•Etiebet: Ekere will be governor
The Deputy National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Hilliard Eta, has urged party members in Akwa Ibom Stateto gird their loins, saying that power shift is possible in the Southsouth state.
He said APC will build on its feat in Ekiti State to prove that it is a party to beat in next year’s poll.
Eta spoke in Uyo, the state capital, during ‘President Muhammadu Buhari’s endorsement rally, where a chieftain, Nsima Ekere, was endorsed for the governor by party faithful.
Observers described the rally as a defining moment for the main opposition party in the state. It took place a week after the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) hosted chieftains for a rally. APC leaders said the rally was held to reinforce the fact that there is vacancy in the Akwa Ibom Government House in 2019.
Also, the APC rally was significant because some big wigs who have defected from the PDP to the party were firing salvos and pushing for power shift. To them, the opposition party is better positioned to form the next government, adding that the PDP structure is ebbing away.
The rally was attended by former Secretary to Government Umana Umana, former Deputy Governor Nsima Ekere, former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Senator James John Akpanudoedehe, Presidential Assistant on National Assembly Matters Senator Ita Enang, and former PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) member Chief Don Etiebet.
The occasion was also witnessed by Senator Aloysius Etok, former House of Representatives member Eseme Eyibo, the Chairman of Cross-River Basins Development Authority, and former House of Assembly Deputy Speaker Uwem Udoma.
Akwa Ibom has produced three governors in the last 19 years. The governors-Obong Victor Attah, Senator Godswill Akpabio and Udom Emmanuel-belong to the PDP. The question is: can the Adams Oshiomhole-led APC change the equation? Can Akwa Ibom APC leaders pull the rug off the feet of Akpabio and Udom?
To Etiebet, change is possible, if the party can field the right candidate. Hailing the endorsement of President Buhari and Ekere, he said: “Today is not a day of speech making. The crowd has said it all. The crowd has spoken. It shows that the people of Ikot Ekpene are ready for Nsima and Buhari.”
Urging Ekere to prepare for leadership, the former Minister of Petroleum Resources added: “Nsima, go and consider our own call. We have called you to run for Akwa Ibom governor in 2019. With your benevolence and programmes for this senatorial district, consider the plea and resign in due time and run for the governor on the APC platform.”
Etiebet’s remarks raised some issues. Although the rally was meant for the endorsement of the president for a second term, it also endorsed Ekere, who defected to the party, for governor. A fresh wound was opened over the battle for the ticket between Ekere and Akpanudoedehe, an aspirant.
Akpanudoedehe once coordinated the battle against former Governor Akpabio in 2011 as governorship flag bearer, but without success. Since he defected to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN), he has been consistent and loyal to the progressive camp.
In 2015, following Ekere’s and Umana’s defection from the PDP to the APC, Akpanudoedehe complained that he was being edged out. Some chieftains alleged that the senator shunned party activities, owing to the fact that his former foes in the PDP came into the party to outwit him. The bitterness was compounded by the fact that the sharing of positions in the APC did not favour him. Many of the positions allocated to the state went to those who met him in the party. Thus, when Etiebet endorsed Ekere, there was apprehension and controversy over whether Akpanudoedehe had given up on his aspiration.
Akpanudoedehe, according to sources, is indifferent to Ekere’s endorsement. He explained that he attended the rally to identify with the president and Oshiomhole.
The endorsements of Esere, however, in the view of some stakeholders, was a reward for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) boss’ support for the party.
Oshiomhole’s message to the rally was germane. Against the background of the intrigues that played out, prior to the APC national convention, the national chairman tried to correct the insinuation that he was opposed to some leaders of the chapter. Eta, who represented him, predicted victory for the APC. He said the party will repeat its feat in Ekiti in the Southsouth state, urging members to work in unity.
The Chairman of the Central Planning Committee, Etok, said President Buhari deserved re-election because he has tried to reposition the economy.
He added: “The President has repositioned the economy. Although the enemies of progress have decided to kill people here and there, just to distract him, we in Ikot Ikpene Senatorial District are behind him. We must support him in 2019. That is why you see everybody here. Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District is APC and nobody can challenge that.”