By Benjamin Tokede
The recent ruling of the appeal court with respect to the April 11 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State did not come to many people as a surprise. It may have surprised some who ignorantly believe the law court is the last hope of the proverbial common man, but not discerning Nigerians who have been following events from the time the people of Akwa Ibom chose Udom Emmanuel, a former banker, as their governor .
Certainly, the ruling could not have come as a surprise to the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that has, since the election, explored every means at its disposal – conventional and unconventional, orthodox and unorthodox – to secure through the back door what it could not achieve through the main and infact front door. If anything, the ruling of the appellate court fell in line with the expectations of the ruling party that has boasted every step of the way that Akwa Ibom State would, at the end of the day, be grabbed to its kitty, regardless of what people of the state say or vote. It makes you wonder if the courts have not been acting a script written by the party in power.
Twenty-four hours before the election tribunal announced its verdict, conventional and online publications went to town with a prediction of its outcome, which turned out to be correct. A few days before the appeal court ruled on the appeals filed by both the governor, Udom Emmanuel and his main challenger, Umana Okon Umana, John Oyegun, national chairman of the APC, boasted in a newspaper interview that winning Akwa Ibom and Rivers states was a forgone conclusion. The ruling, when it was made, became a prophesy foretold.
The Supreme Court, the final arbiter and highest court in the land, will soon make the last pronouncement on the contentious issue. It is anybody’s guess where the pendulum will swing, though it does not take a seer to know that the apex court is not likely to tow a line different from that of the appeal court, if the trend in which legal pronouncements on the 2015 election in the southern part of the country, which has been largely in favour of the ruling party, is not discountenanced.
The botched governorship election in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, in which the full compliment of the APC federal government government-controlled security agencies attempted to frustrate the will of the people of the state, after it became clear that the party had lost the election, makes obvious the reason the party wants a fresh election in Akwa Ibom.
The open and behind-the-scene intrigues that have trailed the governorship election in Akwa Ibom is not really a contest between Udom and Umana. It is a struggle between light and darkness. It is a contest between Umana and the forces of retrogression that he represents, on one side, and the people of the state, on the other side, who stand to lose, should there be a reversal of the decision they collectively took on April 11 – either at the courts or through any form of manipulation like the one witnessed in the abortive ‘coup’ in Bayelsa.
The APC should ask itself why the people of the state rejected a man that had been in government for nearly three decades and opted for a relatively new entrant into governance. The answer is simple. Udom represents the new crop of leadership the state needs.
Eight years of the Akpabio administration brought to Akwa Ibom the level of infrastructure development that had hitherto not been thought to be possible. The state therefore needed somebody from the other side of the divide, the private sector that is the engine of growth, with fresh ideas to drive the economic development that would lift it out of poverty and backwardness.
Since coming into office, Udom has gone about governance with the single-mindedness of purpose that only a leader with a vision can demonstrate. Is it in the area of youth empowerment through information communication technology (ICT) training? Is it empowerment of women through interest-free loans?
Beyond empowerment of the people, Udom has made industrialisation the focus of his government’s economic programme. He remains, till date, the only governor that has a committee in place solely for the purpose of attracting foreign direct investment. The effort has paid off, with more than 50 foreign investors said to have indicated interest in investing in the state. This is besides a refinery and fertiliser plant that are currently in the pipeline, to take off any moment from now.
Perhaps the most significant achievement of Governor Udom in the seven months of his tenure is the Dakkada prgramme that is designed to make the people of the state rediscover themselves. Encouraged by his rise from obscurity to an enviable height in the nation’s financial sector, the governor has instilled in the people a new spirit to dare the impossible – a new way of thinking that would encourage them to unleash their God-given potential to attain any height of their dream, regardless of their circumstance.
It’s a programme that has no precedence in a state whose growth had been bogged down for years by negative tendencies such as infighting, backbiting, backstabbing and the notorious pull-him-down syndrome. The programme targets individuals, in a clear understanding of the fact that development of the mind of the individual is sine qua non to developing the person, which would ultimately lead to the overall development of the state.
Indeed, if Udom has not achieved anything else, he has succeeded in implanting in the hhhu of hthe people a new sense of adventurism.
A derailment of the development train that took off in Uyo on May 29, 2015, through whatever means, would tantamount to taking one step forward and many steps backward. But if the resistance by the people of Southern Ijaw in Bayelsa, which will come to fore again on January 9 could be taken as a pointer, subversion of the will of the people of Akwa Ibom by the APC will not be a tea party, regardless of the role of the courts in the grand conspiracy.
• Benjamin Tokede is a company executive and lives in Abuja
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