Since 2006, I have been actively involved with American politics and can safely without sounding immodest state that I understand deeply the dynamics, issues and currents that illuminate the political/electoral process in the United States. In November of that year, 2006, I had exercised my first civic responsibility as a newly minted American citizen when I voted in the governorship/Congressional elections that took place that year.
As a registered Democrat, I had volunteered to work on the campaign of the then Democratic Governorship Candidate for the state of New York, then Attorney- General, Eliot Spitzer. Armed with degrees in political science and journalism, and a masters in International Relations and comparative politics, and as the Overall Best Graduating Student in my department, the campaign organization had concluded that my skills would be better utilized in the media and communications arm of the campaign. And so, I found myself writing press releases, interfacing with the media, and acting as a link between the large African Diaspora community and its numerous ethnic publications and the campaign. My joy knew no bounds when our Principal, Eliot Spitzer won a landslide victory over his Republican counterpart, John Faso and went ahead to provide solid stewardship to the people of New York state, until, unfortunately a personal failing caused him to resign his office in March 2008.
In 2008, as the publisher and editor –in-chief of The Diasporan Star newspaper, arguably the most popular newspaper for African and Caribbean Diaspora communities in New York, I had aligned myself with the Obama/Biden campaign, and worked tirelessly as a media partner to the campaign to persuade the large African Diaspora community to support the Obama/Biden ticket, which they did, enthusiastically. The same fervor was displayed in 2012 when we again galvanized the African Diaspora community to return Obama to the White House with a landslide victory through the Electoral College. I remember brimming with excitement that Obama, was going to be one of the few modern Democratic presidents to win a second term in office.
Since the advent of the current political dispensation in Nigeria, except in 2011, when I visited Nigeria almost on a monthly basis, and had attended almost all the political rallies of the gubernatorial campaign that had returned Governor Godswill Akpabio for a second term, due to my status as a Diasporan, I did not have a chance to be a soldier in the trenches of electioneering campaigns, which I so fervently desired, until the recently concluded elections.
In July 2013, Deacon Udom Emmanuel, then an Executive Director at Zenith Bank was tapped by Governor Godswill Akpabio to become the Secretary to the State Government of Akwa Ibom State, and my joy and happiness were unquantifiable. I was happy and excited that my brother and primary school classmate (Udom and I are from the same community of Awa, in Onna local government Area. ONNA is an acronym for :Oniong Nnung Andem Awa) was being thrust into public service and knowing what an over-achiver he was at Zenith Bank, I knew he would bring the same energy and fervor to bear in the discharge of his responsibilities as the SSG, and he did not disappoint.
Shortly after assuming the position of SSG, there began a chatter within certain circles that given the fact that the governorship slot was being zoned to Eket Senatorial district, where Udom comes from, that he was likely going to throw his hat in the political ring as a candidate for the Governor of the state, and I remember praying fervently that he would see the need to do so.
When the chatter became conventional wisdom as it appeared all but certain that Udom was going to run for the governorship of the state, I fast-tracked my plans, which had been in the offing for a while, to relocate to Nigeria, and be a part of what I knew would shape up as an exciting campaign to deepen the rate of development that the Governor Akpabio led administration had engendered and then move the state towards the path of sustainable development.
In December 2013, I finally relocated to Nigeria and things moved pretty fast culminating in the resignation of Udom from the office of the Secretary to the State Government in October last year, and his formal declaration to seek the office of the Governor of Akwa Ibom State. I was appointed the Director of Media and Publicity for the campaign. After a grueling campaign, the good people of Akwa Ibom State rewarded the ticket with victory and our Principal, Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel was elected massively as the Governor –Elect of Akwa Ibom State at the April 11, gubernatorial election.
Since his election, I have read some propaganda-induced and other sponsored stories both in the conventional and social media where the APC have made some wild and unfounded allegations as to the conduct and integrity of the gubernatorial elections.
Let me state here for the record that elections in Akwa Ibom state were exceptionally peaceful and orderly except a few skirmishes here and there, which, even in mature democracies like the United States, are common place occurrences.
The APC it must be stated was the main culprit in whatever may have passed as electoral malfeasance. One of the party’s chieftains and major surrogate, the retired General Edet Akpan, a former Director General of the NYSC, was arrested and is being currently prosecuted having being caught with tons of electoral materials that he had thump-printed for the APC. A personal Assistant to the newly elected legislator representing Ini State Constituency, Gabriel Udo Udo was shot and killed by thugs the APC had unleashed all over the state. He left behind two young children and a pregnant wife. A serving AIG, was posted to the state with strict instructions to ensure that PDP voters would be frustrated and scared away from fulfilling their civic responsibilities. In all of this orchestrated campaign of intimidation by the APC, the people of Akwa ibom state refused to be cowed, as they trooped out in thousands, and in an orderly manner cast their votes overwhelmingly for the Udom/Moses ticket.
Now, you may wish to ask: why did PDP win in Akwa Ibom state in spite of the satanic propaganda and vile rhetoric and machinations of the APC? The answers are simple: Udom Emmanuel ran a campaign that was based on ideas and not on propaganda. At rallies and on media outings and avails, he carefully articulated a persuasive and convincing campaign blueprint and platform that was hopeful, people-centric and practical. The main plank was encapsulated in the 5-Point agenda of job growth, industrialization, wealth creation, deepening of the infrastructural renaissance and affordable health care.
He was passionate in his articulation of these core areas, and the people saw the sincerity in his voice, his body language and they in turn, believed him. A man of Christian masculinity and urbane disposition, he directed his campaign staff not to engage in campaigns of blackmail or personal destruction. Such approach, he reasoned was unseemly, and throughout the duration of the campaign, we did not malign the other side, in spite of all the subterfuge and manufactured lies they had marketed and put out in their friendly media. The campaign was rightly called “Divine Mandate” because Udom- a Deacon of the Qua Iboe church saw his entry into public service as a divine calling. God thus became the center of our gravity and He led us safely to the Promised Land.
Akwa Ibom state, it must be stated is a decidedly PDP state and it would take an electoral Tsunami to change the state from voting PDP to any other party for that matter and this fact is rooted in historical precedents. Akwa Ibom state has always tilted towards the right of the center of the political spectrum, or what could be described as a deeply rooted conservative bent. Our people have never bought into the progressive or liberal ideological platform of modern politics.
In the Second Republic, Akwa Ibom people then under the old Cross Rivers state voted for the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN)- a conservative party. During the ill-fated Third Republic, our people voted massively for the right-of the centre party, the National Republic Convention (NRC). At the dawn of the current political dispensation in 1999, the people have consistently voted for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP.) This, has been an established pattern of voting by our people, and the notion by the APC that such a deeply embedded and internalized voting culture will evaporate within a few weeks of Obong Umana Okon Umana, who for over a decade had been an active member of the PDP, and only defected to the APC last December in order to run for the governorship election, will change is not only laughable but self-serving.
Udom Emmanuel won the election in Akwa Ibom state fair and square and the opposition knows this. Little wonder, Accord and Labour Parties respectively, having realized the futility of embarking on an unnecessary and long-drawn legal battle, did the right thing, by congratulating the Gov-elect, Deacon Udom Emmanuel and asking their gubernatorial candidates to follow-suit.
Deacon Udom Emmanuel, the Governor- Elect whose acronym stands for : Unity, Development, Onward Movement (UDOM) has already extended an olive-branch to his co-contestants and enjoined them to come join hands with him to build the state and launch it on a path of sustainable development, and the majority of Akwa Ibom people expect the opposition to read the tea leaves and come on board to continue the developmental strides that Governor Akapbio has so creditably and so selflessly brought about in the state. We hope they will heed the voice of the people and come to the realization that the victory the good people of the state gave the Udom/Moses ticket will remain unassailable and inviolable.
Ekerete Udoh was the Director of Media and Publicity for the victorious Udom/Moses ticket in Akwa Ibom State