AKWA IBOM: THE HIGHSTAKES AND DYNAMICS
Oil rich Akwa Ibom State is in the throes of political violence, spurned by two leading gladiators – Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) candidate and incumbent Governor Obong Godswill Akpabio and the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Senator John Udoeghedeghe.
The pie is the governorship seat. The PDP has been in power since 1999 and is largely credited for the rapid transformation of the state, especially the state capital, Uyo.
Udoegheghe, former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory(FCT), was also Akpabio's campaign manager in the testy 2007 governorship battle. He left for the Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN) only a few months ago, when it became obvious that the centre can no longer hold in the party.
Backed to the hilt by the former governor of the state, Obong Victor Attah, the ACN is swelled by mainly former PDP stalwarts, raising the stakes even higher. The ACN candidate is reputed for his doggedness and knack for grassroots mobilisation. These attributes however pale into significance in the face of the intimidating, inspiring achievements of Akpabio.
But while the duo are at each others throat for the diadem, a new entrant, former national chairman of the Progressives Peoples Alliance(PPA), and governorship candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change(CPC), Mr. Larry Esin is shooting from the fringes, posing a stiff challenge, and threatening to harness the fallout of the tryst. Esin is from the highly marginalised Eket senatorial district which has never produced a governor for the state in any democracy.
He is vintagely positioned to create upset. He strategically picked a woman as counterpose to the obvious total domination of men in the race. At a time, when there is heightened agitation to concede 35% of political offices to women, this choice makes the race even tighter and unpredictable. His running mate, Lady Ime Udom is a lawyer of 34 years experience at the bar. She has had a long spanning experience in public life holding plum positions, including National Publicity Secretary of the PDP.
A critical analysis of Eket Senatorial District shows that it will be the battleground for all the political forces. Akpabio, from Annang controls the area entirely. Udoeghedeghe from Ibibio is a major contender in the areawith Akapbio.
Esin, who is from Eket holds out strongly in the area. Although, Akpabio has made great inroads in the area, throughpopulist policies, and appointments, Udom's massive mobilisation of the womenfolk in the last few months may prove to be the turning point in the political history of the area. As a former chairman of the law reform commission in Akwa Ibom State, she utilised the opportunity to forge amity amongst the people of the various ethnic groups, projecting the rule of law as her ace.
The district has 12 local government areas(LGAs) out of 39 LGAs in the state. There are also fears that Udom and the state chairman of the party, Chief Obot Nya, who are from Uyo and Ikot Ekpene Senatorial districts may be handy in the steady March of CPC as a strong contender in the race.
However, the CPC would have to contend with the full force of PDP, as most of the political heavyweights in the state belong to the party.
Boefore the emergence of CPC in the state, opposition in the state was virtuallynon-existent. Indeed, most of the political parties were rooting for Akpabio, and formally endorsed him in October 2010 as their governorship hopeful for next month's elections. The endorsement, invariably cast the state as PDP, through and through.
But while Akpabio and Udoeghedeghe dig in for the prized pearl, Esin's strategic insight, Youth and women appeal, cannot be totally ingored.