August 6, (THEWILL) – The Akwa Ibom state Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, on December 30, 2021, organised an emergency stakeholders’ meeting at the Banquet Hall of the Governor’s Lodge and presented the commissioner of Lands and Water Resources, Pastor Umo Bassey Eno, as God’s chosen successor when his tenure elapses on 29th May, 2023.
This announcement was greeted with vehement condemnations from all angles. However, the name of God being mentioned, and the fact that major stakeholders in the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) were part of the unholy revelation, got some Akwa Ibom people following the trend with passion.
Until he was dragged to court for alleged irregularities in his credentials and other documents, Pastor Umo Eno almost got away with a hijacked mandate to fly the PDP gubernatorial flag in the 2023 general elections.
For inexplicable reasons, Udom Emmanuel had dumped close associates and scuttled promises he made to some people, especially those who fought hard for his re-election in 2019, when his ‘master’, Senator Godswill Akpabio, turned against him.
The alleged documents forgery slammed on Pastor Umo Eno has left so many infuriated Akwa Ibomites withdrawing their support from the ticket, as it is obvious that if proven true, he has serious character issues.
Udom Emmanuel, however, appears adamantly and intransigently prepared to defend Umo Eno’s alleged notorious history of gross improprieties. This has left some party members and supporters thoroughly embarrassed and furious at the governor for deliberately neglecting to carry out due diligence on Umo Eno’s past records before presenting him as his preferred successor.
The big question now is, would God have preferred someone with character flaws to be the Governor of Akwa Ibom State? Or did God really reveal Umo Eno to the incumbent governor and the fathers of faith, who claimed to have prayed and fasted for the choice?
From reliable sources, Pastor Umo Eno’s emergence as the preferred successor to the incumbent is a creation of a certain Apostle Achudome from Abeokuta, in Ogun State and the governor’s half-brother, Mr Gabriel Nkanang.
The case before Umo Eno is such that he may not come out clean and if he does survive, no spinmeistering, votes buying or any other agenda item by the PDP may secure its victory at the polls.
Udom Emmanuel and Umo Eno need to eat their humble pie and apologise to the Akwa Ibom people, either in secret or in public for the misleading and embarrassing episodes they have put the state through.
Judging from the fact that the whole world knows Mr Udom Emmanuel as a Deacon of the United Evangelical Church, established as Quo Igbo Church and Umo Eno, as a well-known pastor, if the case of forgery is by any way true, it would be proper for the two men of God to go to God in confession and repentance. It would only be proper to do so, rather than allow the case of God to be decided in the Court of men.
PDP has a tedious task to reclaim the party’s battered image if it must maintain power in the states in 2023. The fact that thousands of members of the ruling party had just last weekend defected to the Young Progressives Party (YPP), should serve as a deterrent to the Udom Emmanuel leadership and stakeholders of the party from the national level to do all within its powers to put the house together to sustain power as the 2023 general elections approach.
Most of those who defected are those, who, hitherto had been the movers and shakers of the system as far as the conduct of elections in the state is concerned.
Would PDP in Akwa Ibom State be politically naive to ignore someone like Akanimo Udofia, bearing in mind that he bought the PDP nomination form and consulted widely among the political ranks in the state?
Heavyweights like Bassey Albert Akpan, the present Senator representing Uyo Senatorial District of the state at the National Assembly, Rt. Hon. Emmanuel Ekon, representing Abak/ Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency of the state at the Green Chambers of the National Assembly, Hon. Emmanuel Ukopng Udo, representing Ikono/Ino Federal Constituency, Hon. Asuquo Nana of Ikono State Constituency, immediate past Chief of Staff to the state governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, and Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, among other politically relevant personalities.
The exodus is occasioned by the defection of Senator Bassey Albert Akpan, who is presently a candidate of the relatively new party in the state, even as an unquantifiable number of women and youths of the state had since moved to support his ambition of taking over the state in 2023.
As more big wigs defect to join other parties, coupled with the alleged certificate forgery before the Federal High Court, Uyo, hanging on the neck of the PDP Governorship candidate, Pastor Umo Eno, the ruling People’s Democratic Party in the state is becoming so unpopular by the day and losing personalities with their supporters to lesser political parties in the state.
With all that stand before PDP, will all the leaders still stand to watch the collapse of this beautiful 24-year-old edifice?
On the 25 of May, 2022, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, Senator Bassey Albert, (who was still in PDP), Mr. Aniekan Etim, had tendered official letters to appropriate quarters of the party, withdrawing from the contest which was scheduled to be held at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium for perceived irregularities.
Mr Akan Okon, one of the aspirants, was privy to the forgery of the documents by the preferred aspirant and had challenged his credentials at the Federal High Court in Uyo.
In a suit titled FHC/UY/CS/110/2022, Eno is the 2nd defendant, while the PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are 1st and 3rd defendants respectively.
Political onlookers are of the view that if Okon has convincing evidence to prove his case beyond reasonable doubts, Eno has a bad case and stands a chance of being prosecuted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) for forging their certificate, among other consequences.
Also, the recent endorsement of the embattled candidate by his kinsman Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke might turn out to be another nail in the coffin of the party, which is struggling to come out of a political quagmire.
Sources close to the lawmaker confided that the move is not backed by the remnants of Luke’s supporters who had since joined the new YPP leader in the state, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan.
Though a reconciliation meeting was staged between the duo by the Ibibio highest traditional stool, the Oku Ibom Ibibio and the President General of Akwa Ibom State Traditional Rulers Council, His Eminence, Ntenyin Solomon Etuk, it is alleged that Luke is pacified by the promise that his wife, Dr Uduak Luke would be given commissionership slot if Eno is voted in as governor of the state in 2023.
This has also left the people of his Constituency with raised eyebrows considering the fact that Luke had been a two-term member representing Etinan State Constituency and is presently the member representing Etinan Federal Constituency at the National Assembly.
If his wife makes the list of commissioners in 2023, it, therefore, means that governance in his Constituency has become his family heritage, which is against the interest of other politicians who have worked for the growth of the party over the years.
It is not Uhuru for the PDP in the state even with the promise by seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) paraded by the party to defend Umo Eno’s alleged certificate forgery, who may have assured him of victory, no matter the gravity of the case.
The fact remains that the majority of Akwa Ibom State indigenes are tired of the leadership style of the PDP and are yearning for a change in 2023.
In a case such as this, the state deserves better explanations from Respectable legal Lumineers; the likes of His Excellency, Amb. Asam Asam, the former Attorney General of the state, Barr. Uwemedimo Nnwoko, who is part of Pastor Umo Eno’s team and Maintain Peace Movement. They should come out publicly and politely to address the people of the state and explain the implications of the case against the candidate and the way forward.
If the sanity of the candidate is not proven to the letter or the candidate is substituted, in the event that the allegations are considered ‘BAD’ within the time limit provided by the Electoral Act 2022, PDP stands a great chance of losing grips of political power in Akwa Ibom State.
A popular adage says: ‘A stitch in time saves nine. To forestall the impending total collapse of the PDP in Akwa Ibom, provision Section 33 of the 2022 Electoral Act which states that: “a political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted under section 29 of this Act, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate.
It adds that provided that in the case of such withdrawal or death of a candidate, the political party affected shall, within 14 days of the occurrence of the event, hold a fresh primary election to produce and submit a fresh candidate to the commission for the election concerned
While considering the options, it is pertinent to take cognisance of the fact that the Akwa Ibom people reserve the right to decide who governs them.
Looking at candidates of other parties and their credibilities, the PDP should consider putting forward a more acceptable personality that would be better celebrated in an event that Umo Eno is to be substituted.
Looking at the legibility of candidates who contested the governorship primary on May 25 in the state, Akan Okon may not be considered for a rerun because he has a pending case in Court against Pastor Umo Eno and the electoral umpire, INEC.
Even if he decides to withdraw the case, he had violated the oath he swore to in Code PD003/G Paragraph 16 of the PDP nomination form, “That I undertake to abide by the decision of the party as final (and not subject it to any litigation whatsoever) of adjudication by other body including the court of law”, having taken the candidate of the party to Court.
The rerun primary to be considered within 14 days if it comes through, would be between the four aspirants who stood the primary election and are still loyal members of the party which include: Mr. James Iniama, a renowned Estate Surveyor and Valuer, Obong Ide Owodiong Idemeko, Mr. Idorenyin Umoh and Apostle David Okpon.
According to reliable sources in Government House, Uyo, some names have been suggested to the governor by those proposing an outright dropping of Umo Eno as the candidate of the PDP.
The names mentioned include Dr Iniobong Essien, former Commissioner for Environment, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, former Speaker of the state assembly, Mr. Gabriel Ukpeh, Chairman, Technical Committee on Foreign Direct Investment, and Comrade Ini Ememobong, Commissioner for Information and Strategy.
Incidentally, a renowned legal practitioner in the state, who prefers to remain anonymous, has stated on good authority that Onofiok Akpan Luke and all the names mentioned cannot benefit from any action and or decision of PDP to substitute Umoh Eno.
According to him, those who were in the race among them had written officially to withdraw from the Gubernatorial primaries. “They did not participate in the exercise of May 25 at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium. They termed the primaries Illegal.
“Only Aspirants/persons who bought the nomination/expression of interest forms are qualified. No stranger can be considered. Dr. Essien, Mr Gabriel Ukpe and Comrade Ini Ememobong cannot come close to the substitution. That is the law and precedence”, he stressed.
It is, however, gathered on good authority that the national leadership of the PDP, alongside other prominent citizens of the country have tried on different occasions to prevail on the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, to replace Pastor Umo Eno to salvage the party, but he has remained adamant.
Though he had promised to bleed the last drop of his blood to ensure that Eno succeeds him, it should, however, be considered a soft and safe landing to repent, come out boldly and apologise to the people of the state and consider a fresh primary within the provision of the law.
Let it also serve as a timely call on PDP hierarchy from the national; the National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the National Executive Committee (NEC), the National Working Committee (NWC), elders and other stakeholders across the country to be interested in what is happening in Akwa Ibom state.
The truth remains that other political parties have recorded the forgery details and are gearing towards ensuring that if Umo Eno emerges finally and succeeds, the case would be revisited to ensure that power is seized from the PDP in the state.
Being a stronghold of PDP in the country the state is faced with invading forces that may succeed in unseating the party from power come 2023 if quick steps are not taken in the right direction.