By May 2015, the tenure of Akwa Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio, would have been over. He is therefore, increasingly becoming a lame duck governor, preoccupied more by issues of stability, consolidation and successor. Lately, he has continued to waddle through the intense oscillations over 2015. He must contend with strong forces that have been desperate to outwit him on his 2015 game plan. That is no less a herculean task for a governor whose grip on the state has been firm.
Akwa Ibom people have always demonstrated strong political consciousness. During the last governorship election, not less than 58 aspirants jostled for the governorship. Outgoing Governor Victor Attah had wanted his son-in-law from Eket Senatorial District to succeed him. But the plan dissolved in the face of mounting pressures from the aspirants who paraded better political credentials.
Obong Attah hails from Uyo Federal Constituency, but the Akwa Ibom electorate opted for Godswill Akpabio from Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District for political balancing because Obong Attach and Akpan Isemin before him, hail from the same zone (Uyo).
The magical year 2015 is around the corner, the big decision is should zoning be sustained? The attraction of the governorship seat has been glamourised by incumbent Governor Akpabio, who has brought styles to the politics of the state. He has brought an uncanny finesse into governance too and with it goodwill. His styles and panache has created the impression that the state is the richest, most endowed, most hospitable and warmest in the country. The fallout of this is that the political consciousness of an average Akwa Ibomite has more than doubled.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dwarfs all other parties in Akwa Ibom State to assume a hegemonic status, thus fuelling intra party competition and keen rivalry for its governorship ticket. Although Akpabio might not have anointed a candidate as his successor, yet he has left nobody in doubt where his interest lies. The governor had in one breath cast lot for zoning, claiming that since he was a product of the arrangement, he would not oppose it. At different times, he had expressed dismay on the same issue, contending that it would rob the state of the best governorship material!
However, recently during a Town Hall meeting held for the visiting Good Governance Team from Abuja, the governor removed the smokescreen over his stance when he told his audience: “If you ask me, I will tell you that I am not a product of zoning. I am a product of the people. In 2007, 58 people from Uyo, Eket and Ikot Ekpene senatorial districts all contested the primaries and after the people had spent five days on the street, they finally voted who they wanted and they said let God’s will be done”. On that note, he declared that “for 2015, zoning is in the hands of God.”
The haze created by this equivocation has meant that the race is thrown open to the three Senatorial Districts of the state: Uyo, Ikot Ekpene and Eket? It may appear so, but the argument has been that Eket deserves the governorship slot now, having never produced a governor in a democratic setting. Political pundits and players from the zone have since been dissipating energies on the campaign for zoning.
Recently, a onetime Commissioner for Health and Works and Transport in the statetate, who served in the administration of Obong Victor Attah, his father-inlaw, Dr Udoma Ekarika, came out of political hibernation after a disastrous outing in the last gubernatorial election when he was the campaign manager of the governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Senator John Akpanudoedehe, to join the fray on the on-going debate on zoning.
Lending his voice to those who feel that the office of the Governor in the state should be zoned to Eket Senatorial District, Dr Ekarika called on Governor Akpabio to ensure that the next governor come from Eket Senatorial District in the interest of justice, peace, equity and fair-play, and maintained that the request was sacrosanct.
Undoubtedly, even Akpabio had observed zoning in his political agenda with emphasis on geopolitical balancing in the selection of his three deputies Patrick Ekpotu, Nsima Ekere and Valerie Ebe, all who hail from Eket Senatorial District. Notably too, the three speakers of the State House of Assembly, Ignatius Edet, Anietie Etuk and incumbent Sam Ikon come from Uyo Senatorial District. It is inconceivable therefore, that the incumbent governor should be plotting to get his successor from his Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.
Indications are rife that zoning might not be on the card of Akpabio, given the high caliber of governorship aspirants on parade. Most of them have been aligning with the governor in opting for an open approach for selecting the next governor of the state. In a recent interview with Inside Niger Delta, the Speaker Sam Ikon, attacking zoning formula, had said: “I am not a fan of zoning and I want to make it very clear. I am a fan of effectiveness, efficiency and capacity because today in this state, the governor has come to show us that even if somebody is not from your place, he can still touch your life”.
He has been joined in his anti-zoning campaign by Akwa Ibom Youths Alliance (AKIYA), which has described the zoning proponents “a band of ethnic bigots and tribal contenders who are not inserted in the progress of Akwa Ibom state”. On its preferred selection option, the group had maintained that “a leader who has the capacity and pre-requisite experience to develop the state cannot emerge through a zoning process.”
The state might have been polarized into pro and anti zoning camps; however, the reality is that the zoning precedent is an enduring legacy that would sustain the existing bond of love, equity and fairness in the state.
Ekpeyong wrote from Eket