consequences of every affliction that comes the way of his godfather.
2. Senator Ita Solomon Enang: This diminutive lawyer has warmed himself into the hearts of some Akwa Ibom people for thwarting attempts to foist a non-APC member, Akan Udofia, on the party as its governorship candidate. By successfully challenging the imposition of Udofia through a shambolic process on APC at the Federal High Court, Enang became, almost overnight, a beloved political personality in the state. If he eventually becomes the party’s candidate, Enang would have succeeded in undoing or bleaching some of the political missteps he committed in the past.
3. Senator John James Udoedehe: For beating the snare that was set up for him in APC, and turning his new party, NNPP, into a major opposition platform in just six months, Udoedehe has proved, once again that he’s the proverbial cat with nine lives; a man of immense energy and unstoppable doggedness. Six months ago, nobody heard of NNPP in Akwa Ibom State, but today, the party stands a good chance of winning the governorship election. With a relatively low budget, Udoedehe set up a very lean, but effective and efficient team that went around the state, engaging with the real voters in a town hall setting. He designed a simple message and messaging, and talked to the people in a rather folksy manner. Four months later, with some luck on his side, he’s built a major political movement in the state.
1. Akan Udofia: Akan Udofia spent over a year trying to convince Gov. Udom Emmanuel to support him to get the PDP ticket. He failed. He then embraced Senator Godswill Akpabio, and was banking solely on the ‘Akpabio magic’ to obtain the ticket; and did not bother to consult any other party leader. He nearly succeded, but for Senator Ita Enang and Mr. Austin Utuk. In the process, Udofia has lost a lot of money, lost credibility and lost any chance of becoming a governor. For contesting in the PDP and APC primary elections (that took place a day apart), Udofia was disqualified by the Federal High Court from participating in the 2023 election. But he has appealed against the judgement. We shall see how far he will go…
2. Senator Bassey Albert Akpan (OBA): It seems that OBA is the greatest loser this season. He has lost his freedom, reputation and he stands no chance of being the governor. No doubt, his name will be on the ballot until the appeal process is concluded, but he still faces severe obstacles. Many PDP chieftains are saying in hushed tones that OBA should not have challenged the governor’s agenda; but rather, should have accepted the offer to go back to the Senate for the third term.
Implicit in this argument is the theory that the senator would not have been in jail today had he not wanted to be governor. This reinforces the widely held view that OBA’s fate is politically motivated. I feel for him. But OBA is undaunted. The decision of his party to go ahead and campaign vigorously despite his travails may appeal to his base and excite his supporters. But to what eventual effect? The PDP would be further divided and enfeebled as YPP goes stumping without OBA.
3. Akwa Ibom APC: Another big loser this season is the Akwa Ibom Chapter of APC, and the disaster was foretold long ago. At the party’s rally last April at Ibom Hall Grounds convened to welcome Senator Udoedehe back from his national assignment, Mr Umana Umana announced to the cheering of the crowd that, ‘’If we do not put our house in order, APC in Akwa Ibom may not have a governorship candidate’’. It is a scenario many had been pondering, but Umana was the first to voice it out publicly. He’s been proven right. The party has shrunk from being a major threat to the PDP to a small faction in just four years. In 2015, Umana led APC in a major confrontation against the PDP, and had election taken place, he would have been the governor today.
There were just no elections anywhere, particularly in the 9 LGAs of Akwa Ibom NE Senatorial District, which invariably has the largest voting population. A former PDP chieftain who served as a commissioner in 2015 has recently given me the details of the schemes that were designed to rig in Udom Emmanuel then. By 2019, APC has grown so big and popular that its victory that year was widely anticipated. But due to a series of poor decisions and bad behavior of some of its leaders in the last three years, Akwa Ibom APC has been diminishing in size and influence. The crises that have rocked the party in the last few years have also affected the political career of some of its chieftains like Senator Akpabio. Will APC rise again? The answer is in the wind.
4. Akwa Ibom PDP: Although they are putting up brave faces and boasting publicly of their invincibility as usual, PDP chieftains, including the governor, are as worried as hell about the dwindling fortunes of the party this season. The resentment that trailed Umo Eno’s installation, Akan Okon’s court case, OBA’s incarceration and other issues have further weakened the party. PDP was broken into two and considerably weakened when Senator Bassey Albert defected to YPP in June. But his imprisonment on December 1 has, surprisingly, not reversed PDP’s misfortunes.
Rather, the anger among OBA’s supporters and the fervency with which they are campaigning from LGA to LGA, spreading the story that OBA’s predicament is the handiwork of the governor who wants to impose Umo Eno by all means, have further polarized PDP members and imperiled the party. With the loss of its supporters to YPP and the introduction of technology to stem election rigging, PDP will be facing an uphill task in this election.
With the elections barely two months away, I am watching out for the emergence of more winners and losers.