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Udom vs Ekere: Has The Battle For 2019 Begun? By Udo Silas

Nsima Ekere and Udom in a handshake while Umana watches

The headline hit me at first. It prompted further inquiry. It should. Sample it: “War looms in Akwa Ibom APC over Nsima Ekere’s 2019 ambition”

The three riders to the story aptly summarized the body… “Umana, Running Mate shun Ekere’s inauguration…”Don Etiebet dumps Umana, Roots for Ekere…”Etiebet is a Traitor-Umana’s camp

Because I was not at the inauguration, I found it expedient to confirm the story in its entirety. Firstly, it is not true that Umana and his deputy at the last election shunned the inauguration. This much I confirmed from the person who claimed he it was that served them both at the inauguration and at Ekere’s residence.

It is possible that the point about Etiebet dumping Umana could stem from the words reportedly spoken by Etiebet at the inauguration. “We’ve gotten an NDDC job, and the next would be the Hilltop Mansion…The Managing Director (Nsima Ekere) of NDDC is in charge of nine Niger-Delta states, and by implication, he (Ekere)is our Governor” he reportedly said. But whether or not these words mean the same thing as Etiebet dumping Umana remains stoutly buried in the womb of time. It is at that time it would be clear whether indeed Etiebet is a traitor or not.

But the report, whether true or false, planted or not, bears traction in various marketplace discourse that began the very minute it was confirmed that Ekere has been nominated MD-designate for the NDDC. Perhaps the writer of the story is being futuristic in his nuances either to sow discord in the APC camp or pre-empt what could be a possible scenario in the event that the duo of Umana and Ekere decide to go for the jugular as far as the APC gubernatorial ticket goes.

All of this notwithstanding, it would be foolhardy to expect that Umana or Ekere would have dropped their ambitions to be governor. But only one of them would be the candidate for the APC if indeed APC would be the platform on which they would vie, if indeed they would. There are yet many podiums to fight. What appears however certain is that the PDP would naturally fly with her incumbent unless of course a seismic alteration occurs.

What pundits are not unmindful of is the fact that Udom and Ekere are from the same senatorial district while Umana is from the Uyo senatorial district. So whereas Udom and Ekere would have to do battle from the home front, such a battle would leave the Uyo and Ikot Ekpene senatorial districts as the bride. That is in a scenario where Umana does not contest. But if Umana does contest, under any other platform, then again, he has to woo the other two senatorial districts. There again Ekere may also decide to contest on another platform if as we may not now know, Umana is chosen to fly the APC flag. But whether or not Umana contests or not, the slugfest between Ekere and Udom appears to be the talk, maybe in large part due to Ekere’s new portfolio and the attached visibility or the fact that he is from the same senatorial district as Udom. If that is the case, then the battle ahead may most likely throw up a third force, in a situation where the PDP candidate and the APC candidate are from the same senatorial district.

I would wager a bet that Udom is not unmindful that the road to 2019 began the very day he swore to his 2015 oath of office. We must assume so since it is trite in our politics that four years is often not enough to spread as they say, the dividends of democracy. Being in office now therefore affords Udom an advantage to connect or create a mental association with the people that would make it difficult for any other person to dislodge. No I am not insinuating the Ayade type model here, I would rather a development paradigm that stimulates personal and communal wealth as opposed to government as the only provider of expendable income. It is clear that poverty still subsists in the land. But more and more, the people have been striving to eradicate the more stifling kind of poverty- that of the mind. So even though udom may have to contend with many other baggages, some his fault and others not his creation, the people may have to judge him in the end not by his handsome looks or his urbane disposition but by how well he has brought his well heeled expertise to transform the economy of the state. He would do very well to define and understand the baggages that he carries so as to properly situate his responses as points of action in the months and years ahead.

But Ekere has the opportunity, a real one if you ask me, to take the battle to Udom. It would be easy to aver that because he has been longer in the political space, Ekere would have burnt more bridges than Udom. So for Ekere the first thing he must do is to locate the angst against his person and style. Charity they say begins at home. I would expect Ekere to first attempt to change the narrative of his Ikot Abasi people the same way I would believe Udom is doing with his Onna people. Not doing so would leave the rear as the first casualty of this looming battle. Where would a leader stand without the foundation of his own people?

It should be clear to Udom by now that Ekere also has by virtue of his office, the apparatchik to cause real development in both his locale and the state at large. It should be obvious to Udom that Ekere also has the wherewithal to touch many lives in Akawa Ibom as much as he Udom can touch. No, it is not about doling monies and contracts to friends and cronies. It is not about enabling filial appendages. It is about deliberate policies and actions that would promote inclusiveness while celebrating ideas that are progressive, devoid of cleavages.

So whereas Udom would be judged amongst others on how well he has pursued his broad policy objectives, Ekere would be accessed on his past dalliances as well as what he is bringing to the table. Because it is by far easier to measure a person by his own set yardstick, it appears that Udom may have a longer text to write. That notwithstanding, he also stands better place to beat the gun by the single fact of him being on the saddle at this point in time. He has the opportunity to right his wrongs, cross his T’s and dot his I’s. He has the opportunity to look again at his manifesto and make hay. Ekere on the other hand would look at Udom’s score sheet day after day. And of course the element of surprise resides in his armor.

Would a third force arise from the ashes of this supposed contest? Would Ekere run? Would Umana run? Nothing is certain. Yet nothing is beyond reason. But one thing appears ironclad. The race has surely begun.

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