The Akwa Ibom State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party is faced with the daunting task of reconciling its members; torn apart by the ambition to succeed Governor Godswill Akpabio, writes ETIM EKPIMAH
The Akwa Ibom State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party is in a dilemma. Its dilemma stems from the challenge of balancing the ambitions of several of its members and a zoning arrangement which now appears to be in a jeopardy.
Governor Godswill Akpabio has not only shown an interest in the zoning arrangement, he has made a commitment to the people of Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District.
He has told all those who care to listen that at the end of his tenure, he will hand over the reins of power to a person from the district; while he continues his political career in the Senate.
However, not everyone is enthusiastic about his calculations. Several party members, as well as other stakeholders have ideas different from what the governor is putting on the table.
Some of them have complained that the governor’s permutations are skewed in favour of enthroning the current Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, as his successor.
Their fears may not be unfounded. Three aspirants, Emmanuel inclusive, were early this year, endorsed by some members of the Akpabio-led state executive council to contest for the exalted position.
Leaders of the state chapter of the PDP have made several futile attempts to get members to be on the same page.
In fact, the last meeting which was held penultimate Tuesday night to calm frayed nerves and forged a way forward, ended in a fiasco.
The state party chairman, Mr. Paul Ekpo, who presided over the meeting, could not get other members of the party leadership to reach a consensus. Most of them accused him of being a yes man who was fronting for Akpabio.
It was learnt that the party’s legislators at the state and federal levels, the party’s chairmen at ward and local government levels as well as other executive council members, who attended the late night meeting, reached the conclusion that Ekpo, lacked the pedigree to preside over such a meeting because of the issue at stake.
His position was made worse by his apparent disposition to letting Akpabio have his way. Akpabio is alleged to be determined to foist a successor on the party and by extension the state no matter what.
It was gathered that party leaders were miffed by the brazen manner with which both the governor and the state party chairman were going about pushing for their anointed candidate.
To drive home their point, many queried the state chairman’s decision to allow Emmanuel’s branded campaign buses to be parked in his residence.
This, they noted, was happening at a time the party had yet to meet on the matter, let alone talk about reaching a decision.
One of the leaders, who confided in this reporter, said the umpire has revealed his bias even before the commencement of the game.
He spoke in confidence for fear of retribution. According to him, most of the leaders braved the odds to give the state party chairman a piece of their minds.
They further argued that the state party chairman ought to have, at least, appeared to be a neutral umpire. This, they observed, was necessary so as not to hurt the feelings of party members who were equal stakeholders in the democratic enterprise.
Most agreed that a situation whereby the party chairman had already taken sides with the governor, to zone the ticket to an individual was a total misnomer which should not be allowed to stand.
It took the intervention of the state secretary of the party, Mr. Ibanga Akpabio, to restore order when the meeting became rowdy and the visibly angry chapter chairmen, threatened to walk out.
Insiders in the Akpabio administration with sufficient knowledge about his plans leaked information that the governor was putting finishing touches to his grand design to ensure that his successor emerged from within his cabinet. Although he has yet to make an announcement, Emmanuel, the current SSG, appears to be his choice. Political pundits also allege among other things, that the SSG has already started acting like the governor in-waiting.
This development is causing disquiet within the rank and file of the ruling party. This is even more so when more members who are not part of the current administration, have started oiling their campaign machinery ahead of what they expect would be a free, fair and credible party primary, open to all qualified Akwa Ibom indigenes who are members of the party.
They are investing their hopes on a belief that the outgoing governor who almost became a victim of manipulations by his predecessor, Obong Victor Attah, must have learnt a few lessons.
“As it is, our members are divided over whether to stick to zoning or not. Most of the people supporting zoning are appointees of the government, while those calling for an open contest are people who are not in government.
“They are saying everybody should be allowed to take part in the primary while the party and the governor should provide a level playing field.
“Of course, what do you expect an appointee of government to say? They will support the bidding of the government or they will be shown the way out,” said a party source.
However, the state party chairman, Mr. Paul Ekpo, dismissed claims that the party was in disarray over the issue.
Ekpo said this while briefing journalists after the last meeting held at the new PDP secretariat along Edet Akpan Avenue, Uyo.
He insisted that allegations that there were cracks within the party hierarchy existed only in the imagination of those who did not wish the party and the people of the state well.
The party chief assured the public that the party would soon take definite stand on the matter and it would be made public.
Among those who spoke during the meeting was the Chairman, Senate Committee on Pensions and Establishment, Senator Aloysius Etok.
Etok’s ambition to return to the Senate for another term is being directly threatened by Akpabio who has announced his desire to replace him come 2015.
Perhaps to shift attention from the immense pressure which the governor’s ambition has put him under, Etok explained that the meeting was about the unity of the state and the success of the party.
He told the gathering, “You will choose who will rule Akwa Ibom and who will be lawmakers but never again will elections be conducted outside the designated venues and Abuja will not deny the right of the people of the state as a one party state.”
Etok, expressed displeasure over the recent conduct of a memorial service organised by the state government in honour of those killed during the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970).
He said the ceremony was aimed at creating disunity among the people as it tended to bring back the pains of the yesteryears.
The lawmaker said, “I watched the memorial service of the people who died a long time ago I wept that I remembered that ugly incident but I will call for another memorial service to atone for the spirit of those who were killed in 2011.
“We remember that people like Madam Udonwa was killed because the son wanted to be governor, Paul Inyang and others were killed in the church and recently Ukpanah was killed because he wanted to contest for the Senate and even if I am killed, as am going out, I have written my will already.”
Governor Akpabio’s ambition to go to the Senate is another issue threatening the cohesion among party members especially those from Akwa Ibom North-West.
Party members from Abak Federal Constituency in the state are not amused that the governor considers his ambition to go to the Senate as a done deal.
They question his claim that a zoning arrangement was put together in his favour.
Specifically, a former Deputy Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Mr. Uwem Udoma, dismissed such claims.
According to him, claims that the senatorial ticket of Ikot Ekpene has been given to Akpabio as a reward for his performance was unfounded.
Udoma said, “You cannot give what you do not have. We cannot concede that position to him; if he deserves compensation, let Akwa Ibom State compensate him because he worked for them.
“If there is no zoning in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District and if we do not welcome zoning in Ikot Ekpene, we will not welcome it in the state.”
Without a doubt, the internal arrangement for the distribution of tickets for elective offices will determine how lessons must have been learnt from the past.
The next few months will determine whether the PDP will continue its unbeaten run as the party of choice in Akwa Ibom State.
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