Nigeria News

NIGERIA: Akwa Ibom State Zoning and the Umana Twist

Akwa ibom state governor, Godswill AkpabioSo many people have been disillusioned by the immediate mundane gains that are accruable to their pockets in recent times. Albeit momentarily, Akwa Ibom people who hitherto had been known as rights seekers and vocal forces against injustices are now repentant penitent hustlers in their own land. The Spirit of enterprise or industry

has vanished and everyone now sees political positions as the height of fame. Nobody wants to be left out especially as those in power have not dispelled the notion that power, and by that I mean political power is sweet.

I wrote earlier that the principle of zoning as being practiced in Nigeria may not have a direct lineage with democracy, but is remotely related afterall. What is important is  that there is a relationship which is borne out of the fact that available political offices are allotted to various sections or groups of a locality, in order to prevent domination of the system by a single majority group. Through zoning, a sense of belonging is given to an otherwise minority group that would have not had the voting power to face the majority group.

In Nigeria, zoning is sacrosanct and has been used throughout the lifetime of the current democratic experiment. When the President came fom the South West(Obasanjo), his Vice (Atiku) came from the North East, while the Senate Presidency went to the East(Enwerem, Okadigbo,Anyim,Wagbara and Nnamani) . Despite the numerous impeachments, none of the deputy senate presidents dared to ascend the seat of Senate presidency because of the power of zoning.

In Akwa Ibom State since inception of the current dispensation of civil rule, there has been no doubt about the sanctity of zoning or balancing the equation as many will put it. When Attah was elected as governor, he had a deputy from Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District and Speaker from Eket Senatorial District. When his deputy Chris Ekpenyong left, another person from Ikot Ekpene (Michael Udofia) emerged as deputy. When Barr Bassey Essien(Esit Eket) was impeached as Speaker, Bar. Peter Linus Umo from Okobo( both in Eket Senatorial District) came into office  and was succeeded by Nelson Effiong also from Oron in Eket Senatorial District.

In the current administration of Chief Akpabio, all his three deputies Patrick Ekpotu, Nsima Ekere and Valerie Ebe, have been picked from Eket Senatorial District, while all the three Speakers of the State House of Assembly have emanated from Uyo Senatorial District namely, Ignatius Edet, Anietie Etuk and Sam Ikon. This same principle apply to either selected and elected positions when people who actually won election primaries were dropped for others on the basis of zoning, a situation which the governor himself attested to in a town hall meeting  that had in attendance the Minister of Information LAbaran Maku in attendance.

It was therefore very surprising to learn that while attempting to present his SSG Umana Umana as his successor in 2015, Governor Akpabio allegedly stood before President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja to announce that there has never been zoning in Akwa Ibom.  Thank God Ebele was able to correct the impression and from what we heard, he has rooted support for Eket senatorial district to produce the next governor. Since that news filtered in few days ago, there has been an apparent reduction in the wave of media hypes for Mr Umana as his media scavengers have apparently gone back into their shells out of fear of apparent reality, the reality that their principal can no longer run as governor in 2015.

Even before he was given the red card, Umana’s supporters had inundated the media with a twisted assumption that there was no credible person in Eket senatorial district who has the capability of moving the state forward. While this was going on, I and few others alone knew that Obong Umana had no business at the number one seat in the state, and as for credibility, that was out of context.

One local paper in Uyo, Highlight Newspaper, speculated recently that he is already negotiating to be Helen Esuene's deputy. The paper said a meeting between the duo was held in General Anthony Etukudo's house in Eket where Umana wanted Esuene to agree to serve for one term after which he will take over. This is a few weeks after his media scavengers had tried to rope in and tar Esuene in local papers sympathetic to them over an incident in Enwang, Mbo, in which some pastors from outside the state were caught by indigenes and handed over to police for taking sand from their land for prayers. They claimed that Esuene effected the pastors' release because they were on a mission to advance her governorship ambition.

In successive years, the office of the SSG in Akwa Ibom State is allotted over N5billion yearly to furnish the system with cars and till date no proper account of such expenditure is rendered. During the yearly budgets, N15 billion is set aside for industrialization and yet no industry is feasible on the horizon, but an SSG who goes home with N5bn every year to buy few government vehicles is considered  more credible than the array of outstanding self made professionals in the Eket Senatorial district. The government forgets that if such money was given to Toyota, Nissan or even Honda to come and build an assemblage factory in Akwa Ibom State, that would have been a major employer of labour, boosted the internally generated revenue, attracted other car distributors to the state, and would have afforded the state vehicles at manufacturer’s rate.

What has been Umana’s pedigree outside being a government appointee and actualizes all his achievements as a government topshot? In this administration, he is the chief economic adviser and has the experience of being a former commissioner of finance and director of budget in the state. What economic policies has he advised his principal on? Which business activity is booming in the state as a result of his expertise and what is the investment profile of the state, aside countless overseas trips to economic summits, conferences and expos with the same crop of few indigenes in the diaspora?

So are these enough reasons why justice and equity in Akwa Ibom should be sacrificed?

Chief Edubio, a social commentator sent in this piece from Amamong,Okobo in Akwa Ibom State

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