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PDP House of Assembly primary: The contenders, pretenders, system’s preferred aspirants and the dynamics

PDP House of Assembly primary: The contenders, pretenders, system’s preferred aspirants and the dynamics

The race for the House of Assembly tickets under the platform of the PDP will come to a crescendo in a few days with the party conducting its primary on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 to produce candidates ahead of next year’s election.

Aspirants contesting for seats in the different state constituencies were on Wednesday last week screened at the state’s party secretariat.

The dynamics in the different state constituencies are not the same. In some LGAs, the governor has made decisions on his preferred aspirants and has communicated same to the political stakeholders while in most of the LGAs, there is no direction yet from the governor. In this article, TheMail gives a true reflection of the situation of things in the state constituencies ahead of the May 18 battle finale. These dynamics are subject to regular fluctuations on daily basis as horse-trading and power play ensue. 

UYO: Uyo is the state capital and the governor is said to be particularly interested in the caliber of representative that will emerge from the state constituency. After several weeks, speculations that incumbent rep, Anietie Eka is contesting for a second term has finally been put to rest. He neither purchased the nomination form nor attended the screening exercise. About 12 aspirants bought Expression of Interest and Nomination forms, though less than that number turned up for the screening exercise. All the aspirants are from Ikono Ibom Clan where the seat has been zoned to. There are four clans in Uyo, namely: Ikono, Etoi, Offot, and Oku. In recent history, Ekere Afia took Ikono turn from 2007 to 2011, Edwin Joseph did the turn of Offot from 2011-2015, Monday Eyo of Oku Clan succeeded him and left office in 2019 while Anietie Eka is rounding off the slot of Etoi by next year. The seat has rotated back to Ikono clan. The two leading contenders are Elder Ndanti Ekuh and Uwemedimo Asuquo (Capo). Ekuh, a journalist and an ordained elder of The Apostolic Church was until few weeks ago the Special Assistant to the Governor on Research and Documentation. He resigned from his post as governor’s aide as one of the conditions given to all appointees before they can submit the nomination and successfully undergo screening. He is said to enjoy the support of majority of the delegates. Uwemedimo better known with the moniker ‘Capo’ was also an aide of the governor who resigned to be eligible to contest at the primary. He is backed by the Political Leader, Enobong Uwah (Hammer) whom he equally served as aide and Monday Eyo (Murray). The leaders are said to have informed delegates that Capo is the one chosen by the governor, hence, some aspirants were asked to withdraw for him. But independent findings by TheMail Newspaper indicate that it is an act of name-dropping as the governor is yet to make known his choice in Uyo. This position has been confirmed to TheMail by credible sources around the governor. Capo is also banking on the support of the SSA to Governor on Youths, Aniefiok Wilson Iwaudofia whom he believes will facilitate for the governor to sanction that the ticket should be given to him as ‘youth slot’. But some other political stakeholders in Uyo say Capo is not intellectually sound enough to represent the state capital in the House of Assembly. They also say his conduct in public is thuggish which is not befitting of someone that seeks to be their representative. And to further reduce his acceptability, most of the stakeholders who are not in tandem with the leadership style of Enobong Uwah are not favourably disposed to supporting his ambition, saying they won’t throw their weight behind anybody the political leader presents as his preferred aspirant. Others waiting to pounce and clinch the ticket if either of the duo fail to clinch it are Polytechnic lecturer, Ubokobong Benjamin who recently took to social media to attack the Uyo political establishment following claims that he has been asked to withdraw from the race in support of Capo, former Transition Chairman Barr. Mfon Ben, Etiene Ukpong, etc. Ifiok Eyen Uwem is said to have withdrawn from the race on the directive of Murray. Though he bought forms, he didn’t present himself for screening. The ticket would have been Imoh Okon’s to lose as it was programmed for him to finish strong as Council Chairman and get into the House of Assembly as part of his political ascendancy. But his abysmal performance in council which however culminated in his suspension from council by the House of Assembly for some months, his unnecessary rifts with political stakeholders and his alliance with the governorship aspiration of Obong Bassey Albert proved to be his greatest undoing. The trump card which he is relying on is that delegates who will vote for OBA at the governorship primary will equally vote for him in the house of assembly primary. He is also shopping for delegates loyal to another governorship aspirant, Michael Enyong a.k.a Baba Ntan. This paper understands that for fear of being labelled by the system, aspirants have refused consulting Baba Ntan.

ETINAN: Udeme Ekpo-ufot, who until his resignation prior to his submission of Nomination Forms was protocol aide of the governor has been anointed by the governor himself to succeed Rt. Hon. Aniefiok Dennis as the next House of Assembly member. Ekpo-ufot, a Deacon ordained in Qua Iboe Church, Surulere (the same church the governor worships in Lagos) was initially considered not in the race as the leading aspirant for the seat was the governor’s aide on Transport, Deacon Udo Ekwere. But few months ago, the governor instructed Udo Ekwere (also a Deacon in the same Qua Iboe Church) to withdraw from the race and work for the emergence of the fair-skinned Ekpo-ufot. Since then, Udo Ekwere who was reckoned as the man to beat at the polls has been taking Ekpo-ufot round Etinan on consultative tours to delegates and stakeholders. Most of the stakeholders who do not want to offend the governor have also keyed into the Ekpo-ufot Project. But it is not yet Uhuru for the former Airtel Nigeria man as he will face stiff competition from Pius Emmanuel John popularly known as Paico and Uwem Fabian. Paico is said to have started wooing the delegates long ago and had even placed some of them on monthly stipends in order to sustain their loyalty and support until the party primary. Some of the delegates who initially supported Udo Ekwere have also refused to follow the new direction given by their principal (Ekwere), saying that they don’t have relationship with Ekpo-ufot whom they tagged a ‘returnee and political neophyte’, reiterating that they will rather pitch tent with Paico or any other aspirant whom they know already. 

UKANAFUN: Emem Udom, one of Mr. Udom Emmanuel’s ‘palace boys’ who equally served in the protocol unit of the Government House is the governor’s choice for the Ukanafun State Constituency. Nsikan-Abasi Umoekpo and some other aspirants who intended contesting at the party primary had long withdrawn since the governor’s decision was made known to them. The primary is a straight two-horse race as the incumbent House of Assembly Member, Dr Charity Ido has refused to back out. She believes she has enough delegates that will make her defeat the system-chosen Emem Udom. Most of the political stakeholders, including the state party chairman, Elder Aniekan Akpan and former House of Reps member, Eno Akpan are said to be solidly behind the ambition of Emem Udom.

NSIT UBIUM: This one is almost a settled case except a political abracadabra happens which is very unlikely. Hon. Otobong Bob, the first son of the political leader of Nsit Ubium, Senator Effiong Bob is on his way to having a smooth ride to clinching the ticket of the party as he is (most likely) contesting unopposed. His father, Senator Bob as at January of this year was known to be an aspirant for the office of the governor. But there were insinuations amongst many politically exposed persons that he was aspiring as a bargaining tool to enable his son have an easy sail back to the Assembly for a second term, an allegation the former Attorney General/Commissioner for Justice has debunked. But on January 30, 2022, he was the one who rendered the opening prayer when Pastor Umo Eno was presented to political stakeholders as the preferred choice for the governorship seat. He withdrew from the race and since then, has been touting himself as the political guarantor of Pastor Eno. The system had long settled for his son as the candidate of the party for the state house race, and it seems no other person is daring enough to stir the waters by buying forms to contest.  

NSIT IBOM: This particular election equally seems to be a straight fight between incumbent Chairman of Local Government Council, Hon. Eric Akpan and the incumbent House of Assembly Member, Hon. Ifiok Udoh (Bengun). Eric is said to have gained the favour of the system and is the preferred aspirant of the National leadership of Maintain Peace Movement (MPM). Bengun on other hand, is said to banking on the support of the governor which at the moment is not forthcoming. Edna Edwin Daniel who contested at the last LG polls is also a strong contender heading into the race but the odds favour Eric.

IBESIKPO ASUTAN:  First Civilian governor of the state when democracy returned in 1999, Obong Victor Attah has a vested interest in the election, and having supported the ambition of Umo Eno, it is hard to see how his interest won’t be protected by the system. He has endorsed the aspiration of his brother’s son, Ubong Attah and most stakeholders in the LGA have keyed in. 12 aspirants are said to have bought forms for the election including Andino Robson, Comrade Imo Attah and Nnamso Lyons. Despite the consensus arrangement bandied about by some stakeholders in concert with Obong Attah, some of the other aspirants will go ahead and slug it out with the former governor’s nephew. Lady Andino Robson has already hinted that she will not withdraw from the race, rejecting the adoption of the younger Attah as the consensus candidate.

ESSIEN UDIM: The three key contenders for the race are Prince Ukpong Akpabio, immediate past Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Barr. Esse Umoh, incumbent member of the House of Assembly and Imo-owo Okpokpo, a former Commissioner in the Akwa Ibom State Law Reforms Commission. While Government House sources told TheMail Newspaper that the governor is the one that asked Prince Ukpong Akpabio to contest for the seat, major political stakeholders are not supporting the ambition, saying zoning does not favour him as the seat is rotating to another zone. Obong Michael Afangideh who is the political leader of the LGA, Abom E. E. Umana, Deputy Political leader,  Engr. Oliver Ebong, Sunyiekekere Inokon, Etido Ibekwe, Raphel Isobara, Martins Umanah, and other big names in the LGA signed and issued a communique some weeks ago, saying that it is the turn of Essien Annang zone to produce the next House of Assembly member as the other zone, Udim Development Area has occupied the House of Assembly position for the past 7 years through Nse Ntuen and Esse Umoh. So, going by the zoning arrangement and the communique by the political stakeholders, Esse Umoh and Prince Akpabio who are from Udim Development Area are not favoured by zoning. Zoning favours Imo-owo Okpokpo and most of the stakeholders who signed the communique are rooting for him. While these stakeholders who signed the communique are not pushovers, it remains to be seen how they will outdo Prince Akpabio as the governor and the MPM both at the state and LGA levels are in sync with the former Commissioner’s aspiration. Prince, alongside his buddy, Anthony Luke (Aluko) who is the Chairman of the LG council control bulk of the delegates and the political structure in the LGA. Last weekend, they were both in-charge of the emergence of the ad hoc delegates.

“Let me declare for everybody to hear, I am supporting my friend, Prince Akpabio for House of Assembly in 2023 and all the statutory delegates from Okon are with us. So, how will they (Prince Akpabio’s opponents) win?”, Aluko had said two months ago when Prince Akpabio consulted him over his aspiration.

ITU: Kufre-Abasi Edidem is battling to return for a second term in office. Despite not being favoured by zoning, he is gunning for a second term in office with sights on becoming the Deputy Speaker which may likely be zoned to Uyo Senatorial District with the Speakership going to Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. But he will have to sweat it out with strong opponents like Hon. Okon Etim Okon and Bobby Ekanem. Though about 10 persons are said to have bought nomination forms, the aforementioned two are reckoned to be his strongest opponents. Both are from Itu, Okuiboku, Mbiabo, Ayadehe (ITU-OMA) which is the favoured zoned for the House of Assembly seat. The zone has not sat on the House of Assembly seat since the return of democracy in 1999 as all the reps have been from Itam axis (West Itam, East Itam Southern and East Itam Northern). Among his two major opponents, Hon. Okon is said to be the strongest politically as he is a former Chapter Chairman and an erstwhile Transition Committee Chairman of Itu Local Government Council, hence he enjoys the goodwill of many delegates whom he had built relationship with over the years. Bobby Bassey is from a rich family which has the finances to bankroll the election and probably match Edidem money-for-money. His father is the CEO of Base Engineering, Engr Bassey Ekanem. For his son to enjoy the support of the delegates, Engr Ekanem was given a condition to defect from APC to PDP, a condition he fulfilled recently. Bobby enjoys the support of the youth structure in the local government. Another aspirant who is interested in the race is Engr Emmanuel Udang whom Kufre Edidem defeated to clinch the PDP House of Assembly ticket in 2019. Though Mr. Edidem is said to enjoy the support of the governor and MPM state leadership, his promise to do only one term back in 2018 may count against him. If his opponents fail to align and present one aspirant against him, Edidem may likely have the upper hand because ITU-OMA delegates will be divided as their votes will be shared amongst their sons who are in the race. Meanwhile, the joker might be Akan Okon who is a governorship aspirant and Senator Anietie Okon, the political leader of the LGA. Anybody who enjoys their support may get the votes of some Itu delegates who are in sync with the former commissioner’s guber aspiration. But Okon may not want to get involved as he has a lot in his hands heading into the guber primary.

NSIT ATAI: The Chairperson of the Local Government Council, Lady Emem Ibanga is moving against the tide as majority of the stakeholders are in support of the seat being zoned to Ibedu Group of Villages. Emem Ibanga is from the Ndisiak Clan and most political gladiators including the incumbent House of Assembly Member, Rt. Hon Mark Esset, the political leader Otuekong Raphael Bassey, the State Deputy Chairman of PDP – Elder Lawrence Udosen, South South Zonal officer of PDP Hon. M.C. Akpan, amongst others are rooting for Prince Aniefiok Attah who is from Ibedu. But pundits say political opponents of the “beautiful Iron Lady” can only underestimate her at their own peril as she is a “cat with nine lives” having survived many political hurdles that have come her way mostly from Mark Esset and his camp. Recall that Emem was suspended from Council on May 29, 2020 by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, with most people in her camp believing that her ordeal was orchestrated by her political arch-enemy, Mark Esset. Emem enjoys the support of many key political stakeholders at the state level, though that can’t be said of her at the LG level. Hence, the political stakeholders at the state level waded in and she was reinstated few months later. But plenty of the people at the home front who had supported her political adventure in times past are said to have left her camp, accusing her of not knowing how to service loyalty and maintain relationships. As Emem slugs it out with an imposing figure in the person of Prince Aniefiok Attah, an aide to the governor who recently resigned to join the race, the battle promises to be interesting as she battles to keep her political career alive once again.   

URUAN: The primary will have Dr. Itoro Etim and Chris Ukpong as the major contenders. But some other aspirants like Anthony Ekpe and Emmanuel Nicholas (White BomBom) are equally in the race. Dr (Mrs) Itoro Etim, a member of the Judicial Service Commission is the choice of the governor’s wife, the MPM state leadership and the system at large. She is said to have been a school-daughter of the governor’s wife when they attended Cornelia Cornelly College, Afaha Oku many years ago. Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey, Prince Godwin Ntukudeh, Mr. Okon Okon and some other appointees are said to have aligned with the choice of the system in person of Dr. Etim. But Uruan is renowned for playing opposition politics. Plenty of the stakeholders have rejected the probable candidature of Mrs Etim, saying they don’t want a woman as their representative. They opined that Uruan politics is bigger than a woman. The recent death of her hubby has equally been used against her, with those opposed to her aspiration saying she should take time out of politics to properly mourn her hubby. They also say giving her the Uruan Assembly seat is risky as she can choose to remarry to someone from another LGA or state while still holding the mandate of the LGA in the state assembly. But Dr. Etim has retorted back, she has been an Uruan indigene since 2003 when she collected her Certificate of Origin after her marriage to her late husband. While cautioning her detractors not to play politics with the death of her husband, she said her children are from Uruan and she is not ready to change her origin now or in the future. Chris Ukpong on the other side has been consulting widely, and will likely give Etim a run for her money and has the backing of many delegates and stakeholders.

IBIONO IBOM: It is a straight contest between incumbent representative, Rt. Hon. Godwin Ekpo and a former aide of Governor Emmanuel, Moses Essien. Ekpo will be hoping to return to chambers with his sights on the Deputy Speakership seat or any other leadership position in the Assembly. We learnt Ekpo has a good amount of delegates on his side. Most (if not all members) of the Ibiono Ibom Progressives are in his support. Moses on the other hand has also gone about consulting but doesn’t have the deep pockets of Ekpo. He is banking majorly on the support of his principal, Obong Bassey Albert Akpan. Just like Imoh Okon of Uyo, Moses believes that OBA will give instructions to the delegates he has control over to vote him. But sources in OBA’s camp say the Senator has not openly sanctioned Moses’ aspiration. There is an interesting twist in the race. A dark horse has emerged. Her name is Barr. Iniobong Isaac Udoh, Secretary of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Uyo Chapter. She is said to have the backing of the First Lady of the state, Martha Emmanuel and the Paramount Ruler of Ibiono Ibom LGA, Okuku Udousoro Inyang. She has bought expression of interest and nomination forms but has not consulted stakeholders and delegates. There are elements in government who believe that having a man who is strong-willed and independent-minded like Ekpo returning to the House of Assembly under a prospective governorship administration of Pastor Umo Eno won’t do the administration much good, hence the need to have someone that could be controlled in place of him. Ekpo, during the consultation visit of Umo Eno to Ibiono Ibom stakeholders had lampooned successive PDP administrations in the state, from the Attah era down to the incumbent leadership of Udom Emmanuel for not treating the LGA well despite the humongous votes they give to PDP at elections. His comments forced Commissioner for Information, Comrade Ini Ememobong to state that Ekpo was only speaking on behalf of the stakeholders of the LGA as that was their collective position, saying that Ekpo’s observations should not in any way affect his political aspirations. Notwithstanding his comments, Ekpo stated that he will throw his weight behind the aspiration of Umo Eno. But there is a possibility that if he senses any foul play from the system against his ambition, he will likely form an alliance with OBA whom he still has a cordial relationship with. If he does that, he will have a very smooth sail to the PDP ticket because he and the Senator control majority of the delegates in the LGA.

MKPAT ENIN: Just like in most cases, Victor Ekwere, the incumbent seems to enjoy support from a lot of delegates but zoning stands against him. He is from Ibiaku clan while majority of the stakeholders in the LGA are in support of the seat rotating to Ukpum Minya. This explains why all of his opponents heading into the May 18 primary election are from Ukpum Minya. His major opponents are Uwem Peter Imoh-Ita (Toto), Lawrence Umoren, and Ubong Ekefre. The aforementioned trio have equally consulted widely, soliciting for votes from delegates. Others who have bought forms, presented themselves for screening at the PDP secretariat, but haven’t done much in terms of consultations are Cyril Umoren (CYX) – the leader of the PDP aggrieved chairmanship aspirants class of 2017 which metamorphosed into what is now known as ‘PDP Defenders’, a Zenith Bank staff Imoh Udom, immediate past Chairman of Council Ekanem Brown, Personal Assistant to Governor on Project Monitoring Patience Inimfon Ebe, and Johnson Attah Benedict.

Uwem Imoh-ita is a Personal Assistant to the Commissioner for Works, Prof Eno Ibanga and he fully enjoys the support of the former AKSU Vice Chancellor. With Prof’s support, he seems to be the one who will have the deep pockets to combat Hon. Ekwere if it boils down to the infamous vote buying (payment of delegates).  It is also understood that stakeholders are not happy that Prof Ibanga has thrown up his PA for the Assembly seat and are not comfortable with such arrangement. Ubong Ekefre, on the hand, does not have deep pockets like Victor and Toto, but he is relying on the goodwill he cultivated when he was Chairman of the Mkpat Enin Local Government Council Transition Committee.

INI: The incumbent House Member, Rt. Hon. Emmanuel Bassey Ekpenyong (Irag) has done two terms and is gunning for a higher office, the House of Representatives, hence INI will have a fresh person in the House of Assembly. The key contenders are Israel Idaisin who is the serving Council chairman whose tenure will elapse in December 2023, Ini PDP Chapter Secretary, Innocent Udom, an aide of the governor Lawrence Udoide, former aide to the governor on Students Otobong Akpan (Aquilla), amongst others. Idaisin alongside Dr. Glory Edet and Irag were in-charge when the party structure at the wards and LG levels were formed (where a large pool of delegates are drawn from), and having been a two-term Chapter Chairman and Council Chairman who is current doing his second term in office, he seems to be the man to beat as he has structures on ground. Innocent, a chapter secretary is equally working hard, consulting his colleagues at the chapter level and wards. Udoide who contested for the LG council chairmanship seat in the last election against Idaisin is also serious contender who is doing his underground work very well by wooing delegates. Glory Edet, former “Super Commissioner” who left state exco few weeks ago is also a big factor in the race. Both Innocent and Udoide are said to be jostling for her support and whosoever she throws her weight behind will have a lot of mileage heading into the May 18 primary.

IKONO: Unarguably a straight contest between incumbent, Asuquo Nana Udo (Mbakara) and immediate past LG Council Boss, Itoro Columba. Columba is said to be favoured by the system including the governor, the First Lady, MPM at the state and LG levels, and majority of the stakeholders in Ikono. Mbakara who rode on the back of Obong Paul Ekpo (then the State Chairman of the Party), is fighting the political battle of his life now that his benefactor Ekpo is no more as influential in Akwa Ibom politics as he used to be. And to worsen his case, he has been tagged as “OBA’s man”, so some stakeholders and delegates who don’t want to get in to trouble with the system avoid having anything to do with him. His longstanding relationship with the ‘endangered’ governorship aspirant isn’t helping him. The eggheads of MPM at the state level are said to have sanctioned the aspiration of Columba with stalwarts like Godwill Umoh, Victor Etefia, Barr Moses Akpan, Ekemini Uba, all aligning with the aspiration.  Others in the race are Hon Nsikan William Nyong, Akparawa Idongesit Ukaetuk, Michael Monday Inyang, and Prof Augustine Asuquo Umoh.

OKOBO: Amongst the 9 aspirants, about five are said to be frontliners. The Chairman of Local Government Council, Dr. Sylvester Attah is running. Pius Bassey who is an SA to governor is equally contesting.  Some of the other names in the contest are Ulap Iniobong Esung, Chief (Barr.) Emmanuel Ekpenyong Utong, Hon. Edu Attah, Bassey Ukpong a.k.a Gentle.

Dr. Attah who was supported by former Attorney General, Ekpenyong Ntekim for the chairmanship seat in 2020 is said to still enjoy some level of backing from the Chairman of AkwaPoly Governing Council heading into the primary. Pius Bassey is said to be a member of Felicia Bassey political family and is believed to be sponsored by the Deputy Speaker. Iniobong Esung is the Secretary of Okobo of MPM and Chairman Amalgamated Youth Council. He is a grassroots general and there is a possibility that if Ntekim or Felicia drop their support for any of their preferred aspirant, they will pitch tent with Iniobong because he is said to be in their good books. ‘Gentle’ is equally a grassroots politician while Barr Ekpenyong Utong is said to have contested in the last LG chairmanship polls where he lost out to Sylvester Attah. Hon. Edu Attah is another person who may also have the support of former Commissioner for Justice, Ekpenyong Ntekim.

ETIM EKPO/IKA: This is another state constituency with two LGAs as constituent units. Etim Ekpo will still retain the right to produce the next state representative. In political terms, Etim Ekpo can be tagged a “battleground” as estranged political sons and allies of former National Legal Adviser of PDP, Barr Emmanuel Enoidem have moved against him and all his political interests. Uduot Jack and Godson Uwah who rode on the back of Enoidem to become Council Chairmen in Etim Ekpo have openly declared war on their estranged benefactor. They openly called on him to “leave the stage now now, now”. Uduot, Godson Uwah, Mbet Okpongete and others are in their camp are supporting the governorship aspiration of Obong Bassey Albert. This has pitched them against Enoidem, a former Super Commissioner in the Akpabio administration. Uduot Jack was stripped of his position as Chairman of the Etim Ekpo Chapter of the MPM. Uduot Jack believes that it was Enoidem who stopped his appointment as Commissioner before the governor finally settled for Dr. Moffat as Etim Ekpo’s slot. Uduot is running for state house of assembly election against the candidate of Enoidem who is the incumbent representative, Hon. Mfon Idung. There are currently two political leaders in the LGA, one for the Enoidem camp and the other for Uduot’s camp. Dr Emmanuel Ukpong, said to be a one-time benefactor of Enoidem is the political leader of Etim Ekpo recognized by Uduot’s camp while Enoidem’s camp recognizes Bishop Ahaziah Umanah as their leader. Uduot has a conglomeration of former political office holders who are looking forward to retiring Enoidem politically while the MPM henchman has most of the serving political office holders on his side. In essence, the PDP ticket is a straight contest between Uduot and Idung.

ABAK: The incumbent lawmaker, Elder Udeme Otong has the backing of the Deputy Governor, Moses Ekpo, House of Reps Member, Aniekan Umanah and other senior stakeholders in the LGA. But the Chapter Chairman of the party, Dr Mike Udoh is said to be against the arrangement to retain the seat in Abak Clan. He insists that the seat must be zoned to Midim Clan which has never produced a House of Assembly member. Most of the current political office holders from the LGA are from Abak Clan. Deputy Governor ‘Uncle Mo’, Aniekan Umanah, Udeme Otong are all from Abak Clan. 

Some of the strong opponents to Udeme Otong are Mrs Ekemini Umoh, Honorary Special Adviser on Basic Education, Uduak Etukudo immediate past House Leader of Abak Legislative Council, and Monday Dan Udoh, an oil magnet.

ESIT EKET/IBENO: Okpolupm Etteh from Ibeno did 10 years in House of Assembly and exited office for an Esit Eket man, Usoro Akpanusoh who has done 8 years. The House of Representatives seat in the Federal Constituency favours Ibeno, hence Esit Eket will retain the assembly seat. Usoro Akpanusoh, the former Chairman, House Committee on Finance and Appropriation is gunning for a 3rd term in office. He has told some stakeholders that he will get either the speakership or deputy speakership position if he returns to the house. But most political stakeholders said not to have bought into his aspiration. Most stakeholders defer to the political leadership and direction of Elder Benjamin Udobia. He was given the right of first refusal to anoint someone. He anointed his nephew, Engr Udobia Friday Udo. But Elder Benji’s son, Akanimo Udobia kicked. He led protest to his father’s house. Sent emissaries to the dad that he should have been the favoured one. There was massive pressure on the dad. Akanimo felt it should have been him. Threw himself into the race. Bought form and went for screening. Pressure was still mounting on the senior Udobia who was the Deputy DG of Campaigns for Udom Emmanuel’s election. The situation is said to have been a massive integrity test on the septuagenarian because if he had caved in into the pressure by reneging on his earlier stance and adopting his son in the process, he would have seen as a double-mouthed person that lacks integrity. Meanwhile, chairman of council, Iniobong Robson (Etebe) who doubles as ALGON chairman is said to have felt it was too much of an insolence on the part of Akanimo to defy the father’s entreaties to withdraw from the race. He stuck with the earlier plan of supporting Benji’s nephew. The question amongst stakeholders and watchers of the scenario was, between ‘Elder’ and his son, who will be the first to blink. It turned out to be his son. Finally, Elder Udobia heaved a sigh of relive as his son bowed to pressure last weekend and withdrew from the race. He had since issued a public statement to that effect. Udobia Friday Udo, the candidate of Elder Benji and other stakeholders in that camp will contest against the formidable Akpanusoh who is said to equally have deep pockets to woo delegates in his favour.

MBO: Stakeholders led by SSG Emmanuel Ekuwem and Rt. Hon. Nse Ekpenyong, House of Reps Member who died penultimate Sunday had zoned the House of Assembly seat to Effiat Community. They averred that Mbo has five clans but is only Effiat that has not tasted the assembly seat. Mfon Asukwo from Enwang won in 1999, did a term and handed over to Nse Ekpenyong from Ebughu who equally went for 4 years. Alice Ekpenyong from Uda took over from ‘Nse Bruce’ and did two terms. 8 years ago, Samuel Ufuo from Udesi won the PDP ticket, went on to win at the general election and exited office in 2019. Liberty Frank from Ebughu was sworn in to office in June 2019 but following appeals by APC candidate at the 2019 election, Chief Effiong Johnson, the Court Of Appeal threw him out of office and Chief Johnson from Udesi took over. It is believed that Johnson is completing Udesi’s turn started by Ufuo.

Now, the incumbent, Chief Johnson, who is a former LG Council Chairman is gunning for re-election. Information at our disposal has it that he has defected from APC to PDP and angling for the PDP ticket. He is said to have defected at the ward level and got the party membership card.

Johnson’s strongest opponents are Solomon Effiong Asuquo, a former Chairman of LG council Transition Committee who enjoys the backing of the SSG Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem and Kingsley Okpo a former lecturer in a higher institution. Another aspirant in the race is said to be the serving PDP State Youth leader III (representing Eket Senatorial District),

ORUK ANAM: Younger Brother to the governor’s wife, Samson Idiong is the man to beat. He has the deep pockets to match any of his opponents and he has been crisscrossing the length and breadth of the LGA to solicit for votes from delegates and support from stakeholders. But he is not favoured by zoning. Some stakeholders are clamouring for the seat to be zoned to Ekparakwa. At the moment, he is yet to get clearance from his brother-in-law the governor to go ahead with his aspiration. The governor has been indifferent towards his ambition, neither telling him to go ahead nor withdraw. But since most politicians in the system like following the governor’s body language, his close pal Prince Akpan Ikim is said to have tactically withdrawn from supporting him since the governor has not explicitly given green light to the ambition. Ikim is said to have told those who asked him why he has abandoned his friend’s project that he is an appointee of the governor, hence he is waiting for the governor’s directive. Hon. Nsidibe Essien is said to be his strongest opponent.

IKOT EKPENE/OBOT AKARA: Two LGAs share this State Constituency. With Rt. Hon. Idongesit Ntekpere from Obot Akara completing 8 years by next year, it is the turn of Ikot Ekpene to produce the next assemblyman for the constituency. Incumbent LG Council Chairman, Unyime Etim and a member of the Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service (AKIRS), Leo Leo Umana who are from the Urban axis of Ikot Ekpene had indicated interest in running. Information at our disposal has it that Unyime Etim at a recent stakeholders meeting of the Federal Constituency had withdrawn from the race since he is not favoured by micro-zoning. The Ikot Ekpene LG internal micro-zoning arrangement for the House of Assembly seat favours Amayam clan. Though Leo Umana seems to have the sympathy of the national leadership of MPM, he is not favoured by the micro-zoning arrangement. Just like Unyime Etim, he is from Ikot Ekpene Urban. But he is still optimistic of clinching the ticket and is said to be planning on leveraging on a projected support from Obot Akara delegates.

A jaw-dropping scenario is playing out in the Ukut dynasty. 4 aspirants have emerged from the royal family. They are Prince Samuel Alexander Ukut, Effiong Alexander Ukut, Anthony Alexander Ukut, and Engr Uwem Isong Ukut. Brief history of the renowned Ukut family indicates that the first mentioned three are from same father but different mothers and are direct siblings with retired Permanent Secretary, Dr. Otuekong Ukut. Uwem is a cousin to the above mentioned offspring of Alexander Ukut. They all have links with the first lady, Martha Emmanuel. The current paramount Ruler of Ikot Ekpene, Akuku Okon Udo Ukut is their uncle, the only surviving brother of their fathers – Late Isong and Alexander Ukut. The Paramount Ruler and Martha Emmanuel’s mom were siblings.

The First Lady is said to be in a serious dilemma as she cannot tell any of them to withdraw from the race.

The 44-year-old Uwem Isong Ukut is a protocol aide of the First Lady and works closely with her. Effiong Alexander Ukut’s wife is a DSS official who works as a security detail of the First Lady. Samuel Ukut’s wife is equally an aide of the First Lady. This makes the situation more difficult for the First Lady.

Because of the situation, Dr. Mrs Emmanuel told her Uncle the paramount ruler and other members of the family leadership to convene a meeting and present a sole candidate out of the four aspirants.

The meeting was held at the instance of the paramount ruler and Samuel Ukut was adopted by the leadership of the family. They reportedly moved to match words with actions by “purchasing” nomination forms for Samuel. The Paramount Ruler, Akuku Okon Udo Ukut then mandated Otuekong Ukut to convene a meeting of the 4 aspirants and communicate the decision to them. Otuekong Ukut, according a family source reportedly convened the meeting but failed to do as instructed as he favours Effiong Alexander Ukut instead of the Samuel Ukut who was the choice of the paramount ruler and other elders of the family.

Anthony Ukut, on the other hand who returned from Lagos some years ago on the prompting of the First Lady is said to have told other contestants from the family to withdraw for him since he is the eldest amongst all the aspirants from the Ukut family.

Sam is said to have grassroots support and strong political structure. Sam, who is a former students’ leader vied for the PDP ticket at the 2020 Local Government Council Chairmanship primary. He had the support of Senator Emmanuel Ibokessien but the elder statesman is said to be cautious as he doesn’t want to be involved in their family feud.

Family sources say Otuekong Ukut is not favourably disposed to supporting Sam as he prefers Effiong whom they allegedly say he can “control”.

Further dilemma for all the aspirants from the family is that none of them has been able to break in and have a buy in from the governor, hence all of them are relying solely on the First Lady to end the impasse. 

The First Lady is said to be extra careful as she also has the contentious (Oruk Anam) House of Assembly ambition of his younger brother, Samson Idiong to sort out.

A source told TheMail Newspaper that Nsikak Ekong is the person that would have ended the impasse had he not chosen to renege on his earlier agreement to do only one term in the House of Reps. 

“Nsikak Ekong is a member of the Ukut family. His mom and Martha Emmanuel’s mom were sisters. Now that stakeholders in Ikot Ekpene/Obot Akara/Essien Udim Federal Constituency decided that the Reps seat should go to Obot Akara, the honourable thing he would have done should have been to pull out of the race. If he had pulled out, he would have been in a good standing to wade in as a member of the family and also as the highest political office holder from the LGA. Had he withdrawn, the stakeholders would have given him that honour to choose a preferred candidate from the Ukuts for the state house of assembly position. But he can’t do that now because of his personal ambition”, said our source.

Meanwhile, while the House of Assembly seat is the Ukuts’ to lose, other stakeholders in the LGA are waiting to capitalize on the disunity in the family and bring out a different candidate.

Before Unyime Etim’s entrance into the race, he and Ntufam Elijah Iyak were reportedly propping up Aniefiok Nkom (Nkomatics) for the seat. When Pastor Sunny Ibuot, immediate past Commissioner for Labour and Manpower Planning resigned from state exco to take up a role as Senator Bassey Albert’s Director General of Campaigns, Unyime was asked to nominate a replacement from the Amayam Clan where Ibuot hails from. He nominated Nkom. With the coast clear and with a positive body language from Governor Emmanuel, Unyime bought forms to contest for the assembly seat. The governor is said to have acknowledged his loyalty and consistency and said that though he heard that the stakeholders say he is not favoured by zoning, he will look at ways to “streamline”. But when the pressure was much for Amayam to produce the next assemblyman from the state constituency, he was asked to withdraw.

Unyime Etim and Engr. Etido Inyang are reportedly the brains behind the aspiration of Chris Umoren. They are said to be the ones in charge of majority of the Ikot Ekpene delegates. Since Nsikak Ekong has refused to back down from his second term bid for House of Representatives, Messers Etim and Inyang are said to be using their strength with the delegates to bargain for Chris to emerge. “They want to tell Obot Akara stakeholders to support Chris while they in turn will direct Ikot Ekpene delegates to support Idongesit Ntekpere.

Other aspirants in the race are Barr Godwin Ituen from Amayam who is reportedly being backed by Ntufam Elijah Iyak, Ifiokobong Ukpong from Ikot Ekpene Urban and David Okon Akpan. Hon. David Akpan is the immediate past Chapter Chairman of the Local Government. It is said that when Akpabio was championing the return of Rt. Hon. Emmanuel Sunday Akpan from Essien to return to House of Representatives for a second term, he was the only Chapter Chairman in the Federal Constituency that rejected car and monetary gift in exchange for his support for the Emman Akpan project. He is popular amongst party’s delegates and stakeholders and he would have been their easy pick but for his alliance to Senator Bassey Albert. But the possibility of Unyime Etim and other prominent stakeholders pitching tent with David Akpan is not totally ruled out if he agrees to ditch OBA in favour of Umo Eno.

Meanwhile, Senator Ibokessien is said to have brought out Jerry Otu as his preferred. Otu is from the same ward as the senator. Ibokessien also known as Ritman has told some stakeholders that in 2019, Otu and Sunny Ibuot were asked to withdraw from the House of Reps race in favour of Nsikak Ekong. Otu is said to have made last minute purchase of forms for the May 18 election on the directive of Senator Ibokessien. As inherent in elections of this nature, there is a fresh twist as both Unyime Etim and Etido Inyang are said not to have no problems with the senator’s choice, with increasing likelihood that they may align with him.

Another aspirant is Ndiana Isong, a VKS staff but he is equally from Urban which is not favoured by zoning.

ONNA:  Sunday Johnny, an aide of the governor is the favourite to clinch the ticket. This is the Governor’s LGA and as people would expect, he has interest in who becomes his next representative in the state legislature. Sources confirm to TheMail that the state’s helmsman has picked Sunday Johnny as his preferred. Confirmation of the choice of Johnny came when his brother, Princewill Johnny who was the serving Vice Chairman of the LG Council was asked to resign so that there won’t be uproar over the possibility of two blood brothers occupying both the Vice Chairmanship and assembly seats.

Ini Uffang, a brother to Edmond Uffang, the governor’s Chief of Protocol had bought forms but seems his elder brother has told him to withdraw following the governor’s directive that Johnny is the preferred. Ini Uffang backed out and didn’t go for screening. Others in the race are Mr. Imoh Eka, a cousin to Edmond Uffang. He is said to have worked in VKS Construction, Josiah Ufot, CEO of JUFOT Petroleum, Deacon (Rtn) Sunday Etette Ituen, a philanthropist. Uwem Uquang, a Mobil staff is said to also be interested but his affiliation with the former Chief of Staff to governor, Ephraim Inyang will hamper his chances as the system is working towards decimating the former Works Commissioner politically.

EKET: The seat is zoned to OKON clan. All the aspirants are from the zone. Ekanem Willie, a former Vice of LG Council and Dr Nsidibe Akata, a former lecturer and Mobil staff are the leading contenders. Armstrong Ubokobong and Vincent Uwemedimo. Vincent, a relative of General Etukudo is equally a frontline aspirant. But the odds favour Willie and Akata who lost out to DLaw in 2019.

ORON/UDUNG UKO:  The incumbent, Effiong Bassey from Oron LGA is completing two terms by next year. Hence, it is the turn of Udung Uko to produce the next MP. Chief (Mrs) Kenim Onofiok is the lady to beat in the race. She is popular in Oro Nation politics. She has been a LGC supervisor, Member of LG Transition Committee, Chairman of Udung Uko Local Government Council and Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State Civil Service Commission. She is said to be the political leader of the LGA. Others in the race are Remeguis Nduonyi, Mr Effiong Idung, Asuquo Ita Esifa, and Effiom Okon Akanam. Serving senator, Akon Eyakenyi is said to have two aspirants in mind namely: Barr. Mary Ewa and Mr. Effiong Idung.

  Incumbent chairman of LG Council, Precious Selong is the strongest aspirant in the race. Her opponents will have to exhibit much political grit in order to defeat her. But ‘Iron Lady’ will meet strong resistance from Tom Efombruh. The Efombruh family is popular and well-grounded politically in the LGA. Ben Okon Job and Hon. Edet Isong Ukpong are some of the other names contesting against Precious Selong.

IKOT ABASI/EASTERN OBOLO: Chairman House Committee on Finance and Appropriation is rounding off his tenure next year after taking the 8 years of Ikot Abasi LGA, hence it is the turn of Eastern Obolo to have a shot in the assembly. Hon. Selinah Isotuk Ukpatu, a three term state officer of the party is said to be person to beat in the race. She is said to be the party’s slot in the assembly election.

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