The five local governments that make up the old Abak Division organised a grand reception to honour the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain in Akwa Ibom State, Dr. Nsima Ekere. At the occasion, the people invited Ekere to throw his hat in the ring and contest the 2019 governorship election. Deputy Political Editor RAYMOND MORDI reports.
IF current developments in Akwa Ibom State are anything to go by, the next governorship election in the state promises to be a stiff contest between the two major parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state and the All Progressives Congress (APC). The above indication came to the fore recently at the occasion was a grand reception organised by the Abak 5 Redemption Movement to honour the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain in Akwa Ibom State, Dr. Nsima Ekere.
It was a day the people of the five local government areas that make up the former Abak Division invited Ekere to throw his hat in the ring and contest the 2019 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State. It was a call to service; the people of Abak, Etim Ekpo, Ika, Oruk Anam and Ukanafun local government areas, popularly known has Abak 5, left no one in doubt that they had endorsed Ekere as their standard bearer for the 2019 governorship race.
This was confirmed by the Akwa Ibom State APC Caucus Chairman, Atuekong Don Etiebet, who chaired the occasion. He added that the people of Abak 5 had resolved to purchase the party’s governorship nomination form for Ekere, because he has done well for them. Etiebet said: “He is not yet governor, but he has already intervened in the problems of Abak people. As you know, performance does not hide.”
Former Minister of Women Affairs, Obong Rita Akpan said she was overwhelmed by the unprecedented gathering of the young and old people that that converged at the Government Technical College, Abak, Akwa Ibom State, to witness the event. She said: “People usually talk about sea of heads, but this is an ocean of heads. I have never seen this kind of crowd before. This must emanate from a wave of the burning desire of the people to bring change to their political and economic situation. These are people who say they can no longer continue to endure the pains and deprivations of living under tattered umbrellas that hardly shield them from the vicissitudes of life.
“Looking at the faces of the crowd, one could easily discern that they were yearning for change and they already had their eyes set on a political beacon to chart the way forward. The diverse groups, some in colourful uniforms, were ceaselessly singing and dancing to all kinds of music, brass bands, local drums and blasting loud speakers.”
Galvanised by the overwhelming acceptance of Ekere, Obongunwana Emmanuel Ukoete, a member representing Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, moved a motion for the endorsement of the former deputy governor to contest the 2019 governorship election. The motion was seconded by the former member representing Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency, Obongemem Ekperikpe Ekpo. At the end of the day, it was unanimously endorsed.
An APC chieftain and Managing Director of Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, Mr. Umana Umana, said long before the Abak 5 people took the plunge, the entire Akwa Ibom Northeast Senatorial District had resolved to purchase the APC governorship nomination form for Ekere because of his outstanding performance at the NDDC.
Umana added: “We have come here to support and show solidarity with the people of Abak 5, who have taken the right decision to honour Obong Nsima Ekere for his outstanding performance as the Managing Director of the NDDC. We have come here to say that this honour is well-deserved.
“I know his ideas about Akwa Ibom State. His programmes for Akwa Ibom State will not be about promises and ground breaking. There is nothing as traumatic as somebody will come and break your grounds and after two years the site will be overgrown with weeds. We are here to align with the people of Abak 5 that things cannot continue like this in Abak 5. And we have a capable hand that will make our party proud. Has he not made our party proud? We thank the President who found him worthy. Our brother, you have done well and the reward for hard work is more hard work. We are very happy with you.”
Umana dismissed media reports of a rift between him and Ekere, saying, “Those who continue to write in newspapers that Nsima and Umana are fighting, tell them that there is no fight. We are one. Our party is one and united.”
A former Special Assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Electoral Matters, Chris Okorie, who chaired the event planning committee, explained that the reception was organised to appreciate Ekere for “standing by us to rebuild the bridge that has brought change to Abak 5 and indeed the entire state”.
He enumerated NDDC projects facilitated by Ekere in the five local government areas to include construction of Hospital Road, Abak, and adjourning Obot Street, construction of Spring Road, Abak, and Mercantile Bank Road in Ekparakwa, Oruk Anam and renovation of school buildings in 20 schools, expressing delight that all the projects were executed by indigenous contractors.
Okorie added: “Ekere epitomizes the saying that a good friend is better than a bad brother, son or son-in-law.”
A former Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. Uwem Udoma, described Ekere as the real deal for Abak 5, assuring him of the support of the people of the area. He attributed the clement weather that characterised the day to divine intervention.
Others who delivered goodwill messages at the event were a former State Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Otu Ita-Toyo; a former PDP State Women Leader, Lady Victoria Mel-Udoh; a former Deputy Majority Whip of the State House of Assembly, Obonganwan Mabel Udongwo; a former Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Dr. Emem Wills; a representative of the APC in Diaspora, Dr. Abasiubong Udofia; and a computer mogul, Mr. Inibehe Otoho.
At the occasion, Ekere was presented with a symbolic sword of authority and a native cow by the people of Abak 5. The NDDC boss expressed appreciation to the people for what he called their show of love and confidence and promised to react to their call at the appropriate time.
Ekere said Akwa Ibom State deserved better governance. He said: “I want to respond by saying that this call by Abak 5 has been taken note of, and I will consider it very seriously. For, today, I am still the Managing Director of the NDDC. I have a job to do for the Niger Delta people. I have a job to do for Akwa Ibom people.
“Mr. President showed confidence in our capabilities and gave us this appointment. We are committed to delivering on our mandate with everything that is in our fabric. We shall do it. When the time for politics comes, when the time for election comes, I will come back here and I will remind you of this resolution that you passed today.”
The NDDC chief executive officer seized the opportunity to move a motion for the endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term, stressing that the President had demonstrated uncommon love for Akwa Ibom State, particularly in terms of appointments.
He commended Buhari for the enormous support to the NDDC, especially his approval for the harmonisation of outstanding remittances from the Federal Ministry of Finance and release of outstanding funds due the commission for the development of the Niger Delta region.
On a sad note, however, Ekere decried the disruption of NDDC projects by agents of the Akwa Ibom State Government, reasoning that it was counter-productive because “the money NDDC is using to develop Akwa Ibom State is our own share of money for the development of the Niger Delta”.
Ekere said the commission was not competing with the Akwa Ibom State Government or any other state in the oil-rich Niger Delta region in the execution of its mandate. He said that the state government was antagonising the commission as evident in the disruption of its activities in the state by agents of the state government. The state Commissioner for Works, Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, had told reporters that the state government chased out NDDC contractors because of poor execution of work.
But Ekere said: “In the last several months, the NDDC had witnessed disruption in its project sites in Akwa Ibom while trying to intervene to make life more useful. NDDC is not in competition with Akwa Ibom or any other state. NDDC is here to make life meaningful.
“The money NDDC is using to develop our state is our own share and if you stop us, that means you don’t love the people. The state should support development partners, rather than disrupting the work of the partners. We will engage all the state governments so that we can bring development to our people.”
The NDDC boss promised that the commission will continue to seek ways of constructive engagement with all governments in the region “so that we can bring development to all nooks and crannies of the Niger Delta”.
Ekere urged the people of Akwa Ibom State to vote for the APC to end “bad governance” in the state. He added: “President Muhammadu Buhari has shown uncommon love for the people of Nigeria. Never in the history of Nigeria has Akwa Ibom benefitted so much.”