As the race towards the 2023 plum job at the Hilltop Mansion gets nearer, Akwa Ibomites are still divided on who will likely succeed the progenitor of the Divine Mandate, Governor Udom Emmanuel.
Although the Governor is yet to make pronouncements or show by inclinations who his preferred choice may be, there are speculations from many people who believe that Governor Emmanuel may have already made his choice and is only waiting for the right time for the unveiling to take place.
While this school of thought believe that the preferred successor from this array of aspirants is still being held closely to the Governor’s chest, there are quite a number of people who also believe that the Governor is yet to decide on who should finally receive his nod for the governorship job.
For this later school of thought, the reasons are not far fetched, all the gladiators who have so far indicated interest are persons who have been actively involved with the state number one citizen within the last six years since his administration berthed on May 29, 2015.
Among those being favoured in this opinion drive are the current Senator, representing Uyo Senatorial district at the National Assembly, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan, the House of Representatives Member for Etinan, Hon. Onofiok Luke, the former Vice Chairman of ExxonMobil, Mr Udom Inoyo, former Uyo Senatorial District Senator, Effiong Bob, incumbent Commissioners in the state executive council, Pastor Umo Eno and Mr. Akan Okon, business mogul, Mr Akanimo Udofia, as well as a former governorship candidate in 2007, Mr James Iniama.
For supporters of Senator Akpan, they believe that the Senator played a very prominent role during the Governor’s re-election in 2019.
Having earlier given up in his bid for the Governorship ambition in 2015 for the incumbent, Bassey went ahead in 2019 to defy all the elements and held firm to supporting Governor Emmanuel despite pressure to decamp to the APC by his political mentor and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Sen. Godswill Akpabio.
He is being taunted as a good bait, hailing from the so much hyped eastern Ibibio extraction which by geographical extrapolation only means Itu and Ibiono, who though being part of Uyo Senatorial district, remains the only region that has not produced a Governor in Akwa Ibom since creation in 1987.
With this argument, they believe that either through micro zoning or by way of the support and sacrifices he allegedly made previously, Bassey Albert may be in a more favourable position to be given that plum job.
However, this idea is greatly punctuated by the ambition of another experience hand in the race, a grassrooter, former Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, currently the Member representing Etinan/ Nsit Ubium at the Federal House of Representatives, Rt.Hon. Onofiok Akpan Luke.
Onofiok’s strength, like most other aspirants’ in his federal constituency, lies in the permutations that despite the Uyo and Etinan federal constituencies having produced the late Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, the late Obong Akpan Isemin and the sage Obong Victor Attah, it is however only Uyo federal Constituency that has fully exercised political power for eight uninterrupted years.
Onofiok Luke ,surprised pundits when, despite being a former Personal Assistant and protegee of former Governor Godswill Akpabio defied all elements and stood to support Governor Udom’s re- election in 2019.
He equally led the media wing of that campaign churning out the most elaborate and creative media awareness exercise that helped cement the victory of the Governor in 2019.
He is also seen as one who commands large followership amongst a large chunk of voters being the youths of Akwa Ibom State.
For this reason, it is believed that should he be anointed it would be a worthy reward for a job well done previously in several other capacities.
However, these two mentioned afore, have been dismissed by another school of thought that believes that the current positions held by the duo, could easily be seen as a reward for sacrifices they may have laid claims.
The next group of persons still being speculated as likely successors include the private sector merchants, Udom Inoyo, Umoh Eno and Akanimo Udofia.
These three appear to have met the description of Governor Emmanuel when, during a recent broadcast to mark his sixth year anniversary in office that his successor should be one with an International email address , serious business contact or relationship with the global business community.
Until recently, Udom Inoyo was the Country Vice Chairman of Exxon Mobil and has been a key influence in the oil policies of Nigeria.
His philanthropy which includes the Inoyo Otoro Foundation and other philanthropic services could be seen as added advantage to his ambition.
However, coming out of the cloak of a multinational oil company which so many people see and view with distrust, Inoyo has been fast showing people the human and natural personality he has.
He has since commenced a task of separate himself from the veil of Mobil and some of the company’s obnoxious policies that met the consternation of the people.
But Inoyo is no push over and his supporters believe that he will be able to show the people of Akwa Ibom that he is no longer bound by the cloak of ‘officialness’ that encompassed his former position in the multibilion dollars oil firm.
Akanimo Udofia has been a purely private sector driven entrepreneur and is seen as one who has not actually made use of a public office but has used his private capacity to help several people via employment and philanthropy, fast becoming a household name in the state.
Like the duo of Hon. Luke and Mr Udofia, Pastor Umoh Eno hails from Etinan Federal Constituency which has previously held sway during the time of late Obong Isemin and late Idongesit Nkanga.
The argument they are likely to put forward is same argument which the current mandate holder put forward in 2015.
While Mr Udom Emmanuel reasoned that Clement Isong held sway for only one term, and such he was coming to finish the industrialization push that the late Ibibio sage championed. The Etinan people are likely to postulate that Isemin did barely one year out of four years and their arrival could possibly be a way of completing the tenure that hitterto had been given to Etinan Federal Constituency.
The Commissioner for Lands and Town Planning ,Pst. Umoh Eno is the only son of that federal constituency in the state executive council.
Within a very short period in public office, Pastor Eno has been vocal and assertive in trying to transmit and interpret the policies of Governor Emmanuel in his own capacity.
First as the Executive Director of Agric Investment, he was involved in the numeration of all farmers in Akwa Ibom State and secondly, he has not been seen having any controversy in his currently position as Commissioner in the State Executive council.
With both experience in public and private sector, iced by his perceived proximity with Fathers of Faith, a group of Spiritual Fathers who are very close to the Governor, people are opining that his name may ring loud in the Governor’s succession prayer.
However, he is left to be seen whether the successes of his business in the private sector and his brief stint in the public service are enough to earn the popularity needed for the Akwa Ibom Hilltop Mansion job.
Already, he appears to have displaced the more sophisticated and experienced political juggernauts in his local government area by emerging the coordinator of the Maintain Peace Movement (MPP) a grassroots Mobilisation Group formed recently in the state aimed at maintaining peace and progress in the state.
Also from Nsit Ubium local government area is veteran warhorse, Senator Effiong Bob, who many believe has vast experiences in the public and private sectors.
Bob started as a practicing lawyer, he has been a Deputy Speaker at the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Councillor, Member of the State Executive Council were he served as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, two- time Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and former chairman, University of Benin Governing council. He is currently the Chairman of Comfort FM one of the flourishing radio stations in Akwa Ibom State.
Experience, if it were to be a criteria would fit him as a second skin. However, with over three decades in the public space, it is left to be seen whether the Akwa Ibom people prefer the wisdom of Methuselah, the vibrancy of Samson or the agility of David?
Another contender who hails from the Eastern Ibibio extraction is Mr. Akan Okon, Commissioner for Economic development and Ibom deep seaport.
Akan Okon has been a member of the Executive Council since 2013, having first been appointed Commissioner for Economic Development before being made Commissioner for Finance, Commissioner for Special Duties and Aviation Industry and currently the Commissioner for Economic duties and Ibom Deep Seaport.
His achievements in his former ministries have been unparalleled having been assisted the Governor in his vision of getting the Ibom air line underway in Akwa Ibom State, the first of its kind by any state government.
Currently Mr. Okon has been relentless in interpreting the Governor’s dream in the Maritime sector vis a vis the Ibom Deep Seaport project.
Beyond this he also shares a common professional antecedence with Governor Emmanuel having been a banker and a close ally to the Governor for several years.
Certainly this experience, and the confidence he enjoys from his current boss, should not make it difficult for him to be the revelation, Governor Udom Emmanuel has been craving.
Others who have been fingered include Mr Okon Okon, Chairman of the state board of internal revenue, and Mr James Iniama who was the opponent of former Governor Godswill Akpabio in the 2007 elections, and who hails from Itu local government as well as Mr Gabriel Ukpeh, current chairman of the State Foreign Direct Investment Programme.
Ukpeh, like some others previously mentioned, has a common history with the incumbent Governor and was on the board of the Zenith Bank before his appointment in the state. Certainly, if the governor wanted to handpick, Ukpeh would certainly stand a huge chance, having contributed immensely to the berthing of several industries through the state’s foreign direct investment programmes.
However, the people of Akwa Ibom can attest to the fact that Governor Emmanuel has not been parochial in any way since the advent of this administration, and has allowed God to be at the center of his administration.
It is pertinent to note that the incumbent Governor, Udom Emmanuel has urged every Akwa Ibom person to discountenance all these notions and rather continue to support his completion agenda which bothers on, industrialization, maritime sector development, rural development, agricultural, Education, Health sector development, Aviation innovations and infrastructural expansions.
He has insisted that the decision to choose his successor, lies solely with God and once God reveals to him, who his successor would be, he won’t hesitate to support such a person.
According to him, “It is even better that God himself chooses who he wants as Governor so that , He can be the one to ensure the success of that succession plan”, he said.
It is important to recall that while speaking during several interactions with visitors to the Government house, the Governor had said that he personally has no interest to continue running the affairs of the state through surrogacy of any sort.
He further surprised pundits when few weeks ago, during an interaction with close aides and appointees went on to say that he has no intention of contesting as a Senator come 2023.
This has drawn widespread applause for him being that with the tenure of the Oron federal constituency coming to an end in 2023, through Senator Akon Eyakenyi, it was likely that the incumbent Governor could have afforded to scuttle the zoning plan like his predecessor did in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District in 2015, and grabbed the senatorial seat for himself.
Such fairness and justice in his actions have propelled people to believe that in getting a successor and listening to the voice from above , he will also pay attention to zoning and attributes which a person posses, to ensure that Akwa Ibom State is not found taking steps backwards after taking several steps forward.