I received a text message on my phone on Tuesday morning that got me
thinking seriously about the politics and by extension, the future of
my beloved Akwa Ibom State. The SMS was sent by a group identified as
U31 Project, which in my on reckoning could imply a unity group
purportedly made up of people from the 31 local government areas of
Akwa Ibom State.
The text message reads inter alia: “Don’t swap horses in midstream.
Choose what is right for you, bcos you can. For our tomorrow, let’s
take action today. Support Umana O. Umana, d man with d plan.”
The text has confirmed my fears. It implies that overt campaigning has
already begun, at least in Akwa Ibom State, even though the elections
are still two clear years away. Even the presidency has on many
occasions shied away from discussing the 2015 general elections
because of its tendency to take away focus from the job at hand. Well,
we’ve heard from the horses’ mouth eventually…
This beautifully crafted message is pregnant with meanings. For
starters, who is the horse we’ve been riding on that we dare not
abandon midstream? What plan does Umana have that he hasn’t been able
to execute since 1999 that he has been in government? Umana has been
very fortunate in many respect, he joined the Akwa Ibom State Civil
Service in 1989 as Principal Budget Officer and in the course of the
journey enjoyed a meteoric career success rising to the position of
State Director of Budget within just 9 years! The man should not push
his luck too far.
Please don’t get me wrong. I personally admire Obong Umana Okon Umana
for his brilliance and attainment in life. Umana rose from humble
beginnings as a former teacher at the Cross River State School of
Basic Studies, Akamkpa, through the civil service and is seen as a
seasoned technocrat. He is a fellow Ibibio man, like me, from the same
Uyo Senatorial District and has done us proud in many respects. And
like every other Akwa Ibomite, Umana has the rights to aspire to the
highest political office in the state, but the truth must be told,
It is a known fact that by the time Akpabio vacates office in May
2015, Obong Umana Okon Umana would have been in the corridors of power
for 16 years, having been the commissioner for finance for two terms
of eight years in the previous administration of Obong Victor Attah
before being appointed by the Akpabio administration into the lofty
office of the Secretary to the State Government in 2007, a position
that he, again, has retained in Akpabio second term in office. I
think it is only decent and appropriate that he calls it a day.
Akwa Ibom State is not Obong Umana’s personal estate. There are strong
insinuations in high places about how the SSG is holding Governor
Godswill Akpabio by the jugular over who succeeds him in 2015. Those
in the know believe that Umana sees his ascension to the throne of
Ibom as his birthright and a debt that Akpabio owes him and his ilk. A
debt that he has sworn Akpabio must pay by all means. It is very sad
indeed that politics in Nigeria has become an investment where the
investors are hell bent on reaping from their investments at all cost
and often times to the detriment of the state. In as much as I do not
want to jump to conclusion on this issue, there just might be more to
Umana’s gubernatorial ambition than meets the eye.
Furthermore, Umana is widely believed to be the influential godfather
behind the Akpabio governorship. He’s rumoured to be the political
iroko who decides who gets what in the political arena. The forced
resignation of Nsima Ekere, Akpabio’s former deputy, is said to have
been master-minded by Obong Umana Okon Umana, for daring to nurse a
gubernatorial ambition, even as he is also believed to have
single-handedly installed Mrs Valerie Ebe as the current deputy
governor. What other debt does the governor owe him?
Has perceived “indebtedness” become the new yardstick for determining
political succession in Nigeria? Should the fate of a state that is so
abundantly blessed by the Almighty God be left in the hands of jokers,
forever? Should the people of Akwa Ibom continue to suffer lack in the
midst of plenty? What sort of legacy are we leaving for posterity with
this warped political template? These are a few of the questions that
are begging for answers in the prevailing scenario.
Even though the practice of democracy in Nigeria appears to have its
unique flavour, the beauty of the government of the people by the
people and for the people is already on display. Democracy is
beautiful, indeed, and it is heart-warming to note that the powerful
man through his intermediaries has finally come down from his high
horse to seek the support of the people. Hitherto, he was said to be
carrying on with the airs of a man that was already about to take
possession of the famous Hill Top Mansion as the Akwa Ibom State
government house is known, and was ready to hijack the democratic
process for his own personal gain.
Umana is undoubtedly a man of means. He presides over the state’s
Finance and General Purpose Committee as Chairman and is said to be
one of the richest men in Akwa Ibom if not the very richest. This
perhaps explains why he has been able to engage the best hands in his
underground political campaign machinery. Heavy bombardment in the
areas of communications and political strategising are in the works in
the weeks and months ahead.
But many Akwa Ibomites would not forget in a hurry how he has dashed
their hopes in the planned industrialisation of the state. In 2007 or
thereabout when he was appointed the Chairman of the Ibom Industrial
City Project, located in Mbo Local Government in the Oron area, many
were happy about the appointment. As an experienced technocrat, many
thought he would bring his experience to bear in nurturing the
industrial city project to fruition. The ambitious project was
estimated to have the capacity to create at least 200,000 jobs. But
sadly, up till today, the project is yet to take off the ground in
spite of the billions that have been expended on it.
Experience has shown that this is a self-seeking individual that is
out to use his position in government for his own purpose. He has
spent his years in government amassing wealth and building formidable
political structures in order to achieve his personal ambition of
becoming governor of Akwa Ibom State. The man should go home with
whatever new plan he thinks he has. Our elites should stop taking us
for a ride.
Despite the gloomy atmosphere occasioned by the goings on in the
state, I am confident of one thing – that Akwa Ibom is greater than
any one person. The state is in need of a visionary and pragmatic
leader that can lead us out of the crippling poverty, insecurity and
despair that currently pervade the land. The truth is that, except for
the privileged few who are in the corridors of power and their
cronies, there is widespread hunger and misery in the land of promise,
despite its abundant natural and human resources.
Someday, and perhaps sooner than we think, Akwa Ibom shall be free.
And as events begin to unfold in the political arena in preparation
for 2015, Akwa Ibomites will rise up in unison against those who have
stolen our collective patrimony and desecrated our land with untold
evil. We will say no to the imposition of candidates in our polity.
And just like the text that I received on Tuesday advices, we will
choose what is right for us because we truly can. So help us God. And
may the best candidate win in 2015.
I received a text message on my phone on Tuesday morning that got me