By Kenneth Jude
No matter the prism from which one elects to look at it, incumbent Akwa Ibom State governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, merits another shot on the top chair beyond 2019.
My submission is premised on the need for the state to avoid the poisoned chalice of slipping into the hands of a hawkish clique led by one man as overlord whose poise and pose gives him away as maker and installer of kings without whom no one ascends any throne.
Akwa Ibom shouldn’t become Lagos State where one man lords it over all. No man should become a Tinubu who wants to wield all the powers. He decides who governs Lagos State and for how many years. They people pander to his whims with benumbing sheepishness. Swaggering away with the title of the Jagagban, Tinubu has Lagos State in his pockets. The Centre of Excellence is tied tenaciously to his vice grip. And so when he sneezes, the citizens are expected to catch cold. Lagos becomes his fiefdom. The people turn grovelers led by the nose in a state brimming with sound minds in all fields of life.
To oust Ambode, he says the man did well as governor but he’s not a good party man. Being a demigod who installs kings, his platoon of disciples nod in agreement. Like young chickens, they follow his directives and go against a performing governor who, their lord of the manor, dismissed as not being a good party man.
In Akwa Ibom, a state blessed by God in multiple ways brimming with men and women with top brains, it’ll be a sad commentary of unimaginable proportions if they collude with or watch power-drunk mortal men mortgage the future of this 31-year old state on the altar of their veiled selfish ends.
Discerning minds must see through this foggy façade and refuse to toe the line of those that have ganged up for a single purpose which is to grab power using any means even when there is no clear-cut blueprint upon which they hope to ride on to fulfill their pipe dream of getting the coveted trophy.
Human beings shouldn’t pose as lords. And the society must stand firm and ensure that they don’t hold the ladder for one to assume such unholy status. Though leaders have mastered the art of keeping the masses perpetually going cap in hand to them, a time comes when people must put the collective good of the state, the larger picture of the future far and above kowtowing to the whimsical and brash posturing of a man whose tomorrow, just like every other person, is in God’s hands.
Former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Chief Godswill Akpabio, no matter his political persuasion today, remains a statesman but he’s not the state. He may be reckoned by many as a mighty politician given the many battles he has triumphed, but he’s not the Almighty. And so, it’ll be blasfemous for anybody or the man in question, to arrogate ethereal powers to himself.
Those who were on the other side before 2015 pilloried and tarred the former Senate Minority Leader in bad brush. They accused him of everything under the sun. They accused him of sleaze of grandiose scale. He was slated, not to say slain with harsh words that won them admirers. One saw them as the harbingers of hope. Men of valour poised to right whatetver wrong they accused the ex-governor of whenever power to do so came their way.
Alas, in brazen show of crass insincerity and faces plastered with no modicum of shame, they rolled out the red carpets, hired drummers, erected tents and with a coterie of cheerleaders, they welcomed the man they once held in opprobrium with pomp and panoply into their fold much to the consternation of discerning minds who only watched the big show with arms akimbo, even with mouths agape.
By their somersault, they tell us that they were not sincere in their condemnation of the man they now hold in venerative halo. In fact, to them, they see Akpabio, whose defection to the APC has been described as uncommon, (the man says so himself) as one with the magic wand to tilt victory their way in the electoral feast of 2019.
They aren’t to be blamed since politics is a game of numbers and parties exist to win elections. But the point is that those who were here within the period Akpabio held sway as chief executive, saw how he was taken to the cleaners with merciless verbal lashings from those who pump fists with him today. We see them backslap and exchange smiles ridden with suspicion and further dripping with distrust as they strive to create an air of conviviality that borders on camaraderie even when all are mere superficialities.
In truth however, Akpabio is no politician to be dismissed with a wave of the hand. Given the enormous power he wielded with a dash of gingerness when serving as governor for a stormy, even if prodigal eighth years, the wealth he sat on and used to devastating effect, how he graced the Senate Chamber with remarkable ease and stormed his way to the Minority Chair even as a neophyte in legislative business, the obstacles he dismantled with clinical elegance not to say arrogance in helping Udom become governor, the man who has now moved to the APC with the brash claim of being a nationalist and with intent to connect the state to the centre, it is imperative for the masses, backed by elders who will stick to their guns come what may, to defang his wings not so that he doesn’t fly as a nationalist nor his place in history as onetime governor obliterated, but so he doesn’t assume the ignoble position of a potentate in-chief.
One credits Akpabio for always almost having his way, but now is the time to halt such stranglehold lest it goes overboard to the point of no rescue, not to say remedy. Above anything else, Udom’s case is that of what is good for the goose also being good for the gander. Uyo demonstrated considerable discipline when Attah held sway for eight years. Ikot Ekpene hushed their voices and showed exemplary political maturity and restraint as Akpabio’s image loomed almost larger than life by romping to the Hilltop Mansion a second time riding on the goodwill and support of his kinsmen. He often proclaimed with swaggering resignation that there’s no vacancy in Government House.
At a time like now, one won’t offend the gods of the land by reechoing those eternal lines that there’s no vacancy in Government House that should warrant someone or group of people to fall over one another as if the seat of power is lying vacuum hence needs to be filled.
Udom’s case, a gentleman holding the position in trust first for Eket Senatorial district, cannot be an exception. The man isn’t tired hence it amounts to robbing Peter by attempting to substitute him for another fellow from the same zone. You only replace a player when he’s tired or not having a good outing. Udom, from what he has put on ground in three and a half years despite the early court distractions, economic downturn and relatively lean resources, has shown that he still has a lot in his fecund mind to do for the continued betterment of the state and its people, especially in his second term. He’s not tired hence there should be no talk of retiring or substituting him for another person. Top players play full ninety minutes. Udom is a top player in governance hence has earned the right to be on the pitch as the captain for eight years.
The dummy that one will rule for only four years after which he’ll leave is a bareface lie that is weak in its roots, stem and branches. No sane mind should believe such utopian but grossly cheap tale emanating from a mind ridden with unmitigated desperation.
The 2019 race to the state’s top job is no sectional one. It’s a battle for all men and women of goodwill. It’s a battle to test the will and willpower of the people of Akwa Ibom State. It’s a battle to prove that the collective interest of the state and its people far outweighs that of one man who must not be lionized and adorned with the garb of an autocrat to the detriment of over five million people. Let it be that the Warsaw seeing war threat was only but a pardonable Freudian slip that won’t manifest in reality.
At any rate, it bears restating that Akpabio’s place in the history of Akwa Ibom State is undoubtedly assured. But he stands to be judged harshly by posterity if he goes ahead to facilitate, support nor collude with pliable Abuja forces to cause uproar in the state and ultimately put Akwa Ibom in negative spotlight before, during and after the 2019 elections.
We’ve already been witnesses to pockets of violence where youths of Okobo went on rampage to register their grievances over the outcome of APC primaries in the area. Stories of bloodshed occasioned by the same primaries are well documented. We’ve read of the house of a governorship hopeful being attacked by unknown gunmen. We’ve heard some people being visited with mayhem right in their homes. To all intents and purposes, these are incidents that nobody, not even a debonair and peace-loving governor like Udom Emmanuel will subscribe to.
Nobody wants a rehash of the dark, grim tales that put citizens in constant trepidation in the recent past.
Led by a governor that has displayed uncommon maturity in leadership, we mustn’t allow our ambitions to puncture the peace and tranquility enjoyed in the state under Udom’s watch. We must not allow our actions or inactions send out a wrong security signal to the global community. No matter how one tries to discredit the governor, one thing that is incontestable is that Governor Emmanuel is a tolerant, reserved, refined and principled administrator who will never subscribe to violence nor order anybody for that matter to engage in acts that are repugnant or antithetical to the peaceful co-existence of his people.
So, those who point finger at the governor for sponsoring or masterminding any violent acts, had better engaged in other arguments than resort to what many have described as cheap, unwarranted and misguided blackmail.
Moving forward, the 2019 polls is a litmust test for the people of the state. They have a vital decision to make. A decision to take their destiny in their hands or surrender it to one man for ehphemeral freebies and remain perpetually under his voice, power and authority and so costume him with the garb of an overlord and defer to him ad infinitum!
Kenneth Jude, a Public Affairs Analyst and two-time NUJ Best Columnist of the Year, writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.