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Udom’s new team: Matters arising

Udom with his old team

The nomination, screening and subsequent swearing-in of new Commissioners and Special Advisers may have come and gone but the matters arising from the constitution of the new cabinet will still linger for some time.

The governor while giving his speech during the swearing-in ceremony made a controversial statement that sent tongues wagging.

While exhorting members of his new cabinet, the governor veered off his written speech and dropped a bombshell “We don’t expect a Judas Iscariot again in this cabinet”.

This statement created so much ripples and media buzz. Tongues asked who the Judases in the last exco were. Some even attempted naming the Judases themselves.

But the truth of the matter is that the governor knows the “Judases” and the “Judases” know themselves.

But this was certainly expected. The governor inherited a political structure that was not laid by him and in his Team 1 (first exco), over 70 percent of the team had served in the Akpabio-led administration in one capacity or the other.

Some members of the exco served two or more masters. Some were treacherous. Some were traitors. After his Supreme Court victory, the governor had made a similar statement during the monthly prayer meeting at Government House that he knows that some people in his government had secretly supported and funded the opposition and that he has names of those guilty of such act.

For one year and 5 months, the governor still “managed” and worked with an “inherited” state exco filled with allegedly treacherous characters. He was just waiting for the right time to pull the trigger and fire the Judases.

Finally, less than 2 weeks ago, he became his own man, pulled the bull by the horn and dissolved the state exco.

Many of the members of the dissolved cabinet were already tired of their jobs. In this period of recession, the job was no more enticing. They were just waiting for the dissolution to go back home and enjoy their “retirement”.

But some who had served for more than 4 years (some even 8 years) in various capacities in the last administration didn’t have enough, they were “gluttonous” and “greedy” in nature. They still lobbied to return to the exco.

The governor delayed announcing his new exco immediately, creating room for more suspense. The lobbyists continued with the thoughts that would return. While some prayed and fasted, some purportedly went diabolic with hopes of making Udom’s Team 2.

Just like he dissolved the exco when nobody least expected it, he announced his Team 2 when the tension had started dousing.

Lo and behold, there were 11 fresh “acquisitions” into the team, expected to bolster and rejig the squad in his drive to actualizing his campaign promises and also working towards returning in 2019. Most likely, the team will remain unchanged till the 2019 elections. Udom feels this is his winning team. Little wonder he christened the new exco “Team of Doers”.

9 commissioners retained their “shirts” in “Coach Udom’s” team. If the governor’s controversial statement is anything to go by, then the 9 returning “players” are/were not Judases.

Many out of the 11 names were/are totally strange to Akwa Ibom people. Even political stakeholders in some local governments said they hitherto knew the nominees from their local governments.

The governor has shown that this is a new dawn. He has made a very bold statement with these set of appointments. He has achieved a fine mix of technocrats and politicians in his cabinet. He sincerely wants to deliver in his campaign promises but can this team (made up of bankers and academics – you can call them political neophytes) deliver him in 2019? We leave that question for another day.

Now, during the swearing-in, the portfolios were not announced immediately as usual. The governor invited members of his new exco to a banquet in the evening (5pm) of the swearing-in day, with many thinking the portfolios will be announced there and then. But the banquet turned out to be a Pastor F.W. Kumuyi’s quarterly prayer summit in Akwa Ibom. After the religious activity, the exco members left without knowing their portfolios. Though not announced immediately, some of exco members if not all had known their portfolios, albeit unofficially. They still had to wait for an official release by the Secretary to the State Government to confirm their portfolios.

When the portfolios were officially announced, there were few surprises. Ephraim Inyang returning to Ministry of Works was not surprising neither was Dominic Ukpong heading back to the Health Ministry or Glory Edet to Ministry of Women Affairs.

But the sending of Victor Antai to Ministry of Culture and Tourism got many talking. Many are of the opinion that sending the former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to Culture and Tourism which is seen as a “dry ground” is a calculated attempt to cripple him financially. There have been reports that Victor Antai has been blackmailed a lot because of his growing political clout and fame. He has the support and enjoys the love of his people. He doles out money to them and donates cars to his kinsmen. This had prompted insinuations in some quarters that he has an eye for the 2019 governorship.

This may have contributed to him being sent to the “dry ground” in order for him to be irrelevant. Worse still, a young politician in the person of Orman Esin was brought into the exco and given a juicy ministry such as Ministry of Transport and Petroleum Resources. This, according to pundits is to empower Esin and reduce Antai’s political influence in Oro Nation. Pundits say the kitchen cabinet doesn’t want Antai to be the only cock that crows in Oro. Let’s leave it at that.  But the truth be told, with Orman Esin teaming up with Victor Antai, Udom is home and dry in Oro Nation i.e if he seeks second term.

Many had thought it was Prof Eno B. Ikpe who was heading to the Education Ministry but it was Paul Alexander Udofia who got the governor’s nod.

There was suspense on who will get the Ministry of Finance. Immediately the name of former Accountant General, Linus Nkan was included in the list of commissioners, many had started permutating that Akan Okon will be shipped out from that Ministry, and true to it, Okon was redeployed to the now merged Ministry of Housing and Special Duties. Because of how juicy, mega and important the portfolio is, Akan Okon is now called the “Fashola of Akwa Ibom”. Recall that Babatunde Raji Fashola holds the juicy office of Minister of Power, Works and Housing in the Buhari-led administration. Not many know the reason Akan Okon was shipped out of the Ministry of Finance, but the governor and his men know better.

Another big news and surprise was in the morning of the swearing in. The SSG’s press release announcing the swearing-in of the exco members also reads in part “His Excellency will swear-in Barr Abasieno Jackson Udonfo as the newly appointed Transition Committee Chairman for Ukanafun LGA following the resignation of Barr Samuel Udokoh, the immediate past Transition Committee Chairman”.

Why did Barr. Udokoh resign? Just like that? So a public office holder can resign in this Nigeria? These were some of the questions asked by curious members of the public.

Ukanafun boiled. Indigenes of the area got enraged. Why must all appointments from the LG come from one family, they asked.

Engr Ekpenyong Udo Ekpenyong, son of the new Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs is a Special Assistant to the Governor.

Barrister Samuel Udokoh, a nephew to Udo Ekpenyong was until November 30th, 2016 the Transition Committee Chairman of Ukanafun. He is said to have been nominated for that post by his Uncle, Hon. Udo Ekpenyong.

Reasons for his resignation are not really known to the press. But the governor played it down by saying that he asked him to resign when he discovered that he is related to the new Commissioner, Udo Ekpenyong.

Words on the streets have it that Udo Ekpenyong personally pressured his own Nephew, Barr. Udokoh into resigning as Transition Chairman in order not to thwart his opportunity of becoming Commissioner.

With this narrative, many say Udo Ekpenyong is too greedy. They say he should either have asked his son to resign as the Governor’s SA or reject the commissionership position and allow it to go to another zone in the area. But how often do such things happen in Nigeria? Do we have such selfless, less greedy and patriotic politicians?

Another talking point was the statement made by the Member Representing Onna State Constituency in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Otuekong Nse Essien a.k.a Indo during the screening of the then commissioner-designates.

Hon. Essien, while eulogizing the then nominee from his constituency, Akparawa Ephraim Inyang for his doggedness, boldness and courage in carrying out governmental and political roles in the state described the Commissioner for Works as the governor’s hatchet man.

This caused a buzz on social media, with many reading several meanings to Essien’s statement. Some said Essien’s statement meant that Ephraim was/is the one doing dirty jobs for the governor/government.

But the lawmaker later clarified the statement he made. He said he was quoted out of context by those who deliberately want to create mischief out of his statement.

“It’s unfortunate how people can attempt to misrepresent me. For those who also attempt to question my level of education, please be assured that I hold a BA (hons)English and so if I am to make mistakes, it wouldn’t be in the use of English. Back to the subject matter. Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary defines hatchet man noun (informal) as “a person employed by an organization to make changes that are not popular with the other people who work there”. Therefore, in presenting Mr Inyang who is my constituent, I did say that for construction to take place, structures had to give way for modern infrastructures to come up and so it required someone like Mr Inyang to do the job. I also stated that in doing this, he has taken a lot of insults and abuses on-behalf of the government and that I was sure that some people in the gallery were guilty of this as they might have had an encounter with the commissioner. It’s on record that I used the word “hatchet man” in this context”, Nse Essien elucidated his statement via a facebook post.

It remains to be seen whether the new team christened “Team of Doers” will talk the talk and do the do in terms of helping their coach, Udom Emmanuel actualize his promises when “he signed an initial 4 year contract” with the people of Akwa Ibom State and in the process help him secure another four year contract from the people of the state through the polls in 2019.

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