- As YPP Confronts Fragmented Opposition in Akwa Ibom Guber Race
The governorship election holding in Akwa Ibom State on March 18, 2023, is one that is expected to spring surprises with the candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), Senator Bassey Albert Akpan holding all the aces.
The 50-year old ebullient, mass mobiliser and grassroots politician has already attracted support from stakeholders, especially youths in the state as he confronts the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which is the ruling party and that of the All Progressives Congress (APC), whose platforms are already facing intense in-fighting and implosion.
For instance, in the PDP, there is a serious legal tussle between Pastor Umo Eno, the candidate that was hand-picked by the governor and a federal lawmaker, Michael Enyong, over the governorship ticket. Till today, Enyong, a federal lawmaker, is still battling Eno, over who the authentic candidate of the party is. What this means is that a vote for the PDP might see the electorate casting their ballot for an entire stranger as the court would be left to decide their fate.
Also, in the APC, there is a legal tussle between Senator Ita Enang and Akanimo Udofia over who is the authentic governorship candidate of the party. The Supreme Court only on Tuesday ordered new primaries to be held by the party and set a duration of 13 days for this to take place, even though parties in the suit have been interpreting the court ruling. The factual position is that as at today, the APC needs to conduct a new gubernatorial primary election. Enang had prayed the court to declare him as the authentic governorship candidate of the party on the basis that Udofia was not a member of the APC when the party conducted the governorship primary on May 26, 2022.
Clearly, all these show that Senator Bassey Akpan is the man to beat in what is shaping to be the most intensely contested election in the state, especially as the Udom Emmanuel-led PDP government has nothing to show as their performance in the past eight years.
Senator Akpan’s adoption of the YPP has made the party to become the highest rated in the state in the last few months as it has registered thousands of new members.
With firm belief that the people is the structure of any political movement, the two-term federal lawmaker has been moving ward-to-ward and door-to-door, preaching the message of the new Akwa Ibom he intends to build.
Born on 28 October, 1972, to the family of Chief Albert Robert Akpan, a successful businessman, prominent politician and philanthropist, Senator Akpan attended St Patrick’s College, Calabar, from where he then proceeded to the University of Uyo where he bagged a BSc in Economics (Second Class Upper Division). In further pursuit of academic excellence, he obtained a Masters of Business Administration(MBA) degree from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. In 2007, he was tapped to take up the role of Commissioner of Finance in the state and he initiated a lot of policies that boosted Akwa Ibom’s revenue.
As Finance Commissioner, he grew the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to a record N15.6 billion in 2013, compared to the N5 billion it was in 2006.
As a federal lawmaker, he has facilitated over 6,000 life touching developmental projects in the health, education, and other critical sectors, while serving as the Chairman, Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee between 2007 and 2013. In addition, he facilitated reforms in the Oil & Gas Industry as Chairman Senate Committee on Gas Resources (2015 to 2019) and currently serving as the Chairman Senate Committee on Petroleum Upstream Resources.
He also spearheaded the review of the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract, which earned the federal government an estimated $500 million in 2020 and over $1 billion in 2021. Furthermore, the ranking Senator resolved the decade long rift between the federal government and Chevron Limited for the Escravos Gas To Liquid (EGTL) Project which saw the reversal of the contract sharing formula from 25 per cent (Nigeria) and 75 per cent (Chevron) to 60 per cent (Nigeria) and 40 per cent (Chevron) and raked in billions of maira to the nation’s coffers.
Most importantly, he championed the passage of the Petroleum Industry Act (2021) and awarded scholarship to over 481 indigent students in higher institutions of learning, of which 29 graduated with first class honours as of December 2021. Equally facilitated 15 postgraduate oversees scholarship, and several other empowerment programmes that have helped in raising the standard of living of his constituents.
“I care very much about how people feel and I try so much to ensure that I do not take people for granted. If you lose your integrity as a public office holder, you have lost everything. “Many people do not know how serious this is; but I know it and I try to ensure that I do not give people that opportunity to doubt my integrity. These are what we hold dear and the basis of our good relationship with our people. You can verify,” the Senator said in a recent interview.
Most young Akwa Ibomites see Senator Akpan as the third force and the favoured candidate in this race. Already, residents of the state who are dissatisfied with how the state has been managed under the present government are galvanising support for Senator Akpan across the local governments.
They believe that as someone who was not handpicked by any political godfather, he would work for the interest of the state unlike the two other contestants.
Indeed, Senator Akpan is a shining example of what a dedicated and committed public servant should be. Over the course of his political career, he has consistently demonstrated a commitment to improving the lives of the people he serves, and his achievements in this regard are truly remarkable.
Already, he has pledged to embark on massive infrastructure programmes across the state if elected.
He has developed a road map, ‘Operation Basic Amenities (OBA)’ towards achieving the agenda, which would pave the way for intensive grassroots development in the state.
A review of his OBA initiative shows that it has critical elements for the construction and reconstruction of infrastructure across the state.
The highly connected lawmaker has also promised that if he emerges victorious at the poll, his government would construct ‘a minimum of five kilometres of roads in every local council of the state.”
In the area of healthcare, under OBA, Senator Akpan believes that the pressure on secondary health care facilities should be reduced.
“We must address the issue of the primary level. We have a policy, as a party in line with our impact agenda, where we must make sure that there is a secondary healthcare facility in every local council that will support the primary healthcare ones. This will be a departure from the current status,” he said.
He stressed that developing the healthcare sector in the state would benefit both poor and rich residents.
The Senator, who represents Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial District in the Senate, added that he has been explaining the OBA initiative to the electorate during his ongoing ward-to-ward campaigns ahead of the election.
“So, party officials and supporters have carried on preaching the OBA promise in every locality,” he added.
The OBA model is an initiative borne out of the passion of Senator Bassey to see Akwa Ibom people live above the poverty line. OBA is the promise of a people-centred government in every sense of the word.
The OBA plan would offer Akwa Ibom people an experience that had been long forgotten. It would be the first time in a long time that ordinary citizens would feel the positive impact of the government wherever they may be found in the state.
In revised manifesto titled: ‘Positive Impact Agenda,’ the governorship candidate pegged his mission on 3Rs- “Recover Akwa Ibom; Reconcile Akwa Ibom Truly to God, and Reposition Akwa Ibom for Greatness.”
His vision statement is to consolidate the gains so far achieved in Akwa Ibom State and make it a pacesetter among states in Nigeria as well as a global destination for investment and tourism.
His agenda is also anchored on five strategic pillars: Economic Prosperity and Infrastructural Renaissance; Security, Environment, and Tourism; Agriculture and Rural Development; Education, Health, and Social Services; and Administrative Reforms and Completion of Projects.
“We shall harvest a lot from our seashore, add value for exports, generate jobs, and create a harmonious society where hunger, deprivation, and poverty will no longer be used as tools for political emasculation and oppression, as witnessed
“This Positive Impact agenda is a sacred pact with the people of Akwa Ibom State, which will come into effect on 29th May 2023. We invite everyone to key into this agenda, take ownership of the development plans, and work for the benefit of the state. God that sees the heart will enable us to transform these visions and much more to benefit our people. We welcome all Akwa Ibom people onboard,” the governorship hopeful said.
From the foregoing, all Akwa Ibomites are enjoined to rally behind Senator Akpan on Saturday so as to transform the state to one that provides equal opportunities for all, realise the dream of industrialisation, banish poverty and unemployment, ensure peace in all communities and to diversify its economy and its revenue base.
Written by Henry Nicolas.