It is another season of electioneering and politicians have taken their campaigns to the nooks and crannies of the country seeking votes from the electorate. For politicians, this is the period to step out of their comfort zones from tinted chauffeur-driven exotic cars to ask the people for their support once more that will enable them to be elected into various levels of governance.
As they mount the soap boxes in colourful attires decked in flowing ropes with songs and dances from their supporters, it tends to belie the huge political and economic challenges facing the country. The growing army of unemployed youths who throng the various campaign venues across the country is one of the major issues the nation has to find urgent solution. The unending issue of epileptic power supply, the lack of portable water and inadequate healthcare facilities are all there to be attended to.
In Akwa Ibom State, Governor Udom Emmanuel of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who is seeking re-election and Nsima Ekere of the All Progressives Congress (APC), one-time deputy governor, have launched their governorship campaigns with fanfare in Uyo, the state capital drawing hundreds of supporters.
While the governor is anchoring his campaign on consolidating his five-point agenda which he launched in 2015 of job creation, poverty alleviation, economic and political inclusion, wealth creation and infrastructure consolidation and expansion, Ekere on the other hand says if elected he would
“banish poverty in Akwa Ibom State.”
Udom has presented his scorecard in a way showing the factories the state government has been able to establish in conjunction with investors, pointing to 14 of such factories in the state which include Syringe manufacturing factory said to be the largest in the country, pencil and toothpick factory, electric digital metering solutions factory, fertilizer blending factory, rice mill and a starch manufacturing plant as well as a flour mill.
“I can say that my administration has recorded life-touching achievements in creating jobs through the establishment of industries across the state,’’ he said.
According to the governor, the Ibom deep seaport and the Ibom industrial city have yielded an “impressive fruit with realistic and physical evidences” to show, adding that several milestones have been recorded on the projects.
Going forward however, he has initiated the completion agenda which according to him would focus on industrialisation, aviation development, small and medium scale enterprises and infrastructure. Others include security, human capital development, agriculture and rural as riverside area development.
On the other hand, Ekere has promised to create jobs, present an enabling environment for the private economy to grow and pledged to build on the foundation laid by past leaders of the state if elected.
Contained in his five-pillar vision, he said Akwa Ibom people should not have any business with poverty given its resources, pointing out that Akwa Ibom deserves the best.
Interestingly, while Udom’s campaign is hinged on sustaining the relative peaceful atmosphere prevalent in Akwa Ibom State, Ekere’s catch phrase is that Akwa Ibom deserves the best.
“This campaign should be based on performance and on issues; it will be about the referendum. We should have no business with poverty with all the resources we have in the state,’’ he said.
The two candidates have taken their campaign trains to local government areas of the state and with less than two month to the governorship election, it seems all of them are determined to give each other a close fight ahead of the polls.
But prior to the launch of the campaigns and even after, there have been accusations and counter accusations from both parties in their bids to outdo each other and in the main win the votes of their supporters.
For instance, while the PDP has repeatedly alleged that APC has hatched a plot to have many of its top officials framed as a prelude to charging them to court under Anti Terrorism Act, the APC has also alleged that has plans to hire militants from neighbouring states to foment trouble during the elections.
According to Paul Ekpo, chairman of PDP in Akwa Ibom State, the leadership of the party has been inundated with calls from different parts of the state where supporters of the party have been wantonly arrested and incarcerated without any lawful justification.
“In Nsit Ibom, one of our supporters was stabbed by a member of the opposition in front of the Divisional Police Office, and till date the assailant has not been pulled in for question or arrested. In Ikot Abasi, people who are our supporters who refuse to support their brother are mercilessly beaten and harassed. Even journalists and various media workers who sympathetic to our course are daily harassed and intimidated,’’ he said.
The party has also alerted the people and mostly its followers that it has uncovered plans by the APC to publish scandalous pamphlets against the governor, adding that the pamphlets contains cooked up lies to malign the governor.
Charles Udoh, commissioner for information and strategy, in a statement acknowledged however, that since the governor came to power in 2015, there has been much improvement in the economy of the state with the establishment of many factories, adding that Akwa Ibom state has become the preferred destination of foreign direct investment.
The foreign direct investment has no doubt come in the form of notable factories like the syringe-making firm, coconut refinery, plastic, metering plant and the flour mills all established by the present administration.
However, according to APC, it will never be involved in trumped up charges against the PDP, its members and officials and indeed any person.
“We are a responsible and reputable party with a huge membership and support poised to win the national and state elections and we have no reasons or justifications for manipulations of any sort.
Nkereuwem Eyongekere, publicity secretary of the party in Akwa Ibom State, at a press conference denied all the allegations saying that the party does not sympathise with PDP. According to him, PDP in 16 years, has been boasting of its might and prowess, calling itself a religion in Akwa Ibom State but “now wailing and lamenting about its misfortunes.”
Musa Komo, the state police commissioner has also denied that the state command intends to use the anti-terrorism unit to hound government officials insisting however, that the command should be commended by its proactive approach to fighting crime and criminality in the state.
While the governor says he has recorded “impressive achievements” based on the manifesto he presented in 2015 which emphasized job creation, poverty alleviation, wealth creation, economic and financial inclusion as well as infrastructure consolidation but APC has tended to ignore these achievements claiming that the factories were not existent.
It seems baffling in assessing the achievements recorded by the state government from the opposition’s perspective given that many of the factories like the rice mill in Ini Local Government area, fertilizer blending plant and toothpick and pencil production factories had since commenced production yet, the APC says they are not in operations.
Indeed, the two candidates are engaging in an epic campaign for the race to the governor seat and the result will only be known after the election which is scheduled to take place in March 2 is conducted and the winner and loser made known by the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC).
Recall that recently, the two leading gubernatorial contenders had embraced themselves in Uyo, during a programme organised by the Catholic Diocese of Uyo. It was a beautiful scene to behold and passed a message that political ambition must not be a do-or-die affair and that regardless of party affiliations, the brotherhood must subsist.
On that day, their supporters were wondering whether the governors would trade tantrums or exchange pleasantries or seek to promote corporate rather than personal interest.
“As we go into elections this year, let the God of peace grant us peace. I join my faith with all Christians that this is a Christian State. May we enjoy peaceful and transparent election in Jesus name,” Governor Emmanuel had said.
Ekere, on his part thanked the Catholic Church for hosting them and re-echoed the need for peace as key to development during and after the elections.
“All I am saying is that you (the Catholic Church) must continue to pray for Akwa Ibom State because at the end of the day, all that we have is Akwa Ibom State. It’s not about APC. It’s not about PDP. It’s about Akwa Ibom State.
“And you know that God knows the end from the beginning. So, even as we stand here, God knows who the next governor will be. And so, all we have to do as Christians is to continue to pray. So, please, pray for us, sir (Bishop), pray for the political process. We need peace and we need security. We do not need to spill the blood of any Akwa Ibom child in the course of these elections.
“I want to thank God for the peaceful coexistence of people in Akwa Ibom State. I want to thank God for what we enjoy today and Paul Apostle said, “We are many in this city because there are so many Christians praying for us. That is why we are enjoying this peace.”
As the election date approaches, the contenders must be committed to ensuring that they and their supporters are guided by the letters of the peace pact they signed.