Youths and faithful of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Wednesday walked major streets of Esit Eket Local Government Area in protest to alleged highhandedness of the Political Leader, Elder Benji Udobia; imposition of incumbent Local Government Council Chairman, Engr. Iniobong Robson, on them and marginalization in the newly created Ward.
The youth, who also registered their grievances at the Divisional Police Headquarters, Council Secretariat, Palace of the Paramount Ruler and the residence of their representative in the State House of Assembly, carried placard with various inscription including “God Bless Udom Emmanuel For Supporting Zoning;” “Etebe, This Is Not Calabar;” “We Don’t Want A Local Government Chairman That Is Richer Than 1O LGAs;” “Say No To LG Chairman That Is A Gay;” “Elder Benji Udobia, Please Ward-10 Wants Their Own,” and “Etebe Allow Peace To Return To Esit Eket.”
Reporters of IbomTelegraph, who visited the area to verify the issues, were briefed of the status-quo and genesis of the problem by the Chairman of Zone-B and Political Leader of Ward-5, Dr Okon Dan Umoh.
According to Dr Umoh, “On the 21st day of June, 2002, Esit Eket agreed on zoning of political offices and we have been doing zoning till date. We have three Zones (A, B and C) in Esit Eket. Zone-A has three Wards, Zone-B has four Wards and Zone-C has three Wards. We had finished the first cycle of that arrangement. The second cycle has the incumbent Chairman, Mr. Iniobong Robson, as a beneficiary that has been on the saddle for the past five years. His tenure will be off in December 2020. But he says he is going back and he is being supported by some selfish people.”
“Esit Eket people are saying on zoning we stand, this is the turn of Zone-B. Zone-A has produced their and this is the turn of Zone-B and that is the simple truth. We cannot abandon zoning and if we are to abandon zoning, let Zone-B and Zone-C complete their turns. For now, Zone-B must complete their second round, same with Zone-C and this is the stance of Ward-5.”
Speaking further, he said “All the right thinking people of Esit eket are saying on zoning we stand, because without that there will not be peace in Esit Eket. We want peace to thrive in Esit Eket.”
“It is our humble appeal to Governor Udom Emmanuel, himself a product of zoning, to stand by his word and ensure zoning is respected in Esit Eket. We are also appealing to our dear Governor to tell these elements to stop creating problems in Esit Eket,” he said.
At the Council Secretariat, a student activist, Comrade Victor Inyang, who led students to the protest, told IbomTelegraph that “the entire students of Esit Eket are in total support of zoning. Zone-B must be allowed to take their turn and produce the next Chairman of Council. It is true the problem of Esit Eket is the leaders. As students, if we continue to keep quiet and allow things to go wrong in our own society, at a later day, we will be on the losing side.”
The youths also expressed dissatisfaction on how the additional new Ward in area, created recently by the Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC), was delineated, saying “The Commission ought to have extracted it from Ward 10, being the largest in the area, and not otherwise.”
At the Esit Eket Divisional Headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force, another youth leader, Comrade Uyoata Eyo, himself a former South-South Coordinator of PDP Students Association of Nigeria, also informed the police of their grievances and reasons for protest.
Addressing the youth, the Divisional Police Officer, DPO Dunamu Amos, appealed to the youths not to take laws into their hands but to ensure peace and safety of life and property.
At the Palace of the Paramount Ruler, the Esit Eket PDP Youth Leader, Prince Akan Etteudo, who also registered the youth’s grievances to the Traditional Rulers Council, said “I want to speak on behalf of these 2000 youths of Esit Eket standing here today. We have come to see our royal father and the Paramount Ruler of Esit Eket so as to register our plight and pains to him. Esit Eket has been very peaceful since 2002 when political parties across board came together to agree on zoning. That course was led by the then Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Barrister Bassey Essien. The zoning of the Chairmanship position started in Zone-A with late Elder Imo Udobia being the first beneficiary. It then moved to Zone-B with late Pastor Victor Bassey as its beneficiary and Zone-C completed that cycle with Late Ibanga Etang as its beneficiary.”
“The second cycle started with Zone-A with Engr Iniobong Robson as its beneficiary. At the end of its tenure in December 2020, it should naturally move to Zone-B. we are aware that he is making every effort to truncate that arrangement but we want to advise him not to do that. He should not even think of purchasing the Chairmanship Form because we do not want issues to happen in the Local Government. We like the peace we are enjoying in the local Government, from Edor down to Afaha and across the local government area. Let Engr Iniobong Robson respect zoning in Esit Eket, which is all we are saying today. And Zone-B must produce the next Chairman of Esit Eket Local Government Council.”
“I want to sincerely thank Governor Udom Emmanuel. The last meeting we had at the State Banquet Hall, Uyo, and the Governor repeatedly and clearly told aspirants not to contest the forthcoming Local Government Elections if they are not favoured by zoning. Today, in ONNA, they are following zoning. In Uruan, they are following zoning. In Eket, they are following zoning. In Ukanafun, they are following zoning. In Oron, they are following zoning. Across the state people are following zoning why then must Esit Eket be an exemption? We are all Generals in our various Units and whether Iniobong Robson likes it or not, Zone-B will produce the next Chairman of Esit Eket,” he said.
Prince Etteudo’s statement and position of the youth was also supported by the Village Youth President of Ntak Inyang, Mr. John Okon Edu (Akparawa Ekpat).
Also speaking, a former Chairman of PDP Ward Chairmen in Akwa Ibom, Deacon Uduaudua Akpe, said “We want to appeal to the State Governor to sternly warn the incumbent Chairman of Esit Eket not to be using his name (Governor’s name). We appeal to the Governor to also call the political leader of Esit Eket to order. They are telling the people that the Governor has asked Iniobong Robson to recontest, even against zoning. We want to tell the Governor that the youth of Esit Eket are solidly behind him and that we will do everything possible to maintain peace and order. We will do everything to ensure PDP wins in Esit Eket but zoning must be respected.”
The protesters later made a stop at the Uquo residence of the Member representing Esit Eket/Ibeno State Constituency in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Dr Usoro Akpanusoh, where they presented to the lawmaker a document containing their complaints and requested same to be presented before the House of Assembly and Governor Emmanuel for necessary action.
Addressing the protesters, Dr Akpanusoh, who assured the youths of communicating their document to the appropriate quarters, appealed to the youth to be peaceable and remain united for the progress of the area.
He acknowledged that “zoning of the Chairmanship seat started with late Hon Imo Udobia (Zone-A) in 2002. It later went to Zone-B in the person of late Victor Bassey Isangedighe, and later to Zone-C in the person of late Ibanga Bassey Etang, to close the first round. The second round started in Zone-A with Engr Iniobong Robson, who was even lucky to have been a Transition Chairman for ttwo years and six months.”
Speaking further, Dr Akpanusoh said “I know that our political leader, Elder Ben Udobia, is a man of peace. If he sees the need to allow things to go in a peaceful way, peace will prevail. I can say that Elder Ben Udobia is not ready to truncate the zoning arrangement. I want to assure that we the leaders of Esit Eket will meet and sort things out.”
“The Governor has constantly said that those not favoured by zoning in their areas should not contest it. He will not allow anything to happen to zoning of political offices in Akwa Ibom State. We are ready to continue to make sacrifices for our party to win at all levels. The government of Akwa Ibom State will continue to do good things for us,” he added.
The lawmaker, who also thanked Governor Emmanuel for appointing their daughter, Dr Ini Adiakpan, to his Executive Council, expressed optimism that the PDP would win the upcoming Local Government Elections in the state.