Ahead of the 2023 gubernatorial election in Akwa Ibom State, a clear picture appears to have emerged on the candidates that are likely to take the day when the people file out to elect the next governor.
Whereas there are many contenders for the seat, including Pastor Umo Eno of the PDP, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan of the YPP, and Senator John Akpan Udoedehe of the NNPP, and perhaps Akan Udofia of the APC (even though his candidacy is still have k-leg),close watchers are of the opinion that the race may just be between Eno and Akpan, the man that is popularly known as OBA. The others, as it appears, may just not be in the reckoning for now.
Eno, has a lot going for him. He is not just a candidate from the ruling party in the state, he is also likeable and humble. A close contact with him reveals the personae of a meek man with an affable mien. He has a following from all the sectors that matter-the church, the women, the hoi-polloi, the political class and the youths.
Perhaps, his interest in human capital development may explain the maddening following that he seems to be enjoying.
As a pastor himself, he is believed to have already secured all the votes of those who attend his church, including flocks from other churches led by the various church leaders who have come to be knowns as fathers of faith, in Akwa Ibom. He is also likely to get votes from those he may have helped as their shepherd, those who attend his monthly fellowship on the first day of the new month and on every other fellowship days.
A few days ago when TNN visited his church in Eket, on September 1, the crowd was surging. If that is what happens on a regular basis, then Eno is already sure of the votes of those ardent followers who seem to be so much in love with him and the wife-that is if they have got a PVC.
Some of those who spoke to TNN in the church premises confessed to having benefitted from his leadership, mentorship, spiritual and physical assistance. They spoke of the number of people he has taken off and kept outside the labour market in his capacity as an entrepreneur and tourism business expert.
They spoke of his humility and charisma as reason for their undying support for his aspiration. They also spoke of how large a heart he has.
Of course, the governor, Elder Udom Emmanuel appears ready to face all those who may be fighting his choice candidate and former commissioner. He believes that Eno is the best person to succeed him.
In a recent interview in Uyo, the governor was quoted as saying this: “Let me say this emphatically, I mean well for this state, that is why I waited for God to show me the man, who would continue with the pace of developmental strides we have started in the last six years plus and then move the needle even further.
“Pastor Umo Eno is a highly respected person. He has enormous capacity; he’s an epitome of humility, and is blessed with the common touch, a compelling story and is God-fearing.
“He is a successful entrepreneur who has employed our people, lifted thousands from poverty to prosperity. He will be coming to the office of governor with an economic blueprint that will further guarantee employment, development, and economic prosperity for our people.
“He is a man of peace and will ensure that the peace and security of life we have enjoyed in the last six plus years will be maintained. His life story resonates with the story of most ordinary Akwa Ibom people. He came from the police barracks, where, as he said during his thanksgiving service last year, life was dreary and hope seemed a distant ingredient.
“Through hard work, he summoned hope and overcame his early difficulties and ended up as one of the biggest employers of labour in our state. His story is a testament to our Dakkada philosophy; one that will inspire and motivate our youths.”
“I will never use God’s name in vain,” he said, even as he expressed profound confidence in the character, disposition and capacity of Eno to lead Akwa Ibom State.”
One of Eno’s media aides, Dr Uwemedimo Umanah told TNN in a swift online chat that the unique selling point of Eno was what the PDP candidate calls ‘low hanging fruits’. “These are entrepreneurial development, skill acquisition, wealth creation. He also believes that the creation of a middle class would pivot economic growth, development and political progress.”
As it stands today, Eno is the man to beat. Or, so it seems.
The one person that will give Eno a run for his money and name is OBA. That is how he is known in Akwa Ibom. He is a senator of the Federal Republic. His smiles are infectious, just as his gap-tooth can be very inviting.
For his sake, a lot of PDP members are reported to have left the party to support his aspiration, while others are supporting him from within the PDP. He actually left the PDP after he failed to secure the ticket of the party for the governorship race. His followers believe that he has very open arms and gives freely. They believe that he has grassroots support and can turn the table to become the next governor.
Some of his supporters are angry that the sitting governor is trying to install Eno as a way of becoming a third term governor, an allegation that has since been dismissed by the governor himself, as well as other supporters of the PDP candidate.
OBA has the carriage, no doubt. He has a good command of the English and appears to have a good heart, a heart that means well for the Akwa Ibom state. But how far he can go in the contest is left to be seen in the coming days. One of his followers, Elder Enefiok Ekefre, a member of the PDP, believes that the future of the state lies in OBA, hence his decision to stand by him.
He said: “My position and selling for a would be governor of Akwa Ibom state based on my experience as a chairman of various political parties in the state before now, chairman National Centre P of Nigeria, NCPN, chairman, Democratic Party of Nigeria DPN, chairman, state contact an mobilization committee ANPP, former caucus member APC, pioneer Peoples Democratic Party chapter chairman, Uyo Local Government Area, with my years of experience politically, I am conversant with the politics of Akwa Ibom State; I have what it takes to discuss the on-going ballot revolution in Akwa Ibom State, propelled by popular demand, sponsored by YPP with distinguished Senator Bassey Albert Akpan, chairman, senate committee petroleum upstream as a chief driver of the political movement, as a governorship candidate.
“I am in a good position to do comparative analysis and chances of various parties in Akwa Ibom state, our party PDP over years specifically from 2015 has till now squandered the goodwill of the people, our party PDP is no more in the good books of the electorate, due to abuse of trust, mismanagement of resources, poverty, lack of internal democracy and social content in government policies, in spite of my affiliation to PDP. I will prefer YPP to win 2023 with OBA as a governor. Senator Albert has been tested and accepted by the people as a leader with the interest of the mass at heart. Senator Albert’s political records and services as former commissioner of finance and chairman, inter- ministerial direct labour agency, two terms senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and chairman senate committee petroleum upstream is in the public domain. Akwa Ibom State election 2023 will be a contest between agents of stagnation versus growth, represented by a new deal party YPP, with Senator Bassey Albert as a candidate. Our party, PDP, in recent history, has nothing to tell the public as a selling point. Poverty, hardship, general frustration across boards, workers welfare and retirees are zero. As a member of PDP, I don’t support anti people policies of our party. There’s no patriotism with empty stomach; our party currently at all levels is in disarray, there no hope for the people under our party leadership in government. Akwa Ibom State’s future is under siege, our state of union is not good, people are not happy. They way out is a new order with distinguished Senator Bassey Albert Akpan as a governor,”
In the APC, Udofia is still battling with the court and INEC. His name has not been published by the electoral umpire as a candidate. But he is fighting hard to see how he can get out of the legal challenge and move on to face his opponents in the political turf. He appears to be very distracted by the court case. He may be on the ballot. He may not be, afterall.
For Akpanudoedehe, not much is seen of him, apart from social media blitz here and there. He was of the APC before leaving to lick the NNPP’s ticket. And, just like OBA, his party is strange to Akwa Ibom people, even though the people know him as a serial contender for the office of governor, under the APC, before now.
In the next few weeks, a clearer picture may emerge of who the people will queue behind. But Eno and OBA appears to be the major contenders for the throne, as at today.