In the evening of last Saturday, Governor Udom Emmanuel finally “pulled the trigger”. Though the trigger was long awaited, it however came as a surprise to many because of when and how it came. The trigger is the dissolution of the Akwa Ibom State Executive Council.
In July 2015, Governor Emmanuel had sworn-in 20 commissioners and 2 Special Advisers into his cabinet. Out of 22 of exco members, about 15 had held different positions in the state in the Akpabio-led administration.
The appointment of these set of people, some having served as Commissioners/Special Advisers in Akpabio’s government for over 6 years raised dust.
There was outcry in the state, with people lampooning the governor, calling him a stooge to his predecessor, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
The belief amongst several people in government and those outside government was that the reappointment of the old faces in to government was a political strategy by the state’s new Chief Executive.
It was also believed that he kept the “Akpabio boys” in his government so as not to upset his predecessor and political benefactor, Godswill Akpabio. It was also speculated that it was a compensation to those who supported his governorship bid financially and with political structures, and otherwise. While some were of the school of thought that why he still kept them in government was because his victory at the governorship poll was challenged in court, and he needed these men to back him up.
All these were speculations. It is only Udom, his kitchen cabinet and probably the Ukana cabal that once held sway that knew the rationale behind the retention of the “old faces”.
Many had thought the state exco comprising of the old faces will only last for one year. The governorship tribunal, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court came and went. But the governor kept the suspense going. People had lost hope that the exco many not be dissolved soon. The governor’s close men who had supported him and had hopes of being appointed into the exco had lost such hopes.
Fast forward to the evening of Saturday, October, 2016. When it was least expected, the governor through the Secretary to State Government, Sir Etekamba Umoren announced the dissolution of the state exco.
“His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, Governor, Akwa Ibom State has approved the dissolution of the State Executive Council with immediate effect.
“The Governor expresses his deep and profound appreciation for the contributions of the EXCO members to the development of the state, and wishes them success in their future endeavours.
“Permanent Secretaries in the respective ministries are to take over the running of the ministries pending the reconstitution of a new Executive Council”, the bombshell dropped via the letter signed by Sir Umoren.
Government House sources informed TheMail that immediately the governor signed the letter confirming the dissolution of the exco, he travelled out of the state.
It is understood that some of the exco members who are not “close to where decisions are taken” were taken unawares.
There was jubilation and a sigh of relief by followers of politics in the state and others. “Finally, he (the governor) has done it. Better late than never”, they said
Now, political lobbying and schemings have resumed. Some want to get back to the exco while some others feel they should have a shot at it.
Very few people know the body language of the governor. The list of new commissioners will soon be sent to the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly for screening and confirmation. It could be within the week.
Some who were members of the state exco have held meetings at their residences (and other places), thanking the governor for giving them opportunity to serve in his government. They have also thanked political stakeholders and supporters for being behind them while they were there.
The list is ready but it is very few trusted allies of the governor who know those that made the cut.
In this analysis, TheMail reveals The Untouchables (those will definitely return), those who may likely not return and fresh blood(s) who may be injected into the system.
Mr. Ephraim Akparawa Inyang-eyen
Unarguably, his name will certainly be number one on the list. He has the trust of the governor. He did a yeoman’s job in the Ministry of Works. For a man who was a Customs officer and who literally didn’t have much knowledge on engineering to have performed so creditably well, he will return based on performance and on the fact that he is the governor’s eyes, nose and ears in the exco. He may have goofed and may be faulted in the way and manner he went about his duties, with his commando-style of supervising the demolition of structures not really appreciated but you can’t take away the fact that he delivered his job well. There are strong feelers from Hilltop Mansion that he would be moved from that ministry. The feelers have it that the governor’s right hand man will be appointed Chief of Staff to His Excellency the Governor. Remember that this is the same position he was to be given before the Akpabio family showed interest in it. This prompted the governor to leave the office vacant. The Chief of Staff is one of the most powerful offices in government after the office of the governor. In these days where Deputy Governors are “unused spare tyres”, the occupant of the office of the Chief of Staff might as well be regarded as the defacto Deputy Governor. It remains to be seen if Ephraim will leave the Ministry of Works which has an allocation of about N90 billion, by far the highest allocation for any ministry in the 2016 budget.
Mr. Akan Okon:
A strong ally of the governor, this former staff of Central Bank of Nigeria is a “sure banker” to return. He has amassed over 36 years of uninterrupted friendship with the governor. He has done meritoriously well as Commissioner for Finance, having retained the role he played in the ‘dying days’ of Akpabio as governor. Under his commissionership, the IGR of the state has improved immensely. Based on performance and his closeness to the governor, he will certainly have another shot at the exco. But there are reports that he may not return as Commissioner for Finance, but will return to the exco with a higher portfolio. Earlier in the year when the speculation of the exco dissolution was rife, he was tipped to be appointed Secretary to the State Government. But with Etekamba Umoren not affected by the exco dissolution, that may not be in the kitty at the moment. But as for as his return to the cabinet, that will certainly happen.
Rt. Hon. Victor Etim Antai:
He is one of the key performers in the government. He is a grassroots general. He has the support of his people and has worked assiduously in galvanizing support for the governor in Oro Nation, an hitherto opposition terrain. Antai has donated cars to several people, especially those from Oro Nation. This led to insinuations in some quarters that he has eye for the 2019 governorship. But it seems the governor does not doubt the loyalty and commitment of the immediate past Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. The governor knows that he needs him to stay on, especially with his re-election ambition in 2019 drawing closer. He needs the likes of Victor Antai, a two-term Council Chairman to woo royal fathers and grassroots politicians to support him.
Engr. Etido Inyang:
He is a technocrat par excellence and everybody knows the governor loves people in his ilk. He is simply a genius in what he does. Intelligent, savvy, ingenious and less politically-ambitious, the Ikot Ekpene born engineer has gotten the nod of his boss to return to the exco (if feelers available to us is anything to go by). The governor has absolute confidence in him and that is why he is handling key projects in the state. Etido Inyang is no doubt an old face in the cabinet, but the governor really needs him around. The agitation/petition by few politicians from his LGA that that governor should not reappoint him is likely going to fall on deaf ears. TheMail understands that if Ephraim Inyang is appointed Chief of Staff, Etido Inyang will be re-assigned to the Ministry of Works.
Dr. Glory Emmanuel Edet:
The INI born women mobilizer is the slot of the wife of the governor, Mrs Martha Emmanuel. She is lucky to have had the confidence of the former first lady, Unoma Akpabio and from all indications, she has the support of the current holder of that office. Dr. Edet who is the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Welfare has been Mrs Emmanuel’s “right hand woman” and will most likely make her way back to the exco.
ANIEKAN JOHN UMANAH:
Undoubtedly, Aniekan is a stylish 21st century image maker. The Abak-born information manager has been on the saddle as Commissioner for Information for close to a decade. He took over from Census Ekpo in the early days of Chief Godswill Akpabio as governor, and since then he has not looked back. He has defended the government with all his breath, being at the forefront of selling Akwa Ibom positively to the world. Nobody can fault him in the area of his commitment, zeal and passion towards his assigned duties. But, the opinion amongst members of the press is that he is not really loved anymore. It seems he has overstayed. Journalists seem to seek a bit of fresh air. Also, insiders close to Aniekan Umanah say he was already fed up with the job since the early days of Governor Udom Emmanuel. Having seen huge amount of money during the era of Akpabio, the lean resources allocated to him to carry out his job in the Udom administration has seemingly limited him and made the job tiring for the new Elder of Qua Iboe Church of Nigeria. He was recently quoted saying that he has survived five exco dissolution and two administrations in the state, but it is likely the governor will go for a fresh face whose passion and commitment won’t be in doubt and would be widely accepted by the media community.
Rt. Hon. (Elder) Aniekan Simon Akpan:
He was very effective as a lawmaker in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly but since he was appointed Commissioner for Education, he has been below par. Ukanafun people would want to send a fresh representative to the exco (though that is at the discretion of the governor). Rt. Hon. Akpan, who is a former school principal may likely make way for another person since he has failed to convince the governor to see why has to return, either politically or performance-wise.
Barrister Emmanuel Moses Enoidem:
He is number one on the list of those sacked. Besides, the former PDP state exco member was already fed up with being a commissioner. He spent the entire 8 years in Akpabio’s government as Commissioner. And it was remaining 7 months for him to clock 10 uninterrupted years as a Commissioner. He was fed up with the job and the new system was also fed up with him. At a point, he was to be given a safe-landing with the position of National Legal Adviser of the PDP. He would have clinched it if not for the botched National Convention in August. He is said to have been sidelined by the current administration, not wielding much power and influence as was the case in the last administration. His ministry, Commerce, Trade and Industry which was to be the focal ministry for the actualization of the industrialization agenda of the governor was given a somewhat paltry allocation in the 2016 budget. Enoidem is currently outside the country on holiday and may likely be unperturbed with the exco dissolution.
Dr. (Mrs) Elizabeth Donald Obot:
Born in Ibiono Ibom LGA but married to an Etinan man, Dr. Obot is one commissioner who had a torrid time in her ministry. The Ministry of Science and Technology needed a square peg in a square hole not a round peg in a square hole. As someone in the medical field, she is seen as a misfit and has performed below average. Being the slot of a very politically conscious LGA as Etinan may make her matter worse as her return to the exco would likely be swallowed up by diverse political interests. It is likely she will have no second chance.
Otuekong Emmanuel Udo Ibiok:
Commissioner for Culture and Tourism will likely be booted out. Feelers from Nsit Ubium reveal that Senator Effiong Bob had an input on who Ibiok’s replacement will be. For one year and five months, that Ministry has been somewhat dead. His lifeline has been exhausted and it is glaring that he won’t survive the dissolution.
Politically, he is said to have no value. Performance-wise, he hasn’t lived up to the billings. He seems to be a “political waste-pipe”. He won’t likely re-emerge in the exco chambers, atleast not as a member of the governor’s cabinet. He doesn’t have a grip of the labour unions and in seasons of labour unions/government face-off, he is always found wanting. Certainly not returning.
Rt. Hon. Uwem Ita Etuk:
His ouster from the state executive council will certainly be a big setback for his Federal House of Representatives ambition. He hasn’t recorded much success in his work. The last time he was heard was when government planned taking back its lands in some parts of Uyo. Edidem Mme Jew as Uwem is fondly called has his way of getting back into the reckoning but it is strongly doubted if he will be reappointed.
Prince Godwin Ntukudeh:
Sycophancy doesn’t really pay, because if it pays, the likes of Ntukudeh who has taken sycophancy to the highest level wouldn’t be relieved of his appointment. Ntukudeh, in a bid to impress the governor had said on radio that his doctorate degree is nonsense where the likes of his boss, Governor Emmanuel are. No doubt, he performed his job creditably well. He was a match for the stubborn Keke operators in the state. His nuisance value will be missed sorely. The heterogeneous political interests in Uruan will not allow him to return to the exco.
Unyime Usoro: He is the one brought in to replace Mr. Enyinna Ekpenyong in the Bureau of Labour, Productivity and Manpower Planning. He was greatly needed by the governor having been a former labour leader in the state (he is the immediate past Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress) which is why the governor appointed him as his Honorary Special Adviser on Labour. With Enyinna out of the exco, the Etinan born ex unionist will assume the role. Having supported the governor immensely when he was the sitting NLC boss, helping secure the union’s endorsement for the 2015 governorship bid, coupled with his grasp of labour matters, the governor believes that Usoro’s capabilities will reduce labour/government rift.
According to Government House sources, former governorship aspirant, Okpolupm Etteh will replace Enyinna Ekpenyong in the exco as a nominee from Ibeno LGA.
A close ally of the Governor, Elder Ufot Ebong is most likely making the list. The former Shell staff is currently serving as Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Technical Matters and Due Process. Even as SSA (he is not a member of the cabinet) he used to attend state exco meetings.
Apart from Usoro, Ufot Ebong and Okpolupm Etteh, not less than 4 other new faces will make an entrance into the SEC.
Others not mentioned in the report may likely return or not return. Their chances of returning is 50-50. Though not certain as at the time of writing this report, the likes of Ekong Sampson and Prof. Emmanuel Ating Onwioduokit (the only Professor in the dissolved exco) may have another shot at the exco. Feelers have it that the governor is particularly impressed with Ekong Sampson because of the Rural Development Masterplan he came up with. The masterplan contains all the villages in the state with no rural electrification and other social amenities. It is understood that it took Ekong and staff of his ministry (Rural Development) several months of hardwork to come up with the detailed masterplan. Though Onwioduokit was recently enmeshed in a nude picture scandal, the governor is actually impressed with his work rate and may be bent on retaining him.
LACUNA IN THE PRESS RELEASE
Many people have faulted the press release that announced the dissolution of the State Executive Council. Analysts on contemporary and political issues have said that it was wrong for an official government press release to be issued on Saturday (being weekend). They also said that since the press release stated that the governor dissolved the entire State Executive Council, the dissolution should have affected the Secretary to State Government, Sir Etekamba who however was the signatory of the release.