Endorsements for the leading political actors in Akwa Ibom State stir controversy amidst concerns for geopolitical balancing.
Though united by culture, Akwa Ibom’s three dominant ethnic groups are varied in their political dominance. The Ibibio had dominated the political space, having produced three of the four civilian governors since the creation of the state. The Annang produced the immediate past governor in the person of Senator Godswill Akpabio while the Oron, the third in the ethnic tripod holding the state, is yet to produce a governor.
It is thus not surprising that the Oro nation as the Oron people are wont to call themselves, have often alleged ‘’perpetuation of political and economic marginalisation against them, as a calculated attempt to disinherit Oro of its right as the third largest ethnic group.”
The political handicap thus explains the controversy that is now trailing the alleged endorsements of Governor Udom Emmanuel on one hand, and Mr. Nsima Ekere, the managing director of the Niger-Delta Development Commission, NDDC, by different Oro groups.
Oro Think Tank (OTT), composing of Oro intelligentsia was alleged to have endorsed Ekere, an Ibibio, during a recent visit to his Uyo residence.
Chairman of Oro Think Tank, Dr. Monday Dickson, was said to have applauded Ekere during the visit for his achievements, as according to him, the Commission under his watch has regained its stride.
Dickson, who declared Ekere as a friend of Oro, stated that, “Oro people know their friends. We can confidently describe you as one of the few friends of Oro in Akwa Ibom State. It is on record that during the Oro governorship struggle of 2015, you were the only person outside Oro who made a public case for Oro governorship despite being an aspirant.”
The declaration immediately triggered contrary reactions among some who claimed that the group lacked the locus standi to make such a weighty pronouncement as only the Oron Union, the umbrella body of the Oro people, has the powers to do so.
Pioneer youth president of Oro Nation, Prince Edem Otioro Antakikam, took a swipe at Dr. Dickson, describing the ’outburst’ as “a pandemonium capable of disorganising the Oro people,” and called on all Oro sons and daughters to rally round the President-General, Dr. Janet Amba, to enable her pilot the affairs of the Union to greater heights and take Oro to the next level of development.
“We don’t welcome any visitor who cries more than a bereaved house wife. We should stop creating pandemonium by going to politician’s houses. We should come together to build Oro under the leadership of PG Janet Amba. We will no longer condone mudslinging and ‘food is ready’ politics. We should support the leadership of Janet Amba whom the entire Oro people elected to champion the affairs of Oro till December 2019,” he said.
For his part, the spokesman of Oron Union, Comrade Ita Omunam cited Article 15, sub section two [XV (ii)] of the Constitution to buttress the fact that OTT is one of the Union’s standing committees which has no power except it is expressly given by the union.
Continuing, he said that Janet Amba, the first female President-General of the 93-year-old union was the present prime minister of Oro Nation and the only person vested with the authority to speak for and on behalf of Oro Nation and queried why the group went to Ekere’s residence, as such “declaration by self-aggrandised politicians is tantamount to insubordination and is capable of provoking the PG to dissolve the OTT.”
Oro youths under the aegis of Oro Youths Movement, OYOM, equally condemned the sequence of endorsements of governorship aspirants for the 2019 general elections by various groups parading themselves as representing Oro Nation, saying such groups are self-seeking and not speaking for the general interest of the people.
Underlining the issue of the marginalisation of the Oro nation, it said: “Our marginalised position in the state cannot push us to undermine our collective integrity,” as Oro Nation has respected people who cannot condescend so low as to visit homes and offices of desperate politicians to endorse them for 2019 general elections.
According to them, royal fathers and other stakeholders were not consulted before embarking on endorsement spree in the name of Oro Nation, adding that, the royal fathers and stakeholders of Oro Nation have not mandated any group or association to endorse anybody for governorship seat or any other position for the 2019 general elections.
Comrade Victor Mkpofor and Eyo Asuquo Eyo, chairman and secretary respectively, of the group, maintained that not even Oro Union which is the apex body representing the elders and youths has the exclusive right to endorse any candidate without due consultations with stakeholders.
They warned any group, organised family units or associations who are in the habit of visiting politicians in their homes and offices with endorsement parcels portraying themselves as representatives of Oro Nation to desist from ‘’such criminal acts of impersonation.”
They said: ‘’Oro nation is made of five local government areas in the state , no local government area or group has the mandate of Oro Nation to make such weighty declaration. For the purpose of clarification, Oro Nation comprises of Urue Offong/Oruko, Udung Uko, Okobo, Mbo and Oron local government areas of the state; the leaders of all the areas must be consulted as a block before any decision binding on the region is enforced.
“We feel greatly embarrassed that some groups in recent times have besieged politicians in their homes and offices endorsing them to contest for elective positions when they have not formally declared their intentions to contest for such positions.
“Oro interest is paramount, the elders and stakeholders must appraise the aspirants to know which of the aspirant has an agenda for the Oro Nation before we can unanimously endorse such a politician’s candidature.
The Oro Think Tank Chairman, Dr. Monday E. Dickson, has, however denied claims that the group endorsed Ekere.
“….it should be known, that Oro has not endorsed anyone for any position as regards 2019 general elections. Parties are yet to conduct their primaries and Oro Nation cannot adopt any aspirant.