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Friday, 13 November 2015

Umana and re-scheduled election in Akwa Ibom

I am struggling to figure out the basis for the optimism that currently pervades the camp of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State, following the ruling of the election petition tribunal that ordered a re-run in 18 out of the 31 local government areas of the state. This optimism is hinged on the expectation that its prayer for a total cancellation of the April 11 governorship election will be granted at the appeal court, or the Supreme Court, if it gets to that stage. The party is certainly not hoping that it could win a re-run, if the current ruling survives up to the apex court. For, as it stands today, Governor Udom Emmanuel is better positioned to continue in office if all he would do is go back to the electorate in the areas where the result of the election has been annulled. And it is almost certain that he would emerge victorious in the end, having had more than 400,000 votes from the first election considered valid by the tribunal.

In a country where the belief is that the party in power has the two institutions that play crucial roles during an election – the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the police – under its control, Umana Okon Umana, the APC candidate in the election who is challenging the election of Udom Emmanuel, may be banking on the support of Abuja to achieve the near impossible feat of winning in a state that is known to be a stronghold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He may also be hoping that the fear of being in the opposition, which no section of the country wants to be, may instigate a dramatic switching of alliance from traditional conservatism to the quasi-social politics that APC purportedly practices, for the perceived benefits that accrue from aligning with the government at the centre. This kind of thinking would tragically ignore the political leanings of the people of the state, as far back as the post-independence era.

There is, at the moment, no possibility of the kind of switch that the APC candidate might be anticipating. The change slogan that has so far not produced any tangible benefits nationally, not even in APC- controlled states, certainly does not hold much at- traction to the people of the state. If anything, the steps that Udom has taken so far to build on the trans- formation that former Governor, Godswill Akpabio started, makes any promise of change from Abuja seem less appealing.

It does not appear that Umana expects that he could win a governorship election in Akwa Ibom State, even if the election was supervised by God Him- self. Perhaps the thinking that he could win enough votes to enable him to clinch the governorship in the courts, a strategy for which the APC is well known (through one of its legacy parties – the Action Congress of Nigeria) could also be a motivation for his insistence on a fresh election. But can Umana win an election in Akwa Ibom State? The possibility appears far-fetched. The perception in the state today is that having been in government from his days as a civil servant, through the tenure of Obong Victor Attah as finance commissioner, to more than six years as sec- retary to the state government in the administration of Akpabio, his ambition to govern the state is not entirely altruistic. Some see his governorship quest merely as a revenge mission, to get even with the former governor who was unceremoniously removed in June, 2013. It doesn’t help his case that one of his major backers is Attah, who would do anything to en- sure Akpabio, who denied him the chance to produce a successor in 2007, does not himself produce one.

The attempt by the APC to sell to the people of the state the dummy of an Udom Emmanuel administration being a continuation of the Akpabio administra- tion has failed to fly in a state where the incumbent governor has demonstrated a clear vision for the state. Indeed, while the APC camp is busy telling the people why Udom should not be governor, the latter is selling himself to the people with his programmes and poli- cies. In just five months, the governor has endeared himself to the people with his focus on industrializa- tion, the natural step after the infrastructural transfor- mation of the previous administration.

The governor has, since coming to power, striven to provide dividends of democracy, such that if it boils down to another election, he will have sufficient campaign tools in his sterling performance so far.

His first 100 days have been a catalogue of activities geared towards launching the state on the path of industrial revolution. These include inauguration of a committee to midwife the take-off of the Ibom Deep Seaport, part of the proposed Ibom Industrial City that is designed to be the biggest industrial and commercial complex in the Gulf of Guinea; ground breaking ceremonies for an auto plant that will manufacture luxury buses and armoured vehicles, as well as a lead manufacturing company, and setting in motion a machinery for the resuscitation of the Peacock paint industry in Etinan. There are plans by the government to establish a refinery. A proposed fertilizer plant is a strategic move to revolutionise agriculture and position the state to diversify its economy, from dependence on revenue from derivation on oil proceeds.

The governor has announced plans to send 1000 youths from the state on Oracle Certification training on information communication technology, part of his government’s youth empowerment programme.

An election, whether a re-run or a fresh election, will certainly go in favour of the incumbent governor. The facts on the ground suggest that.

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