NO FORCE CAN STOP EKET FROM PRODUCING THE NEXT GOVERNOR
Just about 74 months to the 2015 governorship election in Akwa-Ibom State, jostlings and positioning for the office of governor amongst the desperate zonal entities have begun. The chairman of Eket Senatorial Forum, Senator Etang Umoyo, in this interview with CHIDI OBINECHE, advances reasons the zone will produce the next governor.
Jostling for post Akpabio era
The stand that we are taking, not me as a person, but Eket as a Senatorial district, under the Eket Senatorial Forum, is that the governorship should shift to Eket Senatorial District at the end of Governor Akpabio's tenure in 2015, because since the creation of Akwa Ibom State, we have always been operating on the basis of power shift, that is rotation of governorship position, starting with Obong Akpan Isemin from Uyo senatorial district who took the first shot.
When his administration was aborted via military intervention, we again went back to the drawing board and supported another person from Uyo Senatorial District, as it were, to go and complete his tenure. That was Obong Victor Attah. At the end of Attah's administration, it was agreed by all of us, Attah himself made a pronouncement in 2006 that after him, governorship seat should shift to Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District and Governor Akpabio, the incumbent governor of the state was declared as the direct and definite beneficiary of that arrangement. That is the position.
It is natural that at the end of this regime, power should naturally shift to Eket Senatorial district. Eket senatorial distict is pre eminently qualified to produce the governor. Since the creation of Akwa Ibom State about 24 years now, it is the only district that has not produced a governor of that state. Uyo has produced two governors in the person of Akpan Isemin and Obong Victor Attah. Ikot Ekpene, by 2015, would have completed its own tenure of eight years in the person of Godswill Akpabio. Eket Senatorial District is the only one yet to produce a governor.
Zoning charter since 1987
There was no documented agreement but there was a general understanding and a gentlemanly agreement agreed to and endorsed by all senatorial districts and we have been operating on that since then.
Our gentlemanly agreement
That is the argument they are brandishing around. But the truth of the matter is that when Akpan Isemin contested, we agreed that Uyo, being the state capital, and Uyo senatorial district being the district that has the vast majority of ethnic groups, in the body of the Ibibios, should take the first shot and that happened. In Attah's time, the same principle applied. So, the opinion of the people I will call mainstream political formations, mainstream political leaders was in favour of that position. That did not stop individuals going to vie for positions in defiance of what the mainstream decision was. But the question is; in the end, what happened? For instance, at the time of Akpan Isemin, Dr Mfon Amana contested against him from the same N R C .
There was another person from Uyo Senatorial District in the same National Republic Convention (N R C), Ekpong Ntak who contested against him. Another person from Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, Sir S. U. Akpan contested against him. But at the end of the day, it was the mainstream decision that held sway. Those people who contested against him in defiance of the mainstream decision, mainstrean formations failed. Mfon Amana did not win because we worked against his way since he decided to defer on the views of the political formations. During the time of Attah, Benjamin Okoko came.
We worked against him and he lost.During the time of Chief Godswill Akpabio, the same thing happened.We made sure that we worked against them because it was a collective decision that zoning is the best way to spread political offices and fight domination by any particular senatorial district. So, it does not matter whether people contested against these people who had been endorsed by the mainstream political formations. All of these strainers, they all lost. So, what is the logic in saying there is no zoning because individuals came, saying they were going to destabilise an arrangement which was subsisting and lost at the end? As far as I am concerned, that does not really matter.
Foot prints of PDP
Well, talking about zoning as it affects the presidency, I am not very familiar with that. I am talking about the one which affects me immediately, which I am familiar with. The one in which I have been an active participant since inception. So, I can only talk authoritatively on that one. The other one, I do not know its complexity, so I can't speak authoritatively on it.
But it is a party affair
Yes, it is a party affair. Absolutely so. the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria supports zoning. To be specific, Section 14 4 (C). For those in Uyo Senatorial District to say there has never been any zoning is not correct.
The zoning argument
That situation has been with us from time immemorial and we have always had a way of getting over it. The position now is let it be agreed that the main political forces in Akwa Ibom State as happened in various administrations, that it should come to Eket Senatorial District. Then, when we get to the bridge, we shall cross it.
Support for Eket
We are making very serious efforts. We have approached Uyo senatorial district. Ikot Ekpene senatorial district agreed with us that it is our own turn after their son to produce the next governor. Uyo senatorial district is the only adamant district which insists on another governor coming from that same district.
Uyo senatorial district is insisting that there had never been zoning of governorship in Akwa Ibom state. They are saying it has always been an all comers affair, and we are saying no, it is not so. The mere fact is that individuals, after the mainstream political parties and formations, had taken a position, and started contesting does not invalidate the political structure and opinion of the majority in Akwa Ibom State. All these people who contested against the views of the majority had always lost.
In the time of Akpan Isemin, people came like I said earlier, Mfon Amana and others from Ikot Ekpene senatortial district, from Uyo senatorial district to contest against him. All those people lost. At the time of Benjamin Okoko who came from Eket senatorial district he had the intention to contest against Obong Victor Attah. But because we had said Obong Attah should go and complete the tenure of Akpan Isemin, we fought him. He was an active participant.
At the time of the election, when the primaries were about to take place, I was somewhere in Eket senatorial district. I want to mention names. Senator Anietie Okon was then the pioneer publicity secretary of PDP. He sent for me. He told me that late Senator Chuba Okadigbo had a clear mandate /script to come and return Benjamin Okoko from my own senatorial district. Naturally, I should have bought into it because Benjamin Okoko is from my senatorial district. He is my brother. I should have supported him from Ikot Abasi to become governor but I had to support the primordial personal interest with the overall interest of the state which states that another person from Uyo senatorial district should obtain the ticket to complete the tenure of Akpan Isemin.
Benjamin Okoko was favoured to win. He had the people on ground. He had the support of the party at the national level but at the local level, he was going to truncate our own arrangement. We said no, a wrong precedent would be set. It was to the extent that someone who was on the electoral panel was withdrawn, and I was put there to counter and contain the late Okadigbo. And I did so effectively. So, when they say today that Benjamin Okoko contested against this person and so on and so forth, it is not true because election never took place. We had to horse trade, dialogue and do all that we were supposed to do to make sure that everything went in favour of Obong Victor Attah.
The Eket candidate
No, we do not have a candidate. That will create a very serious problem. An activity that is going to take place in 2015, you don't bring out a candidate and brandish. It is in the nature of this business that that candicate will be killed before then. Let me point out that Eket senatorial district is very rich, both in human and materrial resources. Some people are saying we are going to field a mediocre and I do tell them this is a senatorial district that produced the likes of U J Esuene, Governor in the former South Eastern State. Somebody whose records remain unchallenged; Dr Clement Isong, first class world economist and many more. We have a rich array of professionals all over. This is the biggest senatorial district in the state.It has 127 wards and 12 local government areas
Is Uyo not the biggest?
No, Uyo has 9 local governments. Even in the last elections, Eket senatorial district produced over 267,000 votes to back Governor Akpabio to win. Uyo produced only 170,000. So, if you talk about democracy, is it not a game of numbers to a large extent?
The opposition to Eket
It is not possible for somebody from Uyo senatorial district which has all governors as a recurring decimal in a political setting to win the primaries if history is to be followed. I have said that if the political formations endorse any candidate, any other person, no matter how powerful, no matter how much money he has, will not win. In 1991, Akpan Isemin was endorsed. Mfon Amana came out. Ekpong Ntak came out. Akpan came out in the same N R C. They contested and lost.
In the time of Obong Victor Attah, the same thing happened. All those people lost. In the time of Governor Akpabio, he had not less than 57 rivals that contested with him. At the end, he was the one who won.
I don't know what you mean by political bigwigs. But I know that vast majority of those who do this politics with us are in support of zoning because if they don't do so, they may not have the political wherewithal for them to also produce one when their time comes. So, they will want to support what is transparent, honest, easy and work towards ensuring that zoning is endorsed and from time to time it will go round and also come to them.