AS the 2019 elections draw closer zoning is turning into an issue for consideration by the two major political parties in Akwa Ibom State; the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP and All Progressives Congress APC in Akwa Ibom State are pushing forward strategies on how to win the gubernatorial election.
By Chioma Onuegbu
Voters are beginning to form opinion on how votes would be shared between the two major political parties in the state across the three senatorial districts of Uyo, Ikot Ekpene and Eket.
The PDP has already zoned the gubernatorial seat to Eket Senatorial District (Akwa Ibom South) and has unanimously endorsed the incumbent governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel for a second term in line with the party’s tradition that each of the senatorial districts would govern the state one after the other for eight years. The PDP therefore believes that it would be fair that Eket Senatorial District that produced Mr. Emmanuel should also be allowed to complete eight years after which the position would be zoned to Uyo Senatorial District again.
For the APC there is no clear idea as to who the aspirant would be but presently the main contenders include Nsima Ekere, Senator Akpanudoedehe and Asuquo Okpo from the Oron axis.
There are also speculations that the party may field a candidate for the seat from Eket senatorial district where the incumbent governor hails from in order to divide the votes from the region.
Although the APC in the state had never adopted or laid emphasis on zoning of the gubernatorial seat in previous elections, the stakeholders may have decided to change as part of strategy to achieve victory at the poll.
Party strategists say that a quiet decision to zone to Eket may be to stop the delivery of bloc votes by Eket Senatorial District to the governor.
The chairman of the APC in Akwa Ibom State Iniobong Okopido, however, told Sunday Vanguard that it was natural for an Akwa Ibom person to think and insinuate that the party may zone the gubernatorial position to Eket senatorial district because of the trend where past governors of the state did eight years each.
He said “We have not as a party taken a common position on that matter. But it may be the mindset of an Akwa Ibom person to think towards that.
“You know in Akwa Ibom state the immediate past governor came from Ikot Ekpene senatorial district, he stayed for eight years, the one before him came from Uyo senatorial district and he also stayed for eight years.
“So it is just like a common sense that it should go to Eket for the remaining four years, that might be the mind-set of a reasonable AkwaIbomite , but as far as the constitution of our party is concerned, there is no express provision for zoning.
Asked whether the party would welcome gubernatorial aspirants that are not from Eket (AkwaIbom South) Okopido simply responded, “Yes, if it is the decision of the party. But I think whatever decision that should come from the party will be just and fair.”
Whatever, party chieftains from outside Eket are not relying on that assurance. One of the leading chieftains of the party, and the father of opposition in the state, Senator John Akpanudoedehe told Sunday Vanguard that there was nothing like zoning in the state. “They are talking about zoning in our state. Zoning is a PDP thing. In Cross River and Akwa Ibom, Etiebet did not complete his tenure; Isong did not complete his tenure and Akpan Isemin as well. In Uyo, Obong Victor Attah came and completed the tenure of Akpan Isemin; in Ikot Ekpene senatorial district, Akpabio came and completed the tenure of Etiebet who was only three months in office; then the present governor is completing the tenure of Clement Isong who served only four years.
“But we as APC, we do not have zoning. If you want to start zoning in APC, whoever wins, zoning starts. But that is not the point I am making. My point is that when you are going to take power from the opposition, you cannot play to their sentiments because they will take advantage of that.
Given the seeming analysis as postulated by Akpanudoedehe, it is inevitable that zoning is an issue that the APC in the state is bound to challenge the harmony that party chieftains had recently achieved during the recent congresses of the party. The point of controversy for some is that a successful bid by Ekere, Okpo or some other person from Eket Senatorial Zone could see the person serving for another eight years which would inevitably distort the zoning pattern. Or should someone else from Uyo Senatorial zone get the APC ticket, Eket would justifiably see itself to have been cheated. It is thus no surprise that the party chairman refrained from speaking much on it given the very difficult choices for the party.