Umo Eno is fit and proper to step into Udom Emmanuel’s Shoes – Anietie Usen
For nearly a year, Udom Emmanuel, the suave Governor of Akwa Ibom State, had been under pressure by Akwa Ibom people to indicate his would-be successor. Who among your friends hovering around you and angling to succeed you would you throw your weight behind? they asked in various ways and in multiple fora. To be sure, the political weight of recent Akwa Ibom governors is a heavyweight, too heavy for any individual or group of individuals to successfully dent or crackdown. In fact, the political weight of the governor of Akwa Ibom State is not called weight. In Uyo, the capital city, it is called the ‘system’. And it is common to hear politicians say something like ‘you can’t fight the system’. Because of the crucial need to get the ‘system’ behind them, the Hilltop Mansion, the official home of the Governor, became the metaphorical Mecca, as scores of PDP governorship aspirants took turns to perform their political pilgrimages to see, lobby, and seek the endorsement of Governor Udom, sometimes in very unholy hours of the night.
While every aspirant claimed they were close friends of the governor and the very man the governor preferred as a successor; the governor ventured no inkling of his direction as the PDP family and other parties in the State waited with bated breath for ‘a direction’. The poser, even in barbershops, numerous sit-outs, and drinking parlors in Uyo was who will Governor Udom endorse. The governorship race in Akwa Ibom is fairly predictable because of the zoning method that allows each Senatorial district to take turns as governor in the Hilltop Mansion. This is the turn of the Uyo senatorial district and all the PDP aspirants are strictly from that senatorial district.
From the National Assembly praying for Governor Udom’s support, were the gentleman Senator Effiong Bob, the robust Senator Bassey Albert Akpan, and the vibrant Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke. From the oil industry were Udom Inoyo, the urbane former vice-chairman of Exxon Mobil in Nigeria, and Akan Udofia, the generous billionaire owner of Desicon Engineering. While in-house, from the cabinet of Governor Udom, were half a dozen or so aspirants, among them Pastor Umo Eno, a hardworking entrepreneur, successful businessman, and brilliant pastor, who was brought into the cabinet barely a year ago as the commissioner for lands and water resources. A few were contenders for the throne, while many were pretenders for the throne.
Akwa Ibom people hailed them all and automatically addressed each one as ‘Your Excellency’. But Akwa Ibom people are usually wary about politicians they label as “foreigners” or with the ugly stigma of “bad boys”. Governors Victor Attah, Godswill Akpabio, and the incumbent himself were seen as ‘foreigners’, people who lived and worked outside Akwa Ibom before coming home to seize the reins of power. Will Governor Udom go for a fellow ‘foreigner’ or those rightly or wrongly labeled as bad boys?
A people best known for their clement and decent character, the sudden emergence of violent gangs in the State that permeated the social fabrics down to the primary schools, became a major concern to parents, churches, and the traditional institutions. It was so bad that one professor in the University of Uyo described it as a total negation and violation of our norms and values, a major threat for generations yet unborn”.
For the church belt of Nigeria, which Akwa Ibom is part of, many institutions in the State threatened by the menace of cult gangs, pronounced their existence as sacrilegious and abominable. They mounted pressure on the government to restore order and return normalcy to the State. One morning in March last year, Governor Udom showed
he is a decisive leader. He signed an executive order proscribing more than 60 cultists gangs along with cultism and other violent behavior in the State. The State stood up as one man to commend him. Some organizations tried to politicize the issue. But the Governor proved a governor for all aspirants, often seen in the public in the company of each and every aspirant. But on Sunday, a holy day, January 30, 2022, Governor Udom summoned a stakeholder meeting in the Hilltop mansion at 4 pm.
The notice of the meeting was unusually short. Politicians among the invitees were surprised to notice on arrival that the stakeholders in the meeting were cross-sectoral: church leaders from orthodox to Pentecostals led by the Prelate Emeritus of Methodist Church, Dr. Sunday Mbang, paramount rulers from all ethnic groups, and coloration led by the Oku Ibom Ibibio, and of course and more importantly top stakeholders of the political class led by Obong Victor Attah.
Ironically, instead of one of the senior clergies being invited as usual to pray, Senator Bob, one of the governorship aspirants, was asked to say the opening prayer. The reason was soon to unveil. To the shock of stakeholders, the one-agenda meeting was about the endorsement of a governorship aspirant. Governor Udom took over the microphone and spoke briefly in parables, according to him, ‘like Jesus’, and handed over the microphone to former Governor Attah, who is highly respected and regarded as the political father of the State. It was Attah that spoke in plain language and interpreted what Governor Udom spoke in spiritual tongues, namely that after due considerations the incumbent governor has made up his mind and his mind is made up to endorse Pastor Umo Eno as the next governor of Akwa Ibom State. Two more serious Christian prayers by Rev. Dr. Uma Ukpai, Dr. Mbang, as well as one solid traditional prayer by the chief priest of Ibom were showered on Pastor Eno. The chorus of AMEN was heard nearly across the land that night. The governor neither endorsed a ‘foreigner’ nor a ’bad boy’ but a ‘village boy’. In one hour or so, the stakeholders’ meeting was over.
But since then, the reverberations of endorsements have been nonstop. From the entire cabinet of Governor Udom to the State House of Assembly, the endorsement of Pastor Eno is unanimous. All the LGA Chapters of the PDP are taking turns daily to endorse the same aspirant, while the Association Of LGA chairmen (ALGON), a critical stakeholder has also unanimously vowed to vote for the same aspirant in the coming nominations battle. So are political leaders of all ethnic groups in the State. Akwa Ibom former senators including Senators Effiong Bob, Aloysious Etok, and Emmanuel Ibok-Essien are spearheading the consultations for Pastor Eno in their various capacities as political leaders of their senatorial districts. Senator Bob, hitherto an aspirant, has announced the collapse of his political structure into Pastor Eno’s team.
The bandwagon effect is nearly unprecedented. Support groups led by Friends Of Umo Eno League are sprouting like mushrooms every day. Student Associations are not left behind. They all say that Pastor Eno, the University of Uyo Master’s degree holder in Political Science is a lover of youths, a man of peace, integrity and humility.
But one young aspirant, who is very popular with the youths, is still publicly unhappy with the endorsements. Rt. Hon. Luke says he respects Pastor Eno who hails also from his own Nsit Ubium LGA but he will not drop out of the race for now. Nobody expects mere endorsements, which is practised even in advanced democracies, to discontinue the ambition of other aspirants.
- COMMENTARY PUBLISHED ON FEBRUARY 19, 2022 • THISDAY, THE SATURDAY NEWSPAPER