By Emmanuel Ndon —
The historical journey of Itu Federal Constituency started before 1967, when the regional system of government was abandoned and Nigeria segmented into Provinces. Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria were sometime referred to as Northern and Southern Groups of Provinces. While the Northern Region had a total of thirteen (13) Provinces, Southern Region had twelve (12), with Lagos as a Colony.
Calabar Province was one of the Southern Provinces. Each Province was divided into Divisions for administrative convenience. Calabar Province was made up of eight (8) Divisions, namely, Calabar, Abak, Eket, Enyong-Aro, Enyong-Itu, Ikot Ekpene, Uyo and Opobo Divisions.
With the creation of states in 1967, the regional structure and the Provinces ceased to exist. What became South Eastern State was basically a combination of two former Provinces; Calabar and Ogoja Provinces, which consisted of thirteen Divisions. The creation of states brought about the conversion of some Divisions into Local Government Areas.
In the former Calabar Province, Itu, Uyo, Abak, Ikot Ekpene, Eket and Opobo Divisions became the parent Divisions that produced the ten (10) Local Government Areas that made up Akwa Ibom State as at the time the state was created on Septembere 23, 1987; Itu (Itu, Ibiono Ibom), Ikono (Ikono, Ini), Uyo (Uyo, Uruan, Nsit Atai, Ibesikpo Asutan), Etinan (Etinan, Nsit Ibom, Nsit Ubium), Eket (Eket, Esit Eket, Ibeno, Onna), Ikot Abasi (Ikot Abasi, Mkpat Enin, Eastern Obolo), Oron (Oron, Okobo, Urue Offong/Oruko, Mbo, Udung Uko), Abak (Abak, Etim Ekpo, Ika), Ukanafun (Ukanafun, Oruk Anam), Ikot Ekpene (Ikot Ekpene, Essien Udim, Obot Akara).
Today, these ten parent Local Government Areas (Itu, Ikono, Uyo, Etinan, Eket, Ikot Abasi, Oron, Abak, Ukanafun and Ikot Ekpene) are regarded as Federal Constituencies. Thus, what was pre-1967 Enyong-Itu Division, with the ceding of some parts to Odukpani and Akamkpa Local Government Areas of Cross River State, is presently two Federal Constituencies; Itu and Ikono Federal Constituencies. The present Itu Federal Constituency is made up of two Local Government Areas of Itu and Ibiono Ibom.
The synopsis of the political history of Itu Federal Constituency as contained herein is to set the records straight, else, unsuspecting members of the public are deceived into the folly of ambition.
Truth is, until 1996, when Ibiono Ibom was made a Local Government, there was no settled arrangement for zoning (sharing or rotation) of the Federal House of Representatives seat between Itu and Ibiono Ibom Local Government Areas. Essentially so, because Ibiono Ibom was not a Local Government, but a Clan in Itu Local Government Area. Secondly, it would have been foolhardy; infact, impossible to do so, when there were other Clans, including Itam, Oku-Iboku, Ayadeghe, Ikpanya, Mbiabo, Itu in the same Local Government Area.
It is instructive to note that, after the civil war, seven military regimes and three botched attempts at building real democracy were recorded in the country, which truncated our democratic process. So, it was in 1999, that the foundation of our present democratic dispensation was laid. Consequently, the zoning or rotation of the House of Representatives seat between Itu and Ibiono Ibom Local Government Areas, actually started in 1999.
Sadly, in an attempt to advance selfish political aspiration and third term agenda, some intending beneficiaries of the “third term Plot” in Itu Federal Constituency have created their own version of history and made themselves “emergency political historians” by attempting to falsely highlight the domination of Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area in the rotation of the House of Representatives seat in the Federal Constituency from 1959-1993, when Ibiono Ibom was not even in existence as a local government.
First, for certain persons to document, promote and circulate such a wild speculation of anthropological and historical slant, manufacturing falsehood, without one iota of truth-supporting fact, calls to question the research credentials and strength of character of all those involved. Only the gullible can be captured in their net of deceit.
The architects and sponsors of these “evil publications” need to be advised to see beyond the “Bread and Butter” of today and think of the future of our children and generations after us. The dangerous trend amongst our people to distort history in a bid to curry sympathy to their political persuasion will do us no good. Indeed, such distortions if allowed to persist can harm us deeply. Itu and Ibiono Ibom Local Government Areas are two concentric circles and their unity can not be sacrificed on the altar of greed by plunderers to advance their selfish agenda. This, I believe, will be an incurable error.
In 1999, when the principle of rotation of the office of the House of Representatives between Itu and Ibiono Ibom Local Government Areas was introduced, Ita Solomon Enang, from Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area was elected by the people of Itu Federal Constituency for two consecutive terms of 8 years from 1999-2007.
In 2007, which was the turn of Itu Local Government, Dr. Henry Archibong contested and enjoyed massive support from the people of Ibiono Ibom and Itu Local Government Areas, while Ita Enang opted for Senate, along with Ime Albert, Effiong Bob and others, because he knew that it was not the turn of Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area for the House of Representatives.
With less than 100 votes, in a keenly contested PDP senatorial nomination, Ita Enang lost the election. How he got into the House of Representatives for the third term remains a puzzle till today.
In his PETITION NO: EPT/AKS/06/07 to the National Assembly Election Tribunal, Dr. Henry Archibong claimed that he won the election by a majority of lawful votes cast, being 29,007 votes. The irruption of Ita Enang into the House of Representatives was not only an afterthought, but an aberration and imposition, which was not acceptable to the people of Itu-Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency.
Ita Enang’s episode was a conspiracy and should not be misconstrued. For according to Mathatma Ghandi, “an error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation nor does truth become error because nobody says it”.
After the ‘drama’ of Ita Enang, which was challenged in court by Dr. Henry Archibong, the people of Ibiono Ibom rose in one accord and supported an indigene of Itu Local Government, Hon. Kenneth Archibong, for the House of Representatives seat, in 2011. He won the election and served for one term of four years, 2011-2015.
Though he sought for a second term, but because of his ill health, which saw him in and out of several hospitals in Nigeria and overseas, Hon. Dr. Henry Archibong (from Itu Local Government Area) was elected to replace him and complete the second term due to Itu Local Government Area. Thus, any attempt by anybody or group to destroy this beautiful zoning arrangement that guarantees Itu Local Government; the smaller of the two components of the federal constituency, the privilege to get elected to the Federal House in 2027 is wicked, myopic and self-serving.
Such development can only result in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area monopolizing the seat of the Federal House of Representatives, with her huge population. For the record, the 8-year zoning arrangement is not for individuals but between the two-sister Local Government Areas.
In democracy majority decides who represents them. with 220 gazzetted villages and 79 in Itu, it is in the interest of Itu Local Government Area to encourage the 8-year zoning formula by supporting Ibiono Ibom to produce the next House of Representatives member in 2019.
In Itu Federal Constituency, the challenge before us, to my mind, is to set our sights on putting to rest the issue of third term in our polity and stabilize our framework for equitable sharing of the House of Representatives seat between Itu and Ibiono Ibom Local Government Areas for the task of building a culture of sustainable development to commence.
Howbeit, efforts by some overzealous politicians to destroy the fabric of our being through political maneuvering, gerrymandering and gang up woven to satisfy personal gains have to be checked for the overall economic and political interests of Itu and Ibiono Ibom, which are bonded by a common ancestry.
For emphasis, our environment and condition have made zoning (rotation) legitimate. It’s amusing that the yesterday’s advocates of zoning are those throwing firestone because the circle has turned against them.
It is a common knowledge that constitutional democracy encourages limitless tenure for lawmakers in all tiers of government. But truth be told, our insatiable appetite for excessiveness and inordinate aggrandizement at the detriment of the common people negate such constitutional provision and make equitable rotation of legislative offices reasonable and legitimate. We need to separate legality from legitimacy.
The natural resources, sheer brilliance and beauty of the naturalistic ambience of Itu and Ibiono Ibom have tempering effects on the mind; it’s vast land, the undulating hills, wide valleys and coastline stretching endlessly, all speak of a future of promise, hope and greatness that must be protected by not allowing THIRD TERM AGENDA in whatever guise to creep into our polity.
A word is enough for the wise!
* Emmanuel Ndon is a Media Executive, Brand Consultant and Public Affairs Analyst from Ekit-Itam Akpan Obong in Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.