2023 guber: Udom’s wild card options

The road to 2023 guber is getting nearer and with the turn of the New Year, politicking has begun in full swing. With just few months to the governorship primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the governor is yet to unveil the person he prefers to be his successor. The governor is playing the waiting game, leaving the political climate to be temperate. But he might not be able to sustain it that way for too long as many people serving in his government might not exercise such patience. Some have lost such patience and have started aligning with different governorship aspirants.

The likes of Ufot Ebong who is the Dean, College of Personal Aides (COPA) of the Governor is openly identifying with Akan Okon and is on the consultation team of Akan who is the Commissioner for Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport.

Rt. Hon. Friday Iwok, who is a serving member in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Service Commission is an egghead in the campaign team of Senator Bassey Albert Akpan. Meanwhile, Senator Albert is said to be one of the aspirants the governor would not support. Iwok who is the immediate Past Member Representing Abak State Constituency in the House of Assembly has been featuring prominently during OBA’s consultations.

Serving Chairmen, former chairmen, and some others in the political class have waited long enough without direction from the governor and may have decided to take their own political fate into their hands by aligning with aspirants whom they feel is the best bet for 2023.

Will the governor continue dilly-dallying in naming a choice successor? He saying he is waiting on God to pick a good successor for him. But the question many are asking is: How long will it take?

Sources from Government House still say that though the governor has not told anybody who would be his choice for the guber successorship, indications still point to the current Commissioner for Lands, Pastor Umo Eno. The sources note that the governor’s body language is glaringly in favour of the ‘Royalty Governor’. Will the governor still keep his choice close to his chest and leave it late before making an announcement?

The odds do not favour the popular candidates who have thrown their hats into the ring. By popular candidates we mean the likes of OBA, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, Rt. Hon. Michael Enyong (a.k.a Baba Ntan), Akan Okon, and Akan Udofia. It seems increasingly unlikely that the governor will opt for any of the aforementioned. But they, alongside Sen Effiong Bob are the few aspirants that have the mind and the financial warchest to still go ahead and contest at the PDP primary, even when the governor announces his choice.

But there is an array of others whom the governor may likely consider if he doesn’t go with Umo Eno. TheMail unveils the probable wild card options of Governor Udom Emmanuel ahead of the forthcoming PDP primary. 

Iniobong Essien: Intelligent, calm, humble and very unassuming technocrat. He officially entered the governorship race last week with a consultative visit to his ward in Ibiono Ibom. His entrance may have altered the dynamics a bit as the air of uncertainty grows on who the governor will finally settle for. Many didn’t see this coming. Dr Essien served as personal physician to a former of the state for 8 years. He also served under the Governor Udom Emmanuel administration in two separate ministries: Ministry of Environment and Solid Minerals in the governor’s first term. In the second term, his versatility was utilized at the Ministry of Science and Technology from 2019-2020. He is currently the Chairman of Ibom Airport Development Company. He is the only appointee of the governor who has embarked on an open door consultation as witnessed during his ward consultation last week. Other appointees of the governor interested in the seat have been going about their consultations of key stakeholders in a closed-door fashion. According to credible sources in Hilltop Mansion, the governor must have given him the nod to go about the consultations because if he had not gotten an “all clear” from the governor, he would have run into troubles with him. With the people of Itu/Ibiono Federal Constituency agitating for the seat to the micro-zoned to the constituency, the governor may likely look the way of Dr Essien if he hearkens to the agitations.

Linus Nkan: Currently serving as Commissioner for Finance in the state exco, Linus Nkan is a dark horse in the guber race. He is hugely interested in contesting for the number one seat in the state but his interest is almost solely dependent on whether he will be the governor’s choice or not. The Ibesikpo Asutan-born former Zenith bank chief is a wild card option for the governor. Sources say Linus would have been a very easy pick for the governor if he hailed from Uyo LGA or any other LGA in Uyo Senatorial District other than Ibesikpo Asutan. Former Governor of the state, Obong Victor Attah who was on the saddle from 1999 to 2007 is from Ibesikpo Asutan. So, it is increasingly difficult to see how realistic another person from Ibesikpo Asutan would become governor again just sixteen years later. But Nkan and the proponents of his governorship say Clement Isong was governor from ONNA (1979-1983) and Mr Udom Emmanuel from same ONNA emerged governor 32 years after the expiration of Isong’s tenure.

“Listen, listen! What happened in ONNA? In ONNA, Dr Clement Isong, who was the governor hailed from ONNA. Some years later, another governor emerged from same local government area (ONNA) in the person of Udom Emmanuel. So, what is that person that would say Ibesikpo Asutan cannot produce another governor after producing former governor Victor Attah”, Nsikan Linus Nkan is reported to have said this by a section of the media in the state during an Ibesikpo Austan political convention held during the last yuletide.

The Governor believes a financially savvy person in the mould of Nsikan Linus Nkan would be able to protect his interest in case of any inquest into the finances of the state by the EFCC after his tenure.

Linus is certainly one of the wild card options which the governor is keeping close to his chest.

Uko Udom: The governor’s Lagos cartel would definitely love this. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), many are a bit surprised why an accomplished lawyer in the silk of Udom would leave his lucrative law practice in Victoria Island, Lagos to become a commissioner back home. But the answer is not farfetched. The governor could only fetch Uko back to the state through their many years of friendship. Some of the governor’s close friends have turned down the governor’s offers to join him in government, choosing to remain the “Friends of the Governor” and enjoy the dividends behind the scene.  Uko who was appointed Commissioner one year ago is a respected and sagacious lawyer who played a key role in the legal battle that led to Akwa Ibom becoming number one oil rich state in the country. If the governor intends picking a wild card from Etinan Federal Constituency, Barr Udom is a possible option.

Gabriel Ukpeh: Another dark horse in the race. He is interested in the contesting the 2023 governorship. His name was mentioned prominently before the end of the governor’s first term as the possible successor. But the speculations have failed to garner much steam again since the advent of the governor’s second term. He was an influential behind the scene figure in the administration but it seems if influence has waned. Now that the spotlight is off Ukpeh who is the man in-charge of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), he might be amongst those in the governor’s mind if he looks the direction of Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency.  He has the much talked about international e-mail which the governor mentioned in one of his addresses. He is a non-executive board member at Zenith Bank. And if he could get the governor’s number godfather, Jim Ovia to put in some nice words for him, then it could go a long way. Zenith Bank would be interested in the ambitions of Ukpeh and Nkan because with either of the duo on the saddle, they would be sure of maintaining their accounts with the state government.

A brief profile of Ukpeh shows that he is an internationally acclaimed consultant in business strategy, risk management, process re-engineering and financial services, who was, until recently, a Senior Partner and Risk Quality Leader for Africa at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

He is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria with over thirty five (35) years experience in Financial Audit and Reporting, as well as a member of the Institute of Taxation of Nigeria.

A graduate of accounting, he holds Graduate Diploma in Business Administration from the University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom.

He obtained a Master of Science (M.Sc) Degree in Contemporary Accounting from the Leeds Metropolitan University, UK in 2009.

He worked with PwC, an International Business auditing and consulting firm for over thirty five (35) years, and as a Partner for over 20 years led, directed, planned and managed the audit, accounting, and consulting assignments for numerous financial institutions, multinationals and local companies, including most major banks in Nigeria.

Charles Udoh: Charles Udoh was speculated to have been in the state exco based on the recommendation of Mr. Udom Inoyo (this has not been independently verified by TheMail, neither has Charles confirmed or denied the rumours). Inoyo is one of the top guns running for the governorship seat of the state. Charles who is from the state capital may not have an interest in contesting but nothing is too odd in politics, if the governor picks him as a choice, he will contest against Inoyo his benefactor. Key sources at Government have confided in TheMail that the governor is keeping an eye on him. Sir Charles Udoh had over 20 years banking experience before he was drafted into the exco about six years ago. He was taken from the Ministry of Information to Environment where is he is said to be doing pretty well (in the governor’s context). The Governor is entrusting him with the job of handling the perennial flooding issue at IBB with huge funds from World Bank and counterpart funding from the state government. The new job puts him less on the spotlight but he seems to be enjoying the quiet new lease of life in a fresh ministry. As for 2023, eyes on him. He is one of the governor’s wild card options.

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