HISTORY AND AKWA IBOM 2015
History is one fact of life a lot of people would love to rework because it is often so inconvenient, even threatening in its raw form to those who would rather duck the unpleasant parts of their past. So the better to cauterise it, cure it of its inconvenient rough edges, and thus remake it to suit individual interests.
Well, it is not just possible to reinvent history for the simple reason that as the communal repository of the past, history is accessible to all and sundry without the intermediation of a gatekeeper. No one can shut out the people from their story; they know it, even intimately, and would eagerly point out-and even readily resist-any attempt to distort it.
Uyo senatorial district elders council: That is precisely the point Uyo Senatorial District Elders Council made in an advertorial in Thisday of November 23 2011-that it is specious to argue, as some party members have done, that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) nomination for the governorship race 2015 in Akwa Ibom State should be reserved for one or the other of the three senatorial districts in the state, since 2015 is the turn of a particular senatorial district. The unstated side of the argument of turn-taking is that in the past other senatorial districts had had to wait for the district that produced the victorious candidate.
In their public position, the elders' council appealed to history, the impartial arbiter in a dispute of this nature, seeking to stand the argument of exclusive preserve on its head. The elders held that right through the history of Akwa Ibom, since its creation in September 1987, electoral contest for the office of governor has always been an open race in which everyone who was willing and able from all the three senatorial districts of Eket, Uyo and Ikot Ekpene freely participated. No one senatorial district was ever barred, nor was anyone ever preferred in all the races in 1991, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011, the elders said.
This intervention seeks to interrogate the electoral history of the state in order to see whether the facts support the position of Uyo Senatorial District Elders Council, or that of the champions of ticket reservation or zoning for the party's mandate in the gubernatorial race.
Akwa Ibom Guber race 1991: The late Obong Akpan Isemin, who hailed from Uyo Senatorial District, was a member of the NRC and sought the endorsement of his party to run for governor. Sir Sunday U. Akpan, a political leader from Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, who was also a member of the NRC, equally sought the mandate of his party to run for governor. Both of them were cleared by the party leadership to contest their party primary election. Other party members who contested for nomination with Isemin and Akpan were Mfon Amana from Eket Senatorial District and E.W. Ekpontak of Uyo Senatorial District.
The Gubernatorial race 1999::In the gubernatorial race for the PDP ticket in 1998, there were contestants from at least three senatorial districts. They included Obong (Arc) Victor Attah from Uyo Senatorial District, Mr Benjamin Okoko from Eket Senatorial District, Dr Ime Okopido of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, the late Etukudo Ekpro of Uyo Senatorial District, Dr Ekeng Anamdu and Dr David Ekanem, both of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.
Akwa Ibom Gubernatorial race 2003:
Party members who went into the 2003 PDP primary election included incumbent governor, Obong Victor Attah from Uyo Senatorial District; Mr Benjamin Okoko from Eket Senatorial District, who later withdrew from the race; and Samuel Udonsak of Eket Senatorial District.
The Gubernatorial race 2007: The contest for the office of Governor of Akwa Ibom State in 2007 was similar in its key element to the contests in 1991 and 1999. There was no incumbent who was running for re-election, Obong Attah having come to the end of his maximum eight years. There was therefore expectedly a large field of ambitious party members at the beginning who aspired to the mandate of the party to run for governor.
The Gubernatorial race 2011: The race for office of governor in Akwa Ibom in 2011 was similar to that of 2003: an incumbent was seeking re-election. And consistent with tradition, the race for the party's ticket to contest the gubernatorial election was thrown open. Many party members joined the race but three candidates were eventually cleared for the contest. The contestants were the incumbent, Governor Godswill Akpabio from Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District; Mr Frank Okon from Eket Senatorial District and Mr Imo Udo from Uyo Senatorial District. Governor Akpabio won the party primary and was re-elected in the general election that followed to lead Akwa Ibom till 2015.
The 2015 race: The foregoing review of the electoral history of Akwa Ibom State clearly shows that the Uyo Senatorial District Elders Council is right when they say that the PDP ticket for the governorship race in Akwa Ibom had never been zoned or reserved for any particular senatorial district at any time since the state was created 24 years ago.
Upaukure writes from Lagos.