By Ekemini Simon
…as House Member attacks Political Leader, former Rep
…Usoro is an ingrate of the highest order – Dan-Abia Jr
…ex-Rep says Akpanusoh is angry because his wife failed to impose her nominees on them
The last may not have been heard over the political crisis that has rocked Esit Eket Local Government Area as the move by the governor to intervene in the crisis has failed to yield the expected fruits.
The crisis which came to the fore after the just concluded Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Ward Congress has the Member Representing Esit Eket/ Ibeno State Constituency, Rt Hon Usoro Akpanusoh on war path with the Political Leader of Esit Eket, Elder Benjamin Udobia.
The Governor had last week called a meeting between the House of Assembly Member, the political leader, Benji Udobia and other few other critical stakeholders in the LGA.
The meeting which took place at Government House had the governor presiding over it. The governor however called for calm, while assuring that all grievances would be addressed.
“The governor has massive respect for Elder Benji Udobia. You can see, immediately Usoro Akpanusoh put up a post on Facebook attacking Elder Benji who also served as the Deputy Director General of his (governor’s) second term campaign, the governor had to immediately intervene. Both parties met with the governor and several contentious issues were tabled. Top on the list of the issues addressed by the governor was the issue of the PDP ward congress.
“Usoro had expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome of the party’s ward congress in some wards in the LGA. The governor directed that a fresh congress be conducted in the wards under contention. The governor appealed for calm and sincerely wanted a genuine reconciliation between the parties in involved”, a government house source told TheMail on Monday.
We learnt on good authority that a fresh congress was conducted in the affected wards. According to our source, Usoro was able to stamp his authority only in his ward, while losing control of the other wards in contention.
After the event, he immediately travelled to UK for a training on PIB. When onlookers and pundits believed that the governor’s intervention has yielded fruits and peace has returned amongst the political class in the area, Usoro Akpanusoh granted an interview while in London which was published in some online platforms in the state. In the interview, Usoro accused his political leader of running an oppressive cabal in Esit Eket, saying Udobia is an anti-democratic businessman who only schemes his way into government.
This succeeds in raising fresh dust as the governor’s move to settle the crisis seems to have fallen flat.
It could be recalled that last week Tuesday, Usoro brought a brewing war in Esit Eket to the open with his Facebook post.
According to the Facebook posts from his verified account, he accused the political leader of being selfish and also being the mastermind of the political crisis in Esit Eket.
He lamented that he cannot be comfortable working with a political leader who only thinks about himself.
The Lawmaker added “A leader who is supposed to be liberal and fair to all diverted 12.7 Kilometers road projects to his own village which was meant for construction of internal roads across Esit Eket LGA. Could such a political leader be appraised and scored high?
“How can a political leader of my Local Government Area appreciate payment of 3.2 Billion Naira contract from NDDC and complain of non-payment of 14.7 Kilometers road contract awarded to his company by the Government of His Excellency Deacon Udom Emmanuel without taking into consideration the giant strides of the present PDP led-administration?”
Akpanusoh insisted that by actions and reactions, it is clear that Elder Udobia was behind the defection of PDP Stakeholders and members to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2019 because of what he tagged as his selfish interest.
He said that the Political Leader again brought back Barr. Bassey Dan-Abia Jnr, who he said his stock in trade is defection to and from PDP in order to play the script of Elder Udobia. He said the essence of the defection is to defraud the Governor and in the process create internal crisis in the party.
He offered insight to the fact that Elder Benjamin Udobia, had told him to send text message to Governor Udom Emmanuel to award roads Contract in Esit Eket.
Akpanusoh revealed that although the Governor responded accordingly, he was saddened and disappointed over the fact that Elder Udobia turned to use the same text message he instructed him to send to the Governor to blackmail him.
He noted that despite the blackmail, Udobia and his family are the beneficiary of the said contract of 14.7 kilometer road in Esit Eket.
The Lawmaker pointed out that the Political leader has done two kilometers in the local Government Headquarters, Uquo while he took 12.7 kilometer to his Village alone.
He said with the development, the political leader keeps complaining everyday that he has not been paid and that the Governor is not fair to Eket people.
The Esit Eket / Ibeno representative stated that he was unable to keep silent any longer over what he described as undue hatred and victimization on his people.
Recounting what happened at the last Ward Congress in Esit Eket during an interview recently, Akpanusoh noted that the men who were given the opportunity to be the Chairman and Secretary under the direction of the political leader rigged the congress.
He offered insight to the fact that they did that thinking the party structure is for the local government election that is coming up sometime this year.
The lawmaker mentioned that they hijacked some Wards in the local government, took the materials to their houses and entered names of their supposed loyalists.
He said “In the end I protested. They even came to my Ward to do same without any iota of respect, not minding my status as an elected member of the State House of Assembly and a financial member of the party since 1999.
“So, I had to raise alarm, which the entire State heard about it including the Governor. A rerun was ordered in those wards. I cannot tell what happened thereafter because I travelled out of the country. However, I know very well that if anything is short of what the people wanted on ground, I will not have any option than to continue to agitate for a free and fair party congress. “
He said people have already written to him that they may go to court over the ward congress.
While noting that the Political Leader of the area has always been antagonistic to him, he recounted that in 2015, Elder Ben Udobia sponsored his brother, late Imo Udobia, to contest election against him.
Akpanusoh noted that by the grace of God, he got the party ticket and everyone then turned and supported him during the general election.
The lawmaker mentioned that in 2016, they ran away with the entire Congress materials during the Party Congress and that did not bother him because he knew he could always go back and use the structure for any purpose that he want to use it for.
He added, “In 2019, he brought Barrister Aniefiok Ekwere to contest election against me and but for the intervention of Governor Udom Emmanuel, who insisted on my second term.
“So, when I now saw the same attitude from Elder Ben Udobia and his cabal, I had to raise alarm and that is exactly what has given them the impetus to say that I was attacking the political leader of Esit Eket.
“I never attacked him negatively, but I was just raising alarm that something was happening to our party which in turn may not make the party popular in Esit Eket. For instance, when I noticed the issue, I put calls across to him without response. I also went to his house but he refused me entry.
“So, I had to do what I did to let people know that this hatred did not start now. It started since 2015. Today, he is paying people to write all sort of things against me on social media. I am not bothered though. My representation in the House of Assembly is known and it speaks for me.”
In a related development, stakeholders Esit Eket local government area comprising of men, women and the youth stormed House of Assembly premises, office of the member representing Esit Eket /Ibeno state constituency, Rt Hon Usoro Akpanusoh in a protest against what they described as abnormalities and irregularities at the just concluded ward Congress of March 7, 2020 in the area, as allegedly perpetrated by the Chairman of the ward Congress committee, Rt Hon Iniobong Robson and the Secretary, Barr Bassey Dan Abia Jnr respectively.
Presenting their grievance and the reason for the protest visit to the lawmaker’s office, different stakeholders of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the local government area including the immediate past youth leader, Prince Akan Etteudo told the lawmaker that reports reaching them is that the results of the ward Congress will be altered by the duo of Rt Hon Iniobong Robson and Barr Bassey Dan Abia Jnr to suit their selfish desire and expectations of installing loyalists in all the positions.
They called for the replacement of the Secretary of the Congress committee, Barr Bassey Dan Abia Jnr who they described as a defector who left the party in the time his services were needed only to return when he saw that Governor Udom Emmanuel would win the election under the PDP platform.
Esit Eket people who cited the party Constitution maintained that he is not supposed to hold any office until after one year of probation, hence he should be replaced immediately to avoid adverse reactions by some aggrieved people.
Another complaint raised by the people of Esit Eket today was about the lackadaisical attitude of the political leader of Esit Eket local government area, Elder Benjamin Udobia who they said has selfishly kept all political positions available to the local government to his village and acquaintances to the detriment of other areas in the local government area.
They frowned at such attitude and sent a strong message to the political leaders to either carry all the villages along including road construction as awarded by the state government through his company or be ready to loose the seat to a more liberal, selfless and humane individual who will render effective service.
Contacted, the Secretary of Congress for Esit Eket, Barr Bassey Dan Abia (Jnr) described the claims against him as false.
He explained that he was not a returning officer to any of the wards hence could not have maneuvered the election.
Abia said “Congress Committee is not just a one man thing. It comprises of 10 persons of which the House of Assembly member is one. The standard is one across the State with the exception of who is the Chairman and Secretary. You have Chairman of Local Government Area, House of Assembly member, National Assembly Member if you have any, Chairman of the Party, State officer of the party, two elders, a youth and a woman.
“Among the two Elders chosen, one is the Deputy political leader of ward 5, Usoro Akpanusoh’s ward while the second is the Deputy political leader of ward 7, Senator Etang Umoyo’s ward”.
Abia who is a former National Assembly member noted that the congresses took place in the 10 wards of Esit Eket LGA and the returns were made by the returning officers of the respective wards not him nor the Chairman of the committee.
He said the results were collated and transmitted to Esit Eket Local Congress Coordinating Committee which was ratified and endorsed by nine out of 10 members of the committee including nominated representatives of ward 5 where Usoro Akpanusoh hails and ward 7 which is Senator Etang Umoeyo’s ward.
The Committee Secretary pointed out that the result from ward 5 was endorsed and brought to the committee by a member of the committee, Chief John Inuaetang who is Usoro Akpanusoh Deputy Political Leader.
Abia stated “Neither the Chairman nor myself conducted the Ward Congress. We got result given to us by the leadership of the ward and signed by the returning officers.”
He said after petition, those who alleged irregularities were called upon by the State congress committee but they could not make any presentation to justify aspects of their allegation.
He offered insight to the fact that to ensure transparency, a rerun congress was ordered for ward 1, 5 and 7 while the other seven were adjudged to be perfect in order.
Commenting on where the problem lies, Abia said “Akpanusoh admitted that the original list he claimed he sent, the problem is in four names. These four names were names of women pre-nominated by his wife. The wife handed over the documents to me. I have recorded messages and conversation with the wife and they are available as proof.
“Even the women in my ward and Elder Benjamin Udobia’s ward were handpicked by Usoro Akpanusoh’s wife. It is the four names Usoro Akpanusoh’s wife gave us that we used that he is complaining about. Don’t forget that the party guidelines had made provision for the inclusion of women.”
The Secretary insisted that since what happened was strictly party business, it should have been resolved by the party hence for Akpanusoh’s to take it beyond party level suggest that he is being mischievous and has an agenda.
Commenting on the call for his replacement as Local Government congress Secretary since it is not long he returned to PDP, Abia maintained that such a call is pedestrian.
He said “I am sure they have not seen a copy of the constitution. The constitution does not in any way bar me. If it says one year, and I returned to the party on 30th January 2019 and we are in March 2020, that means I have been back to the party for over a year. I’m not foreclosed.”
Abia pointed out that by virtue of the constitution of the party, he is a statutory caucus member hence that automatically qualifies him to hold the office.
He said besides that, he has consistently been involved in building the party from 1999 where he won several elections, held many officers in the party both at national and State level.
He added “The National Executive Council of the party can also give a waiver like the case of Tambuwal and Dogara. I must also make it clear that I have never voted for any other party besides PDP. During the 2015 election, I was PDP. I helped return all PDP candidates. 2019, I was still PDP and voted for PDP.
“I was only out of the party in less than two years. When necessary, I will go public on why he defected.”
Abia also absolved Benjamin Udobia over claims of highhandedness during the congress stressing that he is not part of the Local government Committee.
He added “Usoro is an ingrate of the highest order. He didn’t do his second term based on performance or structure. He did it because the leadership of Esit Eket sad down and said there is no need to disrupt the tempo owing to the governorship election. Moreover, Elder Udobia and the Local Government Chairman funded his election.”
When contacted for comments, the Political leader of Esit Eket, Elder Benjamin Udobia neither answered phone calls nor replied text message put across to his known phone line.