Set To Dump Zoning
Although the next gubernatorial election in Akwa Ibom State is still about three years away, the jostle for Governor Godswill Akpabio’s successor has begun. Perhaps, the political space in the state had never before been as challenging as it is presently.
Before Akpabio assumed the mantle of leadership on May 29, 2007, the Ikot Ekpene senatorial district had made spirited efforts to occupy the office without success. Despite the great opposition against him even from his predecessor, Chief Victor Attah, who wanted his son in-law to success him, Akpabio contested both the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP governorship primary and the main election and won.
Akwa Ibom is comprised of three ethnic groups – the Ibibio, Annang and Oron. The political calculation is that since the Ibibio and Annang had their turn, it will be the turn of the Oron people to produce the next governor of Akwa Ibom State in 2015. While Governor Akpabio is from the Annang tribe his predecessor, Chief Victor Attah is Ibibio. Oron is in Eket senatorial district.
Indications are that the people of this zone will not secure this ticket on a platter of gold.
Last week, a body known as Ibom Covenant Initiative, ICI, criticised the area for attempting to lay claim to the governorship position of the state in 2015. Wisdom Effiong, the group’s president declared that there has been no time in the state where governorship slot was decided based on zoning.
Effiong argued that the governorship slot is open to aspirants from the 31 local government areas of the state and all registered political parties. “So there is no way we can accept zoning in 2015. The contest is open to all senatorial districts.” He said what Akwa Ibom State needs are tested, credible, experienced and mature hands to handle its affairs and not sectional agitators.
Political leaders from Uyo senatorial district, after a stakeholders meeting, noted that zoning is only done for other offices like the deputy governor and speaker of the House of Assembly and not for the office of the governor. The meeting was attended by former minister of women affairs, Rita Akpan; former speaker of the state House of Assembly, Anietie Etuk; Jackson Sunny Udo and other political bigwigs from the zone. They contended that every senatorial district has the right to aspire for the office of the governor in 2015 and that only the best candidate could be chosen to lead the state. According to them, the political history of the state proves that since the era of late Akpan Isemin through Attah to Akpabio every zone has always vied for the position irrespective of political parties’ arrangement on zoning.
And for Akwa Ibom Democratic Project, AKDP, led by a former governorship aspirant, Aloysius Edet, all the three senatorial districts have participated in party primaries since the advent of the present democratic dispensation. AKDP further maintained that even for the first democratic experiment when Akwa Ibom State was created in 1991, no section was barred from contesting for the governorship of the state. “For the 2015 election, no section or group of people should pontificate unreasonably zoning of governorship, because there is an established tradition of electoral contest in Akwa Ibom State,” Edet contended.
Where the people of Eket zone would have gotten a life line seems to be failing. Even, Helen Esuene, the senator representing the area in the National Assembly, told newsmen that those arguing for zoning or against zoning are not wrong. She said the final arbiter is the electorate who will chose who will lead them.
A two-time governorship aspirant in the state on the platforms of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Larry Esin, said only the best candidate should be elected to lead the state. Esin is also of Oron extraction.
The Eket senatorial district consultative assembly equally argued that political space in Akwa Ibom State should be thrown open for the best man to emerge. In a statement signed by its president, Samuel David, and secretary, Emmanuel Ating, the assembly urged the people of the zone not to sacrifice excellence on the altar of zoning by living in the dreams of the zoning formula. According to them, let the politicians from Eket senatorial district flaunt their political credentials and stand election instead of relying on zoning because the right they have to contest for the governor of the state is the same right others from other senatorial districts have.
But the Oron people are upbeat in their demand. At the annual conference of Oron Union, OD Okon, the president general, of the union however said that Oron would not renege on its ambition to produce the 2015 governorship of Akwa Ibom State. He decried the selfishness of some Oron politicians who have swerved their interest away from the Oron accord.
Despite their agitation for the position to be zoned to them indications are that some senior citizens of Eket senatorial district, especially Oron ethnic extraction have started keying into the political groups of other senatorial districts and playing front liner roles. But this has not affected the aspiration of Otu Ita Toyo, a former PDP state chairman from the area, who has reportedly signified his intention to succeed Akpabio.
Newsworld has, however, learnt that a group known as Ibom Medallion is seriously working to protect the uncommon transformation of the state by supporting a candidate whom they feel would ensure that the achievements of Governor Akapbio are not rubbished soon after he lives office in 2015.