. Nsima Ekere, MD, NDDC
Sentiments apart, endorsements will always find expression and occupy enough space, in our ever bourgeoning political market square.
They serve no particular purpose but that of assuming a perceived association with the political brand by those who endorse the political product. At best, endorsements are commercials only for perception purposes. That is why under the cover of privacy, a GLO Ambassador can use an MTN line; a Guinness advert model can drink a Star beer and a Coca-Cola company worker can drink Pepsi cola. Same with political endorsements.
The Ibibio, unarguably the largest single tribal bloc in Akwa Ibom State, had met at Asan Ibibio, Monday, 10 July, 2017, through the instrumentality of the custodians of the Asan, the Akwa Esop Imaisong Ibibio and others, to wit: the Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio (with their majority above 40 years old mkparawas); the Ibibio Elders Forum, the Ibibio National Union, amongst others, to hold what they called a Grand Reception for their son, Governor Udom Emmanuel. The Grand Reception was a cover for an endorsement of Governor Udom for a second term, a mater which coloured the addresses of speakers at the event, including that of the Chairman of the planning committee, Otuekong, Air Commodore (Rtd), Idongesit Nkanga, from page to page.
Not a bad one for the Governor since a product – political or otherwise – must be advertised, endorsed and made to become a household brand. Getting the Ibibio to endorse him must have made him feel higher and above every other Ibibio political products at the moment. Afterall, he may not have had a hand in the conception of the honour.
A bad one, though, for those who came up with the concept, and for covertly making it an Ibibio affair. I almost called this piece, Ibibio, Beware the Ides of Endorsement – for this is all this piece is about.
The Ibibio is beyond membership of the voluntary (note: voluntary) organizations that arranged the honour. In actual fact, if other Ibibio -connected and Ibibio -based organizations, including church groups in entirely Ibibio settings in our State, were to gather – undiluted with the guests from other tribes and other invited guests – at another location for a different function, same day, the organizers of that event would have been shocked that they had less than 5 percent of Ibibio people, probably with most of them without valid voters card, on their side.
The endorsement was all about the Governorship elections in 2019 and as it gets to 2019, there are bound to be other Ibibio sons and daughters who will come out to contest the election. I use Nsima Ekere, Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC, as a metaphor and umbrella to cover such Ibibio sons and daughters. There is a strong speculation, even in state government quarters, that Ekere will contest the elections. He hasn’t publicly declared such intentions but you could say there is a high level of probability that he will at the appropriate time. Even if he doesn’t from the point of personal interest, he may eventually bow to the pressure of persons and groups, including some in the same Ibibio land, which are, daily, clamouring for him to join the race.
There is also under the umbrella, a Senator John James Akpan Udo-Edeghe, a no less Ibibio son, who has already declared intent to contest the elections. There is also another Ibibio son, Biship Sam Akpan, who has also signified intention to contest. Then when you join the organizers of that event to remind ourselves, like they did in their speeches, that the Ibibio in generic and covers the length and bread the of Akwa Ibom state, up to Oron, where a Barrister Asuquo Okpo, I am told, is also mobilizing to join the race, then you see how myopic and short sighted the organizers of that event could be.
How is Governor Udom more Ibibio than Ekere, Udoedeghe, Sam Akpan or even Okpo. These are just few Ibibio sons we think and know may contest the elections. As we get closer to 2018, more will come – openly or secretly- including daughters who will battle gender disparity which is always present in our leadership selection process.
On the run up to the 2015 Gubernatorial elections, there was a prominent Ibibio son, soft spoken, cerebral, intelligent, experienced, connected and with the trappings of all that would make a good Governor. His name was, and is still, Umana Okon Umana, now the hardworking and publicly acknowledged change agent at the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, OGEZA. People, including the self same Ibibio elders, youths, women that endorsed Governor Udom on Monday, literally fell over themselves to endorse him to become Governor in 2015. In short, if you did not endorse him, you were not patriotic and you did not love the government and people of the state at that time.
At that time, I was involved, convincingly, with another Ibibio son , the Ibeno ‘fathered’, Ikono ‘mothered’, Uyo ‘grandmothered’, Okpolupm Etteh, Right Honourable and then Leader of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.
Not long after a new reality set in, things changed. Orders changed. They all left their endorsed product to queue behind the new order which was the then Secretary to the State Government, Mr Udom Emmanuel. There was shock all over the place. A few courageous Ibibio could not stand netraying their vow to support the Umana they had earlier endorsed. So they started a new campaign throwing up Umana as the ultimate Ibibio candidate. The same Asan played host to Umana and other Ibibio aspirants including now Senator Bassey Albert Akpan, in a bid to forge an alliance against Udom Emmanuel. I raised the alarm. I did a seminal piece which I titled Is Udom Emmanuel Not an Ibibio, from which I draw a large inspiration for this piece. In that piece I argued that though I supported and wished Rt Hon Etteh should be Governor, every Ibibio son and daughter in the race for Governorship should be allowed the right to go after individual voters to sell their candidacy. The campaign to make other candidates less Ibibio did not abate leading to some Ibibio leaders querying the Ibibioness of those of us from outside of Uyo Senatorial District. I couldn’t help but write again: I Ask Again: Is Udom Not Also An Ibibio? In those two write ups, Udom was a metaphor for all other Ibibio aspirant, just the way Ekere is today.
As they always say, the rest is history. But history reminds us of the proverbial stone which, if we are careful, we may not stumble over the second time.
I am from Ntippe Ibibio. The name of my village is Mbiabong Ikot Udofia. My clan is Odoro Ikono. My Local Government Area is INI. My political ward is Ikono North Ward 6. I registered to vote at the Methodist Primary School there in my village. I still have my voter’s card. And yet, my Ibibio elders do not give a damn about me or my voter’s card. They have endorsed Governor Udom and I must follow suit.
My vote does not matter. Meanwhile, several appoinstees of Governor Udom registered to vote at Ojuelegba. Just wonder how their votes will help their endorsed candidate. I am not too bothered about what the endorsement will achieve for the Governor outside of the ballot box, for I know ,for a truth votes will count in the next elections. What bothers me is the manner of democracy we are building? A fledging one? Must it fledge forever. I am also bothered about what Governor Udom has really done for Ibibio people to make his endorsement such a pressing issue for our leaders.
Governor Udom Emmanuel, according to his endorsers, is a prophet like no other, the best that has happened to Akwa Ibom state in a recession. No argument, but how is that? For a state that has collected over N240 billion between June, 2015 and April, 2017 from the federation account compared to the N69 billion for Anambra, N68 billion for Abia, N185b for Lagos and N110b for Kano within the same period. This is outside internally generated revenue.
Well, according to the Ibibio endorsers, he is doing a second run way. Come to think of it, between a second run way and the Maintenance, Overhaul and Repair, MRO, facility, which should an expert economy manager put his money on. Come to think of it again, how many airplanes land on the first runway, to make the second runway that important to do in a recession period where scarce resources are competing for other use (just thinking). To the Ibibio, he is constructing roads in the state, including a super highway to Onna, from Etinan (even when the more important and economically viable Uyo-IkotEkpene and Ekom Iman-Etinan-Eket roads are at comatose construction level.)
Oh, charity start at home, so did the great Teacher show. But between the Ikot Ekpene – Abak road, done by the great Teacher , that connects the State’s commercial and trading capital, Ikot Ekpene to Abak, the nearest semi-urban repocitory of the drift from the capital city, and the largely rural, Etinan – Onna road, which one should a scarce resource manager par excellence commit the people’s money into, at a time like this. Just thinking a one lane road could have saved resources for other purposes.
Other achievements: A toothpick and pencil factory (in one private location. Haba.I thought lead, the mineral at the core of pencil production should not get close to the teeth. I also think you eat well, with meat accompanying your meal, before you pick a tooth. Also thinking you need a book to put a pencil on. Where are the books? Just thinking! Oh! The tomatoes (are they not used for sauces which must be used on rice, beans, plantain, yam. Where are these things? Well, eating raw tomatoes can make us healthy and make us avoid the syringe. So, why the syringe factory? Money spinner, I hear.Employment spinner, I hear, again. Not bad afterall but I also hear the factory – like others – have little state equity, that may disappear at the time of term. If you know what happened to the state equity in Universal Energy, you will understand my drift. People even say the pensions of some of those endorsers have not yet been paid by Governor Udom.I thank God for the strength they muttered to stay through the event.
Well, this piece is not about all of that. I will come to that another day. I am just wondering whether our Ibibio leaders have really scrutinized those achievements of the Governor for which they are proud to endorse for a second term.
For Nsima Ekere and those under the umbrella of potential aspirants from Ibibio nation, I advise that they be not troubled. Endorsements will never cease. They should keep at what they are doing – like the wonderful work Ekere is doing at the NDDC (bush tracks or not, people are passing through Nsasak Street, William Bassey Street, Udo Eduok street, Roads at the Abak Road Federal Housing Estate, Brown Street, etc., and they are happy for the interventions. Come to think of it, was NDDC to construct a super highway, say, at the Abak road Federal Housing Estates). For others with no opportunity of offices, to do whatever they are doing conscientiously and honourably.
When the time comes – and new reality once again sets in – no endorsement will stop other Ibibio sons and daughters from contesting the Governorship and keeping on the table, alternate platforms and plans for the electorate to independently, choose who to lead them in 2019. If that person will be Udom, so will it be – endorsement or no endorsement. If it will not be, so will it not be – endorsement or no endorsement.