The fear of Nsima Ekere seeking a re-election and getting same in 2023 is causing a stir and creating palpable tension in the All Progressive Congress (APC) camps across Akwa Ibom State.
Our political desk learnt, this has led to OGFZA man Obong Umana Umana, presidency Big Boy Ita Enang aligning forces together with their supporters to surreptitiously move against the governorship ambition of Obong Nsima Ekere.
Our paper understands that both Ita Enang and Umana Umana are seriously interested in contesting the governorship of Akwa Ibom State in 2023.
Both men, it was gathered are of the opinion that if Nsima Ekere emerges the governor of the State in 2019 then their chances of governing Akwa Ibom in 2023 would be slim. And this would mean that Uyo senatorial District will have to wait until 2027 to produce a governor. The duo, THE INK gathered are not comfortable that Nsima Ekere has refused to sign a one term pact agreement with them.
The pact, it was revealed have had amongst other things the suggestion that Ekere if he wins in 2019 would not seek re-election in 2023. And will handover to either Umana Okon Uman or Ita Solomon Enang. Some of those who are in the know of this grand scheme against Nsima Ekere are Otuekong Sunny Jackson, Chief Maurice Ebong, Obongawan Rita Akpan and Mma Dora Ebong. One of them confided in our reporters that the agreement will also include that Nsima Ekere will also have the prerogative of single handedly picking a running mate for either of Umana Umana or Ita Enang in 2023 when he is handing over if he wins in 2019.
But the collapse of this pact which is being managed by parties concerned on a low scale is what we were informed is responsible for the moves to stop Nsima Ekere. This move is currently being spearheaded by Umana Okon Umana and Mr. Ita Enang.
And in Ekere’s place Umana Umana has began to consolidate on the idea of making Mr. Benedict Ukpong his erstwhile running mate and serving commissioner National Population commission, NPC the APC candidate for the coming 2019 governorship election.
It is the belief of the Oil and Gas Free Zone authority man that Ukpong who is not politically exposed will be easy to unseat in 2023 especially when viewed from the fact that Ben Ukpong is from the minority ethnic group, Oro in Akwa Ibom State.
In one of the political meetings called by Umana in his Ewet Housing palatial residence a couple of months ago, the idea of making Ukpong the candidate of the party had topped discussions. Those present in the meeting were not much and are said to have discussed extensively and deep into the night.
Attendees at the meeting according to two top reliable sources who were present hinted THE INK political desk that Umana Umana who is the leader of APC in Akwa Ibom State only convoked that meeting for the future leadership in Akwa Ibom State especially in view of 2019.
One of them mentioned categorically to our reporters that the party would need a candidate that will serve for one term between 2019 to 2023 and then handover the reins of power to someone from Uyo senatorial district in order to sustain the established zoning arrangement system in Akwa Ibom State.
Our sources maintained further that for Umana and members of his camp, they don’t see Nsima Ekere relinquishing power in 2023 if he takes over in 2019 and hence the reason UOU and his team are looking beyond an Ibibio son in 2019.
The argument THE INK scooped is that with Nsima an experienced politician who is from the majority Ibibio tribe getting power in 2019, the NDDC man will seek to remain in power till May 29, 2027 and after then will have absolute control over the state especially as the Ex-Deputy Governor still has age on his side.
Feelers obtained from Umana’s camp indicate that the 2015 governorship candidate of the APC must have warned his foot soldiers on their level of involvement in Ekere’s 2019 governorship moves.
Competent sources say that this explains why the likes of Abom Tony Esu, Soni Udom, Ben Ukpong, the Junior Ikoiwak, Aniefiok Thompson and even the state Chairman of APC Amadu Attai as well as NDDC commissioner for Akwa Ibom State Sam Frank are not putting so much efforts in promoting Ekere’s guber bid.
Umana Okon Umana is even said to be contributing zero finances to the quest. Former Health Commissioner Emem Wilcox wills who is a known and diehard loyalist of Umana, Michael James Etim Umana’s core men are not neck deep in the support for Obong Nsima Ekere’s 2019 governorship ambition, some of Umana’s men in Ekere’s camp, we gathered are there on pecuniary adventures.
THE INK can equally report authoritatively that the leader of Umana Umana’s Youth structure Tony Bassey and Coordinator of Akwa Ibom Renaissance has since inception toe, the line of Oil Magnate Asuquo Okpo.
Akwa Ibom Renaissance, those who know maintained will soon launch out in support of Asuquo Okpo fully and squarely. Tony is said to have gotten the blessings of Umana in this regard.
Meanwhile, our news desk gathered also that Umana is not going to the war front with just Benedict Ukpong as a choice. He is said to be seriously considering Oil magnate mogul tycoon Barr. Asuquo Okpo as an option should in case the idea of Ben Ukpong meets staff resistance. Sources say that explains why Umana did not oppose Tony (his boy) when the youth leader joined the camp of Barr. Okpo.
Asuquo Okpo himself hinted Newsmen of this development sometimes ago when he spoke with reporters in his Shelter Afrique residence months ago. Okpo had while commenting on his chances of victory at the polls said what is going on at the moment is a new political engagement. He had said “our leader Umana Umana will give direction when the time is ripe and I can tell you, I will be the beneficiary of that direction. Infact, I will be that direction”. Okpo had stressed.
Apart from Asuquo Okpo and Benedict Ukpong, others from Oro Nation considered by Umana and Enang may include Senator Nelson Effiong, Mr. Larry Esin and Barr Effiong Abia.
Meanwhile, Ita Enang is said to be eyeing the Deputy Governorship seat in 2019 so as to prepare him for the position of the Governor come 2023. Those who have been following up this matter told THE INK reporter that between Nsima Ekere and Ita Enang, there is a no love lost situation.
Ita Enang is said to have told one of Akwa Ibom’s legislators in Abuja that he is not happy with the conduct of Nsima Ekere towards him ever since he was appointed MD/CEO of NDDC. Adding also that ever since the Niger Delta Boss took power, that he does not recognize his office and that anytime he (Ekere) comes to the National Assembly he doesn’t stop by his office. He however had asked whether Nsima feels he (Ita Enang) is not interested in the Akwa Ibom State’s seat of power. This statement from Ita Enang was pregnant with meanings and the presidential aide’s alignment of forces with Umana against Nsima ahead of 2019 is a pointer to signs of things to come.
This development was confirmed by the signs and articulations cum gesticulations of Ita Enang’s aide Barr. Udeme Ekott alias Oasis who is paying deaf ears to the making of Nsima Ekere a Governor by 2019. It is even said in hush tones that the very recent press release from a youth organization from Oro nation had the backing of Umana Umana and Ita Enang due to the massive publicity the release attracted especially locally.
It was gathered that some media handlers of Umana had subletted the release to some independent media Houses for publication and clearly avoided sending the document to the national space to avoid a leakage of where it was coming from and its sponsors.
However, this will not be the first time Umana Umana will be moving against Nsima Ekere. During the build up to the 2015 elections, Umana, then secretary to Akwa Ibom State Government had consulted and retained the loyalty of majority of members of the 5th Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly then led by Sam Ikon to impeach Ekere who was then the Deputy Governor of the state.
At the nick of time, Nsima Ekere had gotten a brief of the information and hurriedly put pen to paper in a resignation that threw Akwa Ibomites especially supporters of Nsima Ekere off balance. In celebration of Nsima Ekere’s resignation which Umana thought would pave the way for the victory against the zoning policy in the state, UOU had propounded a theory of a captain who was being substituted and he handed over the arm band to a player in the field not the one that ran away. The Nsit Ubium man had gone ahead to describe why Nsima resigned as `Eka eto abungo ato anye Nsima`.
But supporters of Nsima Ekere in the All Progressive Congress have kicked against the plot to frustrate the NDDC boss by Enang and Umana. They had openly kicked against the plot by Umana Umana and Ita Enang to micro zone the governorship position to Oro nation.
In an interaction with some political elders and the media in his Ewet Housing residence near Akwa Resort Hotels, the man who is Coordinating Uyo Local Government for Obong Nsima Ekere Prince Victor Utuk had insisted that no single individual can microzone any position in the party to any other person. He had stated very clearly that as far as the Governorship ticket of the APC is concerned that Nsima Ekere remains the best material for the top job.
Utuk frowned at a situation where some highly placed persons in the party rather than see how to consolidate and bring everyone together begin to seek windows of fighting personal interests and plotting 2023. Utuk wondered why Umana and Ita Enang would want to cede the APC guber ticket to Oro nation, a minority federal constituency with a mocking voting strength.
He said there will be a lot of political engagements in the coming days and APC will finally settle for Nsima Ekere whom he said has the muscles and clout to rival Governor Udom Emmanuel for Akwa Ibom seat of power come 2019.
Prince Utuk waved off Umana and Ita Enang saying their forces combined with Oron federal constituency cannot stop Ekere. The Uyo born politician added that if Nsima Ekere’s governorship would mean Uyo has to wait till 2027 to produce a Governor, then so should it be and added that Nsima Ekere taking over Governorship seat in 2019 would not collapse Akwa Ibom State.
But Dr Chris Ekong, a Former Commissioner for Economic Development while speaking to our reporter on phone on Saturday at about 7:23pm said such position allegedly canvassed by Umana and Ita Enang are false. “Nsibiet, please do not mind them, Umana and Ita Enang have not said such things, they are not even planning to stop Nsima Ekere. I can tell you authoritatively that we have a pact and Nsima Ekere will serve for just one term, that is from 2019 to 2023 and thereafter power will return to Uyo Senatorial District.
“We have resolved to stay by zoning and even in Uyo Senatorial District; zoning will be obeyed to the later because this has been seen to reduce problems, court cases and all of that”.
Speaking further, Ekong who is popularly known as HOTRICO said those who claim that Nsima Ekere will frustrate Uyo Senatorial District chances of getting to Hilltop mansion in 2023 are not real. He said the rumours that Ekere will seek a second term are planted by haters.
Asked why he is so convinced Nsima Ekere will not seek a second term if elected in 2019,Dr Chris Ekong said, there is a pact that have been agreed upon and that it is on that pact all parties concerned will stand.
When our reporter probed further and sought the possibility of the former commissioner availing newsmen with a copy of the pact, Dr Chris Ekong said, the pact is a gentlemanly agreement and expressed the believe that Nsima Ekere will not falter.
The Ex Youth and Sports Commissioner said, “I can be quoted anyway, we in APC, have a pact and I can assure you Nsima Ekere will serve for one term only. He won’t seek a second term”. He added also that by the coming months preceding the election that Obong Nsima Ekere will sign the one term pact document. He stated emphatically that by 2018, the pact will be signed.
The Publicity Secretary of the APC in Akwa Ibom State Barr Edet Eyo Bassey however claimed ignorance on the plot by Umana and Ita Enang against Nsima. In a telephone conversation with our reporter on phone he said that for now, the APC has not micro zoned the position of the Governor to any Federal Constituency. Barr Bassey said, any information on Umana and Enang moving against Nsima is to the best of his knowledge a rumour.
But stakeholders of Oro nation are of the opinion that it is either APC gives her Akwa Ibom Governorship ticket to an Oronian or they forget about their support by 2019. Oro Elders and power blocs believe that the ethnic region cannot continue to play fourth fiddle in Akwa Ibom politics.
Oro Think Tank led by a Former Commissioner for Education Effiong Edunam stressed the need for an Oro governorship by 2019 saying that in 2015, Oro nation supported Umana Umana because of their son Benedict Ukpong and maintained that if the APC ignored Oro nation and denies the Federal Constituency the governorship ticket, then, the party should forget about their votes during the general election.
Another stakeholder from Oro nation who spoke on Oron 2019 governorship is Edet Mkpubre. Chief Mkpubre spoke through one of his aides saying Oro nation has so far been cheated and seriously marginalized and that by 2019, the region deserves to produce the governor. Mkpubre’s spokesman said, it is the determination of his principal that if an Oro person is not given the ticket of APC for governorship, then, the region will shut its door toagainst the APC.
He added that Oro nation has given APC a name and a face in Akwa Ibom and therefore deserves to be appreciated. Will APC bow to Umana, Enang and Oro pressure? Next year will tell.