•’Do they want to kill 6.2 million people?’
By Harris-Okon Emmanuel
After series of endorsements by groups and critical stakeholders, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, on Friday, threw his hat into the ring when he declared his intention to seek re-election on the platform of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
The declaration against the desires of the governor’s former political godfather, Senator Godswill Akpabio, inevitably set the battle line between the two men.
The gathering saw nearly all the political heavyweights in the PDP lining up behind the governor putting to question expectations that Akpabio’s shadow would scare the people away.
There was also a handsome representation of PDP leaders from outside the state. The dignitaries in attendance include Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, former governor of Benue, Gabriel Suswan, former governor of Kaduna, Ramalan Yero, former deputy governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Muktah Shagari, former governor of Akwa Ibom, Major General Yakubu Bako (ret.), former Secretary, Christian Pilgrim Board, John Kennedy Opara, John Gaul-Lebo, the Speaker of the Cross River House of Assembly and former governors of Kogi, Adamawa, Nasarawa.
Members of the PDP National Working Committee, who visited and prayed with the governor the day before, were understandably absent in order not to appear partisan given that the governor is also set to go through primary election even though no aspirant has come to challenge him for the PDP ticket.
Setting the tone for the day, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (ret.), who is the Director General of Divine Mandate, the campaign outfit of the governor, noted that since democracy was all about making choices, it was apt that the people of the state should choose Emmanuel, who he effusively praised for surpassing expectations by his performances in office.
‘’This is the choice and nobody should change this choice. I urge security agencies to be the defenders of democracy. This choice will never, ever be changed. Udom Emmanuel is the choice of the people. And God says touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm. Go and vote for him because he will be here till 2023’’, he said.
Nkanga’s presence and position as the campaign manager was remarkable, given the fact, that four years ago, he had been handpicked by the former governor of the state, Akpabio, to lead the campaign, a job he successfully did that led to Emmanuel’s election. Nkanga, like many in the political mainstream in Akwa Ibom State chapter of the PDP, however, refused to go with Akpabio when he defected to the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC.
Speaker of the state legislature, Onofiok Luke, who chaired the Planning Committee, praised the governor for working miracles despite the lean resources accruing to the state and boasted that Emmanuel will be sworn in 2019 no matter the groundswell of opposition against him.
‘Do they want to kill us?
Taking a swipe at Akpabio for defecting to APC, he said, ‘’People do things for their personal interest and not in the interest of Akwa Ibom’’.
‘’The other party does not have anything good to offer us. Why do they want to take over Akwa Ibom? Do they want to kill us? Do they want to owe us salaries? Go to APC states, they are owing salaries’’, he said.
Chairman, Akwa Ibom Caucus at the National Assembly, Senator Bassey Albert, equally heaped encomium on the governor over what he described as his superlative performances and declared re-electing him was already a fait accompli.
‘’The voice of the people is the voice of God. Udom is God’s divine choice for the state and nothing will stop him from ruling till 2023. We believe in you as our leader. Never in the history of Akwa Ibom has the state been so united”, Albert said.
‘’You brought unity and collective sense of purpose for all the people of the state. In 2015, you were the best and right choice for Akwa Ibom. In 2019, you remain the choice for Akwa Ibom’’.
On his part, Emmanuel said he was fit to pilot the affairs of the state beyond 2019 and applauded the PDP faithful for the show of support and reeled out his achievements in the industrializations, infrastructural development, among others, which he noted were his unique selling points ahead of the general polls.
He spoke on the controversial Uyo- Ikot Ekpene Road, Four Point by Sheraton Hotel, which Akpabio had used to claim as his reasons for his problems with the present governor.
The governor revealed that though Akpabio awarded the contract in December 2011, he abandoned it for the present administration. The governor also shocked many with his revelation that the hype about the Sheraton Hotel in Ikot Ekpene was all air as he said that the Akpabio administration built a building without even making any contact with Starwood Hotels to use the Sheraton banner. He said that it was his administration that made the effort to contact Starwood to use the Sheraton name.
On the war threat by Akpabio, the governor said: ‘’As for those who are threatening that they will invade and destroy our people like Hitler did in Warsaw, how many people did Hitler kill? Do they want to kill 6.2million people? We rebuke all those who are saying that the politics of 2019 will be like Hitler’s invasion of Poland. When those killers come, tell them that there is no vacancy in Akwa Ibom.”
‘One man wants to delivers S/South for APC’
In his message of solidarity, Wike called on the people of the state to vote for the governor and ensure that they protect their votes and should not allow the opposition party to intimidate them.
‘’One man wants to deliver South-South for APC. Can he do it?’’, the Rivers’ governor said, adding , “they didn’t leave PDP because Udom didn’t do well. They left because of EFCC.’’
Ikpeazu told the crowd that the state was blessed to have Emmanuel at the helm of affairs , noting that they came to give a boost ‘’to the governor who has not failed his people’’.
The leadership of the various senatorial districts lent their voices in solidarity to the governor. Speaking on behalf of Ikot Ekpene, former Deputy Governor Chris Ekpenyong said, “Governor Udom Emmanuel, everything is working for you because you are a child of God. We your in-laws are solidly behind you. We have our 600,000 votes intact.”“This was corroborated by another former deputy governor, Sir Etim Okpoyo, who said his people in Eket Senatorial District had endorsed Emmanuel for second term and will ensure that the support resonates in all units in the district.
For the people of Uyo Senatorial District, it was more of a challenge than a mere submission as they maintained that the zoning formula which favours them in 2023 would be truncated if any other candidate from Eket Senatorial District emerges in 2019 to prolong their wait for another eight years.
Senators Anietie Okon and Effiong Bob were resolute in daring any opposition force to come and meet with fierce resistance in Uyo.
Chairmen of the 31 local government areas of Akwa Ibom affirmed the support of their people to the re-election bid, saying to the governor, “You have made us happy, by accepting to run for a second term.““We were 31, and we are still 31. You have our support. Anyone that says he is going to overrun Akwa Ibom, must first contend with us, all 31 of us.”
Goodwill messages were also received from women in the state through Senator Helen Esuene, the youths through the State Chairman of the Youth Caucus, Aniedi Iwa Udofia, as well as children from the state children’s parliament.
Appreciating the support, the state Chairman of PDP, Mr Paul Ekpo, said: “In 2014, we had G23 but today we only have G1 and that is because you have performed well. We will go ahead with the other election formalities and we are surely going to work and return you in 2019.”