12th September 2018

Yesterday, a mammoth crowd gathered in Eket to honour President Muhammadu Buhari and Obong Nsima Ekere. It was a rally organized by the All Progressives Congress(APC).

Post event reports on social media show that the statement made by the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Obong Dr Nsima Ekere to the effect that he will only serve a single term if elected Governor, has without doubt emerged the most newsworthy issue arising from the historic event.

The comment has effectively overshadowed other notable happenings that occurred there. In fact, nobody seems to remember anything else that was said at the event. That’s how weighty it is.

Expectedly, the statement has been greeted with both applause and condemnation, optimism and cynicism. For discerning minds, it was a political masterstroke timeously delivered. It addressed the genuine concerns of certain sections of the State while stripping political opponents of a major weapon ahead of the 2019 gubernatorial election. I think Obong Nsima Ekere should be commended for his courage and political sagacity.

While most members of the All Progressives Congress(APC) across the state have taken the former Deputy Governor by his word, naysayers are shouting themselves hoarse, trying to explain how impossible it is for a Nigerian elected Chief Executive to either honour a single term agreement or voluntarily quit after his first term.

Sincerely, I don’t blame some of them for taking such a position. Their cynicism seems plausible in the face of past events in the country. I think that’s where their argument ends and it isn’t good enough. It smacks of shallowness.

My humble opinion is that no one makes progress by voluntarily becoming a slave of past events. The fact that politicians have a penchant for reneging on promises doesn’t foreclose the possibilty of having those who have chosen to act differently. The taste of the pudding is said to be in the eating. Until you give the man the benefit of the doubt, you can’t claim to be right.

I have read the numerous comments in an attempt to find one person who bases his cynicism on Obong Nsima Ekere’s antecedents and I haven’t found any yet. Sadly, every commentator seems to judge him purely by other people’s records. Personally, I have always believed people unless I have a reason to do otherwise based on their past conducts.In this case, I don’t have a reason to doubt Obong Nsima Ekere.

The fact that Governor Udom Emmanuel has failed to honour his own promise of being a single term Governor in favour of Oro Nation isn’t a strong enough reason for me to doubt that it’s possible to do so. Yes, as a member of Oro Think Tank, I was at the meeting where the promise was made. The only thing that prevented a written agreement was the argument regarding who would take the first shot between Mr Udom Emmanuel and Oro Nation. Imagine the absurdity.

It’s surprising that nobody, including the Governor talks about it now. Some will argue that the agreement was frustrated by the failure of parties to append their signatures. Then, I ask, what was the reason for the proposal? If it was intended to guarantee fairness and ensure ethnic harmony in the State, couldn’t His Excellency from whose camp the proposal emanated bind himself to it? But mum has been the word from him and his supporters.

More so, even as a sizeable number of Oro people left the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) as a result of the 2014 unpleasant experience, a good number still stayed back to work for Mr Udom Emmanuel. What was the basis of that support? Maybe it’s time to lay it bare. I know those of them who were part of the proposal.

Is it possible for them to have supported the then Aspirant Udom Emmanuel without agreeing at the minimum, to his own proposal of being allowed to take only the first four years of the eight years allotted by zoning to Akwa Ibom South? Even common sense dictates that such understanding would be the minimum condition precedent for the support they gave him. May be they will tell us what actually inspired their support.

Rather than address this nagging issue, you would hear some people ask whether APC will field an Oro man as its gubernatorial candidate for the forthcoming election. Between APC and PDP, who is morally obliged to give its ticket to an Oro man for the 2019 gubernatorial contest? That’s an issue for another day.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that successive military rulers in Nigeria from 1966 were noted for reneging on their promise to handover to a democratically elected government. This was the reason most Nigerians received with a pinch of salt, General Abdusalami Abubakar’s promise to conduct elections and handover within one year. Till date, some Nigerians live in regret of their refusal to participate in that transition programme. If Abubakar could do in one year, what his predecessors couldn’t do in eight years, what makes us think that Obong Nsima Ekere cannot keep his promise? Is Abubakar a super human?

Of course we know that we can’t solve this puzzle by electing someone from Uyo Senatorial District in 2019. Nor are we going to do so by re-electing Governor Udom Emmanuel to consolidate on the development of Awa at the expense of other parts of Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District, and indeed Akwa Ibom State. Eket Senatorial District needs a Governor who will see the entire district and the state as his constituency.

So, despite our doubts, we are stuck with Obong Nsima Ekere until we get to the bridge head in 2022/2023. That’s the reality of our situation.

I believe the more serious issue confronting the State now is how to devise a rotation formula which will also give a sense of belonging to ethnic minorities. We should be concerned that at the completion of the first cycle of gubernatorial rotation, the minorities would have been excluded from the power equation.

This is one of the reasons I support Obong Nsima Ekere. He has the experience, courage and forthrightness to find a lasting solution to this quagmire. We must admit that our experiment with senatorial rotation of the governorship seat hasn’t helped to unite the state. There must be a better and more acceptable formula than that. We need to put on our thinking caps in the interest of our collective future.

Omen Bassey is an Uyo based Public Commentator.

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