The Power Game in Akwa Ibom

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Akpabio

After the exit of Nsima Ekere, former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State, Umana Okon Umana, erstwhile secretary to the state government, was generally seen as the anointed man for the post of state governor in the 2015 election, especially because of his chummy relationship with Governor Godswill Akpabio, but Umana found out differently when he was eased out of the office on Monday, July 29, for daring to openly declare his ambition

By Olu Ojewale  |  Aug. 12, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

NONE of them appeared to have seen it coming. For several months, Nsima Ekere, former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State, and Umana Okon Umana, former secretary to the state government, were jostling to succeed Governor Godswill Akpabio in 2015. But on Thursday, October 25, 2012, Ekere was forced to resign to avoid impeachment. Although he claimed to have resigned for personal reasons, it soon became clear that his ambition to succeed Akpabio had become a great distraction to the governor, who allegedly complained to his close associates in the House of Assembly. To put Ekere’s ambition in check, some members of the state House perfected an impeachment process against him over a number of foggy issues. When Ekere got wind of the plot, he resigned. He was replaced by Valerie Ebe, a widow and former commissioner for ethical and attitudinal reorientation, between 2007 and 2010.

At that point, everyone assumed that Umana had successfully got rid of the main opposition challenging his ambition to the throne. He was seen as the governor’s anointed candidate. This gave the former commissioner of finance, who hails from Nsit Ubium Local Government, enough space to consolidate his political structure using perks of his high office and closeness to the governor. Hence, Umana, who had never hidden his ambition to contest the gubernatorial position in 2015, became more open about his ambition.

Umana
Umana

But the former SSG eventually, shot himself in the foot about a week ago when he publicly declared his interest in the next gubernatorial poll. He was said to have told journalists in Uyo, capital of AKwa Ibom, a week ago, that: “I have decided to make public my intention to run for the office of governor of Akwa Ibom State in response to the overwhelming pressure from the good people of the three senatorial districts of the state for me to declare my interest in the race. I wish to assure our people that I will run for the office of governor.”

As soon as Umana’s subterranean campaign became public, Akpabio, at a town hall meeting held after the inauguration of the Eket-Ibeno Road recently, told the people that he had heard that someone was going about to declare his interest in the governorship position in 2015 and that the person had not told him or received his approval. The governor also repeated same at the Peoples Democratic Party Stakeholders meeting in Uyo, shortly after. Akpabio was said to have told his audience that he had no favourite candidate and as it happened in his own case, he would like God’s will to be done again in the state.

Irked by Umana’s audacity, Akpabio reportedly called him to jettison the ambition because it is the turn of the Oron/Eket Senatorial district to produce the next governor. He thus, offered Umana the position of the managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, which is the slot of Akwa Ibom State. But Umana was said to have turned down the offer, saying he would prefer to pursue his governorship ambition instead. This was said to have infuriated Akpabio, who asked him to resign from his position as SSG within 24 hours.

The governor also reminded him that as part of government’s policy, anyone who has declared his political interest to contest an elective position in 2015 is not supposed to remain in government. It was not clear whether or not Umana complied with the governor’s order. But on Monday, July 29, security personnel, in a military fashion, sealed off his office with armed guards. The former SSG himself was said to be away in Abuja.

Ekere
Ekere

By Tuesday, July 30, Akpabio swore in Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, who hails from Onna Local Government Area of Eket Senatorial District, as Umana’s replacement. Ironically, the governor and the former SSG appeared together at the swearing-in ceremony. Akpabio was said to have gone to meet Umana in his residence. The purpose was not made public, but it was being suggested that the manner in which security men had taken over and chased out the former SSG’s staff did not please anyone in the state.

In any case, a statement on Emmanuel’s appointment said it was with immediate effect. The statement issued by Aniekan Umana, commissioner for information, said that until his appointment, Emmanuel was an executive director of Zenith Bank, who had worked in many managerial positions of the bank in different countries. “A corporate strategist and an experienced private sector player, Mr. Emmanuel has wide experience in various blue-chip organisations such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Diamond Bank Plc.,” Umana said.

The commissioner also said that the governor was appreciative of the contributions and dedication of the former SSG, whom he described as a brother and a friend, who displayed exceptional competence in the discharge of his duties in the past six years as SSG.

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