Ending the Debate on Akpabio’s Successor – By Ini-Abasi MbohoAkwa Ibom, Articles, Columnists, Ini-Abasi Mboho, NNP Columnists, State News Tuesday, July 31st, 2012
By Ini-Abasi Mboho | Uyo, Nigeria | July 31, 2012 – In recent media outings, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Chief Godswill Akpabio has been inundated with concerns of who his successor would be or where he would come from. Firstly, in his pre-award interview as Silverbird Man of the Year on Silverbird Television, Governor Akpabio was asked his opinion on the contentious issue of zoning and Akwa Ibom State governorship election in 2015.
In another program to mark the fifth anniversary of his administration on May 29, on Akwa Ibom State Broadcasting Corporation (AKBC) radio and television services, anchored by veteran journalist, Mr Ray Ekpu, the Governor was again asked if the Governorship election to elect his successor in 2015 would be limited to a particular senatorial district or ethnic zone.
As the Leader of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state and a committed democrat who does not shy away from making his views known, Governor Akpabio was very forthright in his comments. According to him, he would not impose anybody on Akwa Ibom people in 2015 but would seek the face of God and work with other stakeholders to achieve a smooth transition. Apparently, Governor Akpabio may have learnt a lesson or two from his predecessor whose move to impose his son-in-law on the people was stridently resisted and which failed woefully.
On the second leg of the question of where his successor would come from or more appropriately if the 2015 governorship election would be zoned to any group, Governor Akpabio has maintained that his wish is that the dragnet for his successor would be cast far and near to fetch any competent Akwa Ibom person who will continue the uncommon transformation of the state from wherever he would stop. In other words, he cares less where somebody comes from. The major qualification will be competence and someone who will not reverse the gains recorded by his administration.
The search for his successor, according to Governor Akpabio, should not be limited by such consideration as zoning. He drew a parallel with the election that had produced him as the Governor and rightly noted that the 57 aspirants who had contested against him were drawn from all sections of the state and not Ikot Ekpene senatorial district or Annang ethnic group where he came from. There were aspirants even from Uyo senatorial district. To rub in it, Chief Akpabio said he would not be surprised if someone from Essien Udim local government area (his local government) would aspire to contest the 2015 gubernatorial election. He said the important thing was that at the end, it is Akwa Ibom people who would produce his successor.
Shortly after the 2011 gubernatorial election, there have been intrigues, permutations and political manoeuvring on where the next Governor would come from. The concern of people, even non-Akwa Ibomites on who will succeed Governor Akpabio is not misplaced. Since Chief Akpabio became the Governor in 2007, he has raised the profile of the state through unprecedented performance. Indeed, the tenure of his administration has witnessed a renaissance of sort in infrastructural development. Placing the state on such a high pedestal also means that the stakes are high and naturally the position will attract a lot of interest.
Governor Akpabio should be commended for his forthrightness. His recent clearly stated position confirms what we had stated that there has been no clear cut; cast-in-stone zoning policy as far as the Akwa Ibom governorship is concerned. For those who have followed politics in the state, it should be obvious that at no time was it an exclusive preserve of a particular ethnic group or senatorial district. To put it bluntly, election to the office of the Governor of Akwa Ibom State has always been an all comers affair. That was why Governor Akpabio said he would not be surprised if in 2015, someone from his home local government area seeks to succeed him.
The position of Governor Akpabio tallies with that of Mr Larry Esin, a distinguished son of Oron nation and Eket senatorial district where the call for power shift and zoning has been most strident. Commenting on the agitation by his kins for zoning Mr Esin was quoted to have said in a social network: “The question of our role in the governance of our State in 2015, a responsibility we welcome with open arms, will occupy and engage our thoughts and actions for the next three years. And rightfully so!
“But let us not be consumed, blinded and misled by the fledgling believe that it is “our turn” now. It has always been our turn. For as long as we have been a part of Akwa Ibom State, it has always been our turn and responsibility to vie for any political office and offer solutions to meet the development challenges of our State.
“The Ibibio’s, Anangs, Ekid’s, and all other ethnic groups will express their fundamental right to serve their State in 2015, and we cannot fault them for doing so. Oro will win the governorship not by evoking “Zoning”, but by presenting the best marketable Oro candidate in the race and giving 100% of our support to that candidate period,” he said.
Mr Esin, cannot be faulted for having this democratic disposition and not joining in undemocratic agitations even when he may be a beneficiary. In 2006 Mr Esin (as already noted, from Eket Senatorial District) had a shot at the governorship in the state and indeed put up a credible performance by coming third in the PDP primaries which Chief Godswill Akpabio won. In the 2011 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State, he was the candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
In all these instances, the present day agitators for zoning never showed up and prevailed upon Mr Esin to drop his ambition, as it would have been unconstitutional to do so. But in a move with all the attributes of political mischief, they had suddenly wake up from a deep slumber and attempt to rewrite the political history of Akwa Ibom State through crude revisionism by insisting on the unconstitutional barring of qualified aspirants from senatorial districts other than their should not contest the governorship in 2015.
The interest of most Akwa Ibom people is not where the next Governor will come from but what he would be bringing to the table. There is no doubt that Governor Godswill Akpabio has greatly transformed the state from a largely pedestrian civil service state to a destination of choice in Nigeria through the provision of world class infrastructural facilities. Week in, week out Nigerians are trooping to Akwa Ibom State for workshops, retreats and seminars. The people desire a Governor who understands the nuances of governance and one who will consolidate on the achievement of Governor Akpabio take the state to the next level.
As the leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Akwa Ibom State, it is expected that the position of Governor Akpabio as eloquently articulated by him in recent interviews, would be the final word on this matter. And that is that the democratic space in 2015 will not be constricted on the basis of a purported zoning policy that has remained as unclear as what Boko Haram wants.
Mr Mboho, a Public Affairs Analyst writes from Uyo.
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