Daily Courier – With the recent re-alignment of a frontline governorship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Engr. Akanimo Udofia, with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) at the national level, chances are that the APC might take over Akwa Ibom State by winning the governorship election scheduled for next year.
The choice of Pastor Umo Eno, the immediate past commissioner for Lands and Water Resources, by Governor Udom Emmanuel as his preferred successor in the race has continued to generate controversies within the PDP in the state.
Although Governor Emmanuel has pointed out at different fora that his choice had not foreclosed the chances of other individuals who may wish to aspire to governorship, he had deployed the state’s resources, including manpower, to ensure the success of his preferred successor.
Over 10 aspirants have purchased the Expression of Interest and Nomination forms of the PDP and they have been cleared for the party’s governorship primaries scheduled to hold on May 23 nationwide.
However, there is fear that the fact that Emmanuel has anointed a successor may not guarantee a level playing ground for other aspirants who may want to woo party delegates for support.
The issue of micro-zoning is another contentious issue the PDP has to grapple with. Itu Federal Constituency, comprising Itu and Ibiono Ibom Local Government Areas, the electorate have expressed the opinion that it is their turn to produce the next governor of the state. Their argument, which seems to gain the sympathy of majority of the zones in the state, is that every other federal constituency in the state had taken a turn in the government house, except the Eastern Ibibio axis made up of Itu and Ibiono Ibom in Uyo Senatorial District and Ikono/Ini Local Government Areas of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.
When Udom Emmanuel, who hails from Eket Senatorial District, exits office in 2023, it would be the turn of Uyo Senatorial District to produce the next governor if the party keeps its zoning arrangement. The expectation was that the Itu Federal Constituency would be given the opportunity, having supported other Federal Constituencies in previous dispensations.
Not less than six persons from Itu Federal Constituency supposedly favoured by micro zoning arrangement have been duly cleared by the national Secretariat of the party including; Senator Bassey Albert, James Iniama, Akan Okon and a US-based member of the 700 Club, Sampson Sydney, among others.
There are strong aspirants from other parts of Uyo Senatorial District such as the lawmaker representing Etinan Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, who is an indigene of Nsit Ibom, Obong Ide Owodiong, a former management staff of the oil giant, ExxonMobil, from Ibesikpo Asutan LGA.
Engr Akanimo Udofia is also from Uyo Senatorial District.
It is obvious that, given a level playing ground by the PDP in Akwa Ibom State, Pastor Eno cannot stand the popularity and the goodwill of the likes of Senator Bassey Albert, popularly called OBA, Rt. Hon. Luke who is a former Speaker of the State House of Assembly even James Iniama who withstood Chief Godswill Akpabio in 2007 and only gave up when he was defeated at the Court of Appeal in Calabar.
Without state resources, Umo Eno is no match for the likes of Udofia, who owned a private jet even before the state government considered buying one.
Although aspirants like OBA and Luke have said repeatedly that they have no other party to defect to apart from PDP, from an analytical point of view, if they decide otherwise, it would be a formidable force and many party faithful would join them.
As soon as Governor Udom Emmanuel pronounced Pastor Umo Eno as his successor on January 30, 2022, PDP’s camp in the state became divided. Emmanuel tried to convince the people that God showed him Umo Eno, while interested parties revolted and vowed that they would not succumb to such deception.
Udofia’s defection to APC, was influenced by the ruling party at the centre. A source close to the presidency confirmed that the presidency is the propelling force behind Udofia’s final decision, adding that the APC at the national level anointed Udofia to represent the party as its flagbearer in the 2023 governorship election.
“Godwill Akpabio and the APC national executive are behind Udofia, who is expected to give the PDP a good fight during the poll,” the source submitted.
Akanimo Udofia is the CEO and Managing Director, DESICON Engineering Ltd. He holds an MBA and degree from the prestigious Harvard University. He is seen by most Akwa Ibom voters as a visionary leader who values inclusiveness.
It is obvious that the two contending political parties in the state are going to have a showdown. While the APC boasts federal might, the PDP is dominant in the state.
Analysts expect Udofia to receive the support of aggrieved elite aspirants in the PDP, who are expected to be defeated at the party’s primary by Udom’s preferred successor, Pastor Umo Eno.