Governorship Election: How Akwa Ibom people will vote
By Emmanuel Ndon
This report x-rays the voting pattern in the governorship election in Akwa Ibom State and the likely outcome from the 31 local government areas.
The report is not based on a survey, but on the analysis of traditional voting patterns, particularly as expressed during the presidential election held a few days ago, the current issues and trends as well as the views of political actors that influence the direction of votes.
As far as Akwa Ibom State is concerned, the race is between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). Both parties had good campaigns. There were massive turnout at rallies and, so far, the campaigns are peaceful and issue-based. Governor Udom Emmanuel (PDP) and Obong Nsima Ekere (APC) have both presented their manifestoes to the public. Ekere’s campaign message of “Akwa Ibom deserves the best” is anchored on his “five pillars of change”, while Governor Emmanuel’s “completion agenda” articulately showcases his achievements with an inspiring, spiritually coined “only God” slogan.
Strength of candidates
Udom Emmanuel (PDP)
(a) Party strength
Naturally, Akwa Ibom is considered a PDP enclave having remained in power since 1999. Most of its loyalists have touted the party saying, “PDP is a religion” in the state. Rather than break it, the defection of former governor Godswill Akpabio has galvanized the party and strengthened it than ever before.
This is because the defection is viewed more as a “betrayal” and selfish than for the good of the state, this has attracted a large number of people, particularly those who felt Udom was under his influence. This was boldly demonstrated in the last election where, Akpabio, unexpectedly failed to secure a return to the senate.
Almost all of Akpabio’s allies in the APC left the PDP as a result of having an ax to grind with the former governor. As it stands, the PDP is going into the election as a cohesive and united force.
In the nearly four years of his administration, Udom Emmanuel has listed 12 working industries including a revamping of the health and education sectors in particular. Nearly all the general hospitals across the state, particularly those built by missionaries, have been given a facelift replete with state of the art facilities, but the governor’s achievements have come under strong criticism by the opposition.
Beyond these, what will count for the Udom Emmanuel and the PDP is the peaceful atmosphere in the state. Compared to the past, security situation in Akwa Ibom State has been commendable and widely acknowledged.
Every incidence of kidnapping, assassination, excesses of cultism and armed banditry associated with the past have been eliminated, voters will pay him back for their safety.
(c) Rotation principle
According to elders and leaders of the state, the governorship position rotates among all the three senatorial districts of the state. Both contenders are from Eket senatorial district which is seeing off its eight – year term. Uyo senatorial district, the largest bloc of votes, is next to take its turn, they feel secure with the PDP. The general believe is that Uyo is guaranteed their shot with Udom Emmanuel who is already on the verge of a second term as opposed to Ekere, that is struggling to take his first shot.
(d) Corporate goodwill
As of today, the governor may be considered as a politician without any doubt, but nobody can take away his banking background. Thus, he is likely to enjoy the support of the corporate world who may wish to support or pull resources for one of their own.
(e) Church support
Udom Emmanuel has enjoyed tremendous goodwill from the Christian community across the state. Some religious leaders have spearheaded different support groups to band Christians of like minds together towards his reelection. Knowing the strength and numbers associated with anything religion, the governor is bound to reap from it.
(a) No central message for campaign
Governor Udom Emmanuel’s campaign slogan, “only God” appears not to convey any electoral meaning, even though the tone changes at rallies. The catch phrase, according to a source , is intended to spur the predominantly Christian population to support the cause in the believe that “only God” gives power.
However, one of his strong allies has championed “sustain the peace” as a message, while others only adopt whatever they choose, exposing the campaign as though not properly coordinated.
Most people have argued that the governor has not done enough in providing financial empowerment. saying unlike former Governor Akpabio, Udom is not a giver. But all that changed before the election. However, his close allies have dismissed the claim saying, unlike Akpabio, the governor’s “style” of giving is confidential.
Nsima Ekere (APC)
(a) Effective media strategy
The APC candidate, Nsima Ekere’s media strategy is appreciable, it has depth, strong central and censored message, they have also scored a point in branding.
(b) Federal might
As a party, the APC no longer has the strong support and large followership it got in 2011. Opposition to the incessant kidnapping, assassination etc. which characterized the administration at the time galvanized into a strong movement for the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). People united to fight a common enemy in the then Governor, Godswill Akpabio.
Bereft of this “movement”, and the absence of any cause to pursue, the APC appears to strongly rely on the influence of the federal government to carry the day. Analysts have argued that the APC do not exist organizationally on ground and would require some “aid” to turn results in their favour, or worst still, take it from the courts.
Again, this idea proved abortive in the last election.
(c) Akpabio’s factor
Until recently, the defection of former Governor Godswill Akpabio to the All Progressives Congress last year was believed to boost the chances of the party. However, his defeat by Dr. Chris Ekpenyong had deflated Akpabio, who is believed to be a schemer with a penchant for maneuver. He is also believed to have driven the success of the PDP while he was in the party.
(d) Aggrieved party faithfuls
Those whose interest have not been satisfied in the PDP government would want to try another camp. Expectedly, they naturally will go to the APC as the only viable alternative. However, this happens among both parties, the APC and PDP.
(a) Ill will
During his days at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), so many people had joined the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the hope of getting contracts.
However, Nsima’s appointment as Managing Director of NDDC has won him more enemies than friends. There are many people he promised jobs but did not give. Still, there are those who were given jobs without payment, these category of people are not even sure of getting paid following Nsima’s ouster.
Similarly, Nsima’s resignation from the NDDC has been shrouded with controversies. These group of people, will work against Nsima’s election.
(b) Fear of violence
Since he was deputy to former governor, Godswill Akpabio, there is the fear that his reunion with Akpabio may signal a return to the dark days.
There is palpable division in the APC, particularly among supporters of former governorship aspirants, for instance, those who supported Senator John Udoedeghe have refused to pull resources for Nsima Ekere, some have left for the PDP while others choose to remain aloof. This noticeable cracks will affect the outcome of the polls.
(d) Decimated war chest
In Nigeria, as in other countries of the world, election is an expensive exercise which requires a large amount of money. With his ouster from the NDDC, Ekere appears to be broke and may not have the required financial muscle to fund his election, especially against a sitting governor.
How they will vote
Ibesikpo /Asutan :
The structure of the party which won past elections are intact. The area has been a PDP enclave and is unlikely to change. The commissioner for finance has made a strong showing in the area wining back lost party men such as Emmanuel Obot. The favourbale disposition to the PDP by former governor, Obong Victor Attah will also add to the fortunes of the party.
Ibesikpo Asutan – PDP
Ibiono has been PDP-controlled but in the past, the then ACN had a strong showing in the area. More than any other, Ibiono seems to be favoured with many people in government elected and appointed. The senator representing Uyo senatorial district, Bassey Albert hails from here.
There is Assembly member, Rt. Hon. Ime Okon, the Commissioner of Environment and the publicity secretary of the PDP are both form here. The people tend to have benefitted from their numerous empowerment programmes and will want to say ‘thank you’ during the polls. Recently too, a former speaker of the House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ignatius Edet returned to the party from APC to further swell its ranks. The PDP will coast to victory.
Ibiono Ibom – PDP
Like many others, Eastern Obolo is predominantly PDP. The entire political structure from the council chairman to the House of Assembly, up to the House of Representatives member – is PDP. The structure is further bolstered by former political office holders who are still intact.
Eastern Obolo – PDP
The last time opposition reared its head in the area was during the 2011 elections (ACN). Its chairman had defected few days to the election and testified against it at the election tribunal. He was graciously rewarded with chairman of transition committee in Eket. But the APC seems to have bounced back after Nsima’s appointment as managing director of NDDC. They do not seem to possess the strength to dislodge the PDP.
Eket – PDP
Nsit Atai :
On paper, the PDP seems to have upper hand in the area but the APC ranks have swollen in recent times with aggrieved PDP members who are determined to make an impact. The emergence of Hon. Mark Eset, House member for the area, as candidate for the same office for the PDP seemed to have distorted the zoning arrangement in the area, so was the situation during the constitution of transition committees. The APC will make an impact but PDP will win.
Nsit Atai – PDP
This is the governor’s home base and no matter his performance rating, he is sure to clinch victory. His retinue of aides and appointees have made critics to label the governor as nepotistic. They are beneficiaries who will gladly support their son.
ONNA – PDP
Oro nation, as its five local government areas are collectively known, has benefitted from the infrastructural renaissance and consolidation thrust of the Udom Emmanuel administration. Admittedly, they have always complained of marginalization from the past regime. Now, the area has produced the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) to give them a sense of belonging. They are surely going to reciprocate the gesture. This sequence will follow through the other four local government areas except in Mbo.
Oron – PDP
Udung Uko – PDP
Okobo – PDP
Urue Offong/Oruko – PDP
This is, perhaps, the only area for a surprise and the last election is a testimony. Hon. Victor Antai’s defection to the APC is probably the only face for the party. Voters may not necessarily be swayed by love of the party rather individuals. Antai himself had some followers who admired his strides at the ministry of culture and tourism where he was commissioner before his defection. Even by a slim margin, the APC is likely to win.
Mbo – APC
The PDP seems to have consolidated their support base in the area over the last three years. The Speaker of the House of Assembly is from here and has enjoyed a somewhat cult-like following. The area has also benefitted from numerous appointments from the present government. No surprise is expected in the governorship election.
Nsit Ubium – PDP
The area is another stronghold of the ruling party and are not likely to embrace any ‘change’. As in other parts of the state, the entire political structure is PDP and they are sure to win.
Ibeno – PDP
Almost all the political heavyweights in the area are in the PDP. The people are likely to express gratitude over the rice mill that has been sited in the area. Expectedly, the opposition has attempted to rubbish the reality of the mill, but it is left for the indigenes of the area to decide.
Ini – PDP
This is another PDP stronghold and home to the party chairman, Paul Ekpo as well as the Member of Parliament and former House of Assembly speaker, Sam Ikon. The configuration of political structure and other variables are in favour of the PDP.
Etinan – PDP
Cult activities which festered in Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo axis in the early days of the present administration could have given a loophole for the opposition if it were not nipped in the bud by government. The perfect handling of the crisis – ranging from provision of relief to offer of amnesty to repentant cultists – have brought relative peace and succour to the people of the area. The empowerment programme for youth and women have further put smiles on many faces and gratitude in many hearts. They will express it at the polls. PDP is sure to win.
Ukanafun – PDP
Before the defection of Senator Godswill Akpabio, opposition forces in the area were more or less inconsequential. But the likes of Akpabio and retired DIG Udom Ekpoudom have given a face to the APC in the council area. Both were expected to make a good showing, along with Hon. Emmanuel Ekon, to flex muscles with the National Legal Adviser of PDP, Emmanuel Enoidem. Surprisingly, they were trounced. Nothing will change here.
Etim Ekpo – PDP
Ika would not really be a difficult terrain for the PDP because of the efforts of the present administration to provide infrastructure for the area. Either by slim or wide margin, PDP will not have any problem here.
Ika – PDP
Other than the state’s effort, the local government council has made significant strides to improve the living standard of the people. Ikono people are at home with the PDP. The defection of its suspended House of Assembly member, Hon. Victor Udofia is not going to pose any threat. He is a lone ranger.
Ikono – PDP
This is another council area that the PDP has scored some good points. Credits are mainly in the area of roads construction. There will be resistance from this Abom Tony Esu enclave. Either by a slim or wide margin, PDP will win.
Obot Akara – PDP
The current political realities in the area are in favour of the PDP. APC is unlikely to have a good showing here.
Esit Eket – PDP
Ikot Ekpene :
Ikot Ekpene has a strong support base for the PDP and Udom Emmanuel. At the time of the defection of Senator Akpabio to APC, leaders and elders of the area had expressed solidarity with the governor and rebuffed his entreaties to join him, including his close allies like Senator Emmanuel Ibokesien. This subsisting loyalty played out in the last election, and is unlikely to change.
Ikot Ekpene – PDP
All political office holders in Abak local government area are from PDP .This is the enclave of the deputy governor, Moses Ekpo as well as the Rep. member elect, Aniekan Umana. Nothing will change here.
Abak – PDP
Mkpat Enin is home to a former deputy governor, Valerie Ebe (APC), two-term Assembly man and commissioner for water resources, Ekong Sampson. Ebe’s influence, along with that of suspended House of Assembly member for the area, Otobong Ndem, who defected to the APC failed to count in the last election. The area is for PDP.
Mkpat Enin – PDP.
Critics have said that Governor Emmanuel has not done any tangible project in Itu local government area. They are quick to cite the proposed Armoured vehicle factory for which the governor broke ground as his first project. They have also condemned the movement of toothpick and pencil factory to Itam industrial pack as a deceit.
But this may not reflect on the votes of the area.
The suspended House member for the area, Hon. Idongesit Ituen, who also defected to the APC was expected to pull his supporters and loyalist for a split, but if the outcome of the presidential and national assembly polls is anything to go by, then PDP carries the day.
Itu – PDP
The PDP have not done much in Nsit Ibom but that may not count against them. The political leader of the PDP in the area has neither the charisma nor goodwill to match the Ewangs and Hon. Emmah Bassey. Every effort will be through sympathy for Udom and the party, PDP.
This is exactly what happened in the last election and, of course, will remain the same.
Nsit Ibom – PDP
Battlegrounds are areas where no single party has dominance. Votes are expected to split in these areas as no one party can lay claim for total control.
Until Senator Godswill Akpabio’s defection Essien Udim was PDP. His influence was expected to affect the fortunes of the area. Recently, a large chunk of the councilors moved to the APC. Before now, the party was favoured to win the election albeit with a slim margin. But the outcome of the last election has automatically enlisted the area as a battleground.
Apart from being the state capital, Uyo is the mother of all senatorial districts with the largest number of votes. Traditionally, Uyo is always home for the opposition, over the years ruling parties have struggled to reverse the trend and perhaps, the PDP takes the credit. In 2015, PDP struggled to win in Uyo (with allegations of widespread malpractice), and in 2011 they lost the Assembly seat (to ACN). A chieftain of the APC had noted in an interview while he was in PDP years back, that Uyo people play opposition ‘’because they are free thinkers’’. Even though PDP swept in the last polls, with the strength of “landlord” Udoedeghe and others, it may not be an easy ride for the PDP.
Like Uyo, Uruan are consistently in the opposition bloc, and this is probably why development in the area appears to have been slow or even stalled. But the Udom Emmanuel government has made some inroads into the area with some development projects, particularly roads and hospital. However, opinion leaders are aggrieved over the concentration of appointments in a particular area (North), and the apparent dominance of a particular family in the politics of the area. Although they seem to appreciate the government, they have resolved to support the APC to vent their anger.
Oruk Anam owes its hotbed status for two reasons. It is home to the Governor’s wife, Martha and also home to the deputy governorship candidate of APC, Dr. Amadu Attai. Beyond any other political consideration, this is enough reason to split the votes. Although the PDP had a clean sweep in the last election, the governorship poll might be different.
Ordinarily, pundits will give this ancient town home of Nsima Ekere to the APC outright, but that will not be the case as evidenced in the last election. The existing political structure is in favour of the PDP. The business community in Ikot Abasi have been strong allies of the PDP over the years. But Nsima will split because of home support.
Udom Emmanuel and Nsima Ekere do not have equal chances to be elected as governor. The odds are in favour of Udom. Other than canvassing, Nsima believes that the communities for which he initiated NDDC projects may find the opportunity to appreciate him with votes. Same goes for the PDP candidate, Udom Emmanuel, who believes that his record of achievements within 3½ years is enough to earn him a second term. It must be noted that the existing political/governance structure – from chairmen of 31 local government areas, House of Assembly members (21); commissioners; special advisers/Assistants; chairmen and members of boards/commissions etc, belongs to the PDP.
These forces came into play during the last election, and the result was emphatic. But as it stands now, under a free and fair election, the PDP is sure to coast to victory.