By Etebong AKPAN
2019, the miracle year is finally here. Just a few months we will be in that mythical year where the actual Nigerian Armageddon will take place. It is the year that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC in the centre was expected to stage the final onslaught against the remnants of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP to establish its firm control on the polity. As at 2015 when the year 2019 was mentioned, it sounded as eternity but today the reality is starring everybody in the face. Both the APC and PDP are battle ready and going by recent happenings in the political space it seems the turf will not be the exclusive right of APC as the PDP having tasted life outside power for the first time since its formation in 1998 has learnt its lessons.
Part of the lessons the PDP has learnt is allowing internal democracy within its ranks thus doing away with all forms of impunity which was its albatross. This is what informed the stance of the state governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel to insist on applying the principle of zoning, rotation and streamlining of elected and appointive political offices as the need arises. The governor has not been alone in this advocacy and new policy direction for the PDP. The state chairman of the party, Obong Paul Ekpo had during the just concluded federal constituency tour of the state reechoed the position of the leader of the party on the issue of zoning. Ekpo who said that the PDP will not leave any stone un turned in implementing the zoning policy as canvassed by the governor however promised that the party will not close its doors against any aspirant.
What Ekpo and the leadership of the party explicitly imply is that the power to elect whoever the people want to fly the flag of the party squarely rests on the shoulders of the people. This is in tandem with Governor Udom Emmanuel‘s philosophy of political inclusiveness as no bonafide member of the party will be denied his or her aspiration. And neither will political zones that are entitled to occupy particular political offices be denied such rights on the altar of political exigency. This is a clear departure from the norm in the party where people used to end up in offices they never bought form to contest the primaries. Or in most cases, defeated aspirants used to end up as the duly elected candidates of the party through one devious scheme or the other. Examples abound everywhere and thank God today most of the beneficiaries of this act of impunity have so far jumped ship. As it is, the PDP in Akwa Ibom is enjoying a breather as its current leadership is hell bent on doing what is good.
The party has taken its stand on zoning, done the needful in going round to sensitize members on the need to uphold it during the primaries. If members allow pecuniary considerations to guide their judgment, then it will be shooting itself in the foot at the polls. A lot of PDP supporters and stakeholders are yet to come to terms with the reality that the 2019 election in the state will not be business as usual.
Parts of the pains of being in the opposition is that the PDP is not in charge of state apparatus neither does it has a say now in who becomes the chief returning officer in any election not conducted by the state government. Its only saving grace is its pledge to allow internal democratic process and the general political sentiments in a particular area to be its guide.
In Uyo senatorial district, before the defection of the, ‘uncommon transformer’ to APC few weeks ago and the emergence of those on ‘overdose of tramadol’ according to Godswill Akpabio as the last men standing for Governor Udom Emmanuel, the general consensus was that ‘Uyo federal constituency should be given the senatorial ticket since the other two federal constituencies have done two terms each.
The journey started in 1999 with John James Akpanudoedeghe from Uyo federal constituency. He served for only one term from 1999-2003 and refused to go for a second term which was the legitimate right of his and that of his constituency. Till today Udoh as he is fondly called in the political circles in the state has not given any reason why he developed cold feet in the second term gambit, because it was too honorable on his part to just quit like that. However, followers of political development in the state said he chose to beat a tactical retreat to avoid any confrontation with the then governor, Obong Victor Attah. Udoh had a running battle with the then governor during his four years sojourn in the national assembly when he chose to fight against the governor’s position on resource control and rather sided with then President Olusegun Obasanjo on the matter. That was the peak of Abuja Front politics in the state.
He was succeeded by Effiong Dickson Bob, a lawyer from Etinan Federal constituency in 2003 but unlike Udoh, Bob went for two terms and even tried a third attempt before it was punctuated by forces stronger than him during the PDP primaries in what was described as the biggest political shenanigan of the 21st century. In his place, Ita Solomon Enang another lawyer from Itu/Ibiono Ibom federal constituency who had spent three terms in the House of Representatives moved in in 2011 but his attempts to make a second term in 2015 met the brick wall from the same powers that made him their senator in the first instance. In his place, Bassey Albert Akpan still from the same federal constituency moved in to complete their turn. The snag here is that the smooth pattern is about to be punctuated by senator Bassey Akpan as he is seeking a second term, alleging that zoning is to individuals and not to a place. This posturing is against the resolution of Uyo senatorial district elder’s forum which was used in 2011 to deny Senator Effiong Bob a third term ticket. But a socio political group in Uyo federal constituency, Odudu Uyo is insisting on the accord to be implemented to the latter if the PDP is to maintain its grip on senatorial district in the 2019 general election.
Odudu Uyo’s position which is in tandem with that of Uyo Federal Constituency Youth Forum who have even threatened to do everything within its powers to make sure that the existing zoning and power rotation arrangement in the senatorial district is adhered to strictly. The position of these groups maybe at cross roads with contemporary realities in the district as Akpabio’s uncommon defection has helped further Senator OBA’s case as the only remaining PDP senator who is more or less endangered. To most of his supporters who do not give a hoot about zoning but the interest and that of their master, OBA is a rare PDP specie that must not be allowed to go into political extinction. They are brandishing his perceived loyalty to the PDP and the state governor the reason why he should not even be opposed at the primaries. To this class of PDP members, his second term ticket is a reward for his loyalty hence no other person should even surface or even mention Uyo federal constituency matter here. They have even succeeded in blackmailing the elders of the district into seeing things only from the PDP perspective, thus making the governor to believe that without OBA, the PDP may likely lose Uyo senatorial district. I refuse to align myself with this line of reasoning on the part of the governor and his handlers but in politics especially during election year everything and anything is possible irrespective of who is spinning the yarn. This is nothing but an opportunistic reasoning that will not survive after the PDP primary. The signs are ominous and the facts are clear maybe that is why the promise keeper jumped ship before it is too late. The APC rigs stupidly like the cattle they promote over human life and like their cattle, they do not give a damn whether the figures are correct or not. To them you can only complain, that the only liberty they have allowed the PDP after the 2015 conquest. Some of their supporters even refer to their PDP brothers as wailers even though most of them are tired of shaping their trousers to fit into their induced austerity measure which has helped pauperize Nigerians not only in PDP but across the board.
OBA as the standard bearer of PDP in Uyo is a sure ticket to disaster in the zone as the APC will catch on the sentiment on ground to present whoever they want to have a smooth ride home at the polls. It happened in 2011 in the Uyo federal and state constituency race where the then ACN as unpopular as the party and its candidates were, they swept the polls despite the PDP being in control of all security apparatchik including the electoral umpire, INEC. The result was nothing but a confirmation of the age long saying that the people is mightier than the army of the oppressor.
As the PDP gets set for the 2019 election, it should note that if it doesn’t get it right at the primaries, it will never get it right at the general elections. The opposition is waiting on the wings to capitalize on its usual mistakes to make mincemeat of it at the polls.
Uyo like other federal constituencies in the district deserves to take its shot at the senate irrespective of any permutation. The 2019 senatorial election in the area is not about any father figure but the will of the people. The will of the people can be truncated temporarily with money at the primary because it is a delegate affair but in the general election, it is sentiment and numerical strength that usually matters. After all, in a democracy, it is the majorities that usually have their way and say while the minorities only have their say.
Uyo senatorial district has three federal constituencies with Uyo being the largest not only in population but number of political wards and local government areas. As at the last election in the state in 2015, Uyo had 356,693 registered voters while Etinan had 172, 814 and Itu/Ibiono had the least with 142, 226 registered voters. This statistics invariably means that Uyo can determine who becomes a senator in the district. So robbing it of its rightful slot can spell doom for the PDP in all ramifications.
The only thing left now is for the elders of the district to see the 2019 election beyond the PDP primary and allow justice , equity and fairness which is through new theme song of the PDP to prevail at the primaries else the party will shot itself on the foot. The worst thing that can happen to PDP in the state is to go into the 2019 election with foot soldiers that do not have anything to lose. With the right attitude anchored on equity, the war is already won as it will be the people’s army against the invaders. We should not create a window of possibility for the people to side with the invaders. If it happens the result will be catastrophic mostly on the elites as the common people are already used to the status quo.