Pastor Umo Eno, the PDP gubernatorial candidate in Akwa Ibom State, will be facing the greatest battle of his life this Saturday. That is the day he will face Obong Bassey Albert, popularly called OBA, as they battle for votes in the 31 local governments of the state. Apart from OBA of the Young Progressives Party, YPP, Eno will also have Akan Udofia of the APC and Senator Akpan Udoedehe of the UNPP to contend with. While the odds seem to favour Eno, ahead of the March 11 governorship election, there is also a different perspective to the issue of candidacy of the PDP. So, even if Eno emerges victorious on Saturday, there is a pending litigation before the Supreme Court between him and Mike Enyong, a member of the House of Representatives who has been dragging the PDP governorship ticket with Eno. Both of them have gone to the apex court for a final verdict on the actual candidate of the party for the election. It is not clear if the judgement will come before the election.
Also, judging from the outcome of the last election, there are signals that Eno may be coasting to victory at the polls. However, the dynamics may change and the tables may turn.
During Saturday’s election, the PDP cleared almost all the seats in the National Assembly, except the senatorial election that was won by Senator Godswill Akpabio of the APC. He defeated the PDP candidate, Emmanuel Enoidem who had boasted in various media platforms, that he would beat his former boss black and blue. Not even a former minister of petroleum, Don Etiebet who gave him all the supports and also mobilised a lot of people for him, was able to save him.
Apart from winning the National Assembly elections convincingly, the PDP also won the presidential election in the state. Neither OBA’s YPP nor Udoedehe’s UNPP was able to make any impact during last Saturday’s election.
As they say, all politics is local. Maybe, this is where Udoedehe and OBA may have some hope, that they can spring surprises when Akwa Ibom people file out on March 11 to elect Udom Emmanuel’s successor.
Many people in Akwa Ibom believe that OBA is so popular that he can win the governorship election. A renowned prophet even predicted that OBA would win. How this will happen is yet unclear. He has youths by his side, just like Peter Obi, who leveraged on his massive youths followership to make so much impact during the presidential election. That is how the youths value and support OBA. The belief is that OBA has open arms and relates well with the youths.
The senator is also believed to have a deep pocket, from where he reaches out to his constituents. It is believed that Akpabio may be supporting his ambition. OBA was a commissioner under Akpabio. It is believed that he is still very close to Akpabio. It is also believed that Akpabio still has a soft spot for him, even if it is to spite Udom and his candidate, Eno. The question mark around OBA, however, is that he is a convict at the moment. But, if he wins, can he be sworn-in? Will there be anything stopping him from being returned to Ikot Ekpene prison where he is supposed to be serving his jail term? Or, will he be able to manoeuvre and come out of this? How things will play out is left to be seen. But on the streets of Akwa Ibom, OBA is a talking point. The youths are said to be on his side. A good number of PDP stakeholders are believed to be working for him secretly. His is seen as a major contender for the office of governor. If Eno survives the OBA tsunami, it would mean that divinity played a major role.
This man used to be in charge of the politics of Uyo, at least. That is where he comes from. He used to be a member of the APC and rose to become secretary of the convention planning committee of the party at the national level. He had to leave the party he built for many years, when it dawned on him that he would not get the ticket of the APC to enable him contest the governorship election. Now, with the UNPP ticket in his back pocket, how far can he go? It is doubtful if Udoedehe will go anywhere. He is clearly not among the top contenders for the seat. In fact, it will take a serious miracle for him to win the election. It is not clear whether he has the needed funds to face Eno, who is being backed by the sitting governor, as well as many money bags in and outside the state.
He is of the APC and has been through various court cases over his candidacy. As it is, the courts have not settled all his cases, but he appears to be partly ready for the election. He has now started his campaigns, after some of the cases were settled in his favour, including the case against him by Senator Ita Enang, even though the senator has taken the case upstairs, refusing to accept any out of court settlements. INEC is yet to clear him as the party’s candidate though.
Udofia is believed to have a deep pocket but whether it is anything close to the hole from where Eno has been spending, is yet to be seen. This aside, Udofia did not also have a good showing during the presidential and National Assembly elections. He could not produce either a member of the House of Reps or a senator. The PDP dealt with him badly. He may have to fast and pray, and even do much more, to be able to make any impressive impact on Saturday.
Alliance, alignments and realignments
As at press time, there were talks about the possibility of alliance between the YPP and the APC, even though the APC has denied being a part of it. But the PDP has said it cannot be afraid of such an alliance. A statement by Imo E. Akpan, Director of Communications/Spokesperson of the Akanimo Udofia Campaign Council said “for the avoidance of doubts and for the benefit of our teeming members, supporters and the general public, Obong Akanimo Udofia remains the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State and will contest the March 11, 2023 Gubernatorial elections on the platform of the Party.
“While political and strategic alliances and collaboration are healthy and also form a part of any democratic system, the All Progressives Congress (APC) shall not jettison or substitute its shared prosperity agenda for another. Our convictions on how best to steer the ship of the state and our people out of the woods of mediocrity, cluelessness and state-induced poverty cannot be negotiated away. The membership strength of our Party, the acceptability of our gubernatorial flagbearer and his running mate as well as the trust Akwa Ibom people have demonstrated in the credibility, integrity and capacity of Obong Akanimo Udofia stands the party in a good stead to face the polls headlong.
“We welcome parties who subscribe to our shared prosperity agenda to join us in liberating Akwa Ibom State from the clutches of state-sponsored poverty. An APC-led government shall work for the good of all. Obong Akanimo Udofia and Senator Bassey Albert Akpan are distinguished sons of Akwa Ibom State and they share mutual respect, but their ideologies, world-view and individual strengths differ. What resonates strongly between these illustrious sons of Akwa Ibom State is their determination to save our land from prebendalism, clannishness and petty politics of deliberately impoverishing the people in the midst of abundant resources.
“Understandably, the outcome of last Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections has reverberated with shock waves through the Hilltop mansion as candidates of the APC made appreciable showing at the polls despite concerted efforts to manipulate the process using compromised INEC personnel and security agents. Senator Godswill Akpabio’s spectacular victory has banished sleep from Hilltop mansion. The election showed that the PDP’s days of iron-fisted reign had waned in Akwa Ibom State and will soon come to an end.
“The election in Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District was a total revolt against the PDP and nothing can change the narrative now. Worthy of note is that majority of those who supported the “uncommon movement” were senior members of the PDP who voted in protest against the obvious failings of the present government. Come March 11, 2023, they will vote against the PDP again. They will vote against tenure elongation. They will reject a system where one “walking stick-wielding mortal” plays God with the resources of Akwa Ibom people. The people will remind Governor Udom Emmanuel that his tenue will end on May 29, 2023 and no effort will be spared to ensure that this unjustified tenure elongation nay succession plan is halted.”
“The idea in their camp is to pitch the APC against the YPP and create confusion to forestall a possible alignment of forces. They reason that Senator Akpabio must be fingered in the confusion they have conjured up in their warped minds to turn the people against him.”
State publicity secretary of PDP, Mr Borono Bassey, in allaying fears about the speculated alliance said “we are not threatened by any coalition. The beauty of democracy is to allow people to make their choices. Even with the result declared so far in Akwa Ibom, PDP won about 90 per cent of the National Assembly seats in the state. It therefore means Akwa Ibom people have higher preference for PDP.
“And for us as a political party, we see this communication of trust as a burden for us to keep our own side of the social contract, so that the people who have been elected understand that the mandate which the people handed down to them places on them the concomitant responsibility of ensuring they allow the collective will of the people become their compass that lead them and find their engagement interface and representation while in office.”
Most indicators point to the emergence of the PDP candidate during the election, that is if it can subdue the YPP candidate First, the PDP is still very solid in Akwa Ibom. Their strength in the state was confirmed last Saturday when they almost swept everywhere, leaving the broom holders in total shock.
Most churches and the church leaders called Fathers of Faith have identified with one of their own and have given Eno the full support to emerge as governor. The current governor is giving him all the backing. Of course, he is the one that brought Eno into the race. There is, however, the fear that state funds are being massively deployed into the project.
There is a high possibility that Eno will defeat the other contenders to emerge victorious. Udom will be expected to put up a serious fight for Eno, as his political life will depend on this. He is said to be afraid that if Eno did not win, his government will face probe. Eno is the only one who will look the other way once he gets into office.
But Akpabio is not likely to allow them have their way so easily. Having been able to defeat the PDP during the senate election, Akpabio is seen as someone who may have got what it takes to unsettle Eno and Udom. How this will play out will be seen next Saturday.
Threats to Eno:
Ordinarily, Eno should not have any issues. His emergence as next governor of the state should not be a prayer point at all. But as it is now, Eno himself will not only be fasting and praying, he will not have a good sleep until the last minute. Apart from those contending for the same seat from other political parties, Enyong has become a hard bone in his throat.