EKPO AND THE ZONING PENDULUM
For quite some time now, the politics of Akwa Ibom State has found its way into the consciousness of many people both indigenes and non indigenes alike. Not that the state has ever been relegated to the background of Nigerians' consciousness; that would seem impossible given the great strides of the state governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, in bequeathing to the state many legacies in development and good governance.
However, away from Akpabio's performance and transformation efforts, there had been a development which has proved to be a recurring decimal in the politics of the state -zoning. In recent times, there has been a gamut of opinions and stances on which region in the state would produce Governor Akpabio's successor, with different strategies already employed by the sides in making sure that they gain the coveted crown.
A cursory look at the agitators and their positions would reveal that the battle has been between the Uyo and Eket Senatorial Districts of the state, with the Ikot-Ekpene Senatorial District which produced Governor Akpabio seemingly taking 'a siddon-look' approach to the ensuing political drama on zoning. The arguments have largely centred on whether there had been a zoning arrangement on the governorship seat, with answers being different and the battle heating up as the 2015 governorship election draws nearer.
Among the alleged potential benefactors of the pro and anti zoning clamour are the Secretary to the State Government, Umanah O. Umanah, who hails from the Uyo Senatorial District and has been described as a close associate of the governor; former Vice Chairman of the PDP in the state, Bishop Samuel Akpan and the incumbent deputy governor, Nsima Ekere, who wanted to take a shot at the governorship seat in 2007 before he stepped down for Akpabio, a favour which many believed may pay off for him in the event of his region having to produce the governor in 2015.
A look at the record of power configuration in the state as it concern the governorship position might go on to complicate issues, as it will authenticate the arguments of both sides. While Obong Isemin and Victor Attah hails from Uyo District, Akpabio from Ikot-Ekpene has had a shot at the position for two terms; hence the clamour by the two sides to gain the seat of power.
Interestingly, however, the Saturday, 17th March, 2012 PDP state congress has thrown up fresh calculations, that may eventually play up in solving the quagmire created by the zoning agitation. When recently, the former Commissioner for Local Government in Akpabio's administration, Paul Ekpo, resigned, many observers thought that Akpabio's transformation team has begun to crack up, unknown to them that Ekpo was only shifting power gears. Ekpo, from Uyo Senatorial District of the state, was elected as the chairman of the PDP in Akwa Ibom State, a move which political watchers guess might be the handwriting on the wall about where the governorship seat is moving to in the state come 2015.
It is not news that the region that produces the chairman of a party in a state would not produce its governorship candidate. What is news is whether the election of Ekpo as party chairman is not a death knell on the 2015 governorship ambitions of some of the political stalwarts from Uyo Senatorial District, such as Mr. Umanah, who have stood a great chance of succeeding Akpabio. If past political sharing formula in the state is anything to go by, Ekpo's emergence as the chairman of the party can be said to be nothing but a concession of the governor's seat to Eket District by the leadership of the PDP in the state. If that is so, the contestants must have weighed their options or are perhaps outweighed in strength at the party polls. The question therefore is whether the governor is not at work here, trying to play a stabilising role in the party as usual.
Anyway one chooses to see the development in the state, what remains clear and cannot be doubted is Akpabio's leadership acumen as demonstrated in the orchestration of events leading to Ekpo's emergence as party chairman. Although he has refused to join issues with any of the sides, it is doubtless that Akpabio wants the best for the state and has always strived to keep political terms and promises, as indicated in the present turn of evens in the state. The governor has never failed to show interest in issues that border on fairness, equity and merit and it is expected that all these will come to play in the decision on who succeeds him in the Government House.
However, as things currently stand, while intending contenders for the governorship seat from Uyo Senatorial District peruse the newest development and the next line of action; those from Eket District, notable among whom is the deputy governor, Ekere and Bishop Akpan, would have seen the impending responsibility and battles they have to fight for their region to produce a candidate for the coveted seat.
Despite Ekere's silence on his boss' successor, political observers have described him as a man who the cap fits, even as they have not ruled out Bishop Akpan. What is however difficult to ascertain right now is whether Eket has won the zoning argument, and whether the still political waters of Uyo District will not run deep.
•Idaraobong Umana, writes from Oron, AkwaIbom State.