By Our Reporters
On February 25, 2023, Nigerians will file out to vote for a new president and new members of the National Assembly. Across the Niger Delta, there is tension already. There is anger in the land. People are agitated because of the twin problems of fuel scarcity and the new naira notes scarcity.
But the election will hold as scheduled by INEC. While some of the candidates are already rounding off their campaigns, some are just beginning, largely because of court related issues.
Unlike what used to happen in the past, when votes never really counted, things have changed. The new mantra is that votes will count. So, politicians are taking their campaigns even more seriously. They are reaching out to the electorate with compelling messages.
From Rivers State to Bayelsa, from Akwa Ibom to Cross River, the heat is on. Who will win the presidential election in these four states? Who will win the various National Assembly seats in those states? Who are the major contenders and how will the people vote? Let’s take a look.
In Akwa Ibom State, there are three major political parties that will be contending for votes for the presidential election-the PDP, the APC and the LP. The other political parties do not seem to be too interested in what comes out of the election.
While Atiku Abubakar is the candidate of the PDP, Senator Bola Tinubu is the flagbearer of the APC and Peter Obi the candidate of the LP. Of the three candidates, Akwa Ibom people are likely to choose between the PDP and the LP in the first instance, while others will go for the APC. Those who may vote for the APC are not likely to be in the majority.
From the beginning of the current democratic experiment, Akwa Ibom State has remained a core PDP state. Whether they always won on merit, or whether they used to manipulate the victory is a different kettle of fish. But no other party has been able to seize power from the PDP since 1999. Even in 2015 when Senator Godswill Akpabio attempted to cause a shift, he failed woefully. Not even the combined force of Akpabio and Don Etiebet, both of them former ministers, was able to change anything. The PDP still won in the state, at all levels. And Akpabio lost his senate election, despite the hard fight he put up.
Things have, however, changed. With the coming of Obi as candidate of the LP and the growing number of Obi-dients in the state, it will no longer be a tea party for the PDP in Akwa Ibom. TNN observes that while many people are still very much in support of the PDP, an equally good percentage of the voting population are for Obi.
If the PDP will do well in the presidential election, then the governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel will need to work extra hard. He remains the chairman of the Atiku presidential campaign council and it behoves on him to deliver his state to prove a point that he is in charge. He needs to work extra hard to quench the fiery threats of the LP and its candidate. As it stands now, Obi is the only obvious threat to Atiku in Akwa Ibom.
The division in the state, as well as the general hatred for the APC and its candidate in Akwa Ibom will affect their fortunes on Saturday. Akwa Ibom people, just like most Nigerians, are angry that they have had to go through excruciating pains in the hands of the APC government, since 2015, and have been subjected to all manner of torture by the APC federal government, having to spend hours on the queue for fuel ,which price has since hit the rooftop, as well as the pains inflicted on them as a result of the new naira notes brouhaha.
There is equally the general perception that the presidential candidate is not fit to govern Nigeria at this time as he messes up whenever he speaks in the public. There is hardly any public event that Tinubu does not fumble. The other day, he had said that Atiku was once Nigeria’s senate president. He had also coined what Nigerians now mockingly call a new political party approved by Tinubu himself-the PD-APC. His gaffes are just too many. He looks very old and is generally believed not to be strong enough to stand on his own for a long time. People believe that he is suffering from dementia. Maybe, maybe not.
His candidacy will not fly in Akwa Ibom. The likes of Akpabio and Etiebet may work extra hard to convince people to vote for Tinubu but he will lose in Akwa Ibom. The battle will therefore be between Atiku and Obi and any of the two will win in the state.
How the contenders will fare in senate race
The senate election will be very interesting in Akwa Ibom. There are three senate seats in the state-Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, Uyo senatorial district and the Eket senatorial district.
In Ikot Ekpene senatorial district, the contest will be between three major contenders-the PDP, APC and the YPP. A former national publicity secretary of the PDP, Emmanuel Enoidem is the candidate of the party. Senator Godswill Akpabio is flying the flag of the APC. For the YPP, it is Emmanuel Ekon. Let’s look at each of them.
Enoidem is a former commissioner in the state. Incidentally he served under Akpabio and is now dragging the seat with his former boss. They are actually at the centre of it, while Ekon, a former member of the House of Reps, from Etim Ekpo, will equally drag some of the votes with the duo. The PDP is clearly more popular and accepted in the senatorial district than the other two. In terms of ranking, it is the PDP first, then the APC and then the YPP in a distant third position. Akpabio is certainly stronger, or so it ought to be, than Enoidem. But for a few reasons, the APC will still find it difficult to make any meaningful impact in this senatorial district. For one, the senate seat is generally believed to have been zoned to the Abak federal constituency. Enoidem is from Etim Ekpo LGA and his local government is largely favoured to get the seat for the first time, having not produced a senator since 1999.
Besides, Enoidem is equally blessed with a deep pocket. He has not contested any election since he left office as commissioner. He has just been around the corridors of power, enjoying all the perks and attractions and not spending anything in seeking votes. This is his first time and he will rely on the strength of the PDP in the senatorial district as well as the support of the state government, being the government in power. Even, some heavy weights in the APC are also supporting him, basically because of the anger against Akpabio.
A group, the Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District Unity Forum recently made public a statement opposing the candidacy of Akpabio on the grounds that the zoning arrangement did not favour him. The statement reads in part: “we have read with amusement, the tale by moonlight from the pseudo groups that go by the name Annang Liberation Movement (ALM) and Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District Integrity Alliance (ISDIA), over the decision to micro-zone the Ikot Ekpene District Senate seat to Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency.
While it is understandable that these paid artists are poor students of history, it is pertinent to educate them that the governorship seat has always been zoned on the basis of senatorial district, while the senate seat is considered on the basis of federal constituency.
“For emphasis, we restate the following: The decision to zone the Senate seat to federal constituencies in the senatorial district started in 1999, long before their principal(Akpabio) joined politics in 2002. So, he cannot jettison it to enable him live in the Senate.
When Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien finished in 2003, he voluntarily withdrew from the race to enable the position to rotate to Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency where Senator Itak Bob Ekarika was elected.
“Akpabio used it in 2007 when he invited the stakeholders in the senatorial district to a meeting at Ikot Ekpene Council Hall to prevail on Barr Saviour Udo from Ikot Ekpene Federal Constituency, to step down for Senator Aloysius Etok of Ikono/Ini Federal Constituency to enlist their support to enable him protect his governorship ticket.
“As Senator Etok was about completing his first term, Akpabio invited Barr Emmanuel Enoidem in 2010 to run for the Senate in the presence of witnesses – Barr Ibanga Akpabio, Rt. Hon. Nse Ntuen, Sir Emem Akpabio, Bishop Samuel Akpan, Prince Ukpong Akpabio and Hon. Emmanuel Akpan – according to him, it was the turn of Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency.
“We, therefore, stand with the decision of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District Stakeholders earlier taken that come 2023, the Akwa Ibom North West (Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District seat must go to Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency.
“Available historical statistics are clear and unambiguous that Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency is the only constituency yet to produce a Senator as past Senators from Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District are; Senator Raymond Umoh: 1963-1969
Ikot Ekpene/Essien Udim/Obot Akara Federal Constituency
Senator Donald Etiebet: 1979-1982
Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency
Senator Nsima Akpabio: 1983-1984
Ikot Ekpene/Essien Udim/Obot Akara Federal Constituency
Senator Akaninyene Ukpanah:1992-1993 Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency
Senator Emmanuel Ibok-Essien: 1999-2003 Ikot Ekpene/Essien Udim/Obot Akara Federal Constituency
Senator Itak Bob Ekarika: 2023-2027
Ukanafun/ Oruk Anam Federal Constituency
Senator Aloysius Etok: 2007-2011
Ikono/Ini Federal Constituency
Senator Aloysius Etok: 2011-2015
Ikono/Ini Federal Constituency
Senator Godswill Akpabio: 2015-2019
Ikot Ekpene/Essien Udim/Obot Akara Federal Constituency
Senator Christopher Ekpenyong: 2019-2023 Ikot Ekpene/Essien Udim/Obot Akara Federal Constituency
Therefore, in the interest of peace, unity and togetherness of the senatorial district, we will not allow any man, no matter how important he thinks he is(an apparent reference to Akpabio), to divide the Annang nation and the senatorial district for personal and selfish gain. The document was jointly signed by Christopher Ekemekong and others from all the federal constituencies of the state.
However, another group, the Abak Unity Forum(AUF believes that Akpabio is their choice for the seat. In their statement on the issue, they said “after taking a keen and in-depth appraisal of the socio political situation in Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria at large in broader perspectives, and after deep consultations with eminent leaders and members, we the Abak Unity Forum in an extraordinary meeting held at Palmgrove Christian Community Utu Abak on the 14th February 2023 hereby categorically resolve as follows:
“We earnestly endorse our amiable uncommon transformer, His Excellency Dr.Sen. Godswill Obot Akpabio for Senate 2023. Subsequently, we urge all Abak party faithfulls(sic) in APC, YPP, LP , NNPP and others to pragmatically team up and vote for the uncommon transformer of our generation. We passionately solicit for winning votes for our great and trusted leader His Excellency Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu as Nigeria’s next President, and Obong Akan Prosperity Udofia as the next Governor of Akwa Ibom State.” Dr. Innocent Idiong , president of the group, signed the statement.
But it is doubtful if Akpabio can go far. Verdict: The PDP will take the seat through Enoidem.
Uyo Senatorial District:
Here, the battle is between Aniekan Bassey of the PDP, Usenobong Akpabio of the YPP and Dr Emaeyak Ukpong of the APC.
Bassey is the current speaker of the state house of assembly and is believed to be very popular because of the strength of the PDP in the area. But the YPP candidate who is from Ibiono, the local government where the party’s candidate comes from, may also get an upper hand, as Ibiono is said to be seriously populated with registered voters. So, the race will be between the PDP and the YPP in this senatorial district. The PDP is almost very likely to win. But the margin is not likely to be wide.
Eket senatorial District
The contest in Eket senatorial district promises to be interesting. This is where the governor comes from. Ekong Sampson, candidate of the PDP will have Ephraim Inyangeyin of the YPP to contend with. It was because of this seat that Inyangeyin, a once powerful commissioner for works under Udom’s government, was forced out of office as chief of staff, Government House. Inyangeyin had to leave the PDP to join the YPP to realise his ambition. He has been fighting Udom and whatever the governor represents since then. He is from Onna, just as the governor. The senate seat here is said to have been zoned to the Ikot Abasi federal constituency and going by the zoning principle, he is not favoured to win. Here, the PDP looks good to win.
House of Reps seats
The race is also going to be largely between the PDP and the YPP and in some places, between the PDP and the APC.
In the Ukanafun/Oruk Anam federal constituency, the PDP candidate, Mr Unyime Idem appears not to be having any serious opposition. He is the current occupant of the seat and is adjudged the best in terms of service delivery and representation in the entire state. In fact, one analyst told TNN that the people of that constituency will be wicked not to give all their votes to him.
The general perception is that the federal constituency has not had it this good since 1999. He has been rated very highly in the areas of projects attracted to the area, as well as empowerment and other programmes. The general thinking is that even if he does not campaign from ward to ward in the constituency, Idem, an investor in the telecom and banking sectors, will have no issues winning his election.
But it may not be the same for contenders in the Eket/Onna/Esit Eket federal constituency, where Mr Etteh Okpolokpm Ikpong, alongside others, will be fighting for the seat. Both of them are very popular in their own right. Ikpong, a former commissioner and also a former member of the state house of assembly, will have Eyiboh, a former occupant of the seat, to contend with. Although, Eyiboh used to be with the PDP when he won the election, but had to defect to the APC and is seeking to return to the same position, this time under the APC. It promises to be a tough contest. But Ikpong looks good to win the seat, though he is not likely to get it without a bloody nose.
Aniekan Umanah of the PDP is to face his opponents of the YPP, Okon Owoidighe Amos and Jimbo Inemesit Clement of the APC. Both Amos and Clement are no threats to the PDP candidate, notwithstanding whatever the YPP gubernatorial candidate, Bassey Albert and Akpabio may try to do for them.
The contest in the Ini/Ikono Federal constituency will be another serious battle. Dr Gloria Edet of the PDP will have Dr Ukpong Udo of the YPP, seen as a very popular candidate, to contend with. This will be too close to call because, while Edet will be relying on the strength of the PDP in the state to win, Udo will be relying on the masses to get victory.