Gov. Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State
I do not have issues with Obong Bassey Albert returning to the Nigeria Senate for a second term, the issue here is that Governor Udom Emmanuel may not have been sincere with his earlier promise of allowing power shift to areas favoured by zoning in the much awaited 2019 elections.
Mr. Emmanuel had, at a security meeting held in March to address incessant acts of crime and criminality in Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo local government areas of the state, reiterated that he would follow zoning to the later during next year’s electioneering, just as he had said in previous other political gatherings.
But from his submission at the constituency briefing and empowerment programme organized by Senator Albert, the man popularly referred to as OBA by his admirers, the governor seems to have jettisoned his promise.
After Senate Minority Leader, Chief Godswill Akpabio and others who spoke at the occasion unanimously endorsed Albert to take a second shot at the upper chamber of the National Assembly in 2019, Mr. Emmanuel, inter alia, said:
“Today, everyone has spoken with one voice; who am I to say no. The Senate Minority Leader taught me that in the Red Chamber, after everyone has spoken; the person who would come last to speak only says two words: I concur. So today, I concur”.
Yes, Governor Udom Emmanuel concurred to the endorsements for OBA to go for a second term. But the governor can not, in any way imaginable, claim not to be aware of reports that Senator Albert will not be favoured by zoning to contest the 2019 Uyo Senate seat.
The Governor and the leadership of the PDP can not also claim to be unaware of the position of Stakeholders of the PDP in Uyo Federal Constituency who, after a meeting convened by the Ibesikpo/Asutan Political Leader, Prince Uwem Ita Etuk, in February, sent him a message of reminder that, going by extant zoning of the seat among the three federal constituencies in the senatorial district, it will be the turn of Uyo federal constituency to produce the senator in 2019.
Obong Albert, from Itu/Ibiono Ibom federal constituency, won Ita Enang, his fellow constituent, in 2015 to get to the Senate,and, by political calculation, he is currently taking the second term tenure Ita Enang could not secure. Senator Enang, who is now Presidential Adviser on Nationality Assembly Matters-Senate, started the Itu/Ibiono Ibom ticket in 2011. The governor knows this fact. He knows too that John Akpanudoedehe, from Uyo federal constituency, served a single term of four years between 1999 and 2003, and was succeeded by Effiong Bob, from Etinan Federal Constituency, who served two terms as Senator from 2003 to 2011. Unless our Governor wants to look the other way as he appears to be doing right now, he has been well briefed that if by 2019 Senator Albert completes his tenure, Etinan and Itu/Ibiono Ibom federal constituencies would have completed two terms each on that seat, except Uyo, the third federal constituency in the district that took just a term. So, he is consciously backing OBA’s ambition not minding whose ox is gored in Uyo Federal Constituency.
During a casual discussion last week, a fellow Itam resident while arguing that zoning is many times designed for the ordinary people had contended that it does not apply to the likes of OBA, who he described as a money bag Governor Udom Emmanuel and other party stalwarts would not want to miss given the envisaged picture of the 2019 elections. True as this assertion may look like, I am of the view that irreparable damage may and can be done to the polity if the Uyo senatorial quest is handled haphazardly. Therefore, it would be altogether better and in everyone’s interest if Governor Udom Emmanuel and the party leadership reach a negotiated settlement with the Uyo stakeholders who had earlier told him that they will not concede the Uyo senatorial seat to any federal constituency in 2019.
I like to end with what was contained in the statement issued by the Akwa Ibom PDP spokesman, Ini Ememobong, on 28th February, 2018. He had said: “Zoning is a cardinal principle which our party has previously relied on and will continue to rely on in future political engagements. For the avoidance of doubt, may we state emphatically that our party will adopt and rely on the extant zoning arrangement existing in the various areas and will not foist a zoning pattern on the people”.
The question must now be asked: has the governor been misled by those seeking to scuttle the long-standing zoning arrangement in the Uyo senatorial district?
* Bassey writes from Nung-Udoe Ibesikpo, Akwa Ibom State