In Akwa Ibom, it is a three-horse race as voters elect governor, lawmakers

Voters in Akwa Ibom will join their counterparts across the country to elect their governors and lawmakers on Saturday, March 18 as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)

If the results of the presidential election held on February 25 in which PDP swept the polls are anything to go by, it would be safe to say that PDP is in for a landslide victory once more, a party that has its stronghold firmly established in the state.

It may have been this strength and resilience of the party in Akwa Ibom State that might have been the brain behind its decision to launch the presidential campaign in the state. Governor Udom Emmanuel who contested the presidential primaries was named the chairman of the presidential council.

Though the Presidential Election has been lost and won accordingly, the stage appears set for another epic battle in the governorship and state assembly polls to be contested by top three political parties in the state.

Against this backdrop, observers say it is likely to be a three-horse race between the PDP which has been in power in the state since 1999, the Young Democratic Party (YPP) formed just recently and the All Progressives Congress (APC) which during the Presidential and National Assembly elections recorded some upsets as a serving member of the House of Assembly and former commissioner for Information and strategy, Aniekan Umanah was defeated and the former governor, Godswill Akpabio picking the Akwa Ibom Northwest senatorial seat on the platform of the APC.

Looking at the performance of the PDP in the state since it first won the governorship election in 1999 with Obong Victor Attah as the governor, Akwa Ibom State has moved steadily from a little unknown state to the national limelight, delivering quality infrastructure in all aspects, from good road network, international sporting facilities in the three senatorial districts, quality healthcare facilities, launching of an airline, Ibom Air with a smart terminal building and winning the cleanest state award consecutively for more than four years like the Channels Television has won the best TV station in the country repeatedly.

One cannot forget in a hurry the recently constructed bridge which is adjudged to be the longest bridge ever constructed by a state government in the country located in Mbo Local Government Area in the thick of the Akwa Ibom south senatorial district, the cash cow of the state. It was a project that significantly bolstered the performance index of the party in the development of quality projects as well as bringing development to all nooks and crannies of the state.

Aside, Akwa Ibom State under PDP has launched its power-for-all project which aimed at linking many communities that had been without electricity to the national grid, in partnership with the Transmission Company of Nigeria, it has built power injection stations across the state and ensuring that some parts of the state including the industrial belts and many residential areas enjoy a minimum of 18 hours of uninterrupted power supply.

On the industrial turf, the party has embarked on an ambitious industrialisation scheme to create jobs for youths and has pursued the establishment of factories across the state vigorously.

According to one observer, the PDP under Governor Udom Emmanuel whose tenure ends May 29 has been the only administration that has taken the pursuit of industrial development to a new high. With the soon-to-be inaugurated vehicle assembly plant in Itu, an electricity metering factory and one of the largest syringe factories in the state, it industrial scheme has take the look of an industrial revolution.

Add the flour mill factory to the long list of factories, it would be quite clear that apart from the administration of late Clement Isong of 1979 to 1983, himself a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), no other administration in Akwa Ibom State has taken the policy of industrial development as serious as the present administration in the state.

The party’s governorship candidate, Umo Eno, a former member of the state executive council, a well-known entrepreneur and hotelier who has weathered many political storms is campaigning on the theme of continuing with the peace, stability and security as enabled by his predecessor. Umo Eno who is backed by key stakeholders including former governor Attah and many others including a host of the clergy has a development blueprint for the economic consolidation and expansion in the state tagged ‘ARISE Agenda.’

In understanding the acronym where A represents Agriculture, R for rural development, women and youth empowerment, I for infrastructure, S for security management and E for economic and industrial advancement, one can see clearly that the candidate of the PDP means business in the coming election and he appears to be ahead of others in detailing his programmes.

To his added advantage would be a collapse alliance with other political parties which had been in the works and was intended to present a common front against the growing influence and wide acceptability of the party.

“Obong Bassey Albert, popularly called OBA, a candidate of the YPP is not stepping down and will not step down for any candidate whatsoever,’’ Emem Akpabio, chairman of his campaign organisation was quoted by the media as saying recently.

Albert, a former commissioner for finance during the administration of Godswill Akpabio and a senator, was a member of the PDP until he lost out in the power game when it was certain that he would not secure the party’s governorship ticket. He has since launched his governorship campaign across the state.

Albert, who is from Akwa Ibom Northwest just like Umo Eno, has promised to activate the state’s economy with government activities by prompt payment of promotion arrears to civil servants, saying it is what civil servants use in developing property and buying cars.

“Every local government area in the state will have at least 50 kilometres of roads,” he was quoted as saying recently during his campaigns.

For the APC governorship candidate, Akan Udofia who also hails from Akwa Ibom North East, he was until May last year, a member of the PDP. He was said to have taken part in the party’s governorship primaries. His candidacy was a subject of a legal challenge up to the Supreme Court based on the process of his nomination. Having been given a clean bill of health, he has launched his campaign and promised to bring prosperity to Akwa Ibom State, but has yet to elaborate how this would be achieved.

He would have received a big boost to his ambition if the YPP governorship candidate had agreed on the alliance which would have seen members of the YPP vote for him in the governorship polls. But with the collapse of the agreement, Udofia’s chances of winning the coming election have gotten slimmer.