The veil has now been lifted as to what people should expect of the 2019 governorship contest in Akwa Ibom State. The front liners are clearly seen, with the formal arrival of Obong Nsima Ekere. The contest would certainly be a fight between two giants the then bulldozing Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the fortune changing All Progressives Congress, APC. Big 'tigers' have shown up in the scene and sure, predictions may no more be difficult. President Muhammdu Buhari has been most frequently endorsed by the people of the state for a second term. Ekere has also been variously asked to step into the race.
Of course, the dynamics of Nigerian politics in recent times have become interesting. The field has become a wide scene where permutations are being calculated on a daily basis by political strategists. Every person has his perspective of how the political fortune of the country may turn out. In Akwa Ibom State, the case is not different. And, party stalwarts are not losing sleep over it.
With the official presentation of the 2019 governorship form to Ekere, at the Tuesday rally in Eket, the Managing Director, of NDDC has become a big picture in the eyes of Akwa Ibom people. Of course, he had long been seen as the man who by virture of his training in the art of governance is efficiently prepared to stand out in 2019. His astuteness in the management of the board has broadened people's perspective of him as a person. In road construction and other infrastructure, the NDDC under Ekere is believed to have performed creditably. The intervention so far undertaken in the nine states of the oil rich region is quite commendable. In Akwa Ibom State, NDDC under Ekere has carried out road constructions across the three senatorial districts. The PDP led Akwa Ibom government is reported to have greatly shown stiff resistance, antagonising the progress of the agency in the state.
With liabilities at N1.7 trillion, poor public image, declining federal revenues, rising regional poverty and developmental needs across the communities of the Niger Delta region, Ekere and his colleagues knew a different style and mindset was imperative, vital and urgent. To move forward with result oriented milestones, 624 underperforming projects worth more than N200 billion, was cancelled. The NDDC boss inspired a new wave of commitment among contractors to perform with integrity and efficiency; paid billions of naira of inherited debts to contractors and service providers; resolved an 18 year-old impasse between the commission and NLNG on the payment of its statutory obligations to the commission; and then implemented urgent and necessary emergency projects to rescue deteriorating roads across the nine states, in order to save lives and property.
Ekere had served as deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State between May 2011 and October 2012. Prior to that, he was the executive chairman of the Akwa Ibom Investment and Industrial Promotion Council, AKIIPOC, the state investment agency (2007 – 2012). He also served as Chairman, Ibom Power (2008 – 2011). He holds some professional qualifications. These are: Fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers and Registered Member, Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria ESVRBN. He is as well a Fellow, Senior Certified Valuer, International Real Estate Institute IREI., Minnesota, USA, and an associate member of the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation, IRRV, London.
A peep into his profile reveals that Obong Nsima Ekere has an unstated philanthropic gestures which propels his strong investment in people's development. This is consciously undertaken through regular award of scholarships and educational grants; provision of potable water to rural communities in his Edemaya Clan, Ikot Abasi and medical outreaches to rural communities. As former deputy governor and a very successful private sector personnel, Ekere's gesture of passionate service to God and humanity, stands him out as a very committed person to the welfare and development of humanity.
Speaking on Tuesday as chairman on the occasion at the reception ceremony held in honour of Buhari and Ekere, Senator Nelson Effiong said Buhari had delivered on the mandate of fighting corruption in the country. He enumerated various projects undertaken by the administration of Buhari, saying he deserved to be trusted with more commitment.
Speakers at the rally included the zonal national vice chairman of the APC, Ntufam Hilliard Etta, the state caucus chairman, Done Etiebet, the immediate past governor of the state and former minority leader of the senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio and the MD, Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, Obong Umana O. Umana, as well as the event's planning committee chairman, Chief Benedict Ukpong who hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for his visionary leadership which has benefited the Akwa Ibom people in all ramifications.
They presented Ekere with the gubernatorial nomination and expression of interest form and pleaded with him to contest the election so as to terminate what they described as clueless and irresponsible government. They accused the state governor Udom Emmanuel of only being familiar with breaking the grounds without undertaking any meaningful project in the state.
In his response, Ekere said he was invited for a reception but that he has been ambushed by leaders and stakeholders of the party who have surprised him with a nomination form. He said he was only going to accept the call to contest elections on one condition, that he would be allowed to go for just one term. According to him, the past democratically elected governors of the state, in the persons of Obong Victor Attah and Senator Godswill Akpabio had left behind landmark achievements. But unfortunately, the Eket Senatorial District turn for governorship has been demeaning owing to the abysmal performance of Udom . He asked the people if they will accept that he runs for just a term of four years, and was greeted by a loud shout of Yeees, by the people.
With the emergence of Ekere into the full scene, the calculation have greatly changed. Permutations would greatly be different. Other quarters would greatly be shaken because, already, the whole game is conspicuous. All factors that gave the push to the emergence of Udom in 2014 have shifted grounds. Different things have changed. Of course, the only permanent thing, as they say, is change. Akpabio is now rooted in the APC with a vow to deliver more than a million vote to Buhari. Of course, as a leading national figure in the state, no less is expected of him. Many people have jumped ship and PDP seems very wobbled.
But the question is this : how far can Ekere go in the battle against Udom? Can he unseat the sitting governor.